Bikes are going to well a truly upend the Project Gotham table. The inevitable first-corner-pile-up in CVG's lunchtime bouts is now going to be a ballet of airborne bikers, motorcycles on bonnets and one cheeky git creeping passed, because he decided to break before the first turn.
Community lead Ben Ward took some time out from PGR4's final crunch to talk in more detail about the two-wheeled contenders. Could the choice between cars and bikes be not so clear after all?
How will you make sure that bikes and cars are on a level playing field?
Ward: Well I guess the main answer to this is iteration. We're in a great position with PGR4 in that we've been balancing both cars and bikes in the same race for over six months now. To put that in perspective, we had a little over three weeks to balance all the vehicles in PGR3 at the Xbox 360 launch!
So our balancing and dynamics teams have had considerably longer with stable code this time around, but we've also had the benefit of experience. We're using the same (or similar) internal tools as we did with PGR3, and the same (or similar) dynamics setup.
We also hired a few of the best players from the PGR3 community (straight off the forums no less!), and they came to Bizarre for two or three months. These guys helped immensely in balancing the game: making platinums as hard as they should be, making multiplayer races fair, and also to eliminate little glitches like wallriding and shiftglitching.
You've always found a fine balance between gameplay and realism. How are you factoring this into bike vs. car races, specifically with collisions?
Ward: So we've taken the same approach with bikes as we did with car handling back in the days of the original PGR. We took a fairly realistic driving model like you might find in Gran Turismo, but then injected loads of FUN into it.
We tried to make the game immediately accessible, as well as over-the-top with powersliding and getting air.
The same thing has been done with bikes. We've modelled everything in our dynamics system, so individual forces on both wheels are recorded, the brakes work as they are supposed to, etc. But then we layered that level of FUN over the top, and "Gothamfied" the bikes.
In terms of car-vs-bike collisions, we've used a "Hollywood" style method of dynamics. You won't see a slight knock take the rider off like you would in real life... instead the bike will just wobble and recover. However some of the huge collisions (like hitting head on at 200mph) will send the rider flying through the air.
In multiplayer races this is especially important: there would be nothing more frustrating for a biker to be knocked off by an over-aggressive car driver, through little or no fault of your own. We tried to accommodate this into the game very early on, and it's been tweaked and completed through iteration over the many months of balancing.
What about low-end vehicles? Are start-up bikes going to speed ahead of early cars?
Ward: Everything is balanced throughout the game. So the slowest vehicle class has both the slowest cars and slowest bikes and they will all be capable of racing wheel-to-wheel with each other.
Of course there will be a fastest vehicle in each class: sometimes this will be a car and sometimes it'll be a bike. Generally it depends on what course you are racing... there is no "silver bullet" vehicle for every situation like there has been in previous PGR games.