R: Racing interview: part 2!
8th Dec 2003 | 16:44
More R: Racing goodness as producer Nakamura-san and his team of eager petrol-heads talk to us on such myriad topics as physics engines, licensed vehicles, and of course the eternal beauty that is the power-drift... If you missed part one of our exclusive interview, fret now, as you can check it out right now by clicking here.
Can you tell us about the physics engine?
Namco: I should really let the programmer answer that in detail as we've made quite an effort to replicate these cars. But in short, we've tried to convey the distinct characteristics of different types of cars.
Front-engined rear wheel drive cars, mid-engined rear wheel drive cars, and four wheel drive cars all have very distinct handling characteristics. We've tried to highlight these differences, and build on the experience with different cars tuned and prepped for different types of racing.
Driving any of these cars on a clean circuit will provide a very varied and unique experience in itself. However, taking it one step further and driving a rally-prepped version off road will be yet another experience.
The difference between driving a rally car and an open prototype is very extreme, and we've tried to recreate these contrasting experiences and the different handling characteristics of each. They are both fun and challenging in different ways, and we wanted the player to fully experience the unique aspects of each.
Can you tell us about some of the cars that people will be able to get race with? Are there any unusual ones in there?
Namco: We've tried to represent the cream of the crop from all genres of motor sport, ranging from contemporary champions like the Bentley EXP Speed 8 Le Mans prototype, Infineon Audi R8, BMW M3GTR touring car, and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 Rally car.
However, we also have plenty of popular favourites in there like the MINI Cooper S, and a few muscle cars like the 69 Dodge Charger R/T.
We were careful to select all cars based on their merits as desirable racing machines and their status in automotive history.
So, yes there may be a few surprises in there. You'll have to play to see them all. PAL users may also be in for something extra...
What are you trying to achieve with this latest R Racer title?
Namco: I think a lot of what we've said above answers this, but we're really trying to achieve a deeper and more complete racing experience. "R" is really intended to be a new product introducing players to the world of motor sports and the challenges of competing against rival drivers in a variety of high-end racing machines.
We want to provide players with the challenge of mastering different racing machines, and the opportunity to prove their skill against the game's rival drivers. After all racing is really about proving you're a better driver than somebody else. Learning how to handle a race car is one thing, but using it effectively to beat skilled opponents is another.
Our aim was to introduce a human element into the game AI and give players the chance to interact with the game's rival drivers in a more dynamic and competitive way. For once the player's actions will have a direct effect on rival drivers actions and performance.
We've gone to a lot of trouble to accurately simulate the physics of each vehicle, and we felt the next logical step was to improve the game's AI to bring the rival drivers to life.
Are there plans for online play?
Namco: It's something we would have loved to have included, but want to do properly. Our first priority was to bring the game to all three hardware platforms, so that no matter what console people owned they could try the game.
Looking at Namco's racing game history, I'm sure you can see that up until now, we've only really stuck with either one home console version or developed specifically for the arcade.
It was important for us to develop a process of bringing games to more than one system, so as to offer players greater choice in the future. Obviously the next step is adding online play to our products. We're actively working on this feature for future projects, so keep your eyes peeled for further announcements...
Obviously you're going down a more realistic route, but fun is also a key component of the title - can you still perform power-drifts and the like?
Namco: Although the physics in the game have been meticulously worked on to create a realistic simulation, we've kept an accessible feel to the control, and the game looking bright and fun as we want to welcome players into trying the game.
Fun is a key element, and there's a variety of driving aids such as the "brake assist" feature, which will make it easier on beginners, allowing them to blast around the track at WOT (wide open throttle), but which also teaches them where to brake so they can ease themselves into playing with these aids switched off.
Drifts are of course very possible, but this time you will need to become a skilled player to control them as would a driver with a real car.
Ridge Racer was very forgiving and simple to control, but by today's standards is not very realistic. We all know there's more than that to driving a car at high speed and wanted to simulate that depth of control for the player. Ridge Racer was originally developed to be a light, high-octane Arcade experience, and did a great job of it.
But as R: Racing was developed to be a home game, we wanted to offer players a deeper experience by providing a more complete simulation that players can experiment with and fine-tune to their liking. We're all big car fans and are always experimenting with different types of control.
Ridge Racer is by no means over, however this time we wanted to set up an additional product line to take Namco's racing games in a new direction. We want to be able to offer players the best of both worlds from Namco - both arcade and simulation. Hopefully you'll enjoy having the choice!