If you needed any more convincing that Ridge Racer Unbounded is a full-on ‘unbounded’ change of pace for the series, then the track editor is it. Could you imagine having a track editor in Ridge Racer’s past? Unthinkable.
By placing blocks of different stretches of road (straights, corners, start/finish line etc) across an 8 x 8 grid, you can build track layouts of varying complexity. Each of these blocks falls into a certain scenery style – we saw downtown, boroughs and construction but others will make the final cut.
Why include such a thing? Unbounded producer Jonas Laakso told us:
“…chiefly we were afraid that maybe ‘just’ making a kickass arcade isn’t enough for today’s marketplace. We felt like we needed something extra. We thought about adding car customisation, more game modes or a story mode or something but once we rested on the idea of the creator it felt right.
“The longevity certainly plays into it, but if you put a sticker on the box that says ‘this game has a creator mode’ that seems to boost sales.
“However, if you look at Far Cry 2, LittleBigPlanet or Halo: Reach, very few people actually use the editors for anything. I think people like the idea of creating and discovering new stuff but they’re not so keen on actually spending the time to do so. We wanted to see how many people we could encourage to use the editor if it was simple enough.”
Unbounded’s basic creator tools certainly are easy to use, with almost every block connecting to every other. Because the trackside scenery has already been generated for you, it’s very simple to create something that looks like the real deal.
Indeed, Laakso confirmed to us that the tracks on the retail have all been created with the same in-game editing tools available to players:
“We are creating tracks using only the 360 and PS3 builds, we don’t use the PC for anything anymore.”
For those after something a little more in-depth and looking to create something that stands out from the crowd. An advanced editor is also being included, allowing you to go into each block and place objects around the game world as you see fit. This includes adding ramps, blockades, jumps and stuff to blow up.
While our demo of the advanced editor was short, its potential was pretty obviously. Ramps allow you to create paths to higher levels and provides the option of creating multiple paths through a single track. Blockades do the same thing but keeps things on the ground. Of course, the success of such an approach to track design will depend on your personal skill in creating something complex but keeping things fair for all racers – you don’t want one path to be drastically longer than another, unless it’s an easier ride.
Unfortunately, we weren’t privy to how these items are placed and interacted with, but we were told that you would position them directly within the 3D world of the track.
The success of such a mode will depend on the memory limitations of the current consoles. At present all formats (PS3, 360 and PC) share the same memory restrictions; however Laakso did say that that may be increased on PC.
At present, your memory runs out after about 12-14 blocks. If you use the same block over and over you get it ‘for free’ as the game has already loaded the data, if you continue to use different blocks (especially those from different background caches) then your memory will fill up very quickly. Just how much editing objects within advanced mode affects the memory limit has yet to be worked out – hopefully it will be minimal. If it’s not minimal the whole exercise will be pointless.
Tracks can be shared online and arranged into ‘cities’ of six events (i.e. six tracks). Seeing as how all players will be using the exact same data from the disc, loading times should be minimal as the game will merely take block info and construct it itself without having to download everything.
I’m all for editors as, for me at least, they do extend the life of the game. Especially when that game is Trackmania. Unbounded’s editor is clearly simple, but is so by design. Laakso explains:
“Far Cry 2, LittleBigPlanet or Halo: Reach, very few people actually use the editors for anything. I think people like the idea of creating and discovering new stuff but they’re not so keen on actually spending the time to do so. We wanted to see how many people we could encourage to use the editor if it was simple enough.”