One of the most difficult things any videogame sequel must achieve is a sense of improvement without removing what people liked about the original in the first place.
Change it too much, people will complain. Don’t change it enough, people will complain. The balance is tricky.
Balance is what Trials HD was all about, and it’s what Trials Evolution is all about. Developer RedLynx has stayed away from altering the core formula that made their original game of motocross daredevilism and time trials such an addictive hit.
We talk to the game’s lead designer and Redlynx creative director, Antti Ilvessuo, about the difficult balancing act, the improved editing tools and that legendary difficultly curve.
A full hands-on preview of Trials Evolution can be found .
IncGamers: Trials HD was a massive success. Were you expecting such critical and commercial success, and do you possibly follow that up?
Antti Ilvessuo: We knew it was a good game, because we had a lot of fun playing it right up until we launched (and beyond), and we thought it would do well as part of the Summer of Arcade promotion. But the immense response from players and critics, it was more than we expected. We were very happy though.
IG: Why the ‘Evolution’ part of the title? How do you evolve a game that, at its core, is based around a very simple set of principles?
AI: Good question. We really think of the game as an evolution, because it has evolved in many ways although without changing the core gameplay. The controls are the same as the previous game – gas, break, and leaning – but we’ve added much more: outdoor environments, a new Track Central for sharing content, curved driving lines, and for the first time in the series, multiplayer. Those steps really make the game more than a sequel in our eyes, more of an evolution.
IG: You’ve included extensive editing tools in Trials Evolution. Why and what are the craziest designs you’ve seen so far?
AI: So far, all the crazy stuff has come from our in-house team of level designers. They’ve been able to make a working foosball table, a first person shooter game mode, top down racing and shooting games – and that’s only in the short time since they’ve finished the main tracks for the game. So we’re really excited to see what the community will be able to create.
IG: Are the levels that will ship with the game made with the same editing tools available to players? …how long does a typical level take to build?
AI: Yes, all the levels in the game are made using the exact same editor that comes in the game, and that includes the scripted, custom endings at the end of each level. And there is no separate PC version of the editor; our designers use their Xbox controllers to create all the levels in the game. It really varies from level to level, and we probably spent more time working on each level because as the game was being developed, parts of the engine or the editor might change, forcing us to re-do some work. We expect users, who are working with a final editor, to put things together much more quickly.
IG: Editing tools are becoming increasing popular in a wide range of games and genre. Why do you think they’re so appealing to players?
AI: Different games will have different reasons for creating game editors, but in our case the basic steps needed to create a track aren’t that difficult – but what takes skill is making a really great track. It’s similar to playing the base game in a lot of ways: the controls are very simple, but can take a long time to learn. We think it’s a great way for players to get to know the game better and get more involved in the community and get rewarded for their abilities, by including an editor.
IG: How does multiplayer work and why have you moved away from the leaderboard-only model?
AI: Actually, we haven’t moved away from the Leader Board model, as that will still exist in this game for every single player track, and in fact even user-created tracks can have Leader Boards. But we are adding multiplayer this time, that’s true.
We have local multiplayer, where four players ride on a single screen side by side. That mode is fast and furious, as anytime you mess up, you are respawned at the next checkpoint, although you lose one point on the scoreboard.
We also have that same game mode online via XBLA, where you can play against just your friends in a private lobby, or compete against anyone in a public, ranked match. Finally, we also have an online-only mode called Hardcore Trials, where it’s four players racing on the same driving line, using any single player track in the game, including player-created ones. You see the other drivers as ghosts. It will be a whole new way to compete on single player tracks.
IG: Trials HD is notoriously difficult in places. Are you aiming for a similar level of challenge here? How difficult is it to setup a learning curve that is engaging but not off-putting?
AI: We didn’t want to dumb it down or make the game too easy, although we do acknowledge that Trials HD did get pretty quick, pretty fast. What we did this time was smooth out the learning curve, by introducing a new single player metagame.
This time around, you will need to earn medals to unlock each new group of tracks, including getting enough gold and silver, before you are allowed to advance. We’ve also scattered the interactive tutorials throughout the game, so you are learning key moves like the bunny-hop before you are asked to perform them in the game. This way, the game retains its challenge, but hopefully more people will pick up the advanced skills needed to play the game.
IG: Physics are a huge part of what make Trials HD so great. What changes can we expect there and how difficult are they to get right?
AI: For the most part, we left the physics of the bike and rider alone as much as possible, because we felt that was one part of the game that worked very well and didn’t need a great deal of tweaking. What is different with the engine however is now we have a draw distance that runs out to 500 meters. In the previous game, we didn’t have such a great draw distance, but you didn’t notice because it was always set indoors.
But with outdoors, we had to have a greater draw distance or the game wouldn’t look very good, but at the same time we had to keep the game locked at 60 frames per second at all times, or the controls wouldn’t feel very responsive. That was one of the toughest challenges we had technically, and we feel we pulled it off, so we’re very happy about that.