We talk to the man holding the keys to a long awaited racing sequel...
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Released back in 2006 when this current generation of consoles was still in its infancy, the original Test Drive Unlimited presented a daring attempt to create a massively multiplayer online racing game. With Atari and Eden Games taking the series for another spin in 2011, we sat down with executive producer Vince Farquarhason to find out what to expect from Test Drive Unlimited 2.
Strategy Informer:What would you say is Test Drive Unlimited 2’s single biggest difference from its predecessor?
Vince Farquharson: In terms of something that wasn’t in there before - it’s not necessarily the most important feature - is that you can get out of the cars now and there’s this whole Playstation Home environment to walk around, emote and chat with other players in. I think that’s the most significant different thing. There are lots of others things that are built upon, things that were in the first game that I’d say are more important but are better now.
Strategy Informer:With that comparison to Playstation Home in mind, how deep is the avatar customisation going to be?
Vince Farquaharson: You basically customise everything - your tops, your bottoms, your shoes, glasses, hats, hair, face – and it’s all done within the game world as well. It’s not like a traditional MMO where choose your character and adjust your sliders at the start. We give you a few characters at the start but then you can go into a cosmetic clinic and have an operation to change your face and then you have to wear a bandage for an hour. Or your can go into a shop and buy your clothes in there or go to a hairdresser so it’s all built within the world.
Strategy Informer:Why did you make the decision to use this method and not have players create their ideal persona at the beginning?
Vince Farquaharson: That was very deliberate because we wanted to get the players in as soon as possible to start enjoying the game. And we quite liked the idea of having that built within the world. TDU2 is about this opulent lifestyle of the rich and famous and going for cosmetic surgery and to swanky hairdressers are all part of it so we thought this to be a nicer and more fun way to build it into the game.
Strategy Informer:In the same vein, to what extent can the cars be customised?
Vince Farquaharson: You can do colours, bi-colours, there are sticker shops where you can add decals. We’ve got hundreds of decals so you can do pretty much whatever you want with that. There’s performance tuning as well so you can upgrade the performance characteristics of your cars. It’s pretty extensive.
Strategy Informer:Though initially players start out on the island of Ibiza, the setting from the first game O’ahu is also set to be playable. Has this been redesigned or is it going to be the same as we remember it?
Vince Farquaharson: It’s been upgraded so all the things like the off-road championships that weren’t there have been added. The championship structure didn’t exist in the first game so all the story and challenges associated with that are new. The island is the same but the game play is all-new.
All the environments we had in there before are now avatar compliant so you can go into them all and move around. You’ve got the day/night cycle – everything had to be retuned and relit to handle that technology. You’ve now got weather as well. It was actually a really big job putting O’ahu back in it but we think it’s the right decision because we want to deliver a big game environment to keep people playing in for years.
Strategy Informer: So with both islands how many miles of road are there in TDU2?
Vince Farquaharson: In the original we had 1600 – that’s O’ahu. We’ve got over 3000 now so it’s huge. It blows away anything I’ve ever heard of.
Strategy Informer:How do you travel between the two islands?
Vince Farquaharson: You go to the airport and catch a plane. You unlock the airport at level ten and the plot around that time moves on to O’ahu. You pay for the first trip and then you can go between the two whenever you want.
Strategy Informer:Keeping on a statistical track, how many cars will there be in the finished game?
Vince Farquaharson: We’ve not announced that yet but about the same as what the first game launched with. Similar manufacturers but more modern, top-end cars.
Strategy Informer:I noticed some dents and dings in my car’s bodywork after a crash. How extensive is the damage modelling going to be?
Vince Farquaharson: It’s not super extensive and there are a couple of reasons for that. The main one is the manufacturers. But from our perspective it’s just not a game about smashing up cars. It’s about the luxury lifestyle, this beautiful world and beautiful cars – it’s the antithesis of being able to smash vehicles into small pieces.
Also, that leads into a question of performance damage. It’s an online game and we didn’t want people griefing - smashing into each other to ruin the performance of someone’s car. That’s the same reason that we don’t make the player pay to repair their car. It was arrived at in a holistic view of our systems and that seemed like a sensible point. We didn’t have it at all in the last one. We wanted it in for the realism but that’s not the point of the game.
Strategy Informer:Do the police make a return from the first game?
Vince Farquaharson: It’s a bit harder to get in trouble with the police – they were a bit of a pain last time. If you do anything while they’re looking at you – there has to be a cop car near you – you then have three minutes to evade them otherwise you get a fine.
The cool new thing now is that if there are more than three players near you online they get asked if they want to be the cops. There’s a whole new levelling system based around cops, catching people or escaping. It’s seamlessly integrated into the world.
Strategy Informer:Are there any differences between the three platforms you’re putting the game out on?
Vince Farquaharson: They’re largely the same but in terms of regular boxed product there are going to be differences in the car line-ups. We haven’t announced that yet.
Strategy Informer:Are there going to be pre-order exclusives too?
Vince Farquaharson: That as well. There will be a bunch of bonus cars specific to certain pre-orders which is fairly standard fare these days.
It looks like Eden Games are aiming high with Test Drive Unlimited 2. While Vince was tight-lipped when it came to an exact release date, expect to see it in Q1 2011 on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC.