Lead Game Designer Emile Morel on Rayman’s next-gen debut.
Whether it’s sunny or raining, you can always count on the limbless wonder Rayman. The unorthodox platforming hero has seen several incarnations, from a classic 2D platformer to a 3D action adventure and even taking a backseat to a breed of Raving Rabbids. Rayman made his return not too long with Rayman Origins – last year’s Rayman Legends furthered his (its?) reputation of being a funny, light-hearted and gorgeous looking platforming experience. And now Ubisoft Montpellier is set to bring Rayman to next gen consoles when Legends arrives on the PS4 and Xbox One in the next few weeks.
GamingBolt spoke to lead game designer Emile Morel about the game including the reason for starting Rayman’s next-gen push with Legends, the benefits of the PS4 and Xbox One along with their challenges and much more.
Ravi Sinha: You guys had a great launch last year. What was the inspiration of bringing Rayman Legends to next gen consoles?
Emile Morel: Thank you! The reception from journalists and gamers to Rayman Legends’ original release was truly amazing and it confirmed we had a quality game in our hands, so the idea for us with these next gen versions was really to broaden the game’s audience, to give the possibility to more people to play this game.
If you look at the games’ offer right now on Xbox One and PS4, you’ll see that on these consoles there aren’t so many fun, colourful platformers that you can play up to 4 players at the same time. So I think there’s definitely a place for a game like Rayman Legends on these consoles. I think these new versions will be a great opportunity for new players to discover this game at a reduced price with new content and specific features made for these new consoles.
"To me, one of the biggest benefits brought by the next gen consoles to Rayman Legends is clearly the absence of loading times. In these versions of the game you’ll see that when you jump inside a painting the level immediately starts, without any transition."
Ravi Sinha: More and more games from last gen are being upgraded to next gen consoles. Do you think this trend will continue throughout the new console cycle?
Emile Morel: I can’t predict the future, but I think this trend is really interesting and answers one of the problems of our medium. If you compare video games to other mediums, like movies for instance, you’ll realize that one of our biggest issues is that games get outdated very fast, because the technology is moving really fast and because new consoles are regularly coming out. The result is that playing a game that is just 15 years old might be quiet difficult, just getting your hands on the game and the right console might take you weeks, whereas watching a movie from the 70’s will be really easy.
So adapting and upgrading the best games from the previous console generations for the new consoles is really interesting, it allows new generations of gamers to discover good old classics and it builds us an artistic credibility in our industry (games are not disappearing a few months after they’ve been released). For instance I like what Nintendo has done with Ocarina of Time on 3DS and Wind Waker on the Wii U, Ubisoft has also done a great job on this side with the HD remake of Beyond Good and Evil among others. So I think (and hope) this trend will continue, as long as it doesn’t prevent us from creating new and fresh gaming experiences at the same time.
Ravi Sinha: Other than the graphics and added visual flair, what kind of benefits do the next gen consoles bring to Rayman Legends?
Emile Morel: To me, one of the biggest benefits brought by the next gen consoles to Rayman Legends is clearly the absence of loading times. In these versions of the game you’ll see that when you jump inside a painting the level immediately starts, without any transition. It may sound like a small thing, but when you’ve worked on a game during 2 years and got used to these loading times, when you play the game and you don’t have them anymore, it really changes the experience. Now the navigation in the game is far more fluid and jumping in and out of a level has never went so fast !
Other than that, I love the Camera Mode we implemented on PS4. By just pressing the touchpad of the PS4 controller, you freeze the game and enter this special mode. There, by moving your fingers on the touchpad (like you would do on a smartphone) you can zoom in and out on the picture and change the frame, then when you’re happy with your picture you just have to press the Share button to show this photo to everybody. This mode will allow players to be creative with the game (trying to create the best photos), and it’s also a great way to spot and discover all the small details our artists put in the visuals and in the animations of the game. The challenges on Xbox One are also a nice addition to the game, bringing new types of achievements to the game.
"As always people are trying to find differences between these 2 consoles to find out which one is the best and which one they should buy. I totally understand that, but the truth is these 2 consoles are very close to each other on a tech point of view and in the end the only thing that will really matter is the catalogue of games these consoles will offer."
Ravi Sinha: Rayman Legends on the Xbox One will be the first game, I think, that will be utilizing ‘challenges’. Can you please explain how these will work?
Emile Morel: Actually, I think that all Xbox One games are offering at least one “challenge”. In Rayman Legends, you’ll get 10 challenges to complete in a limited amount of time. You can think of them as special achievements that you have to complete during one week. So basically, right after the release of the game, the first challenge will be available for players during a week, the week after it will be gone and replaced by the second challenge, and so forth, this will last during 10 weeks. So it means that only the quickest and the most assiduous players will be able to complete these 10 challenges. To give you an idea of what to expect, here are 2 examples of these challenges: “Get at least 700 Lums in 10 paintings when possible”, “Complete 15 paintings without taking a hit”.
Ravi Sinha: Is the 60fps on next gen consoles unlocked? [Can it go beyond 60 fps?]
Emile Morel: I’m not on the tech side of the development, but I don’t think we’ll be able to run games beyond 60fps on next gen consoles (but again I’m not an expert on this so someone could prove me wrong). And honestly 60fps is already very fluid for gamers, so I’m not sure going beyond would bring anything to video games right now.
As for Rayman Legends, on next gen just like on current gen, you’ll see that the game always runs at 60fps, bringing this great fluidity you need when playing a fast paced platformer like this one.
Ravi Sinha: How did you go about asset optimization and texture compression for the next gen version?
Emile Morel: Basically the power of the PS4 and the Xbox One is allowing us to have a global optimization of all the game’s assets, making the whole game “lighter” if you want. This is how we are able toget rid of all the loading times in the game. Since the levels we’re loading don’t weight as much as before in terms of data, we can load them faster and get rid of all the transitions. As for the textures, the power behind the next gen consoles is allowing us to have some uncompressed textures this time, making the visuals of the games look even sharper than before.
Ravi Sinha: The frame rate and resolution differences between PS4 and Xbox One has been subjected to much debate. What is your opinion on this? Does the difference really matter in the long run given the fact that the new console cycle isn’t expected to be any shorter?
Emile Morel: As always people are trying to find differences between these 2 consoles to find out which one is the best and which one they should buy. I totally understand that, but the truth is these 2 consoles are very close to each other on a tech point of view and in the end the only thing that will really matter is the catalogue of games these consoles will offer. This is really what should make you buy one system or the other: the games. As for Rayman Legends on next gen consoles, I can honestly tell you that I don’t see any differences between one version or the other. Both versionsrun at 60fps in 1080p, so there will be no battle on this side!
"As for the next gen consoles, I think they can offer great things for some future Rayman titles, especially with the social features being one of their biggest strengths."
Ravi Sinha: From a development standpoint, what are your thoughts on the tech differences between the two new machines? Are they closely matched?
Emile Morel: Yes, like I was saying the tech differences are not so big between these 2 consoles and in the end these small differences should have absolutely no impact on the gaming experiences these consoles will offer.Developing a game for these 2 consoles is quiet close, so it means the games existing on both consoles should be very similar.
Ravi Sinha: Did you guys face any issues while porting the game to the Xbox One and PS4? Did the Xbox One embedded RAM [eSRAM} poseany issues in development whatsoever?
Emile Morel: Porting Rayman Legends on Xbox One and PS4 hasn’t been a huge challenge for our engineers and they didn’t encounter any specific issues on these 2 consoles. Of course they were discovering new awards and had to familiarize themselves with these consoles, but apart from that it was a pretty smooth port. And the fact that we already had kind of a next gen game on Xbox 360 and PS3 probably made that port even easier, on these previous consoles Rayman Legends was already running at 60fps in 1080p, which is really the best you can offer to gamers right now! So starting from there, our engineers we’re able to focus on optimizing the game on next gen consoles to offer an even better experience!
Ravi Sinha: Rayman is a celebrated icon in the video games industry and it’s great to see the franchise going from strength to strength. What can you tell us about the future of the Rayman series and how will next gen consoles define its course?
Emile Morel: What is great with this brand is that during the past 2 years we’ve seen successful Rayman games on home consoles, handheld consoles, as well as mobiles. So it means Rayman is really back and people are now aware that this is a quality brand. With so many supports, there are many potential futures for the Rayman series, but for the moment we don’t have any official announcement to make.
As for the next gen consoles, I think they can offer great things for some future Rayman titles, especially with the social features being one of their biggest strengths. I can’t wait to see people sharing screenshots and videos of their Rayman Legends’ sessions on next gen in a few weeks!’