The people over at Italian studio Milestone definitely know – and love – their bikes. Over the years, they’ve become one of the most prolific developers of bike racing sims, and one would argue that they’re at their best and brightest with the RIDE series. With RIDE 4, they have delivered what is probably their most ambitious game yet, taking leaps forward over its predecessors in many ways, and for enthusiasts, there’s certainly no shortage of things to dive into in the game. Recently, we got in touch with its developers to talk about some of RIDE 4’s biggest improvements, and learned a lot about it, its development, its future plans, and more. You can read our interview with producer Luigi Crocetta below.
NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to the game’s launch.
"One of our goals in RIDE 4 was adding new layers to bike handling and race management. We wanted to move towards a more realistic approach in terms of physics."
How does the new tire wear system impact gameplay?
One of our goals in RIDE 4 was adding new layers to bike handling and race management. We wanted to move towards a more realistic approach in terms of physics, and tire wear is one of the new ingredients we introduced. This system is basically built around two parameters: the tire’s temperature, represented by a color, and it’s wear level, represented by a percentage. Both these elements are shown on the dedicated widget on the screen. A blue tire means that it’s cold, while red means that it’s too warm. Green is the optimal and ideal temperature to maximize tire performance. In other words, we can say that tire temperature is always a key factor to determine their performance both in terms of grip on the track and how quickly they’re going to degrade. In addition to that, the system is also influenced by the track temperature and your riding style. It will be easier to warm up your tires in sunny conditions, but if you’re too aggressive while braking and accelerating you’ll risk heating them up too much.
Can you talk to us about the dynamic weather mechanics? How dynamic are they exactly? How will they affect races and driving?
As I said, we wanted to add new layers to race management, and the new weather system is another key element we focused on. The system is completely random. We’ve tuned the variables involved in its functioning in order to avoid strange or nonsensical behaviors, but we wanted it to be absolutely genuine and unpredictable. The result is a realistic system that, just like in real life, allows us to dynamically change everything related to the weather conditions, from the visual aspect of the track to things like air and tarmac temperature. All these elements affect the bike handling in many ways: on a small scale by changing the track temperature and its influence on the tire wear, on a large scale by forcing the player to make a pit-stop to change the compound or even the tire type.
The bike models in RIDE 4 are said to exhibit a lot of detail, thanks to improved scanning and new technology, but why was it important to make improvements in this area with RIDE 4?
RIDE isn’t simply a racing game about motorcycles, but a real celebration of these beautiful creatures. From this perspective it was fundamental to recreate extremely detailed and accurate bike models to give the players the same sensations they feel when they are in front of a real bike. Looking at a bike in real life is completely different compared to doing the same thing in a picture: in real life you can see a lot of details, you can move around it and discover things you’ve never seen before. We wanted to bring this feeling to the game, and you can spend hours discovering how many details we recreated on the models. This was a key aspect of RIDE 4 and I think we managed to create the most accurate collection of 3D bikes ever seen in a video game.
"RIDE isn’t simply a racing game about motorcycles, but a real celebration of these beautiful creatures."
RIDE 4 launches with several tracks set in locations from around the world. What can players expect from them in terms of design and variety?
One of the key elements of RIDE 4 is competition. We wanted to recreate competition at its highest level, which means races on licensed tracks. So we kept all the best tracks from the previous games and we included great new licensed tracks from all over the world. The tracks have been selected to combine famous and renowned layouts with a strong sense of “geographical journey”. Alongside the most iconic names, we wanted all our players, no matter where they live, to find their most familiar tracks in the game. All of them have been chosen because of their strong connection with motorcycles or because they are extremely enjoyable to race with a bike. Last but not least, we also managed to get licenses for some of the community’s most highly requested circuits, such as Suzuka, Mugello or Phillip Island. I think that the RIDE 4 tracklist is the most ambitious and complete ever seen in the franchise’s history.
How much can players expect RIDE 4’s customization mechanics to differ from its predecessors? Is it going for a similar level of depth and nuance, or is it taking to look things even further?
Except for some very minor optimizations that were necessary to improve the quality of the 3D models, we kept all the customization features from the previous chapters and we expanded them by adding new powerful tools such as the helmet and suite editors. For the first time we also considered the potential of the customization tools in composing the bike list. If you look at how the list of Racing and Endurance modified models is built, you’ll see that it basically includes all the most iconic competition models of the last thirty years. Thanks to the editors included in the game, the players will be free to recreate their favorite racing superbikes and their favorite scenarios for custom races and tournaments. If you are a fan of the old fashioned competition bikes from the ‘80s or if you loved the golden era of the superbikes, the 2000s, or even if you follow contemporary championships you’ll find everything you need to make your dream bike come true in the game. And even if you’re not interested in creating liveries, don’t forget that you can download those made by the huge and passionate RIDE community.
Tell us about the Endurance Mode. Where do you see it fitting in in the RIDE 4 experience? Is it more endgame-focused, or something that players can jump into and enjoy right off the bat?
Endurance races definitely require a more strategic approach because you have to manage more variables, but I wouldn’t define them as end-game focused content. I prefer to say that they expand the world of RIDE and give the players new opportunities and new ways to live their passion for motorcycles and games. With the introduction of the Endurance, for instance, you can make pit-stops and actively change your starting conditions during the race and this is a huge change to how you manage your strategy during the race. I think this is the first time you can do that in a motorcycle game.
"Handling the career structure of games such as RIDE is always complicated because you have to find a good balance between many different elements and expectations."
What prompted the decision to redesign the structure of RIDE 4’s Career Mode? What are the key areas it makes improvements over RIDE 3’s career mode?
First let me say that handling the career structure of games such as RIDE is always complicated because you have to find a good balance between many different elements and expectations. Many players love an extremely wide and free structure where they can buy their favorite bike as soon as possible to start racing with it, while others would instead prefer to be driven through a series of events in a more rigid structure.
The Career mode in RIDE 3 was based on volumes to be unlocked containing many events, but the overall structure was extremely linear. With RIDE 4 we kept the typical sense of freedom of the franchise, where you can always choose what your next event will be, but added a stronger sense of progression and gave more characterization to the events.
The structure of RIDE 4’s career is directly inspired by real competitions because we wanted our new realistic approach to be visible in the overall progression, too. In real life competitions, when you start racing you don’t start on a world stage, you start on a small stage and then you move on to a bigger one.
So just like in real life the player’s very first races will be limited to the region he chose. Once he has completed the majority of the events in his league, he can get a professional license and move to the world league which is the main source of events. Here the competition becomes global and you’ll race on many different tracks in many different events. At the end of the world league you’ll be able to choose one of the two final leagues inspired by real championships: the World Superbikes League and the World Endurance League.
Both these leagues represent the highest level of competitive races and again, just like a real professional rider, you have to specialize if you want to reach the top.
As you can see there’s quite a concrete structure, but except for some mandatory events, players are free to choose how to proceed in their path and which event to race in at any moment .
In addition to that, we included new event types based on different mechanics such as the official tester events for the most famous manufacturers or the invitational events on the most renowned tracks. These events can’t be unlocked through your usual progression, but are directly influenced by your own personal preferences and your favorite bikes and tracks.
The Affinity system is an interesting mechanic that’s lending a new layer to the Career Mode. How extensive can players expect it to be? How much will the Affinity system affect progression and performance in other areas?
I’m glad you appreciate it because it’s something I like too. The idea behind the Affinity system is that we wanted to quantify the time players spend riding their favorite bikes and we wanted to reward them for it. Basically, the more you ride a certain bike and the more you’ll unlock events and content related to it and to its manufacturer. It’s quite a simple and linear concept, but if players like it, there’s no reason not to expand it in other ways and directions.
"We have a huge post-launch plan and we’ll support RIDE 4 with an incredible amount of new content via DLCs, both free and premium. I can say that because we’re still working on it right now!"
You’ve used your Neural AI in a couple of games by now, but this is the first time it will be used in the RIDE series. What improvements does it bring to the table, and how’ve you built upon it for its implementation in RIDE 4?
Implementing ANNA in RIDE 4 it’s been a huge challenge in many ways. The biggest was surely to manage the huge differences between all the different categories and models included in the game. In previous Milestone games ANNA had to manage around 4 bike categories, while in RIDE 4 this value is more than double and there are hundreds of models, each one with its own specifications. Just to give you an example of how huge this work has been, the neural system’s training session took more than 16 million hours to be completed, instead of “only” 8 million hours for the previous games.
With the introduction of the Endurance races, ANNA must also be able to manage different strategies during the race. So we worked very hard to let her understand the right moments to make spit-stops or to know which compound is better depending on the track or the weather condition.
What are your plans for RIDE 4 post-launch support, in terms of adding to the game with additional vehicles, locations, and the like?
We have a huge post-launch plan and we’ll support RIDE 4 with an incredible amount of new content via DLCs, both free and premium. I can say that because we’re still working on it right now! The first content has just been released and many more will be out in the upcoming months. I’m not allowed to reveal too much but I can anticipate that they’ll include great new bikes and tracks and that the DLC plan for RIDE 4 is the biggest in the franchise’s history.