Lead Designer Karri Kiviluoma talks about the advantages of next gen development.
In this age of cutting-edge graphics, it’s not easy to push a 2D platforming-esque racing title on to the masses, much less have it be such a strong success like the Trials franchise has been. Of course, the medium itself is a bit of a double-edged blade: If you don’t need to focus much on graphics, how do you keep the gameplay fresh? RedLynx has been challenged with this notion after releasing Trials Fusion which – though introducing lots of little touches that expand on the game overall – has come under some criticism for being more of the same
GamingBolt spoke to Trials Fusion lead designer Karri Kiviluoma about the same, including development on the Xbox One and PS4, two new platforms for the Trials franchise. What challenges did they possess? What are the advantages? For that matter, what was the though process behind opting for the PS4 and Xbox One at launch? We find out below.
Rashid Sayed: Let us get the tough question out of the way. What is the reason behind Xbox One’s lower resolution of 900p when compared to the PS4’s full 1080p resolution for Trials Fusion?
Karri Kiviluoma: The Xbox One and PS4 launch versions are very close to each other in visual quality, both games running at a locked 60 frames per second. It’s hardly something anyone will notice as the game in action looks amazing on whatever your platform of choice is. It’s more about having fun at 60fps than small differences between systems.
Rashid Sayed: What was the biggest challenge working on the Xbox One version of the game? And at the same time how did you use some of its next-gen architectural benefits?
Karri Kiviluoma: There wasn’t any particular challenge with Xbox One other than that every new system has its quirks and unfinished processes behind-the-scenes. Probably it’s more fair to talk about the Xbox 360 version being the most challenging, simply because we had to take a game that is state of the art for the new generation of consoles and state-of-the-art PCs and scale back its visual ambitions to a level where it runs happily and with great joy on the Xbox 360 too.
"A great Finnish philosopher once said, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." 🙂 Sure, Trials Fusion brings more of that great Trials gameplay, with all new tracks, new bikes, new Leader Boards, new friends to conquer on three new platforms, and oh yes, an all-new, completely original FMX tricks system never before implemented in a game quite like this. So if the accusation is, "Your Trials game has too much Trials in it" then maybe we are guilty of that."
Rashid Sayed: What is the biggest upgrade that the PS4 and Xbox One bought to the franchise, other than the increased fidelity and frame rate?
Karri Kiviluoma: The frame rate actually has not increased with the console generation but that is because we had achieved a rather remarkable 60 frames per second already on the Xbox 360 with Trials HD and Trials Evolution. That high, locked frame rate is a vital part of the Trials experience, because when a top player is shaving microseconds of time off of his score, he has to have absolute fidelity between the controller, the physics engine, and what happens on the screen. We kept that same consistent framerate with the new consoles (and the PC) while increasing the draw distance, texture resolution, and number of effects on the screen. But the 60 fps Guarantee is the spoke upon which the entire Trials experience spins.
Rashid Sayed: I am sure you have been asked this question in the past, but what was the decision of not bringing the game to the PlayStation 3, given that the game has a PlayStation 4 version?
Karri Kiviluoma: It’s easy to build a game for just one platform. It’s much harder to build for four platforms at the same time and have them all launch within one week of each other. So if you are going to go down the multiplatform route, it helps if your target platforms have a lot in common. The four platforms we targeted — PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 — all have reasonably similar architecture so that we could be sure that the Trials experience, especially the 60 frames per second lock, could be achieved on those platforms without intense customization and rewriting of crucial pieces of our physics and engine technology.
Since four platforms was about all our production pipeline could handle — and we had to have lots of help from other Ubisoft studios, primarily Shanghai and Kiev — we were stretched pretty thin just to make it onto those four platforms. So that was the primary driver behind the platforms we chose.
Rashid Sayed: Trials Fusion has seen a positive reception so far. But gamers have complained that it’s more of the same [which is great news for Trials fans by the way] and it feels more like an ‘Ultimate Edition’ of the previous versions rather than a game made up from scratch. What are your thoughts on this and do you plan to address these issues?
Karri Kiviluoma: A great Finnish philosopher once said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” 🙂 Sure, Trials Fusion brings more of that great Trials gameplay, with all new tracks, new bikes, new Leader Boards, new friends to conquer on three new platforms, and oh yes, an all-new, completely original FMX tricks system never before implemented in a game quite like this. So if the accusation is, “Your Trials game has too much Trials in it” then maybe we are guilty of that. And once Track Central fills up with 300,000 user-created tracks that are free to play and download, we will see the full variety of experiences that can be created with the editor.
"But with Fusion we are committed to a multi-year process of expanding and improving the game, from ironing out the technical issues and delivering the promised six content packs in the first year, to expanding the game in new and exciting directions with free feature updates that will bring great new features like online multiplayer and tournaments to the main game."
Rashid Sayed: If there is ever going to be another Trials game in the future, what is the one gameplay change/element that you will like to bring in it?
Karri Kiviluoma: That’s a really hard question to answer since we are committed right now to this Trials release, Trials Fusion, for several years. We are really trying to get away from the idea of “release a game, move on, start the next one” and instead are treating Trials Fusion like a channel or a service, something that we will continually expand and build upon with free feature updates. We don’t mind admitting that we are using a bit of the Minecraft model here: constantly expanding and growing the game with new things to delight and surprise players. Any good idea we come up with for Trials we will put into Fusion. That’s our focus right now.
Rashid Sayed: As someone who has now worked on both the new systems i.e. the PS4 and Xbox One, what is it that differentiates both of them, yet making them unique in their own way?
Karri Kiviluoma: It’s probably a fair comment to say that both of these new generation consoles have much more in common with each other than consoles of generations past. The primary differentiators apart from the first party games and other exclusives have to be the peripherals: the Kinect for Microsoft being pretty well known by this point and Sony doing something interesting with VR headsets. However a lot of multi-platform games like ours won’t make much use of the peripherals due to time.
Rashid Sayed: Furthermore, do you think this resolution issue with the Xbox One will improve as time goes on?
Karri Kiviluoma: They absolutely will, and not just for our game. Microsoft will continue to improve performance and we will continue to optimize our game for it and the other platforms.
Rashid Sayed: Now that Trials Fusion is done with, what are you guys working on next?
Karri Kiviluoma: More Trials Fusion! Seriously, that is all the studio is working on right now, except for the guys who are working on the mobile game Trials Frontier, available now on iOS and soon for Android.
But with Fusion we are committed to a multi-year process of expanding and improving the game, from ironing out the technical issues and delivering the promised six content packs in the first year, to expanding the game in new and exciting directions with free feature updates that will bring great new features like online multiplayer and tournaments to the main game.