The Average Gamer

Gamescom 2011 – Stuart Tilley “it’s more about wing to wing combat racing”

WipEout 2048 - Small LogoAfter Sony’s Gamescom 2011 press conference last week, I interviewed Stuart Tilley, Game Director of wipEout 2048 about the biggest change to the weapon system in wipEout history, track editors, voice activation, photo mode and the prospect of another wipEout game on the PlayStation 3.

WipEout games have featured many different gameplay tweaks like the recharge lane in wipEout 2097. Now you’re splitting up the weapons in wipEout 2048 so the yellow pads on the track give you offensive weapons and the green pads give you defensive weapons. Is this going to make it into future games do you think?

Stuart Tilley: I think the people that play the game can let us know about that. I think it makes it fresh. When you’re doing a wipEout game and there have been a lot of them, you need to retain what’s great about wipEout – really fast eye-bleeding racing with high production values. You need to give it a freshness you know.

The balance that we have gone for on this one is it’s more about wing to wing combat racing than just surviving the track. So within that we have made the tracks wider and smoother to allow you to do that and actually allow you to go faster than in previous wipEout games. As you are dicing with the other ships it allows us to layer in some gameplay features to take advantage of that. Split weapons are a good example, green pads give defensive weapons and yellow pads give offensive weapons. It makes you actually think about it.
wipEout 2048 - Start Line
We’ve changed the way the shield weapon works. It sits in the weapon slot and you can choose to deploy it but if you leave it in the slot – which means you can’t pick up another weapon – it will auto deploy if you get hit by something. So you have to decide, do I use it? I want to, but I’m only in third place but if I get rid of it I can get a missile and take out the second place player out.

We have a similar thing with what we call our skill cut. They are like short cuts but they are really tough to execute perfectly. They are narrower and twistier. So if you’re down in second or third place with a couple of corners to go you’ve got to make a racing decision. Not a decision if you can survive till the end with enough shield energy but about the right strategy to win the race. Sometimes you’ll hit it and get a glorious victory and you’ll barrel roll all over the line and everyone will cheer your name and sometimes you’ll stuff it into the wall or drop into the water and end up coming fifth or sixth.

This game is definitely balanced more towards the dicing and the fighting rather than the more lonely experience of just getting round and setting fast laps. That’s what we hope anyway. We have a lot of fun playing it multiplayer in the office so I’m hoping other people will.

How sensitive is the voice activation for firing weapons? Could I lean over whilst someone else was playing and say “fire weapon” and it would?

ST: Yeah, people could nerf it if they felt the need to. You can analyze it for words so it’s not just a noise so if a car drives past you it won’t drop all your weapons. It’s an interesting way to use the microphone in the PS Vita. WipEout 2048 also supports the new PlayStation party feature so there will be voice chat within the games as well which is good fun in multiplayer. Yeah, well we’ll use it [microphone] for a couple of things like firing weapons and see how people go with it.

Can you tell me about other PS Vita features that WipEout 2048 supports like Near [which allows users to leave virtual gifts in real-life locations]?

ST: We are doing a couple of things with Near. One of the cool things we do with our unlock system you can view your ships with augmented reality so there is a museum of collectables that you can see in AR. You will be able to gift them through Near so you will be able to unlock stuff for other players. You will be also able to set race challenges like I finished this track in this time and you can drop that as a Near challenge which people can pick up as they go past. You can see how many people pick it up and how many beat your time.

Can you tell me about the team making wipEout 2048?

ST: We are up to nearly fifty people finishing off the game, our peak size at the minute. We have got some wipEout veterans on the team. There is one guy who has been there since the Psygnosis days and worked on them all the way through. Sixteen years of service, I think. We’ve got guys who have worked on the PS1, PS2, PSP games. Most of our studio has worked on at least one wipEout game. I’m a bit of an exception. I’m the new boy in the camp having come from my Rollcage heritage. It makes it really handy I think. There’s a lot of experience to draw on because we’ve done from similar things before and allows us to be really efficient. We are actually able to generate a much bigger game than a new team would be able to do.

What technical challenges did you face bringing wipEout to the PS Vita, as people are used to 60fps wipEout HD/Fury?

ST: You know it wasn’t too bad to be honest. The PS Vita is a really powerful machine so we managed to get up and running quickly. Every machine is different. Xbox 360 is different to PlayStation 3 but they are still great in their own way. It was a case of readdressing the balance of what we could do with it [PS Vita]. It doesn’t necessarily have the polygon throughput of the PS3 but then you have a lot of stuff you can do with the shaders and even the anti-aliasing on the shadows is a lot better and more efficient to do on PS Vita as well. It’s a case of rebalancing it and building stuff in a sensible way to take advantage of the PS Vita.
wipEout 2048 - Sol
We are quite lucky as Sony did a great job this time when the PS Vita development environment came along. It was a lot more user friendly to work with so we managed to get the game up and running really quickly and allowed us to get in a making the fun game stuff. We are talking weeks rather than months. Without meaning to be overly positive its been really good for development and we haven’t had any major technical hurdles. We are looking at our new version of zone mode at the minute and what really cool effects we can do for that so that’s going to be a good one for us.

What about including a track editor?

ST: We did a livery editor back in the day on the wipEout Pulse website. Track editors are so difficult. Gamers have done a really good job with LitttleBigPlanet and ModNation but they’ve built from the ground for that to be a big part of the game. I don’t think we will ever go there. Never say never but we won’t go there with this version of wipEout certainly. It takes a lot of tweaking and balancing to get it just right. Our art guys are very particular in the way stuff looks so for the minute we will keep control of that.

Is photo mode still there?

ST: Yep, photo mode is there and it has all the post-processing effects that the PS3 version has.

What about a new PlayStation 3 wipEout game?

ST: We like making wipEout games. I hope one day in the future we get to make another one. I’d love to do another one for PS3. What that will be and when that will come, I really don’t know. But we will do our very best to make another one for people and find a new and interesting way to take it.

With wipEout 2048 being a launch title we are absolutely blazing in on it and the guys are working a lot of hours to get the game done in time so our focus is on that and when finished we will see what our future holds for us.

WipEout will definitely ride again.

Thanks for your time.

It’s great to hear Tilley asking the wipEout community for feedback on the gameplay changes in wipEout 2048. With Studio Liverpool’s vast experience in making wipEout games it would be very easy for them to step back from the community and create the game behind closed doors. After meeting four of the team behind the game including one of the senior designers, they are some of the most approachable and knowledgeable developers I’ve met. WipEout is in very safe hands.

You can see more wipEout 2048 action in the Gamescom 2011 trailer which includes footage from two new tracks – Sol and Queens Mall. We also have Tilley demoing the Empire Climb track at E3 2011 using the touch and tilt control system.

WipEout 2048 will be a launch title for the PS Vita.