Amped 2 Q&A

We talk to Microsoft about the upcoming sequel to its first party snowboarding game.

The original Amped was Microsoft's freshmen entry into the snowboarding genre that rounded out the Xbox launch in 2001. The next entry in the series, Amped 2, is due out this week and offers a sizeable array of improvements over its predecessor. We talked to product planner Brenner Adams about the impending sequel and about what to expect from the Xbox Live-enabled game.

GameSpot: Why did you choose each specific mountain for inclusion in Amped 2?

Brenner Adams: We have always tried to feature resorts that help progress the freestyle side of snowboarding.

Laax, for example, was voted as the European Snowboard Resort of the Year and has had the biggest, best pipe in Europe for quite a while. Laax is also featured in tons of magazines and videos every year, showing support for the pros and for the sport.

Laax has been meticulously recreated for inclusion in Amped 2.

For Mt. Buller, in Australia, we heard from pro rider Chris Boadle and industry-heavy Shane Carter that Buller has had rails and a pipe for quite some time. The freestyle scene has been better there than at any other resort. Even though some resorts are bigger and throw bigger events, Buller was the place. Once we saw the village and everything the resort had to offer, it seemed like a perfect fit for Amped 2. It was a mountain where we could demonstrate the new types of tricks, challenges, and amazing environments.

New Zealand's Harris Mountain had lots of crazy stuff to offer, like the powder 8's contest for snowboards. We hooked up with some of these riders and got the opportunity for them to show us some amazing things that we eventually tried to capture in the game.

GS: What was some of the research involved in modeling the mountain in the game?

B.A.: Modeling the mountain in the game is a huge process. It usually takes a travel team of five people to get everything we need in five days. We need to capture videotape of every run--from top to bottom--with a rider in view, as well as capturing superhigh-resolution shots of all the buildings, rails, jumps, pipes, trees, snow textures, panoramas, and chairlifts in sight. We also make sure we have a local pro or two there to show us the most famous sections, runs, or jumps, so we can focus on those. For us, the key is to capture the essence of the resort while improving the gameplay differences between levels.

To achieve the high level of detail in the game a team of five people visited the mountains for research.

GS: What are some cool facts about the game? Are there any new features?

B.A.: There are tons of new features, including new tricks, snowskating, lip-tricks, locked railslides, and "butter." There are also many new ways to play. Gamers can string combos together for fast-paced fun, or they can slow things down and get style points for huge scores. You determine how to win.

Amped 2 also includes a new multiplayer support. Gamers can play together at home, on split-screen, rock up to eights players on system link, or take it online with Xbox Live. And, of course, there's always the chance to take bragging rights digital with XSNsports.com.

GS: Could you walk us through what's new in Amped 2?

B.A.: First, the mountains have been completely reworked, graphically. There are full 3D panoramas (just look at that draw distance!!!), new snow textures, and atmospheric lighting, so you feel like you are snowboarding and not stuck in an arcade in the mall. Many new visual effects include real-time clouds, fluffy spray, and realistic, persistent snow trails.

The game features a graphical overhaul that improves on its predecessor.

The second difference is the feature set, which contains tons of new rails and jump types. Many of the jumps are twice as big--for more jump prep time, bigger air, and, most importantly, the ability to land on transition to get a point bonus and a speed boost. We worked with world renowned resort and park architect Chris "Gunny" Gunnarson to make the set, layout, and lines look right.

The Live aspect of the game is really the most exciting when it comes to these jumps and rails. Whether you're snowskating or boarding or doing butter or locking railslides, gamers can totally school one another with sick tricks and brag about their dominance on XSNSports.com.

GS: Thanks for your time.

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