Online Play in Midnight Club II
By Mark Rotenberg
Technical Director for Midnight Club II
The online capability of Midnight Club II may be, in my opinion, the most innovative aspect of the game, if for no other reason than that online console gaming is in its infancy--just wait until you enter a completely open city and challenge real people to a no-holds-barred race through the streets. I think the racing genre will never be the same. The freedom is absolutely exhilarating. We had an idea of what would be possible in the single-player game--open cities, cars and motorbikes, and great AI--as the project began, but we had no idea how the multiplayer would work or how we could make it play successfully. Midnight Club II is the first game that places you in a completely open city online. Since networking is a fairly new technology on the PlayStation 2 and there were no existing implementations to fall back on, we had to blaze our own trails. Our aim was to ensure that there were no arbitrary restrictions placed on where online players could roam--they can all be in one section of the city, or they can be in different sections entirely. You are free to go anywhere in the city during online play, and the game runs as fast as the single-player game, which we believe has a greater sense of speed than any other racing game yet developed.
A lot of work went into making the online experience as smooth and seamless as possible. Connecting to races is very simple and intuitive through the menu screens. The frame rate during online play is a full 30fps, the same as the single-player experience. The online play in Midnight Club II feels like a natural part of the game, not just a complicated add-on that's hard to use. For example, the user interface lets you play the same race or move on to the next race without having to go back to the front end.
Adding this level of freedom and human interaction to the gameplay takes the control of the competition out of our hands--it is definitely going to be wild out there. Eight people can connect and play at once, so the number of scenarios that can unfold is limitless. We have found that once people hook up and play online, the racing techniques change--there is a lot more showing off. Also, new types of games emerge. We have seen our existing game modes mutate, especially when people meet and begin teaming up. For example, when one person chooses a motorcycle and everyone else in the race chooses a car, then the goal of the game is to knock the rider off his bike. Players can enter into the free-roaming cruise mode, where they can show off and do their own thing.
The number of options in Midnight Club II's online component is staggering. You can play all of the arcade races online (the ones you have unlocked in the regular career and circuit modes) and two of the battle modes (capture the flag and detonate). You also have the ability to design races using the race editor and then challenge people online--in my opinion this is where the experienced Midnight Club II player will get the most mileage. The race editor gives Midnight Club II limitless replay value and also acts as an equalizer--to win a race online that another person has created requires serious skills and real knowledge of the city, not just memorization. Going beyond the core modes in the game, elite racers can set up password-protected competitions and invite only certain individuals to race. Also, online races allow for team play--choose the blue or red team and work together with other racers to win the race or battle. Our goal in developing Midnight Club II is to give gamers a level of freedom, fun, and options in a racing game that they haven't even imagined.
Trash talking is definitely a huge part of the Midnight Club II online experience. Players can chat online via the onscreen keyboard or the Logitech keyboard peripheral. You can enter up to 10 preset messages--I am guessing that most of these hotkeys will be taunts. The hotkeys also come in handy when the action is tense and there isn't time to type.
I think Midnight Club II opens up new worlds in the racing game genre and in the online gaming realm. The gameplay, single-player or multiplayer, offers a level of freedom, control, and speed never yet seen in a video game. We wanted to give the game something new and massive, offering gamers the first completely open urban environment and a style of racing never before seen online.