ModNation Racers: Things We Learned Today

Here are some things we learned during our most recent look at Sony's upcoming arcade racer.

Calling it Little Big Kart Racing is a bit unfair to ModNation Racers, which is the upcoming kart racing game from Sony and developer United Front Games. That said, the game shares a great deal with the Create, Play, Share ethos of Media Molecule's Sackboy-starring darling. Nearly everything you can play with in ModNation, you can customize to your heart's content or create from scratch, including your character, your kart, and even the tracks you drift and zip through. Back in December, my fellow editor Shaun McInnis got a hands-on look at the track creator in the game. Today, developers from United Front dropped by GameSpot HQ where we got a chance to check out the game once again. Here are a few things I learned:

CREATION IS COOL
Track creation tools in other games are often powerful, and the end results can be thrilling. Unfortunately, track creation hasn't really been fun until now. ModNation looks to find a happy marriage with easy-to-use tools that are simple in execution but don't sacrifice the depth that the hardcore will appreciate. Even better, the tools are fun to use. For example, instead of linking sections of track together on a piece-by-piece basis, all you need to do to create a track in ModNation is simply drive. By piloting a steamroller around the playable area, you build the track as you go--making turns where you turn and adding elevation at will.

Once you've got your track together, the game will automatically populate it with environmental scenery (such as buildings and trees), as well as on-track necessities like pick-ups, turbo boosts, and illuminated chevrons indicating tight turns, among other things. Naturally every bit on the track can be minutely edited--during my demo, the producers created a sweet banked uphill corner that would become my favorite drift spot in the game. You can also easily and quickly add things like shortcuts and obstacles to the track. Using triggers that are tied to objects on the track, you can create more complex on-track behaviors. For example, producers created a shortcut that was blocked off by movable walls. Then, they connected a trigger to the wall that, when engaged, would lower the wall and allow a brief window of access to the shortcut.

There are plenty of examples of detailed editing for the obsessive track creator but what impressed me nearly as much was the simplicity of everything. You can paint a section of track to automatically add a tunnel or change the texture of the road. You can even press a button to automatically finish a track if you're short on time.

CONTENT, CONTENT, CONTENT
Beyond the track editor, there's also a ton of content to fool around with when it comes to your kart and driver. And I do mean a ton of content. According to producers, the recently released multiplayer beta of ModNation contained about 15 percent of the total content that will be in the final version of the game.

The rest of that 85 percent will come in the form of a ridiculous number of textures and objects you can use to personalize your kart and character in ways that continue to surprise the United Front developers. For example, beta fans were creating unique hairstyles for their drivers by piling multiple goatees on top of existing hairstyles. Whether you're adding tomatoes to the side of your car, cardboard and duct-tape spoilers to the rear, or recliners as your car seat, you'll have lots of choices. In fact, all of the objects in the game have been designed to work together--for example, you can drive an F1-style car with supersize tires and the parts won't overlap unnaturally.

GET THE DRIFT
When you aren't neck-deep in the creation tools, you'll be driving in the 12-player races that look to be a lot of fun. In fact, one of the biggest surprises for me was how fun it was to drift in the game. You press the X button to drift around corners and easily steer or countersteer in mid-drift with the left stick. The controls are tight and responsive, and when you get a great corner like the one described earlier, you can rack up huge boosts in the process. Let's face it, drifting usually sucks in racing games; so it's nice to see it work to your advantage in ModNation.

SMALL IS BIG
Considering the huge size of some of the tracks in ModNation, you might expect to see huge file sizes. Fortunately, that's not the case; according to producers, a track file size will only run a few hundred kilobytes, thanks to some clever development that has kept those files to a minimum. That means you'll be able to save lots of tracks locally and also download new tracks at will with minimal wait time. After all, even despite all the creation tools, it's all about getting to race and across the start/finish line as quickly as possible.

ModNation Racers is due for release this spring on the PlayStation 3.

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37 comments
thrasher510
thrasher510

@ squirrelman87 not only is it split screen multiplayer, but its also split screen multiplayer online! i need a release date though, cause i want god of war 3 too.

TimeBandit002
TimeBandit002

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

squirrelman87
squirrelman87

@ Bangerman15: they just announced 4 player split screen! YES haha finally a recent game with splitscreen multiplayer. So many games have gotten so damn caught up with online multiplayer that we've lost the good old days of gaming on a single screen with 3 buddies right next to you.

zarkovis
zarkovis

Don't get modnation racers if you are not a versatile racer. Trust me. i played the beta, and while the creation and sharing is cool you CANNOT change your kart's statistics or handling or anything. You you race with high acceleration and handling styles too bad. If you race with a good speed high acceleration and low handling(like myself) then too bad. If you've raced qa certain way in all your racing games MNR won't care and forces you to race their way. This is not a rant, just fact. =/

Bangerman15
Bangerman15

i wished i couldve tried the beta, anyone know if this will have splitscreen gameplay? i hope it at least will have 2 player split screen... :)

aken909
aken909

Yeah, this is definitely on my list as a must have day 1 as well.

Eazy1891
Eazy1891

i ccant wait for this game FIRST DAY BUY!!!!! no matter when released

Infinite_Access
Infinite_Access

The beta was good but had horrid load times. Hope they fix that... because this is a first day buy for me.

Schwarte
Schwarte

I hope the actual game will surpass what I've seen in the beta, because that wasn't worth all the hype

RedInsanity
RedInsanity

The beta was meh, but I still hope the full game will deliver with better controls, smoother online play, and a farther back view of your racer, or at least a view change button or something for different views

punkdsk8erdude
punkdsk8erdude

wow this game looks like it could be not just another mario kart wanna be but a really distinct, fun, addictive, and creative game! I'm going to keep my eye on this one!

NaveedLife
NaveedLife

The only big concern I have is that the handling looks far too easy. Like it is impossible to hit walls. I don't wan't a dumbed down mario kart wii style game, but rather a mario kart DS ;). If done right this game could be one of my favorites.

xmikezterx
xmikezterx

cant wait. ive been looking for a kart racer that can match up with mariokart when i had a gc. looks like this will do nicely

EPaul
EPaul

Nice. my most anticipated racer this year is shaping up nicely

muzza93
muzza93

i played the beta, creation was amazing but the actual racing was kinda crappy. & wat is this guy talkin bout? drifting doesn't suck in racing games, go play DiRT 2 dude. wish DiRT 2 had a track creator, & splitscreen....

rostam93
rostam93

@ghosttraveler oh, well in that case that actually sounds pretty cool. personally, i think a wipeout with customizeable loops and corkscrews etc. would be fantastic.

GhostTraveler
GhostTraveler

@rostam93 ... I never said I didn't think this looked fun, nor did I say I didn't like Little Big Planet. I'm simply saying I would like to see a game like PURE, GRID, or DIRT that had some customizable aspects besides the cars themselves... like a track editor. I think that would be pretty cool... especially for off road.

rostam93
rostam93

@ghosttraveler, the cartoony feel is to make the game more fun to play socially, just like lbp. a game that doesn't take itself so seriously allows you and your friends not to take it so seriously. had lbp been a sidescroller with say, a shooter adventure theme like that one platformer for xbla (forgot the name) then friends would be forced to be more into the theme of the game. as for open world, (i personally think 3d open world and 3d creation for lbp would be godliness) for a racing game that especially is arcady, things would get to hectic trying to go around all over the place and it would open the door for boredom as well as glitches

RazerBlade13
RazerBlade13

This will be the standard for kart racing from now on. If not, I'll stop playing racing games.

GhostTraveler
GhostTraveler

I wish they would make something like this but not cartoony. Like think PURE mixed with the custom create of this game... PLUS open world?!

Yoshicon8
Yoshicon8

This looks great, definitely getting it.

BalramRules
BalramRules

@SicklySunStorm soz, i LOVE and absolutely ADORE LittleBigPlanet, I even own the platinum trophy for it and all of its DLC. But I think that Sackboy racing will be a TINY bit weirder, than ModNation, as LBP was a new experience then, but sackboy in a car, well thatz just strange.

efunk25
efunk25

I just want to know if this game will support 4 players locally and use the SixAxis as an option for steering

SicklySunStorm
SicklySunStorm

This does look like it will be excellent, though I wish the Media Molecule boffins would have extended the LBP franchise into this territory before someone else got there. LBP tied in with race/kart creation would have been awesome B)

anotherone10
anotherone10

If this game scores anything less than a 9.0, ill be suprised. The beta was awsomely fun :D

tonyf55
tonyf55

My most anticipated game of 2010

nuclearbomb2000
nuclearbomb2000

Why don't they make a new trackmania :(...those guys where the GODS of track creation

SadPSPAddict
SadPSPAddict

Looking forward to this title - should be good. This is a good year for PS3 race fans :D:D

PSdual_wielder
PSdual_wielder

I had the beta when it came out in december. Unfortunetly at the time it released the online wasn't running at all. I assumed they will take time to fix it so I left it alone, but sadly when I went back to it a month later when I had the urge to try it out again, the beta ended. :( So I never got into a single race online, but I did try out the creation tools and those were simply amazing. Just a shame I never got to bring it online.

xxsuperbananaxx
xxsuperbananaxx

Anyone here play the beta of this a few months back? It was awesome! Unfortunately a lot of the tools weren't available durning the beta but they still gave you enough to make some pretty awesome tracks. My track had a lot of hidden/secret paths so I naturally had an advantage when I raced on it =D lol

UnknownPerson55
UnknownPerson55

i know what my secret super special track is gonna be already lol