Midnight Club II Designer Diary
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The Characters of Midnight Club II
By Jae Kim
Character Designer, Rockstar San Diego
Racing games rarely have characters, and when they do, they are usually an afterthought. This always struck us as strange, because when competition is personal, it is much more intense. When racing against "the computer," you don't want to feel like you're racing against robots. For this reason, we designed Midnight Club II to give you the feeling of challenging real members of an illegal street racing underground, each with his or her own personality and racing style.
The characters in Midnight Club II represent the diversity of global street racing culture. There is not a single type of person that defines a street racer. The original real-life Midnight Club in Japan, for example, was full of rich businessmen, who are not exactly the first people you think of when imagining hard-core street racers! We have DJs, models, nightclub owners, gangsters--all kinds of characters whose only connection is an addiction to illegal street racing. The personalities of the racers are unpredictable, ranging from friendly to downright nasty.
We looked at the personality of each character and matched the personalities with the vehicles. The really teched-out cars went to characters who are gearheads, like Steven in LA. Some racers are total badasses--Dice is the probably the meanest of the bunch, and his ride, the Jersey XS, is a wicked-looking machine with NOS that comes out of the sides of the car.
There's no linear storyline in Midnight Club II, because there isn't a straight progression through the game. You cruise the streets, looking for members of the Midnight Club to challenge, and you choose who you want to race. However, the characters are interconnected and will introduce you to other racers, or teach you skills that you need to beat a different opponent. As you get deeper into Midnight Club II, you begin to see the bigger picture of the street racing underground.
All the characters have different driving styles that are very distinctive. Some race very physically, attempting to slam you into walls. Others are sneaky--a couple of them even cheat off the line, beginning the race before the official start. The characters who ride the motorcycles tend to show off the most because of the tricks that the bikes let you do, like endos and wheelies. When a character is talking trash to you in a race, and then he or she rips by you doing a wheelie through traffic at 170mph, it can get your blood boiling! Developing the AI to give Midnight Club II this kind of flair was not easy, because the race needs to stay competitive and fast even when an opponent wants to show off. It's a good idea to pay attention to the techniques of your fellow racers, because you can learn skills that will help you down the line. So when you see your nemesis knocking over streetlights in your path, don't get angry. Use that method on him in the next race!
Midnight Club II's focus is racing, but the inclusion of identifiable characters who populate an illegal underground adds the depth, fun, and humor that racing games in general sorely lack.