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Project Gotham Q&A

Bizarre Creations shares with us the particulars of the upcoming MSR follow-up, Project Gotham.


Just as most aficionados of digitized racing undoubtedly are, we are extremely curious about Bizarre Creations' upcoming Project Gotham. Scooped up and fostered by Microsoft, this quasi-sequel to last year's Metropolis Street Racer seeks to refine the inventive (some would say revolutionary) game systems pioneered by its predecessor. It's no secret that MSR received mixed reviews from the press. Many who played it found its "kudos" system--which rates your driving-style, rewarding you for snazzy moves--difficult to digest. It's definitely easy to resist it, at first. After all, in the canon of all major racing games prior, reaching the finish line first has always been more important than how you look while getting there.

Driven by the maxim "the journey is its own reward," Bizarre Creations is seeking to refine the kudos system and deliver the definitive racing game on what it conceives to be the definitive console platform--Microsoft's Xbox. Bizarre's managing director Martin Chudley recently took some time, between pints and four-player races, to answer our questions about this much-anticipated game.

GameSpot: You've mentioned before that the kudos system will be reworked. Can you explain exactly what changes are planned?

Martin Chudley: In Gotham, we're looking to take the ideas of flair and skill in driving one stage further--without just forcing the player to pull off stunts in order to progress. The game is really flexible and accessible, so you can now choose the way that you play--you decide how much you want to focus on skill, style, maneuvers, gambling. Every player can progress and set their best path through the game, by working out how they want to balance all the methods of earning kudos to suit their driving style.

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And also, there's a whole load of different ways you can earn kudos, especially as the car manufacturers have relaxed some of the rules a bit! For example, as well as earning kudos for impressive powerslides, you can now also earn kudos by getting some air or going up onto two wheels over the curb. Why not clock up some extra points in the cone slaloms or do some stylish overtaking maneuvers? However, this isn't just about stunts--there's also a big focus on wheel-to-wheel racing, and doing well in this, or against the clock, also earns you big kudos.

And obviously there's the all-important gambling aspect. You can gamble on how much kudos you want to earn, by setting your own goals before you start the challenge. If you think that you can go one better than the initial target, then why don't you gamble and lower the bar--and thus raise the stakes in the amount of kudos you can earn!

GS: What are some of the more prominent manufacturers and car models in the game?

MC: We can't give out a full car list yet I'm afraid, but I will let you know that the team (comprising a large number of car fanatics) were all really excited by the list that Microsoft has managed to get in the game.

(Chudley looks over his shoulder to check that there are no Microsoft reps around.) OK, I will say that we're excited to get people like Ferrari, Porsche, BMW, and other such famous names in there. Imagine having a high-powered battle in your newly acquired 360 Modena against a Boxster S or a Z3! Mmmmmm!

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GS: Will we see any low-end car models from some of these manufacturers, or will the game only include exotic and high-end cars?

MC: We've not really thought about that side of things, especially as a lot of our manufacturers don't really do anything that could be considered a "low end" car! We've really looked at what suits the game best and tried to make sure that the cars provide a solid, focused, progressive challenge with good rewards throughout the game. We want cars that are fun to drive at high speed through cities and provide the right handling to perform all the stylish moves that embody the kudos side of the game.

GS: There were a little more than 40 cars in MSR, will we see more in Project Gotham? If so, can you say how many?

MC: We've not got the final count yet, but we are focusing on the quality (that is, all desirable) rather than quantity. I anticipate it being at least 25, but not as many as MSR--as we did find that most people didn't drive all of the cars, especially with the complex garage system. So we've got rid of the garage. When you earn a car, it's yours to keep and use whenever you wish. With all the cars being extremely sexy, you'll now be looking at which of your favorites suits the course more than which one you'd actually want to be seen driving!

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GS: Can you elaborate on the type of car customization options in the game?

MC: The game has the usual selection options and personalizations in the game, but we don't have endless minute tuning options, as the focus is definitely on the driving rather than spending hours in the garage. We do have one rather tasty customization in there, which you win as a reward, but we're not allowed to talk about it yet--sorry!

GS: Are the returning courses from MSR, such as London and Tokyo, virtually identical to that game?

MC: In terms of actual locations, the London, Tokyo and San Francisco areas are in the same locations, but in terms of tracks and visuals, there are some major differences. Obviously with the vastly enhanced power of [the] Xbox, we have remodeled a lot of things--adding more polygons in detail in the buildings, scenery, trees, etc. We can add in far more special effects and lighting effects to bring the cities to life.

But also, in terms of gameplay, we've made two major enhancements. Firstly, we've added in barriers similar to those in real race circuits, in order to open out and smooth off some of the more frustrating and 90-degree corners. Each circuit within the area really feels like a racetrack now. In addition, with three more huge areas in New York to choose from, we've gone round each area and chosen to use only the circuits--both old and new--that are the best and most fun to play.

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GS: Will you be using the hard drive in any way? There was talk that players would be able to play their own music for each of the cars, sort of like listening to a radio station.

MC: We do actually have real-life radio stations replicated in the game, complete with the famous DJs who appear on those stations. They introduce and play real music, and you can choose which station to listen to or make a virtual CD to play within the game from the list. But yes, you can also use the hard drive to add your own choice of music to the radio stations (or virtual CD), and have the DJs announce them for you. If you have your own band, why not put your own tracks and listen to your music being played by your favorite DJs?!

GS: The cars look amazing. How many polygons are there in each car model? In a similar vein, Ed Fries at Microsoft recently said that the car models in Project Gotham have approximately two to three times as many polys as the ones in Sony's Gran Turismo 3. Is that a fair assessment?

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MC: Thanks! The cars in Gotham are around 16,000 polygons per car. The cars even have fully modeled objects like windshield wipers, aerials, and brake discs and calipers--which even grip when you brake! Considering we're rendering multiple cars, and rendering the scenery a massive eight times in order to achieve the real-time reflections, that's a pretty good testament to the power of [the] Xbox!

GS: The Xbox's Nvidia GPU is great at producing specific visual effects, such as bump mapping and real-time shadowing, at limited cost to performance. What type of specific visual effects can we expect to see in Gotham?

MC: There's loads of different nongameplay related niceties such as real-time reflections in the cars and in the rain-soaked streets, real dynamic rain effects, reactive smoke billowing out of the drains in New York, moving clouds, etc. But there are two effects that we're most excited about, both of which affect the gameplay as well as the visuals.

The first is the fact that unlike most other racing games, we are actually allowed to damage the car. We're now working on the effects for this, which were basically implemented at E3. You can get realistic scrapes down the doors, leaving paint on the scenery, or lose a wing mirror in a side-on smash. You can realistically deform the car, by crumpling the hood or the trunk up, for example, just like real life. So now you'll be avoiding collisions not only to gain kudos but also to keep your car looking good!

The second is the real-time volumetric lighting. This is an effect used to create headlamps that not only look realistic but that also light up the streets realistically. This not only enhances the look but works wonders for the gameplay, as nighttime racing really feels like nighttime racing--you're relying on your headlamps to show you the way. And this combines with the damage--smash a headlamp, you'll lose the light from that side, and it makes things a whole lot harder!

GS: Will the final game run at a solid 60fps?

MC: That's definitely what we're aiming for! In a fast-paced game such as an action or racing game, frame rate is important, as you need every advantage that you can to keep up with the action. At E3, we had to frame-lock the game to 30fps, as it was running on pre-final dev kits--which meant that the frame rate wasn't a constant 60fps. But on the final hardware, with the final models, we're pretty confident that we can maintain the 60fps that can really help make the game shine.

GS: What type of multiplayer gameplay options will be included in the game?

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MC: We've just finished implementing something that we're all--ahem--testing a lot in the office at the moment, and that's the four-player split-screen multiplayer. And as "coming back from the pub" players, we're also trying to focus a lot more on the ease of setup and accessibility of the game. The ideal is to have a four-player mode, which you can pick up and play with minimal setup or customize if you start to get serious about beating your mates!

GS: Are you planning any type of network support? Perhaps downloading ghost cars or even new car models?

MC: I'm sorry, but we can't discuss any network support at the moment, otherwise our Microsoft PR guy will slap our wrists--he's already after us for mentioning the cars to you!

GS: Thanks so much for your time!

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