Q&A: Beyond Games
Beyond Games is currently in the headlines for two things. First, it has a PS2 game named Motor Mayhem in development, and second, it is rumored to have something in the pipeline for the Xbox. We spoke with a member of the Beyond Games team about those subjects and more.
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The Twisted Metal series has influenced its genre a great deal. Now, Beyond Games is creating a game for the PlayStation 2 that seems to have a lot in common with those PlayStation oldies. We spoke to Clark Stacey, vice president of Beyond Games, about its biggest project, Motor Mayhem for the PS2. Also, we asked about the rumors of Beyond Games developing for the Xbox, but we were met with only a brief "no comment" for the time being. Rest assured, though - we will have the first details on those plans right here on GameSpot.
GameSpot: Several aspects of Motor Mayhem make it sound like your Twisted Metal series. So will this be a game for fans of the Twisted Metal games?
Clark Stacey: I think it will be a game for all action fans. Other vehicle combat games have taken the approach that you, as the player, are the vehicle. Sure, you have characters that ostensibly drive the vehicles, but they really only exist as bitmaps in the options screen - the car is the real character. I think our approach will broaden the appeal of the vehicle combat genre. You play a character that is constantly interacting with the vehicle, the world, and with other characters. It brings a new level of immersion to this type of action game. The game also features a lot of loud noises and sudden movements, so we expect it to appeal to medical test subjects and people who've had their heads caught in farm machinery.
GS: So, the Twisted Metal series had little influence on Motor Mayhem?
CS: The Twisted games were great, and everyone here has had a blast with them. But some of the core team members here were making 3D car combat games years before the PlayStation, with Battle Wheels on the Atari Lynx and various R&D projects. Our take on the genre is quite unique, I think, and comes from a passion for this type of game that goes way back. Most of us have done time for shooting things from our cars, too, so we aren't just signifying those things virtually. [laughs]
GS: How do you think you'll introduce new concepts in the car combat genre with Motor Mayhem?
CS: Immersion into the feel of hard-core vehicle combat would be one. These cars don't feel like toys - they are fast, powerful, and diverse. These characters have depth, and you are closely involved with them as the player and closely involved with their careers in the Vehicle Combat League. It also bears mentioning that the Brainstorm Engine, upon which Motor Mayhem is based, will show some of the most spectacular special effects ever seen in gaming.
GS: How far are you in development of the project and what will be the next steps?
CS: Right now we are nearing code freeze on our engine and tools, and we are play-testing the characters and levels constantly. The characters and vehicles are massively animated, and the special attacks they perform are amazing - this much animation and interaction requires a lot of tuning, and tuning will be the focus for the next few months.
GS: Were there any particular influences, or games that you personally adore, that also had an effect on Motor Mayhem?
CS: I think Motor Mayhem and the concepts behind the VCL have been more influenced by pro wrestling than anything else. We have that same vibe of over-the-top characters in constant turmoil against a backdrop of "big everything." Big explosions, big music, big threats - everything is larger than life.
GS: What are your current impressions of the PS2 hardware, particularly after everybody was moaning at first that the hardware would be so hard to program for?
CS: Well, they were right - it is hard to program for, especially for developers coming from the PC where so much is already done for them. We've really enjoyed the challenge. Our programming team, led by Beyond president Kris Johnson, comes from a low-level coding background, and they enjoy getting into the guts of the system. The tools and middleware for the PS2 will come along later, as they did for the PS, but in the interim the machine really separates the wheat from the chaff.
GS: What do you think is the biggest advantage and the biggest weakness of the PlayStation 2?
CS: I think the biggest advantages are the raw polygon horsepower and the fact that it's Sony. The biggest weakness is the lack of tools and libraries - it will take some time for developers to really get the most out of the system.
GS: Let's get political. What's your point of view on violence in video games, particularly as Motor Mayhem sounds like it will have its share of violence. What's your opinion about all the attempts at enacting legislation against violent media?
CD: Infogrames is committed to keeping Motor Mayhem an accessible, bloodless title - you can have a great action game without littering the play field with viscera. As for the recent publicity, I think developers and publishers have a responsibility to uphold the rating system and make sure parents have that sort of tool to decide what sort of media they want their kids buying. As long as the industry can help parents decide what content is appropriate for their children, we've done our job - and I think Infogrames is leading the industry in this regard. From there, it's up to the parents to actually look at what their kids are doing. This is an election year, so a lot of hyperbole is flying around in search of easy targets.
GS: Finally, when do you think we can expect Motor Mayhem in our anticipating hands?
CS: Early next year - by Q2 2001.
GS: Do you have any other projects planned or in the pipeline already besides Motor Mayhem?
CS: Infogrames and Beyond Games want to continue to build on the characters of the VCL, and we're looking forward to VCL titles that allow us to keep the universe dynamic through use of broadband Net connections. The Brainstorm Engine has also been under development for some time, and we hope to make it one of the dominant technologies of the 128-bit era. You'll be seeing a lot more of it!
GS: Thanks for the interview and make sure you get back to us about the Xbox.
CS: We will.