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April 19th, 2007 - XBLA INFO

Apr. 19th, 2007

09:17 pm - Street Trace: NYC Interview

So... here it is, the Gaia Industries interview. It's been well worth the wait for this one and it looks like we will be seeing the game very soon.

Hello, thank you for taking time out to talk to me. Let’s start with the obvious: what is Street Trace: NYC?

[Damon] It’s an underground sport borne of the invention and abuse of anti-gravity technology. The Street ‘Tracers,’ compete in a series of tournaments involving racing and arena battle, equipped with their jet-boards and all-in-one gun. That’s it in a nutshell anyway – but there’s actually a giant world we’ve developed – we have a script for the first season of the series plus the first comic book and will be online and available at launch.


How was Street Trace born? Did one person come up with the idea and pitch it to the rest of the team or was it an idea that developed slowly over time?

[Damon] Yeah more like over time. A lot of time J. The latest version of the game was started over two years ago and we built the stories and backgrounds while building an initial demo and the big design doc. We met up with Microsoft at E3 2005 and they were really keen on the game but I think everyone was a little skeptical about us actually realizing this on XBLA in under 50MB… even us. We figured we could do it though and that it would be the ideal platform given the massive multiplayer components to the game and Microsoft’s pedigree in that area on the XBOX, and now 360. The ideas, while initially developed by a small team eventually became the coordinated effort of the entire team. It’s pretty organic here – which lends, we believe, to stronger final content but the downside is we invest a lot more time in our dreams.


How did you go about getting Street Trace onto XBOX live arcade?

[Jeff] Once the Microsoft Arcade team got behind the project, they sent us the 360 dev kits and we started writing the engine and building the art. The XBOX Arcade team is great to work with. They make sure you are thinking about achievements, leaderboards and the things that make this platform great right from day one. We started a few months before the launch of the 360 so some of this stuff hadn’t occurred to us yet.


How long has the game been in development?

[Jeff] The game was in pre-production for about 8 months and has been in full swing development for about 20 months. We expected to release the game much sooner, but we’ve invested a lot of time into perfecting it as much as possible.


What stage of development is it in currently?

[Damon] It’s in cert so fingers and toes crossed!


You previously announced that Street Trace: NYC would be released in February. What happened to change that?

[Damon] Well we did a ton of user-testing from our events here in NYC and then we made some final changes and tweaks based on that feedback. We spent so long on Street Trace that we want to make sure that everything was seriously tight and seriously fun – both single player and multiplayer.


Did you encounter any interesting problems during development?

[Jeff] Most people like to ask about the 50MB limit when talking about the problems of XBLA but this wasn’t a big deal to us. The team had a lot of technical experience on various games and platforms so we squeezed a pretty detailed 3D world with a nice graphic novel style onto the 50MB limit relatively easily. However, this was our first big game working together, so yes there were certainly interesting problems. Any good creative collaborative effort needs time to find its process when there is lots of passion and vision involved. We eventually found ours and the product speaks for itself. On top of people working together for the first time you have all of the new studio issues as well; you work through them.


How does the combat aspect of the game work?

[Jeff] There are 4 different weapons, each with its own purpose. The combat is a good blend of action and strategy, the challenge being how you use your weapons based on the given situation. The player’s objectives change within the game depending on the type of game, the environment or who is in the lead. You could be trying to take down as many people as you can,  trying to get to a flag, trying to take out a target, trying to hold onto a lead in a race or trying to run away and hide (which is difficult). The mines are great in some of the tighter arenas and for trying to hold onto first in a race. The laser is a great precision weapon from a distance or in open spaces, excellent for taking out a flag carrier. Stampedes (it fires a spread of heavy, bouncing projectiles) are great for clearing a path during a race and can also be used as kind of “sawed off” shotgun if you’re quick enough to get someone up close. The heat seeking rockets are a great mid-range weapon for knocking someone off of their board but are tougher to use in closer quarters. The board also plays a factor as it has shields, jump, engine and boost units that can all be upgraded along with the guns. Boost really helps for escaping and jump is great for maneuvering around the arenas and hitting shortcuts in the races. Shields are important as well, you won’t get far near the end of a long tournament if you haven’t upgraded your shields a bit.


How smart is the AI? Will one AI player act differently from another?

 [Damon] The AI has come a long way and is now mad fun. Initially we found this real difficult as you’re moving so fast and there’s so much to take into account. The AI is pretty forgiving in the early championships to allow novices to find their groove and get to know the levels. The later tournaments are a real test to your ability though – you’ll have to be quick, smart, know the areas, and upgrade using the correct strategies if you want to win Gold. If you want to win Platinum then you might have to go online and get some real human training as this is crazy tough. All of the AI players exhibit different behaviors based on their personality. Bombzonie is a nutcase so you do well to stay away from him in Takedown games; Demon is quick but his defenses can be exploited; Barren is a nippy all-rounder and really the one to watch out for in the later tourneys. You actually feel like you're playing human players in the later AI tournaments and we’re really excited to have finally reached that goal.


Take me through the controls.

[Damon] Alright.

Left stick is your movement – left, right, and pull back to lift up your board (for bigger jumps + hitting ramps)


The buttons give you the advanced board control…

A – Jump (hold this down when upgraded to fly the board momentarily)

B – Boost – you’ll use this a lot in the races and in modes Hunter and Flag.

X – Board Off – very cool feature.  Tap it to scrape the board and pull tighter turns in races or hold it down and swiftly yank your board around in arena combat.

Y – Grind – hold it down to grind on rails – once on a rail you lock to it so you can use the left control stick to aim and lock on to opponents.


The triggers and bumpers are your weapons…

Right Bumper – pulse – quick fire laser – great for sniping when it’s upgraded.

Right Trigger – rockets – big damage, heat seeking rockets – lock on to ensure the hit.

Left Bumper – mines – they’ll bounce where you drop them for 5 seconds.

Left Trigger – stampede – fires an arc-dispersed-foray of bouncing projectiles


What is the game’s most exciting feature?

[Damon]Multiplayer tournaments. Within the first game everyone is screaming profanities.

[Jeff] Agreed, the multiplayer cash tournaments, although I seem to be more competitive at the pickup tournaments, I haven’t figured out where all the cash is yet.


What’s your favourite game mode?

[Damon] Flag, as long as Adrian isn’t playing.

[Jeff] Hunter, it’s a great cat and mouse game. You really need to anticipate what the other players are going to do.


Do you plan to release any downloadable content?

[Damon] Yeah, themes and gamerpics definitely. 


Is there anything else you would like to add?

[Damon] We’re gonna be putting up some videos of the game and the events we’ve had (probably around launch) so check them out soon. Also, we really wanna get across just how much fun this game is and how much depth there is so we’re gonna be running some cool tournaments after launch. So get the game, get trained up, and start kicking some @ss.


Last words for gamers?

[Jeff] Take a quick break from chainsawing your friends and download the demo.


After that fantastic interview I am sure that I will be downloading the game at launch, see you all online (you know I'll be beating you).

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