Interview: Battle Cars

We recently got the chance to play the hell out of the quirky football/vehicle combat game Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars and speak to Dave Hagewood, Director of Development at Psyonix. Here’s what was said.

Hi Dave, thanks for sparing some time with us. So, Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars: quite a long title, isn’t it? What’s the reason behind the tongue-twister?

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I guess the first reason is that we thought it was funny and different. We also wanted to send the message that we were willing to break some rules and take some risks with the game.

We like risks, what sort of things are you doing differently with Battle-Cars that sets it apart from the rest of the titles on the PSN right now?

The multiplayer for starters. We support every kind of multiplayer option we can think of. If you are looking for a game you sit down and play a quick game with your buddy in split-screen, this is it. You can also go online and even play split-screen vs online. You can even make your own registered team and be ranked as that team and you get all this for a fraction of the price of full retail games.

You’re supporting the new YouTube system too, right?

Yeah, but the YouTube system in Battle-Cars is also unique in that we included a full-fledged video editor right in the game.

On a console where extra value like Trophies and YouTube are in their infancy, do you think that such features are a bullet point that helps sales? That is, do you think Battle Cars is percieved to have higher value because of the Trophies attached?

I do think it has a higher value due to Trophy support right now. There are only so many games that have them at the moment.

How difficult was it to implement the YouTube functionality?

Both Trophies and YouTube were actually pretty simple to implement. The editor system we added was more difficult, but the video uploading wasn’t bad at all.

We know you previously worked on the vehicle physics for games like UT 3, so presumably the reasons behind opting for the Unreal engine for Battle-Cars are fairly obvious. Can you tell us what you learned from working with FPS’s and how you applied this to Battle-Cars?

I guess you could say that almost everything we know about vehicle physics and gameplay started from our experience with shooters. We’re still using major parts of the code we wrote for UT2004: Onslaught. I think the game reflects our experience with Onslaught more than others because in both cases we wanted something that was a total sensory overload – over the top explosions, crashes, speed, and so on. I’ve always loved that formula for games more than abundant realism and it is something we are good at.

You went from announcement to release in only a couple of months, how long had you been working on the game before we first heard about it?

We’ve been working on it in for the past three and a half to four years but not constantly. We used a kind of guerrilla game development tactic to get the game completed as we didn’t use a publisher with standard funding. Instead we worked on the game in between outsourcing projects when we could. We put our own money into the game and some of us are even taking some pretty high personal risks but we believe in the game that much. The great advantage to doing it this way is that we get almost unlimited time to playtest and refine the game. We couldn’t make an early announcement because we had no idea how long we would be developing it!

You’ve managed to cram in a lot of controls using only a few buttons, was this a concious decision to streamline the gameplay?

Absolutely. We went with the soccer game because it became so many of our developers’ favorite game during development (and I mean favorite game of anything else out there, not just our internal games). With that much dedication, every decision on controls and gameplay experience was done very carefully with countless hours of testing. We’ve been playing and refining this game for “years”, something you won’t find on very many PSN titles if any.

Are there any plans for additional content?

Definitely. We have a few maps in production right now and you can expect to see those soon along with game updates!

The Single Player modes not only ease you into the controls and the mechanics, but are also hopelessly addictive, and remind us of GripShift’s main mode, and are a welcome addition. What were your influences here?

We wanted the mini-games to be fun and addicting but also to teach players some of the more advanced skills like dodging and rocket-flying. I don’t know if there was any one game that influenced us in particular but we feel that the best game experiences are the ones that have simple controls to start and ease you into the complex stuff without you even realizing how good you are getting.

The team modes are cool, and you’ve obviously invested a lot of time in the online side of the game, can you tell us a bit about how the matchmaking works?

Our goal with matchmaking was to do everything possible to make sure people can get in a game. You can customise your search but if it can’t find a game it will suggest games that are available.

How do you deal with disconnections, people dropping out, that sort of thing?

In Unranked the game will even start if you don’t have enough players and new players can drop in and out at will.

And finally, are there any plans to recreate any other sports using the same principles?

Possibly. We actually made several games out the rocket-car concept, but the soccer mode was the one we liked the most. However we really see the battle-cars as franchise and we’d love to polish and release those other games if it is something that people want.

Cheers Dave.

Cheers.

Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars is already out on the US Store, expect it here in Europe very soon.  We’ll have a review in the next day or so.

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