We’ve been talking lots about WipEout 2048 recently, but with good reason, it’s a brilliant game and one that we reckon should be in your basket day one when the Vita launches in the middle of February. We recently downed Vitas and got the chance to chat with Studio Liverpool’s Stuart Tilley and Graeme Ankers, and what follows is a brief conversation about the futuristic racer.
We started by asking how important the guys thought it was to use Vita’s new hardware features.
“When we started with WipEout 2048 on the Vita, one of the goals was to showcase all the cool new ways to interact with it,” was the reply. “When you buy a new piece of gaming hardware, it’s cool if the launch titles give you an experience of all the things the machine is capable. So for WipEout 2048 we’ve been sure to use every single new feature of the Vita.”
There’s a lot of new features in the hardware, but the team are confident they’ve used them all without compromising the core game experience.
“The gyros for steering is one of the control options (in addition to old skool WipEout controls), as is using the touch screen to fire, and the rear touch panel to find hidden events in the menus, or the front camera to send a picture of your smug, winning face to all other online players!”[drop]”The point is,” the guys told us, “Vita’s packed full of hardware features, so you can expect to be trying out new and innovative ways of interacting with your games.”
I asked the developers about one of my favourite ideas, using the rear touchpad for throttle instead of X, which can lead to fatigue over extended periods of play.
“The rear touch panel is used in the ‘touch and tilt’ control scheme with the gyroscopes, and it does save a degree of thumb ache!” they agreed.
I was curious though how they’d gone about testing this, and whether the concept was understood by gamers used to physical buttons. “Communicating this to the player wasn’t too bad, and it was something we experimented with during our user testing phase last year. We’ve found that player’s usually take to it pretty naturally, especially users who are new WipEout.”
I was keen to find out more about the setting (a generation or two into the future) and the way they’d gone about refactoring existing locations (New York) into race circuits that befit the WipEout crafts. “The near future setting allows for some markedly different track styles, being that dedicated courses are yet to be built in the game’s universe,” came the reply.
Was that a challenge? “When we started working on WipEout 2048, we realized this was the 10th game in the series (if you count the Fury expansion for HD) so we were really up for the idea of putting a new spin on things,” they said. “Setting the game 4 years before the original allowed to re-write the rules of the world, even the technology which powers the ships have changed, creating a whole new soundscape.”
The sound is amazing, the ships sounding like a distorted mixture of current-day Formula 1 and the Pod Racers from Star Wars: Episode One.
“We imagined how a city will change with new science and technology,” said Tilley. “On the ground level you race on the city streets past existing buildings, before heading up custom built ramps to the mid level of the city full of post-modern architecture before scaling the heights of the city packed full of futuristic structures connected by raceways – just like in the track ‘Sol’, the predecessor to Sol2 from WipEout HD.”
What was the reasoning behind the wider tracks, I ask? “The idea behind making the tracks wider was because we wanted to tweak the balance of the game a little. We wanted the challenge to be a bit more about combat racing against the other ships rather than in surviving 3 laps of the track.”
“This isn’t to say we wanted WipEout 2048 to be an easy game, in fact, the game has WipEout’s fastest ever speed class – Super Phantom – which only really works because the tracks are wide enough to handle it.”
I then asked about the innovative CrossPlay technology, which lets you race against owners of the PS3 game WipEout HD from your Vita, along with any combination of other PS3 and Vita units.[drop2]”It’s been a real buzz showcasing this technology,” said the guys, obviously happy at what they’d pulled off, “initially at E3 last year and then at Gamescom in Cologne and most recently at CES in Las Vegas.”
“The idea behind cross-platform play is that it allows players to compete head-to-head online across more than one hardware platform, in this case players on Vita and PS3. The thing is, WipEout 2048 isn’t available on PS3, so WipEout 2048 will ship with WipEout HD content allowing players to access online games of WipEout HD.”
“This mode supports up to 8 players,” the guys confirm, “and this can be made up with any combination of PS3s or Vitas.” Although the online mode is now active, I couldn’t get CrossPlay to work – WipEout HD needs an update first.
We move onto how WipEout has always graced a PlayStation console. “There’s been at least one WipEout game for every PlayStation platform, and long may that tradition continue,” was the reply. “It really has been an icon for PlayStation since the beginning back in 1995.”
“If you remember it, how old does that make you feel?” they joked.
I push them to see if there’s any mention of some of the amazing tracks that were available for download on the PSP versions of the game. “We have plans for some cool DLC for wipEout2048 which will be announcing very soon,” they teased, although Sony are keen to stress that 2048 is the “biggest game in the series.”
“The future looks good too, though,” they add.
Finally, the Vita itself. “We started working with Vita a couple of years ago when it was just a pile of wires and circuit boards and it’s been a lot of fun developing the game as the hardware has taken shape – we’ve even been lucky enough to have had some input in to the design of the machine,” they admit.
“A big bonus is that the development environment created to allow people to develop for Vita is really user friendly from the start. This allowed us to get gameplay up and running really early, which gives us more time to tweak and polish – hopefully creating a more enjoyable game.”
We love it, and everyone we’ve spoken to has felt the same. We’ll have our full review of WipEout 2048 on the 15th of February.