torsdag 4. mars 2010

ModNation Racers blends infinite modding and goofy kart racing (video)

ModNation Racers gives you so many choices for creating your cartoon characters, kart racers, and race tracks that you may never get to the racing.
The game for the Sony Playstation will launch this summer, Dan Sochan, the producer at developer United Front Games in Vancouver, game me a whirlwind preview of the game. I was struck at all of the variations possible in the game and it is to create the “mods,” gamer parlance for modifications.
With just a couple of clicks, you can pick from among 247 different types of cartoon eyes and then put them on the head of your avatar, or game character. You can move those eyes around, even to the back of the head, and then obsess over every detail. It gives new meaning to the phrase “fully customizable,” and it explains why United Front Games has been working on the game since 2007. The company had created modification tools and set players loose to test it. The feedback was that players wanted even more tools to further customize the game, so the company doubled down on its investment in variability.
The modifications are so detailed that they use every once of the processing power of the PlayStation 3, Sochan said. And that’s what sets it apart from past kart games, which include huge hits such as Mario Kart, Crash Team Racing and Diddy Kong. This game is a cross of Mario Kart and LittleBigPlanet, the infinitely moddable 3-D platform game from 2008 that sold millions on the PS 3.
“We think of this as the next-generation of karting,” he said. “We felt it was time to take advantage of next-generation hardware and combine the karts with the play, create, share genre of user-generated content.”
Indeed, it’s another example of Web 2.0 meets gaming, putting user creativity in the center of the game world. It’s also another example of a payoff from Sony’s deep investment in high-quality PlayStation 3 games. Microsoft also showed a similar Xbox Live game last year, dubbed Joy Ride, but has delayed its launch.
You can also get credit for your creations. If you create and then upload your own kart, that kart will list you as the original creator. Then someone else can take that kart and remix it, creating something different and getting credit for that too. The top mods, or characters, are displayed as statues in the game’s central hub, as are the most popular karts. The game has lots of free stuff. But you can also download purchased content from the PlayStation Store using real money.
But much of the fun is putting your own personality on the blank slate cartoon characters and karts. You can take a zebra pattern, change the colors, and plaster your own uniquely designed stickers all over it. Because you can make subtle variations, there are literally millions upon millions of unique characters to create. Usually, creating mods is a tedious job for the dedicated game designers. But ModNation Racers makes the modding process fast and effortless. You take a character, grab something to put on it, morph it to your liking, and then scale it up or scale it down. You can take a bumper, attach it to a car and then throw a fender on it. The parts will mold together so you don’t have to worry about whether they fit together or not.
This rich modification tool set shines the most when you are creating tracks. You can use your controller to raise mountain ranges in a matter of seconds or create waterways. Once you create your environment, you can automatically populate it with themes such as palm trees. You press the button and the environment completely fills out. When you create your track, you select the pavement type and then just start driving around. The track is automatically created. A guide shows you what path to follow to complete your whole circuit. Creating is as simple as driving around and splashing paint on the environment.
You can actually earn rewards just by creating. “We let you play the game any way you want,” Sochan said. “It’s not a linear path.”
You can create facial hair that sticks up and put it on any part of your body. If you create something inappropriate, your fellow racers can report you and a community manager will review the complaint. Once you go online, you enter the ModSpot hub where you can make friends, chat with them or challenge them to races.
Oh, and the racing is also fun. The karts use real-world physics with modifications that work well in a cartoon setting. If you crash while going around a first turn in a race, that doesn’t mean you’re out of the race. You can run your kart over power-ups that give you the ability do zany tricks like jumping ahead of your rivals or pushing them off the track. You can earn boosts that give you a rocket push. That’s fairly standard kart racing, but the backgrounds of the games are very cool to look at, especially if you’ve had a hand in creating them. All the while you earn points as you drift around turns or draft behind racers. And the karts come with weapons and shields that you can use to take out your rivals or defend against them. You can win game tokens and exchange them for little rewards.
If you don’t want to spend time modding and just want to race, you can do that too. You can chose from among 28 tracks which were all created using the same modding tools that are in the game. There are also default characters and karts. There’s a single player storyline that shows you how to race and use all of the tools for modding in the game. Hollywood script writers and voice actors give the story some life. You can also go online on the PlayStation Network and play in 12-player races. You can also play offline with four players on one TV with split screen views, or one on one split-screen against an online rival.
The game should be a hoot when it ships, and at that point players should have as much fun as the developers have had creating it.
“We’ve worked on racing titles for years at other companies, but here we got the freedom to build whatever we thought would be fun,” Sochan said.
Please attend our big game conference on Wednesday, March 10: GamesBeat@GDC at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, inside the Game Developers Conference.

Ingen kommentarer:

Legg inn en kommentar