With the PS Vita recently launched in the UK, David Bramhall (Producer at Evolution Studios) was on hand to answer a few questions about his company’s PS Vita launch title – Motorstorm RC – and as to why he thinks the PS Vita is on to a good thing.
First off, have you worked on any other iteration of the Motorstorm franchise?
I’ve worked on every iteration of Motorstorm.
How difficult was it for you to work on the PS Vita?
It wasn’t difficult at all. When we did the first Motorstorm, we had a team of about 10 programmers who were in charge of rendering, systems, low level tech and stuff stuff like that. On the Vita, we had a team of 6 coders entirely for both platforms on each version of the game.
So the Vita is considered to be developer friendly?
Very, very friendly.
How much money went into developing Motorstorm RC?
I’m not sure I can tell you that.
How much money do you think the average developer needs to make a game for the PS Vita?
That depends on the game. If you look at something like Uncharted, that’s going to cost a lot more than Motorstorm RC. It really depends on the game, the scope of the game… I don’t know if I’m honest.
How enthusiastic and supportive are Sony towards getting independant developers on board their PS Vita platform?
I know that we have a lot of dedicated people who go out and talk to communities, and who get feedback on how to develop for the Vita from different developers. I also know that we have a lot of people who go out looking for new ideas and new applications – from everyone really.
Now, I understand that Motorstorm RC is a PS Vita and PS3 title. Which one was the lead platform?
It was developed at the same time for both. We always knew that we wanted to put it on Vita as it’s such a nice piece of kit, and because it matches the game perfectly. The game’s all about small, pick up and play, pint sized gaming and being competitive against your friends’ times. It doesn’t matter whether you’re online or offline, because you’re competing against their best times.
We wanted to give an experience, especially with the Vita where, no matter where you are, you can carry on your progress. So you can happily sit at home all night and challenge the leaderboards and your mates, but whilst you’re asleep, they might have beaten your score and times. Well now that you’re awake and going to work, you can take your Vita and try and beat their times on the Vita, then on the way back home, your friends might have beaten your times again, and the cyle continues. It seemed nice to be able to offer that sort of experience, and Sony were very supportive and wanted to do the whole “2 for 1” deal where if you buy the PS Vita version, you get the PS3 version for free, and vice-versa. Whichever version you buy, you get the other version for free, and this is the major selling point for the game.
Cross platform connectivity in other words…
Yes. Your progress is completely saved and transferred across, so you are constantly updated.
Now the Motorstorm franchise on the Playstation 3 is renowned for offering a very graphically intense and visceral experience, but why does Motorstorm RC on the PS Vita and PS3 seem so much more subdued and restrained in comparison?
I’d argue that Motorstorm RC is actually a very good looking title in a lot of respects. We put a lot of effort into making the gameplay very addictive. The game is all focused around very short, small tracks which you can complete quickly and where you can upload your times quickly. There’s less of an apocalyptic feel to the game, where previously skyscrapers were coming down and where people were shooting at you, but that’s because we wanted to get back to the core racing experience of what Motorstorm offered.
With the PS Vita not doing too well in Japan, how hopeful are you on its chances of succeeding and in the West? In other words, how worried are you about the Vita’s longterm future?
I’m not worried at all. When we got the kit in for the first time in our studio, we had a couple of guys working on Little Deviants, so we were pouring over there to see it. And then as soon as we got our hands on it to do Motorstorm RC, we loved it to bits – the touch screen, the back-plate… it’s just a really nice piece of kit.
From all the hype I’ve seen over the last few days about Motorstorm and the PS Vita itself, it’s been really positive. I haven’t heard any negativity. I guess time will tell, but I’m fairly confident that we’ll do really well with it.
The launch date for the PS Vita was announced a few months ago, whilst the iPhone 4S was launched only a few days after is was unveiled. Why do you think the turnout for the PS Vita launch was so much less than the iPhone 4S (especially considering that the iPhone 4S is considerably more expensive)?
I’ve got no idea to be honest. There could be a hundred reasons. I couldn’t tell you…
Were you happy with the turnout for the PS Vita midnight launch at GAME?
Yeah, it was great. We got chatting to a few of the guys in the crowd, the two guys from Wipeout… Getting back to what we were talking about, the fact that there were people queuing up for days outside that shop says it all really.
What are your plans for the PS Vita after Motorstorm RC?
We don’t know yet. Generally what happens when we finish a project is that we start knocking around a few ideas and seeing what we can do. I wouldn’t call this down-time, but creative time where you throw around ideas and put presentations and concept art together. Trying different code to see what sticks.
Over the next few months, we’ll be putting together a few prototypes and seeing as to what sticks, and see as to what we want to do.
Would it be another Motorstorm game?
I don’t know. We don’t have any plans really as we’re so focused on making Motorstorm RC a success and supporting it post-launch.
Do you ever worry that the Motorstorm franchise may become stagnant, and may stop interesting its intended audience?
There are a lot of very dedicated Motorstorm fans. On Motorstorm RC, we got quite a few fans to give us advice on what they’d like to see and do. Motorstorm as a franchise is all about anarchic racing. The reason as to why we take so long is that every game is so different from the last one. We just try to add more and more and more content. We keep trying to push and hopefully we’ll be able to keep on doing the same thing.
Did Motorstorm Apocalypse sell more copies than Motorstorm Pacific?
I don’t know. We don’t get a lot of sales figure reports…
The only reason as to why I ask is because if it isn’t a case of sequel fatigue, then the next game should sell even more. Aside from financial pressures however, what sort of pressure do you feel when it comes to producing the next iteration of the Motorstorm franchise?
A massive amount. We all love making games. That’s why we spend extra hours in the office and pour our heart and soul into these games. Every time we put a game out, we do start shaking and get really nervous. Will people like it, will they get it, and will they understand what we’re trying to do? And as I said, everytime we put a game out, we try to add more and more. We never feel like the fans will hate us if we don’t do it. We want to put out a game that the fans will love, and so we try as hard as we can to put in as much content and innovation into each game hoping that they will like it. That’s all we can do.
Considering the fact that you’re owned by Sony, how much influence do they have in determining the style and choice of games that you’re allowed to make?
We have a lot of freedom – a lot more than I thought we would have. But Sony are great. They let us go off and explore new avenues, see what we want to do, and then they play more of an approval role by stating as to what they think is good, and then we take it to them when we think it’s ready. That’s a really nice way of working, especially when a large company trusts in your abilities of working.
How do you deal with conflict within teams, and where people don’t perform as well as they should be?
It’s impossible really where people don’t perform, mostly because people don’t get into this industry for just a “job”. It’s not just a job, but a way of life. You’re in it because you love it. It’s really not hard to manage people as they want to be there and want to push hard. In fact, a lot of my job is to actually reigning people back and tell them “no, you can’t work this many hours and can’t work this hard for this long”. I really love the guys I work with, and couldn’t ask for better.
So it’s almost like the antithesis of what ‘EA Spouse’ blogged about when she said that EA drive their employees to the wire with all the overtime that is detrimental to industry staffs’ personal and private life. Are you saying that developers like working long hours?
Nobody likes working long hours, and to be fair, on Motorstorm RC we haven’t because when you’re so passionate about it that when you’re in work, you’re really focused. We put a lot of time and effort into making sure that we were making the right decisions, and the good practices ensured that developers kept out of the office and didn’t put in 80-90 hours per week. You do your normal week , but you work hard during that week.
We didn’t have extended hours, or have any pressure to do extended hours. It was more to do with people wanting to do the hours, because they enjoy it. I can’t imagine waking up and not doing anything else.
Do you know anything about the Playstation 4?
As a developer, how do you feel about Jameson Durrall’s (Volition) comments supporting the notion that next-gen consoles may not play second hand games?
That’s a really difficult question. I can’t really comment on that one. No comment.
What do you think of the Nintendo 3DS?
Don’t know. I haven’t really used one.
What about the Wii U?
I haven’t used one.
What other types of games would you like to work on in the future?
I really like driving games. I’m a big car-nut and love cars. I love the idea of Motorstorm as it is such a cool franchise to work on. So I’d be quite happy in making another driving game. As long as I’m interested in what I’m making, it’s cool.