Upcoming Bizarre titles to use 'Blur' tech
Bizarre Creations' new engine debuts in social racing game Blur, but will likely drive further releases from the studio too, according to our chat with Ben Ward.
Revealed to the public barely two months ago, Blur has been on the cards for a while. According to Ben Ward, Studio Communications Manager at Bizarre Creations, the concept was gunning its engine deep in the Liverpool-based developer's diesel-soaked imagination some time before Activision put it on the payroll in late 2007.
"There were ideas being thrown around about that time," Ward explains when we stop by for a chinwag, "but then the Activision acquisition happened, and obviously all our attention was on making sure the company was doing the right thing. We had ideas for Blur when we were doing Project Gotham Racing 4 and after - it's an ongoing process."
"It's only in the last year that it's really ramped up into full production - probably more than that, a year and six months. But it's something that people at Bizarre have wanted to do for a long time, because we've been doing the Gotham games for what, ten years now? We've been wanting to do something new for quite a while."
Blur shares PGR's love of clean cornering, slaloms, drift and all the other stuff we pretend to have down to a fine art in our racing reviews, but mounted atop that spotless chassis are WipEout-esque power-ups, ranging from Barge, which blasts opponents sideways as they try to overtake, to Shunt, which energy-rams other cars from behind. With up to 20 Humvees, Ford Transits, Dodge Vipers and what have you per race, the potential for fender-ripping pile-ups is immense.
And those pile-ups look the business, too, thanks to a brand new engine founded on the ceaseless labours of Bizarre's Shared Technology team. "All of the stuff we learned from The Club - the character stuff, the multi-platform gaming - that's all being applied to Blur, but all the good stuff from the Gotham engine has made its way to Blur as well. Obviously there were new challenges that had to be taken on - 20 cars on track for one is a pretty massive technical hurdle, and also networking, doing 20 player multiplayer is a really big deal. So we've achieved those with this new engine as well, and the next few titles that we churn out will be literally built on that tech as well."
Bizarre has evolved PGR's system of rewards and auxiliary content, already vastly rounded out since the Xbox days but still not quite to the developer's satisfaction. "If you think back to PGR2, it was very clinical - you just picked the race and got the medal and that was it. Your reward was a tiny little spinning medal and that was it, right? But then PGR3 and PGR4, they've got 'congratulations' screens and more patting the player on the back, basically."
"We're aware we've been nasty to the player for quite some time," Ward comments ruefully (and unnecessarily, given reviewer acclaim), "but because it's a reboot of what we've done before, Blur is an opportunity to really go overboard, and really congratulate the player and make it fun to play at every single opportunity."
A big part of that reward process - and the reason Ward is personally more involved with Blur than any prior Bizarre project - is the incorporation of social networking features, both as single player storytelling devices and as the main arteries of the online community. The plot will unfold via in-game text messages or emails, and it's possible to unlock peripheral events when you join certain Facebook-ish driver groups. You can even set the game up so that it will Tweet your time when you cross the finish line. Cute, huh?
"Obviously the game team are working on the game," says Ward, "but with the social network there's been discussion in the initial stages of whether it should be tightly integrated with other social networks, whether it should have a web component, whether it should have a mobile phone component, etc. So I've done a lot of work on that, and I'm working with these big agencies to implement it all and make sure that the game team, the agencies, the marketing teams, the tech guys all add up and work together."
Between Blur's social networking savvy and its exaggerated combative approach, Ward feels there's the makings of "a new level of gameplay, that hasn't been seen in ages". We're looking forward to putting that optimistic assessment to the test.
Blur is due out on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in Q4 2009.