Test Drive Unlimited 2 Learner's Permit - An Introductory Q&A with Game Director Alain Jarniou
Ten Ton Hammer: Is it safe to say detail is a top priority in the development of Test Drive Unlimited 2?
Alain Jarniou: Definitely, firstly for the cars, we pushed the limits both for external shape precision and interiors quality. We wanted a real quality gap in terms of modeling accuracy and details (logos and lights are fully modeled for example), but also new materials and shaders for a more realistic rendering. We also worked on the environments, with more diversity for vegetation, cities and landscapes, more types of roads with a better 3D-definition for a smooth driving.
Ten Ton Hammer: What are some examples of what you've done to make the game immersing to players?
Alain Jarniou: TDU2 is a realistic racing game with branded cars and real locations, so it was very important for us to listen to the players to learn what could reinforce immersion. That’s how big enhancements like day and night cycle and the weather obviously became priorities to develop, even if it has been a big challenge to manage a world with infinite weather/time of the day combinations. We developed new technologies, including real-time shadows cast, weather transitions and night rendering.
"TDU2 has 90+ cars, and they are all premium quality, with authentic and distinctive handling across vehicle classes and models. We also have plans to release additional cars in the months and years to come."
Ten Ton Hammer: How accurate is the map of Ibiza? Is every road on the real island in game?
Alain Jarniou: We generated the island with the exact satellite data of the real island of Ibiza, creating a very accurate (and big) playing area. We also used the official road network database, and selected the more interesting roads, highways and tracks of Ibiza, with always in mind the objective to provide diversity and fun to the players.
Ten Ton Hammer: How do you go about designing something to that degree of realism?
Alain Jarniou: Let’s take the example of the weather, which is one of the main new features of TDU2. It has been a long series of iterations between technological development and enhancements on a side and tweaking settings and updating tools on the other side, again and again, until we were satisfied with the game photography, at any moment of the day.
Ten Ton Hammer: What have been some of the biggest challenges in developing a game like this, and how have you overcome those challenges?
Alain Jarniou: TDU1 came in 2006 on the Xbox360, and 4 years later we are still using the same console generation but with the will of making a game bigger, with more details in cars and environments, weather and day/night cycle: that was the big technological challenge. We managed to do it, in parallel on the PC, Xbox360 and PS3 with the help of our in-house experts who were able to use the quintessence of each platform.
Ten Ton Hammer: How customizable is the character avatar? What options are available in terms of both clothing and plastic surgery?
Alain Jarniou: You can change clothes, face and haircuts. As we want all these activities to be the most immersive possible, specific spots to discover on both islands have been developed for each activity.
Ten Ton Hammer: Players will also own their own homes in the game. How many different house models are available, and can you give us some examples?
Alain Jarniou: There are over 60 houses to purchase in TDU2, with 20 different models placed in the most beautiful spots of the 2 islands. It goes from a humble caravan to a (very expensive) Yacht.
Ten Ton Hammer: What sort of customization is available in the homes?
Alain Jarniou: We want every player to feel that this is his own personal house. Thanks to MyTDUHouse system, player can change his furniture, wall and floor textures, and even pictures on the wall.
Ten Ton Hammer: The casino is a big attraction. What can players do in the casino?
Alain Jarniou: We developed what we think are the more entertaining activities in a casino: fruit machines (which give you the opportunity to win exclusive cars), roulette and poker. But Casino is not only about gambling, like all the spots in TDU2; it is a social place where you can meet other players and chat with them with a cocktail in the hands.
Ten Ton Hammer: Let's talk cars. We know you can't give a full list of cars that will be available, but do you have a rough number of how many models can be purchased in game?
Alain Jarniou: TDU2 has 90+ cars, and they are all premium quality, with authentic and distinctive handling across vehicle classes and models. We also have plans to release additional cars in the months and years to come.
Ten Ton Hammer: And are they all authentic "real" cars, or have you added some of you own?
Alain Jarniou: 98% of the TDU2 cars are brand cars, this is in the genes of Test Drive to give a chance to drive the most beautiful and expensive cars in the world. We made an exception for one exotic car: the Buggy, which is an Eden creation to provide a specific off-road gameplay.
Ten Ton Hammer: How true to the actual model are they in terms of handling, max speed, look, and feel?
Alain Jarniou: We redesign our dynamic system from scratch on solid and realistic basis, so it takes in account the real characteristics of cars (weight, max speed…) for a “first pass” tuning of each. Even at this first stage of tweaking, every car has its own personality. We then have the possibility to tweak every car, according to the handling personality we want to give it.
Ten Ton Hammer: Can you tell us a bit about the single player campaign? How long is it and what does it involve?
Alain Jarniou: Having seen that the total freedom provided in the first TDU was sometimes disturbing for players, who may fell lost on the huge island of Hawaii, we designed a storyline to guide the player in his progression in the game. The player meets very quickly the beautiful people of Ibiza and enters the championship called “solar crown”. This competition will drive him to Hawaii and make him discover all the car categories of the game.
"We generated the island with the exact satellite data of the real island of Ibiza, creating a very accurate (and big) playing area. We also used the official road network database, and selected the more interesting roads, highways and tracks of Ibiza, with always in mind the objective to provide diversity and fun to the players."
Ten Ton Hammer: What sort of multiplayer events can be found in game?
Alain Jarniou: Multiplayer challenges are very important in TDU2. As they are the core gameplay, we worked hard to make them more interesting and challenging. We enhanced what we call the “instant challenges”: in free-ride, at any moment, a player can challenge the other players he meets. They are more “instant” today, and can be played over and over without any repetitive feeling. “Classical” races are present, of course, with world rankings. “Original” speed and speed traps challenges of TDU1, are still in there in enhanced versions.
But the biggest innovation was made with the creation of cooperative multiplayer challenges. Because in a MMO, all is not about player versus player, but also about doing things in cooperation with friends, we developed “follow the leader” and “keep your distance” modes. Good performance in those game modes is the performance of a group of friends, playing together. We hope the players will enjoy this new way of playing a racing game and spend lots of time to make scores with their friends.
Ten Ton Hammer: Would you say the game is more focused on multiplayer gameplay or single player?
Alain Jarniou: We designed the game so an offline player can enjoy a complete racing experience, but TDU2 is clearly a multiplayer game. It really takes its full dimension when playing with (or against) other real players, making competition… and making friends.
Ten Ton Hammer: How big of a role will network latency and hardware play in a player's effectiveness in the game?
Alain Jarniou: We have made simulations in extreme conditions, with latency, low bandwidth to insure an optimal gameplay in most cases. The Beta phase on PC was a big source of information on that particular point and helped us very much to enhance the game.
Ten Ton Hammer: When is beta and when is launch?
Alain Jarniou: Beta is already running on PC and will be open until we are satisfied with the tuning of the game. I’d like to thank all the Beta testers that helped us to enhance our game. They did a great job and I hope they had fun playing with this little part of TDU2, even with all the bugs and corrections we made all through the Beta test time.
Ten Ton Hammer: Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers at this time?
Alain Jarniou: TDU2 is pushing online racing experience to new limits; it’s bigger, more immersive and more social. We really hope players will enjoy playing together, create clubs to progress in a common goal, for unlimited hours of gameplay and fun!
Our sincere thanks to Alain Jarniou for this interview.