Test Drive Unlimited 2 Learner's Permit - An Introductory Q&A with Game Director Alain Jarniou
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With a familiar level progression, loads of customization options, a
challenging single-player campaign (and plenty to compete for in
multiplayer), and a sandboxy world, style="font-style: italic;">Test Drive Unlimited 2
bears more than a striking resemblance to a traditional MMORPG. Add in
90+ driveable cars rendered in painstaking detail, realistic physics
and a detailed rendering of the islands of Ibiza and Maui, and you have
a whole new kind of massively multiplayer experience. Eden Games' Game
Director Alain Jarniou joins us to kick the tires of this highly
anticipated February 2011 title.
Ton Hammer: Is it safe to say
detail is a top priority in the development of style="font-style: italic;">Test Drive Unlimited 2?
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.
Ton Hammer: What are some
examples of what you've done to make the game immersing to players?
Jarniou: style="font-style: italic;">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
" style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman";"> style="font-style: italic;">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."
A big innovation for the game play is also the Walk-mode you can use in
every interior like in car dealers or in the houses and their garages.
That way players can walk around the car, come very close and admire
the beautiful details. They can also meet and discuss with each other,
as all those spots are online.
Ton Hammer: How accurate is
the map of Ibiza? Is every road on the real island in game?
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.
Ton Hammer: How do you go
about designing something to that degree of realism?
Jarniou: Let’s take
the example of the weather, which is one of the main new features of style="font-style: italic;">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.
Ton Hammer: What have been
some of the biggest challenges in developing a game like this, and how
have you overcome those challenges?
Jarniou: style="font-style: italic;">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.
Ton Hammer: How customizable
is the character avatar? What options are available in terms of both
clothing and plastic surgery?
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.
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?
Jarniou: There are over 60
houses to purchase in style="font-style: italic;">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.
Ton Hammer: What sort of
customization is available in the homes?
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.
Ton Hammer: The casino is a
big attraction. What can players do in the casino?
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 style="font-style: italic;">TDU2;
it is a social place where you can meet other players and chat with
them with a cocktail in the hands.
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?
Jarniou: style="font-style: italic;">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
Ton Hammer: And are they all
authentic "real" cars, or have you added some of you own?
Jarniou: 98% of the style="font-style: italic;">TDU2
cars are brand cars, this is in the genes of style="font-style: italic;">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.
Ton Hammer: How true to the
actual model are they in terms of handling, max speed, look, and feel?
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.
Ton Hammer: Can you tell us a
bit about the single player campaign? How long is it and what does it
Jarniou: Having seen that the
total freedom provided in the first style="font-style: italic;">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.
" style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman";"> style="font-style: italic;">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."
Like in a classical MMO, players will level up to level 60. Progression
is about racing, collecting cars and goods, exploring the islands and
socializing with other players. And like in a MMO, the way to success
is long, we know that it takes more than 100 hours to complete all the
progression, and at this point, it is the beginning of unlimited online
challenges with friends.
Ton Hammer: What sort of
multiplayer events can be found in game?
challenges are very important in style="font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic;">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.
Ton Hammer: Would you say the
game is more focused on multiplayer gameplay or single player?
Jarniou: We designed the game
so an offline player can enjoy a complete racing experience, but style="font-style: italic;">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.
Ton Hammer: How big of a role
will network latency and hardware play in a player's effectiveness in
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.
Ton Hammer: When is beta and
when is launch?
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 style="font-style: italic;">TDU2,
even with all the bugs and corrections we made all through the Beta
Ton Hammer: Is there anything
else you'd like to share with our readers at this time?
Jarniou: style="font-style: italic;">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.
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