Phillipe Bosher (SpeedyDesiato on the forums) interviewed Todd Batty during Gamescom a few weeks ago, and the second part of the interview is brimming with very interesting questions from many of the members here at Merqury City! Todd Batty answers all sorts of questions ranging from possible DLC to audio information about SSX 2012. Read the full interview after the break!
---Phillipe Bosher: Right, here we go, SSX Community Questions!
Todd Batty: Here we go!PB: SSX Uberfan #1 wants to know: Will there be any characters coming after the game has released, via DLC?
TB: Absolutely, I think that we will be doing that. One of things that, internally, we’re trying to push for with SSX is to continue to support the game after we launch it.PB: So similar to Burnout: Paradise.
TB: So Burnout: Paradise had the Year of Paradise, right? They just continued to add on and they built a relationship with their customers. One of our bigger goals, as a company, is to start to transition our business from the ‘Ship-and-forget’ model, which is very transaction-based, into something that’s more service-based. As we continue to go digital, as the industry continues to evolve, it becomes more and more important for us to develop that relationship with our customers. I’ve put forward to the senior people at our company that I think SSX, given that we’re right on the leading edge of technology and innovation – we’re really pushing social features and online, RiderNet, all that kind of stuff – that we would be a perfect game for the company to say ‘Hey, let’s invest in a year of SSX, and let’s continue to build on this game. Let’s continue to listen to our customers, listen to what they want, read our telemetry data and continually adjust, tweak and tune the game… it would make [the customers] happy, and hopefully we can build a huge strong community. God willing that the launch of the game goes well, then we can do a lot of DLC later on. Obviously new characters, bringing back returning characters and introducing some new ones would be a big part of that plan.PB: Staying with the theme of characters, Citylights wants to know about character customisation. We know that you can customise some aspects of characters’ outfits, but will we be able to customise the characters themselves? Say hair, nose rings, whatever…
TB: No, you’re not going to be able to do that in the shipped version of the game. We looked really early on at doing ‘Create-a-player’ and even simple edit/tweaks. I know a lot of those questions have popped up because the community isn’t happy with the way that Kaori looks…PB: And I can cross that question off my list…
TB: You know, I read the forums all the time, I’m on Merqury City (a big SSX fansite and forum) all the time because I met some of those guys when they were up at our community day… They’re fantastic and amazing people. They’re our biggest fans, and we want to make sure they’re happy with everything we’re doing…
If we had done ‘Create-a-player’, I don’t think that’s the right thing for SSX. I don’t think SSX is about that. It would have been very easy for us to have a character editor, but when we made the decision not to have ‘Create-a-player’, the editor also went out the window. We want to able to customise gear, and customise the look/colour of your outfits and whatnot, but as far as having a robust enough editor to change hairstyles, that’s not going to be in the shipped version.PB: So, we know about returning characters – Elise, Mac and the like – but Charmy Dweeng wants to know if there will be any tracks returning to SSX?
TB: That’s an interesting question. In early days, when we first started developing SSX, we needed some mountains to ride on while we were building our core gameplay and core physics, but we didn’t have any. So we used a lot of the tracks from SSX 3 in development… it was actually one of the things that led us to a lot of our new gameplay innovations. When we said ‘Hey, I want to use some mountains! Oh, we’ve got some old SSX tracks, we should bring that stuff in!’ – and believe me, it’s hard to find data for a game that’s seven years old! As well as we archive everything – I still don’t think that we’ve found all the original SSX 1 tracks – we had to pull in tracks from SSX 3 and Tricky in order to help ourselves.
So we put them in our game, but the interesting thing was: all we got was the core geometry of the track itself. All of the objects – rocks, trees, buildings, etc – that stuff didn’t come with it. That stuff was an additional layer. [The core geometry] was all we needed. Then we realised ‘Wow! These mountains are huge!’ but then our first pass, with all the core physics, we realised that, actually, it’s not that good, and it’s not that fun. Our original physics was based on old SSX physics, and that’s part of what led us to say ‘You know what? We should be able to ride that stuff. I should be able to go off a wall, if I have enough speed, and flip off a wall without losing momentum. So we used a few of the old SSX tracks very heavily in early days, and just recently, while working with my world builders and my level team, we started tossing around the idea of taking some of those levels and putting them in our game.
Now, if we put them in our game, we don’t have access to be able to set-dress and make them an exact replication of what they were. But the core geometry of those tracks are still really fun to play, they still stand up today by today’s standards and against what we’re building, but I don’t know how appreciable it would be by the community or how recognisable it would be, but for how great those mountains were for us in development, I was saying “I kind of want to throw in Happiness – it was one of those mountains that we used a TON of for SSX. It’s one of those mountains that’s huge, fun and interesting, with huge air moments. Some of the areas don’t hold up as well with our new physics, but we could probably tweak it a little bit. We thought it would be fun to throw it in the game – we’ll throw some ice and rocks on it and put it in the game… more for our benefit than the community!
So: maybe. Long answer to the question comes down to Maybe. *Laughs*
The second thing that we’ve talked about, and this won’t be in the shipped game, is something that would come via post-ship content. We spoke to the community, and we asked the community would they like us to bring back Big Mountain, for example, or Tokyo Megaplex, or…PB: Well, that’s my vote!
TB: Well, some are going to be easier than others. Something like Tokyo Megaplex… the entire gameplay was all in the objects. If you actually look at that track – and I’ve seen it – without any objects, it’s actually… it’s nothing! Literally, everything was in the pipes and the wind-elevators, and…PB: Oh yeah! The wind-elevators! Man, they were awesome!
TB: Yeah! But without those, it’s a really basic level. Something like that would be a lot more effort than we would be potentially willing to invest into it, but we thought: if we could put Big Mountain together, and there were enough recognisable landmarks, it would still play different – our physics is much more advanced – but I think it would be recognisable in a cool way. We asked the community, and they said they would absolutely love that, so that’s certainly one of the things we’re going to look at post-ship.PB: So, I heard recently that you inadvertently announced custom soundtracks…
TB: Yeah, that was at Community Day!PB: I don’t believe you were supposed to, but you did! That’s ok, it’s out there now. *Laughs* MartyMcFly885 wants to know if you’ll be able to assign certain songs to particular tracks. So say that I really want to hear More Than a Feeling by Boston playing as I ride down Alaska, drop number 2, will I be able to set it so that I will always hear More than a Feeling as I ride down Alaska’s drop number 2?
TB: Is that what you want to hear going down Alaska, drop number 2? More than a Feeling?PB: I don’t know!
TB: Who wouldn’t?!PB: More Than a Feeling is a great song!
TB: *Laughs*PB: If you can time it right, hit a big jump as the chorus kicks in… yeah!
TB: *Pauses* I’m not going to get in any more trouble by talking about a feature that I’m not supposed to talk about! I can say that our audio team is looking at things like that, and I know for sure that some things, like ‘I want this selection of music to play while I’m doing a race’, or ‘I want this selection when I’m doing trick events’ because, you know, I like to listen to far different music when I’m doing a race than when I’m doing a trick event. I’ll listen to Hip hop and reggae and stuff when I’m doing a trick course, but when I’m racing I want to hear something a little more high-paced.
Beyond that, I’m not going to say anything.PB: Funnily enough, I was just thinking about the music in Burnout Paradise. They had some classical music playing throughout. Will there be any classical music in SSX? It’s not really the right sort of game for it, but neither was Burnout! So, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – confirm/deny?
TB: I’m not going to talk any more about music or audio! *Turns to EA PR* I’ve already told him so much! *Pauses* I’m just kidding!
EA PR: Really, we don’t actually know yet.
TB: A lot of it is that we don’t know. We’re still in negotiations with a lot of people, trying to figure out who we want to get, who can be on the soundtrack, who wants to be on the soundtrack… obviously SSX is a game with a rich musical history, so we’re doing our best to make sure we have a really rich, robust soundtrack. We have some big shoes to fill, if you look at the past soundtracks, and if you look at how some of those artists have blown up today… I think that if you tried to put together one of those soundtracks, considering how big those artists are today, it would cost a LOT of money! *Laughs*
EA PR: I think you can be rest-assured that we have one of our best audio producers at EA Canada working on the audio for SSX. He worked on Fight Night Champion’s audio, which had a great soundtrack… did you mention the Remix at all?
TB: I think the community should know all about Remix, because we talked about that at Community Day.
EA PR: Ok! We will do whatever it takes to create a soundtrack that’s SSX-worthy. We have the best people working on it!PB: Moving away from audio, Mus wants to know what the frame rate will be like in SSX. What are you aiming for?
TB: We always aim for a locked, hard, 60 fps. Now, we’re simming at 60 and rendering at 30. Personally, as a designer, I’m a big fan of 60 sim, which means the inputs are done at 60. Rendering at 30 with motion blur actually looks and feels faster than 60 without motion blur. I know we can’t do 60 with motion blur, so I’m pushing for 30 with motion blur and 60 sim, but all that could change right up until the last minute.
I think the most important thing, as far as framerate goes, is to make sure that it is locked hard and stable. Often games that are criticised for bad framerate have glitch framerates, where it fluctuates up and down, as opposed to ‘It was 30 and that wasn’t any good.’ I’ve played games with 60 fps that I think, on a framerate experience, are awful, and I’ve played some 30 fps games that are incredible. I don’t think it’s as much about the number as it is about stability, personally.PB: I’d agree with that. Next, Sweet Wild Flowers wants to know some more about the story for SSX. Obviously it’s not going to be a story-heavy game, but when will we know more about the character motivations etc? Is everything already out there?
TB: Oh no! There’s some more stuff coming but we’re not going to be releasing Campaign details until a much later date. Maybe at Tokyo Game Show in September sometime, but it could be closer to October/November. We’re still working on a lot of the cinematics and building that out. Again, we’re not building a huge story mode, but there’s a cool fiction, it drives you through the game. There’s motivation to keep going; there’s a beginning, middle and end; there’s a reason to keep doing what you’re doing, but it’s not a story-driven game.PB: With the characters that are returning, will they have the same Uber tricks as they did in previous games, or will there be new ones?
TB: Lots of the Ubers are new. We’ve looked at old Uber tricks for inspiration… You’ve probably seen tricks in the game that are almost a direct replica of tricks seen in older entries. Another thing that we’re doing, again this was based on community feedback a long time ago, people really wanted signature super-Ubers…. So every character is going to have their own signature super-uber. We are looking directly at what each character’s signature super-uber was before, and we’re making a new, updated version of that. They should be instantly recognisable.
The first one that we put in the game, a while ago, was Simon’s Hang-ten trick – you can see it in the trailer we showed at the Press Conference. I received an e-mail today that Elise’s signature super-Uber just went in… and I know what it is! I’m pretty excited. She’s my girl.PB: Yeah, agreed. Always Elise! When I applied to be a part of EA’s gamescom coverage, I wrote something along the lines of “There are always characters where… you know you’re not supposed to fancy them, but you probably did a little bit. With women like Elise… Sure, it’s PS2, it’s blocky, but damn she’s hot!”
TB: *Laughs*PB: You just can’t help it! Anyway, moving on… nice and simple: Wilbert wants to know how many tracks will be in the shipped game, and how tracks will be sold in DLC. Will they be singular tracks? Track packs?
TB: As far as total number of tracks, we’re still working on that right now. We continue to toss ones out that we don’t think we’ll have enough time to make a really great SSX experience. So far though, we have: nine mountain ranges, 3-4 peaks per mountain, multiple drops per mountain (with drops being a track)… we’re somewhere in the neighbourhood of around 150 tracks right now, which is massive!
For some of those though, we’re using the same part of the mountain to do a race drop and a trick drop for example, but… it’s huge. It’s massive. It’s a massive world to explore.
As for DLC, I just don’t know. Whether we’ll release a mountain, or single drops at a time, that depends on where we go from here. We wouldn’t want to throw out tracks simply for the sake of throwing out tracks; we want to think about where we can fit it in the world, will it be adding new gameplay, new mechanics… that kind of thing.PB: In the USA, Mount Fiji is a PS3-exclusive. Tricky Emu wants to know: is that a timed exclusive, or will it eventually come to the 360 via DLC?
TB: That’s a timed exclusive. I believe, and I’m 99% sure, that’s a timed exclusive.
As a development team, and as a marketing team, we need to do things like Retail offers and exclusives. It’s a part of our building relationships with first-party and retail and whatnot. My goal is always, and I’m a bit of a pain to some executives for, that I want anybody and everybody to ultimately end up having the opportunity to have the same game. Anytime that we can bring something to everybody that might have originally missed it, like an exclusive to a console, we’re going to try to do so.PB: Very quick question that LePierre wants answered: is RiderNet going to be cross-platform?
TB: No, you can’t do it. First-party won’t allow cross-platform communication. I would love it if it could be, but I think we’re going to have a big enough community on both consoles that it should be pretty awesome anyway.PB: EvilPengi wants to know: Collision detection. When we watched the trailer yesterday, there seemed to be a lot of characters in quite close proximity, and he worries that the collision detection didn’t seem to be there, and the characters didn’t seem to react realistically. Is that something you plan on fixing before release?
TB: Yeah, we’re still working on that stuff. Obviously, when you’re going down a typical SSX campaign track – you against AI characters and whatnot – you’re bumping and bashing into them. We didn’t invest in combat, because… well, people said they wanted big mountains, people said they wanted open mountains, people said they wanted tons of different ways to get down the mountain, and if you look at the evolution from SSX Tricky to SSX 3… Tricky had super-close proximity, confined courses, heavy catch-up logic – you were literally going down a mountain with a pack of people around you at all times. It makes perfect sense in that game that they then said ‘It’s all about knocking people over, maxing out your boost meter, rivalries – “I hate you!” “I like you!”’ – very cool, awesome mechanics…PB: Quickly following on from that, will there be any similar voice acting in SSX?
TB: Yeah, actually a bunch of people have been asking that. You can say that we are having character vocalisations, so the characters will be speaking and saying things while they’re going down the mountain. We’re going to try to keep that under control, though! Some of those things have gotten a little crazy in SSX in the past… but it’s really cool, actually. We’ve started getting some of that stuff in the game already, and hearing Kaori speak as she’s going down the mountain, hearing Elise and whatnot… it’s pretty cool stuff.PB: Awesome! Our final question comes from Woozwah. He wants to know: When you unlock board artwork, will you be able to apply to any board? Say you have a really great board, statistically – it’s got great boost, great turning ability, great speed, etc – but it has a design that he doesn’t like, will he able to apply a new skin to that board?
TB: Don’t know the answer to that yet. It’s something we’re looking at right now. As we figured out that we wanted to have lots and lots of boards, with lots of different attributes, along with tons of different gear for you to be able to purchase, we then had to think ‘Wow, how are we going to get art for all this?!’
So, as you probably know, we engaged our community. We have people right now creating board art for me – by the way, huge shoutout to our community – I have seen some STUNNING artwork, and AMAZINGLY beautiful-looking boards coming in from them, and when we started seeing that, the next question was exactly yours. You know, ‘Wow! Some of these boards are so beautiful that once I get them, I’m going to want to hang onto that board forever!’
In the system that we had put together, we thought ‘No, there’s going to be tons of different boards and you’ll be buying/selling boards all the time.’ We then immediately recognised that as a potential issue, so we’re problem-solving that right now. Not sure where we’re going to end up.PB: And that’s it! Thank you very much for you time man, I thoroughly enjoyed that.
TB: Alright! Thank you!
Many thanks to SpeedyDesiato for conducting this interview and allowing us permission to host it. You can view his blog at http://paradisegamed.wordpress.com
. You can also view his interview with SSX producers and his impressions of the game right here in this thread
on The Gravitude Bar.