SBK 2011 from Milestone is the next entry in the sim racing series. We quizzed lead game designer Simone Magni about how hard it is to make another iteration of the series, Gran Turismo 5 and if 3D has a place in the future of gaming.
Q: What's the single biggest difference between SBK 2011 and its predecessors?
Simone Magni: The good thing about SBK 2011 is that it innovates the series in many different aspects without putting in place what the fans would perceive as an unnecessary revolution. The games feels fresh without being confusing for the experienced players. If I had to point out the single innovation that I perceive to be the most important, I would say the handling. This aspect had an incredible improvement in both realism and accessibility compared to SBK X. The revamped physics model is supported by a totally improved graphics engine and a more appealing presentation all around.
Q: A quick statistical question for you: how many bikes? How many drivers? How many tracks? How many miles of road? Is this the most comprehensive super-bike game yet?
SM: We have 21 different bike models, 79 riders and almost 50 miles divided among 16 playable tracks. Legendary riders from old SBK seasons will also be available for everyone who buys the game. So the answer is yes, this is the biggest SBK game ever.
Q: How hard is it designing a game that – stats and tracks aside – will be very similar to the last game in the series? How do you go about thinking up new features?
SM: It isn't hard actually. With SBK 2011 we started from a game that already worked well with the goal of making it perfect. We had lot of feedback from the actual SBK teams, the International and, most importantly, our fans. We used this feedback as a strong starting point. Then, we first worked on the weak points that came out in SBK X and finally, added some of the features that didn't make it in last year's version of the game. At this point, we had a well defined design over which we were able to add anything our creativity allowed.
Q: EA has implemented live commentary in its fighting game, MMA. Is this something that could work in SBK, or the racing genre in general?
SM: My personal opinion is that generally in racing games the commentary doesn't work well as it gets boring after a very short time. On the other hand, having your personal engineer giving you suggestions using the radio works really well to recreate the actual racing atmosphere and give more adrenalin to races. Unfortunately, they don't have team radios on real SBK bikes.
Q: Have you looked at the success – and failure – of Gran Turismo 5 at all when designing SBK 2011? Obviously it's a huge racing title; has any of their innovations influenced the development at all?
SM: Gran Turismo came out when the design for SBK2011 was already completed. I think Gran Turismo came out with some problems but it's definitely a game made from people with a huge passion for races and cars, and when you're on a track on that game you notice it. I work in a team that shares the same passion for motorsport and can commit the same mistakes, but we're working hard to avoid that.
Q: 3D technology is a great application for racing games. Will we be seeing it in SBK 2011? Is this a technology that all racing games will feel required to have going forward from now?
SM: The entire Milestone team is keeping the situation monitored, but actually I'm personally sceptical about the 3D, I find that it's a technology that works well, but costs too much compared the benefits it gives. I'm ready to change my mind if something revolutionary would come out in the near future.
SBK 2011 is due for release on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC in May.