PS3 fans rejoice - the sequel to the excellent PS3 launch title MotorStorm is inbound, and, going by the two track demo available at Sony's recent PlayStation Day in London, it's coming along like a monster truck speeding down a pacific mountain. Funny that, considering Evolution Studios' hotly anticipated follow-up is set on a pacific island and features monster trucks. We put our foot down and parked up beside Nigel Kershaw, MotorStorm Pacific Rift's game director, to grill him on the off-road racing game to end all off-road racing games.
VideoGamer.com: Is MotorStorm more popular in the US than it is in the UK?
Nigel Kershaw: We tried to make it US centric, simply because we spent a long time writing rally games, as you know, that the Americans just don't get. There's a lot of things to rally games that we think by redressing it all up and making it beautiful and much more energetic and violent, that we could tap into that US market.
The sales are pretty much even throughout all the territories, which is great for us. The Europeans understand what we do and understand the type of games we make, and the Americans now have a taste of this sort of game with Motorstorm. It's not WRC but it's the spiritual successor to WRC.
VideoGamer.com: Is the off-road racing genre more popular in the US than in Europe?
NK: To some degree, yeah. It's an off-road racing game but the thing with MotorStorm is we wanted to make it great fun. It's first and foremost a game. The way we go about writing MotorStorm, with the whole player centric thing, the whole danger, the action, the monster trucks is just so people have a great time playing it and don't necessarily get hung up on what genre it's in. It's great fun, it's entertainment.
VideoGamer.com: Is MotorStorm Pacific Rift pushing the PS3?
NK: The first game pushed the PS3, this is pushing the PS3, our next game is going to push the PS3. It's not so much about pushing the hardware, it's about learning how to use the hardware in the best possible fashion. We're in the enviable position that we've already written a game that's been released and been very successful on the PS3. We've realised we've just scratched the surface of what we could actually do with the machine. And I'm sure next time around we'll learn a lot more from MotorStorm Pacific Rift.
What you're looking at now (PlayStation Day demo) is pre-alpha code, so it's starting to look quite nice, but I'm quite picky. This is nothing compared to what it's going to look like when it's released. But the look is only half of it. The power of the PlayStation gives us the ability to do a lot more interactivity with the world. MotorStorm was set in the desert. It was beautiful but there wasn't much there, that was the whole point why we picked it. And the reason why we picked a tropical location was not only could we paint a beautiful gameplay picture, we could also add a lot of interactivity to the whole world. So things like water, vegetation and lava, things like that, play a real key, central role in the gameplay. That's where the power lies. It's not just about making things pretty. It's making things interactive and pretty in a very different way. It's the first generation where we could conceivably go, hey let's put water in there and let you drive through water and have vehicles and bikes being swept away, about having vegetation you use that certain vehicles can crush but others can't, you just couldn't do this sort of thing before now.
VideoGamer.com: We hear a lot about the power of the PS3, but when it comes down to it, what can it do that the Xbox 360 can't?
NK: It's just a great machine. Now we've spent a lot of time with it we're starting to make it sing under the hood. Actually the first and second generation of games that we've seen on the PS3 are just people starting to learn how to make great games for it. It's a long race. Now that developers are starting to write their second or third game, they're starting to untap the power that's within there. It's a clever machine. Not as simple to write for as other things but there's lots of cool things you can do under the hood with it that's just great. Don't get me wrong, good gameplay is not just about visuals, but it really helps. It really helps selling it into a market.
It's also the fact that Sony is willing to take risks with things and do interesting things. MotorStorm was a launch title for the PS3 and we just came along with something brand new and different and they said yeah, run with it and go with it. It's not just about the power of the console, it's about the company that runs it. Will they be adventurous with the games that they make? You look at things like Home, even stuff like Echochrome, little quirky things that work really well and stretch the boundaries of what you can do with a console. And the whole connectivity, the fact that it's all online. There's just so many little things in there that give you as a games designer, so much more to play with. It's really good. I started on the SNES and it's only now that you can actually start realising things that you really want to happen in a game. Now it's like, oh I want to do this and I can do this, whereas before it was like, sod that, what ways can you make it look good. Now you can make it interesting, be really adventurous and creative and not worry too much about whether the machine is capable of doing something or not.
VideoGamer.com: When is MotorStorm Pacific Rift coming out?
NK: Some time in autumn. Q4 as they say. What you see is alpha, which means it's functionally all there, doesn't mean it's as pretty as it's going to be, or as playable as it's going to be, or the fact that it's full of bugs as well. We've got a few months now that we are going to sit back, play the game, tune it and make it really playable, get that learning curve really sweet, something we didn't really have time to do with MotorStorm, make it look absolutely amazing. If you thought MotorStorm looked nice wait till you see what we've got lined up for MotorStorm Pacific Rift. And just get it all straight and nice and refined and beautiful.
VideoGamer.com: Can we expect a demo?
NK: Oh definitely.
VideoGamer.com: Any idea when?
NK: I've no idea off the top of my head! I'll probably get shot for saying that, so sometime around, before release, ideally, er, yeah!
VideoGamer.com: But there will be a demo?
NK: Yes, pretty much the demo we're planning on doing will be a more refined version of what you see here.
VideoGamer.com: Can you describe that for us?
NK: There's two races, there's the single player race and the two player split screen race, on two different tracks within the island environment.
VideoGamer.com: And what are the tracks?
NK: One is Beach Coma. You've got an abandoned WWII air base vibe going on for it. It's one of what we call our water tracks, so it's set on the beach, there's lots of water in there. The split screen track is one of our air tracks; it's very much high up in the island and interior of the mountains. But on top of that we've also got what we call earth tracks, it's very jungly, lots of mud, lots of deep forested areas. And we've also got fire tracks in the volcanic heartland of the island.
VideoGamer.com: Recently I played Baja and Pure, two other off-road racing games. Do you guys keep tabs on the competition?
NK: Oh yeah! Absolutely!
VideoGamer.com: And what do you make of the competition?
NK: Bring it on! Competition is a healthy thing. It's a great thing to do know that we probably did something right with MotorStorm, that people want to try and draw influence from us. But if they want to take it in their own direction, there's plenty of room in the market place for this sort of game. There's a huge spectrum of driving games out there. I welcome this sort of stuff. Off-road racing is fun!
VideoGamer.com: Any message to MotorStorm fans who can't wait to get their hands on MotorStorm Pacific Rift?
NK: Cheers for buying MotorStorm! And if you've got something that bothers you in the game, then let us know. Things like split screen are in there because people really wanted it. That's what we want to do. You listen to people and act on it.
VideoGamer.com: It's still not too late for people to get their opinions across and perhaps influence how the game is going to turn out?
NK: It's getting there but it's never too late. If someone's got a great idea we want them to share it with us.
VideoGamer.com: And what's the best way for them to do that?
VideoGamer.com: Great, and thanks for your time.
MotorStorm Pacific Rift is due out exclusively for the PS3 this autumn.