Studio Liverpool WipEout HD Interview

Interview October 2008 by Keith Murray.

This September saw the launch of the game that PlayStation 3 users had been salivating over for what seemed like ages the glorious WipEOut HD. Console Arcade got the opportunity to speak to developers Studio Liverpool about working on the game and the PSN.

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A WipEout game for the PS3 had been mooted for some time before WipEout HD was revealed how did a HD remake come about?

One of our programmers decided to run one of the original Pure tracks at 720p to see how it looked and the results were pretty decent. So we took the decision to commit some time to seeing what could be achieved and before we knew it we had decided to create a PSN version of WipEout that would run at 1080P and a smooth 60FPS. 18 months later after a lot of hard work WipEout HD was ready for release!

What were the main goals you set yourself when drawing up the game? How much has it changed from these initial plans?

As mentioned above we decided from a very early stage that the first goal for the game was that it would run at 1080P and a constant 60FPS. As this particular goal was achieved fairly early on in the development process our next goal was to ensure that although a PSN exclusive title, the amount and more importantly the quality of the content we provided must be favourably comparable to any PS3 Blu-ray game.

What particular aspect is the team most proud of with this release? Was there anything, other than the HD graphics, that the team really wanted to bring to the series this time around?

To be honest the team is extremely proud of the overall package that we have delivered with WipEout HD. It provides a comprehensive single player game, a very accessible and enjoyable online game, as well as the introduction of in-game record screens, an extensive photo-mode, the ability to set-up your own custom music and of course Split screen support.

Split screen is a feature that’s often overlooked in games today is its inclusion on WipEout HD a conscious decision to address that? Is the team proud of managing to pull it off so successfully and did they have to compromise in any way to include it?

We noticed that many next gen games were moving away from implementing split screen functionality, which we assumed was down to how easy it is now for people to connect and play against opponents online. However, as a team we all enjoy the thrill of playing against an opponent who is in the same room as yourself and wanted to support this in WipEout HD. The biggest compromise we had to make was reducing the FPS from 60 to 30 for Split Screen mode.

WipEout fans are notoriously fanatical about the series. What particular aspect do you feel theyll be most pleased with?

Thats a tough question to answer, hopefully the fans will be pleased with the overall package, however we know from previous iterations of the game that different features in the game appeal to different fans, so I will leave it down to the fans to make the final judgement on what they are most pleased with…

Aside from the exhilaration of putting it all together, do the team still feel the rush when playing it today that it gives to others?

Definitely, almost all of the team downloaded the game on day one and set about completing the campaign, earning the trophies and posting their best Zone scores, Time Trial and Speed Lap times. There is a lot of competition amongst the team to complete the game first or set the best scores in the record tables.

The sheer wealth of extra content afforded to the PSP releases shows how far ahead of the game the team was do they plan to adopt a similar structure for HD?

We are very proud of the role we played in establishing the use of downloadable content on PSP and of course will be providing extra content for WipEout HD on the PS3, details of which will be officially announced at a later date.

Music is intrinsically linked with WipEout and is a large part of the experience. How does the soundtrack for HD compare to the previous classics, especially 2097/XL?

A lot of time and consideration goes into choosing the licensed music tracks that we want to have in the game and we are very, very pleased with the soundtrack that we released with HD. I dont think it would be fair to compare the music in HD to the music in 2097/XL as the two are from different eras and probably reflect the changes that have happened in the dance music genre over the years. With the ability to create your own custom playlists in HD players can now have the option to play the 2097 soundtrack in HD.

What’s it been like working on the PSN and has it differed from traditional development in any way?

Working on a PSN exclusive title has not been any different than working on a disc based title to be honest, there are some technical things to consider, for example running from a HDD rather than a disc, but on the whole the development process is approached in much the same way as if we were a Blu-ray release

Have the team found developing for the PSN offers any advantages over more regular distribution channels?

The obvious main advantage is the ability for customers to purchase the game directly from the comfort of their home. Also being a PSN-exclusive title also guarantees us that everyone who buys the game has the ability to play Online, and as we regard the online feature of WipEout HD as one of the best and most important features of the game it is good to know that 100% of our players can access it.

And what are you playing most on the PSN at the moment (aside from WipEout of course)?

WipEout HD is taking up the majority of my gaming time at the moment, aside from that I play a fair bit of Super Stardust HD and I am forever downloading demos from PSN.

The price point for the game left every fan of the series jumping for joy at its generosity. Was it a conscious decision to reward fans, or something that was agreed upon from the start?

Our goal was always to introduce the WipEout brand to as many people as possible and offering the game at a competitive price was one of the approaches we took to try and achieve that, couple the price with the quality of the content and we believe our fans are getting a pretty good deal!

Obviously this generation has seen big advancements in downloadable gaming and there’s already been a lot of highs and a fair few lows how do the team view the current state of the downloadable gaming scene?

From a PSN perspective I think the downloadable game scene is in a healthy state, there are many quality titles like WipEout HD, Warhawk, Ratchet Quest for Booty available for download, plus a wide selection of playable demos as well as a constant stream of additional downloadable content like expansion packs, trailers, themse etc. being created and distributed for a whole host of titles.

What do they see as being the future for the PSN and downloadable titles?

PlayStation Network has a great future. It really allows developers to not only continuously release new content like expansion packs, but also enable them to release unique titles available exclusively via PSN. With WipEout HD, we feel that we truly showcased what sort of AAA content gamers can download from PSN.

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A big thank you to Chris Berry & Hugo Bustillos for arranging the Q&A. WipEout HD is availiable to download now on the PlayStation Network.