Blur may have been pushed back into 2010, but that is no reason to dismay, Gamer Limit are here with an interview with the developers, Bizarre Creations, to brighten up your day as September draws to a dreary close.
We spoke to Ami Langton, Studio Communications for Bizarre, so hit the jump to find out what those lovely people from Liverpool are up to.
Gamer Limit: To start off, the standard into question, can you offer the readers a brief background on Bizarre Creations, how it came to be and who is involved?
Ami Langton: Bizarre Creations is a Liverpool-based developer in the North West of England. We currently stand at a whopping population of 200 employees (and a mini superlambanana – who sends his regards by the way!).
Bizarre’s been about (officially) since 1994, we’ve been making racing games since then (F1, F1’97, MSR). We’re probably better known for the creation of the Project Gotham Racing series, which kicked off in 2001 and continued to grow until the end of 2007 when we released PGR4.
Whilst developing our racing titles, we also dabbled in other genres (from Amiga classics right up to Xbox 360 releases) developing the likes of Disney’s Treasure Planet, Fur Fighters, The Club as well as starting the Geometry Wars revolution! We’ve definitely had a very interesting 15 years to say the least, and we wouldn’t be the Bizarre Creations of today without every staff member who’s contributed along the way.
GL: Before Blur was announced, there was a lot of talk of comparisons; “Mario Kart meets Forza” being one of the most prominent. Did a lot of research go into other games of the genre or did you try to stay away from that to keep the game more innovative?
AL: We really looked at the racing genre on the whole and found that there were many gameplay related frustrations that we wanted to address. These frustrations ranged from crashing on the first (or worse, the last) lap and having to restart, to falling behind in a race and never being able to catch up. As a studio that’s made racing games for 13 years, we felt that we needed to bring something fresh and exciting to the dry racing genre.
So when we set out to work on Blur, innovation was definitely in mind, and thinking up ways to combat these frustrations is what inspired new design ideas. This, plus the fact that we had the chance to start from scratch, of course; which is immensely exciting! So with Blur we’ve included many features with the hope of combating these racer frustrations, such as ‘hand of God’ – which places the player back on-track if they stray too far off the course; driving assists for those that require it, and most importantly Power-ups – which gives special racing abilities to the player.
GL: One of the things you say about Blur is that the development was focused on making racing ‘fun’ again, what was it about the genre that you believe had steered into ‘not fun’?
AL: We noticed that the racing genre had become more concentrated at the simulation end of the market. So while sim racers are undeniably great, it’s probably not going to be much fun for you if technical precision isn’t your thing. The simulation style has also been done time and time again – and for us at Bizarre, our next franchise had to be something different. We want to bring real racing to people who love to play racing games, as well as to those who play casually or even those who may never have played before!
It’s a shame to have all of these great racing titles with only a few that are actually accessible by the majority of the market. Everyone should be able to enjoy racing games – regardless of their skill level, especially since more and more people are playing games every day. Aside from this, we wanted to eliminate some of the racer frustrations for those who are more hardcore racing fans.
Let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than spinning out on your last lap and falling into last place! We’ve all been there and the only way to rectify a situation like that is to restart – we wanted to get rid of this. Racing shouldn’t be about restarts, memorising a track apex by apex, or modifying cars. It should purely be about racing and having a blast on-track!
GL: Being the developers of the hugely successful PGR franchise, now moving onto another racing game, are you concerned as being pigeon-holed as a “racing studio”?
AL: As a studio with a strong heritage in racing games, being pigeon-holed as a racing studio is not really a great concern of ours! We love making racing games – we’ve been doing it since the Formula 1 day’s, so we know the genre inside-out.
Of course, racing is Bizarre’s first love. But we like to dip our toes into other genres too – we’ve done rhythm, arcade, platform, and 3rd person shooter games, and will continue to broaden our horizons, no doubt!
Ultimately, developing games for a variety of genres keeps the neurons and imaginative juices flowing and the passion alive! We have a lot of creative people here at Bizarre, so it’s nice to give them the freedom to work on games in other genres, besides racing.
GL: It seems that Activision have been very accommodating to you, whereas I’ve read things about Sega chiming in, changing things in The Club, for example. Has this been the case? And how are things under such a large publisher?
AL: Activision has really looked after us. They operate what’s known as an “independent studio model.” This basically means that Bizarre is pretty much left to our own device, which allows us the time to focus on what we do best – making games. The studio is run exactly as it was before; the only noticeable difference being the opportunities and resources we now have on offer from Activision.
GL: You have quite an active community on your website, has feedback from places like this affected how you’ve developed your games?
AL: Our community has always been very important to us, as is their feedback, but forums tend to consist of mainly hardcore gamers. While this portion of the market is obviously very important, we think it’s essential to get feedback from all sorts of gamers, which is why we have regular usability testing – to gauge players opinions, irrespective of their abilities.
This is one of the many perks of working for a publisher like Activision – before we joined their extended family, we’d never really had to opportunity to test our games so extensively with the public before release. This whole process really helps us highlight what people like and dislike about our games, which can be a very useful tool in development, as I’m sure you can imagine.
GL: You seemed to have a bigger showing at E3 than you have other years, how did that go and how was the fan feedback?
AL: This year’s E3 was by far the biggest showing Bizarre has ever had before, and the response that Blur got at the show was wonderful too. We had ten stations hooked-up on the show floor for multiplayer, and were showing the game behind closed doors too, and people were having a great time! We even got nominated for Best Racing Game of the show.
Now, granted, at E3 the game build was still fairly early (pre-Alpha) so as you can imagine some of the harder core gamers had comments about a few things here and there. But again, that all leads back to us really listening and evaluating fan feedback throughout the game’s development and making adjustments along the way.
GL: With motion control sweeping the industry right now, have you considered the technology as a viable future for your racing games?
AL: It’s really interesting to see how motion control is developing. At the moment we are still quite satisfied with gamepad controller configurations, and at the end of the day it all comes down to player preference.
So we’ll stick to what we know best for the time being while people are still buying Xbox 360 and PLAYSTATION 3, etc, but we will certainly be keeping a watchful eye on things. And as you know, we’re always open to new ideas, so never say never!
Thanks to Ami and Bizarre for their time, and we wish them all the luck and success with Blur! Be sure that we will have a scorchingly hot review on release.