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Reflections MD Martin Edmonson, gives us an extensive look at DRIV3R...
Billed as one of the biggest games of the year, TVG interviewed Martin Edmondson, Founder, and current Managing/Creative Director of Reflections Interactive.
TVG: With each new Driver game do you set yourself goals and challenges in terms of technology innovations and what do you see as one of the most innovative feature of this offering?
The focus this time was to get back to the knock about fun of Driver 1 in the most realistic driving environment possible. This meant detailed cities obviously, but also complex lighting and shadowing systems so we could present the player with the most realistic interpretation of a real city yet seen on a console. We also wanted to expand the physics system to push the PS2 harder and I think we have one of the most robust and advanced physics systems seen on current consoles.
TVG: Could you tell us about the storyline to Driver3, its significance, maybe the kind of cross over from previous Driver games it has, and that of the central character, especially if you are new to the brand?
In Driver 3 you play the part of Tanner again, an undercover cop based in Miami who has to bring down a gang of car thieves who steal cars in Miami and ship them to Russia, using stop off points in Nice, France and Istanbul Turkey. To do this you need to infiltrate the gang and gain their trust, which involves performing a lot of car based missions for them. Eventually tanner learns enough about the gang to bring them down. The story is not linked to the previous games in any way save for the central character and a hitman by the name of Jericho.
TVG: Tell us about the settings/locations to the game and how important they are in terms of the game design/gameplay? Also have you done any kind of research on the locations within the game?
They were chosen for their diversity mainly. Miami was an easy one. It featured in Driver 1 and is Tanners home. Very flat with wide open streets which gives the player a lot of room to manoeuvre. It's a actually a good training ground for learning the car handling. Miami is also a pretty dramatic US city and one, which most Americans have visited or seen on TV. Nice introduces some pretty extreme hills which aside from being a huge visual change alters the balance and handling of the car - fast down hills, slow climbing hills, jumps and so on. Istanbul features the hills as Nice but introduces very narrow back streets and 'rat-runs' These are very tricky to negotiate quickly. Istanbul is such an amazing city visually, rundown slums next to the most amazing temples and mosques. The research involved was vast. Tens of thousands of digital stills for both reference and textures plus hours of digital video. We actually sent the art teams to each city for a week for the collection of these materials.
TVG: There are over 60 vehicles on offer. Will you highlight two of the most diverse to show off the complexities and diversities of the game?
In terms of land vehicles the two most driven are probably the 18 wheeler truck and the forklift. The truck is normally just the cab section but hook it up to a trailer, which you may find in a compound and you find yourself in charge of a fully articulated rig with air brakes and air horn. Slow, heavy, but does lots of damage! The forklift is a tiny little nippy vehicle in which you can actually control the forks - useful for tipping cops upside down! aside from them there are boats, cranes, bikes, vans, and others so there is no lack of diversity in the vehicles.
TVG: The 'in game' car physics and modelling has evolved throughout a number of years. How near to perfection are you in terms of the machines you are working on and what kind of limitations are you under?
Absolutely nowhere near it. Stuntman and Driver are still full of physics compromises and we probably will be limited by the hardware in this respect for the next 2 or possibly 3 generations of machine. We are very pleased with the physics system within the confines of the hardware but there is always room for more realism, more debris from explosions and collisions!
TVG: As the name of the game implies, it is all about driving but what other aspects have you worked on and included to give it a more wholesome feel?
Tanner could get out of the car and steal other cars in Driver 2 but in Driver 3 he can now use a range of weapons. Machine guns, shot guns, hand guns, even a grenade launcher! The out of car action is only around 25% of the game time however, as you say Driver is all about driving. Or car chases to be more precise. We have included other non-driving options in the game such as the film director but they still serve to enhance the whole TV style car chase experience. The film director allows you to set up cameras after a chase so you can actually shoot your own car chase action sequence and save the results off to a memory card or harddrive.
TVG: Could you tell the readers some of the objectives for the game and possible go into details on one exciting event in the game that sums up the essence of the brand?
The objectives are laid out for the player through the cut scenes and most of these involve stealing and delivering cars for the gang. One mission involves racing to 3 locations and stealing performance cars from inside car show rooms. You smash through the glass front then have to rendezvous with a moving truck, which serves as your drop off point. The truck is weaving around in front of you avoiding traffic and you have to load the cars up into the back on a loading ramp as it scrapes along the road at high speed 'Italian job' style.
TVG: If you had to pick one game ideas or element in Driver 3 that you feel is pretty slick what would it be?
Aside from the film director mentioned above we also have another feature, which works really well in Driver â?“ the Thrill Cam. At any point in Take a Ride or a mission you can squeeze the left and right shoulder buttons to take a TV/Movie style view of the action. Squeeze the buttons harder and the action slows down 'matrix style'. There is no limit to where and how often this feature can be used so there are hours of fun to be had using this feature just before jumps, collisions, explosions and so on.
TVG: What dos Hollywood voices offer to the game and are there many movie techniques you are looking into to help presentation on this and future games?
They helped enormously to bring the cut scenes to life. Not just because you recognise the voices but because they really act the lines rather than just read them. The difference between the scenes with the old placeholder voices and the news voices is unbelievable. There is plenty of other movie inspiration in there too, like the way we have edited the cut scenes to licensed music.
TVG: Do you feel it is more than a coincidence that many of the original Psygnosis teams have gone onto to great success? Was your time working for Psygnosis a very formative time and are you still in touch with many of the people you met there? (IE Wayne Smithson, David Jones/Tony Smith, Ian Hetherington etc)
We were all involved with Psygnosis during a very creative time. Development costs were so much lower that we were able to experiment. Psygnosis was also a company that pushed the graphics hard and was not afraid to publish on machines that were more powerful but not as popular. I remember when we made Shadow of the Beast on the Amiga, the Atari ST was outselling the Amiga by something daft like 10 to 1. It paid off however as so many Amiga owners bought the game to show their ST owning friends! It was certainly a crazy creative time. We slowed down the flywheel of the Amiga's disc drive with a big cornflakes box when writing the game so we could fit more on the disc! Yes we still see everyone around, usually at trade shows and so on.
TVG: What has inspired the making of the Driver brand and do films or games still inspire you?
Driver was inspired originally by the great car chase movies of the 70's. The Driver, French Connection, Bullit and also TV shows like Starsky and Hutch. Very few modern movies have inspired the action as most of the car chases these days do not live up to the older ones. Ronin is one exception however and was actually responsible for making us look at Nice as a location.
TVG: What has been the hardest area/task in the making of Driver3?
There are a lot of complex aspects to Driver.
The shear size of the cities - 156 miles of road and 35,400 buildings was an enormous task. The most complex area probably though is the physics, which has taken us around 5 years to develop. It's not just the job of getting it to work that's complex but getting it to run quickly and to be memory efficient. The other obvious area is the shadowing system we use which allows objects to shadow not just the surrounding scenery but also themselves. Getting this to run quickly on a PS2 was a challenge.
TVG would like to thank Martin Edmondson for taking the time to answer our questions; DRIV3R is scheduled for release on June 6th, weâ??ll have a review soon.