previews\ Jun 2, 2009 at 8:00 pm

ModNation Racers - PS3 - Preview

E3 2009 PreviewE3 2008 GameZone Previews

LittleBig Planet set the tone for a new ideology at SCEA with it’s ‘Play, Create, Share’ backdrop, enabling users to customize content within the context of the game, and not only play as a totally individual character but to also share creations online.

At E3 in Los Angeles, the second game carrying that banner forward was announced and during a meeting with SCEA Wednesday, more details on ModNation Racers were revealed.

As dev team reps stated “we wanted to make this new racing game … following in the Play, Create, Share philosophy.

“We wanted to empower anyone playing ModNation racers to become a vinyl toy designer.”

The game takes advantage of the PS3 with real-time physics, adding amazing user creation and customization tools, and then taking all the racing, creating and customizing and putting it online.

As part of the demonstration, the dev team members on hand walked through the various elements of the game, beginning with character customization and vehicle customization. Artists at the dev studio created pre-made characters using the same tools available to players. Can start from nothing, with a blank character, bring in features from a huge palette of options. Can reposition and scale any part on the character, and there is a facial animation system in place, as well. There are 2D hairstyles as well as 3D hairstyles (this carries over to other elements as well), which depends on the aesthetics of what you are trying to accomplish in this phase of the game. Clothing options abound, and there is also a color palette, all geared to enable players to create a new and individualized character model.

There are three main goals the dev team strove to achieve when creating this game: They wanted to make the visuals gorgeous (kart racing in high-def), they wanted to ensure the physics were tight and, finally, that there was a high level of interactivity (with a lot of interactive elements within the racing game environments – basically these are in the forms of power-ups that can affect the race; this is a combat racer in the vein of games like Arctic Thunder, for those old Xbox gamers that remember the title).

This is the first kart racer that features a full field of customized characters and vehicles. The result is a game that is very, very good looking, with textured environments, lush color schemes – all of which are customizable.

When it comes to track creation, you create by driving – all of the track creation tools seem intuitive. “You can act on your intuition where you want the track to go,” it was stated.

Much like the character customization, the track creation tool is deceptively deep. You can alter the track surfaces, elevation, add environmental elements, shortcuts and then drop in power-ups. The nice thing is that as you create a track, you can jump in play-test the track (which also will drop in a couple of NPC racers to compete against). The surface changes not only blend seamlessly together and with the surrounding environments and players can expect to feel the track in the SIXAXIS controller (cobblestones will cause a rumble effect, for example).

The tools for creating environment elements does not lock players into one area until they are done. Players can jump in and out of different elements and place elements wherever they wish. From the broad-stroke tools, such as dropping in a lot of trees, you can get more precise and pick up and move individual trees. The tools come in the form of brushes, which can be resized for either big area coverage or made smaller for finite work. In some regards, the toolset is reminiscent of the creation toolset in Sim City titles.

There were some elements of the game design the dev team was not willing to talk about during the media break-out session, such as water effects like waterfalls, or like what will be in place for music when the game releases.

ModNation Racers is a wonderfully looking take on the racing genre that should have almost infinite replayability that will cover a wide gamut of thematic options, Racing fans would do well to check this game out when it releases in 2010.


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