Karri Kiviluoma joined Ubisoft in 2012 as a game and level designer on Rabbids Big Bang. He graduated to lead designer on Trials Fusion, and also helped shape Trials Frontier. Prior to RedLynx, Kiviluoma headed up the design of Bugbear’s Ridge Racer Unbounded. We talk to him about the pressures of building on previous successes and the technical challenge of giving players instant restarts.
Many Trials fans would be more than happy with a selection of new tracks and Skill Games, but do you still feel pressure to add new elements to each version of the game?
Definitely. We’ve never felt that any of the previous games presented the ‘complete’ Trials experience; there’s always something that can be added to and improved. That is part of the reason we now see Trials Fusion as more a gaming channel than just a game release. We will be continuing to update it and expand it, not just with six DLC packs in the first year, but also with free feature updates that expand the competitive, community and multiplayer aspects of the game.
Why did you decide to blend the Skill Games and career this time, rather than keep them separate?
Because of the power of the editor, there is very little that can’t be done in terms of Skill Games. So we could have gone the route of just creating a bunch of crazy Skill Games that don’t really have anything to do with the core Trials experience. But we know that our community, once they get their hands on the editor, will be putting together such creations. This time, we wanted to tie the Skill Games closer to the career experience, so that they’re teaching you, reinforcing good driving habits and developing your skills.
The Skill Games are perfect for local multiplayer. Are we ever likely to see this introduced?
Yes, it’s definitely something we’ve thought about. And there’s nothing preventing players from creating their own local multiplayer Skill Games right from day one, using the built-in track editor. We’d love to see some of our users actually beat us in that department and create some lovely, intricate, wacky multiplayer games. And you can always go for a high score and pass the controller to your friend and say, “Beat that!”
While Evolution’s local multiplayer felt comparable to the singleplayer game, Fusion’s feels considerably slower on both Xbox One and PS4. Why did you make that adjustment?
The game runs at 60fps on all platforms and we’ve kept the local multiplayer feel very similar to that of Trials Evolution. It runs at the same speed as in Evolution as well, but the differences on the new quad or BMX might make it feel different. It feels like games don’t do local multiplayer that much any more, but I’ve always been a huge fan of just sitting down on a couch with your buddies and battling it out.
It seems that Kinect’s gesture recognition and DualShock 4’s touchpad and motion sensors might be useful tools for the editor – did you look at supporting them?
The tracks we made for the game were built in our own level editor, the same editor that players get to use with Track Central. At the same time, the levels we make with our level editor have to run on all four platforms the game appears on. So we didn’t want to spend time and resources on supporting features that appear on only one platform instead of being universal. The sole exception would be for the PC version, where we have invested the time and resources in providing a proper PC interface, including within the level editor itself.
How much of a technical challenge is it to hold the track in memory to ensure the quick restart option is instant? How do you do it?
Our engine streams data heavily from the hard drive. We stream textures, objects, terrain, vegetation and sounds. Streaming allows us to have very short level loading times – usually less than five seconds – and instant restarts. We have spent a considerable amount of programming time and effort to achieve this, because we feel that long loading times really kill the flow of the game. It’s extremely important for a game like Trials to be able to quickly retry a section of a track, or an entire track if you wish. Sometimes tracks can be very long and you need to be able to restart from the beginning quickly, so it’s definitely a challenge, but we’re very satisfied with the results and it’s working very well.
The four-wheel drive and heavier weight of the quad bikes makes them a safe choice for beginners, but they pop up halfway through your first playthrough. What was the idea behind introducing them?
Trials has and always will be about two wheels and crazy obstacles, so we wanted to make sure that since we are getting new platforms on board this time around, all the new players will be able to first experience what the core Trials gameplay is all about. The quad is something special we wanted to try to freshen up the gameplay for veterans and give new players variety. It’s a great new vehicle to try later on when you unlock it, and to be perfectly honest, it’ll take under an hour, depending on your skill level, to unlock it anyway.