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Bizarre Creations Interview

Project Gotham 3 Box art
Developer:Bizarre Creations
Official Site:http://www.bizarrecreations.com
Platform:Xbox / Xox 360
Article Date:March 2, 2006
Writer:James Witherow (Toma)

We recently had chance to ask Bizarre Creations a few questions and of course jumped at the opportunity, creators of the popular Project Gotham series of Xbox racing games, the most recent of which has been an extremely successful Xbox 360 launch title.

Hi, thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions, for the sake of our readers, could you please introduce yourself?

Howdy! I'm Ben Ward, officially the Web Developer at Bizarre. I run our two web sites, bizarrecreations.com and bizarreonline.net, as well as all of our internal intranet and documentation apps. I also handle a few PR bits and bobs for the company, like writing articles and doing interviews etc.

It must take a lot of work to move to a new platform, especially when it's very different from the original Xbox. What sort of challenges did the Xbox 360 provide?

Well the new hardware was quite different to what we're used to. This generation we've made the jump to multi-processor consoles, which means that our programmers had to learn a whole new skill-set to make things work as efficiently as was necessary. Obviously they're still learning, so things should get faster and prettier in the future.

In terms of art, we are using much more detailed assets now than we ever did on the older consoles. Our textures are huge, and the models are detailed. The same goes for audio… we can afford to dedicate more processor time to audio effects and so hopefully you saw a pretty big jump in this area.

However despite the challenges, we had some superb software support from Microsoft. The libraries haven't changed all that much from Xbox 1 code (from our point-of-view at least), so it was quite easy to get up and running quickly. Of course things could have gone smoother, but you can always say that about a console launch title! :)

PGR3 has really stormed the UK charts, what do you think has given it the sales edge over most of the other launch titles?

Well it's hard to say… I guess fans of the Project Gotham Racing series were eager to get on board with the new version, so having an established franchise was part of the battle. We spent a lot of time working on the gameplay and balancing it as best we could in the short time we had, so hopefully the gameplay and handling had a large part to play in the game's success. Having some really pretty graphics and next-gen audio didn't hurt either!

The team must have enjoyed it when various websites were discussing if the pre-release PGR3 screenshots were real or photographs, how did you react to all that furore?

Well we basically laughed, and then posted a bunch of wire frames the next week to prove we weren't lying! :) It was really flattering to be accused of being cheats, even though we were sitting smug in the knowledge that it WAS running in real-time, and no it HADN'T been doctored!

I've had a lot of fun playing PGR3 but I have to admit that I thought a couple of aspects of the game could have been better, the lack of a race timing clock seems to be a particularly common bugbear. If you hadn't needed to hit the Xbox 360 launch date, are there any things that you would have changed or added?

Well there are plenty of things that we didn't get time to implement. That's just the unfortunate circumstances you face when being a launch title… Needless to say, there are a bunch of ideas which didn't make the final game (or even the final design doc) for one reason or another… but perhaps you'll see them in future titles?

I see that Project Gotham Racing 3 has been selected as a World Cyber Games 2006 title. I have mixed feelings about professional gaming myself but would you like to share any thoughts on how you think this level of competition will effect console gaming?

It can only be a good thing in my opinion! It's a nice concentrated event where the best can share their interests and tips, as well as play against each other to hone their skills. It's a social event as much as a gaming one, and I'm all for it!

Releasing patches on PC titles is very common and the original Xbox made it possible to offer PGR2 owners more cars. With console internet access reaching new heights are we likely to see more updates and or patches for your Xbox 360 titles in the future?

Only a small percentage of Xbox gamers have Live, so no I don't think it'll be common practice until Live penetration goes up by a lot. It doesn't make sense to ship an unfinished game and patch it afterwards on a console, as only the minority will be able to access the online updates. It's something we won't be doing at Bizarre… the finished game will be on the disc and not part of a "download later" option.

It's really nice to give the dedicated a few extras should they want them via DLC, but I don't think patching will become a mainstream occurrence for the reasons above.

A quick one about your other Xbox 360 hit, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved. It's essentially a straightforward game but a combination of the presentation and frantic, challenging play has made it hugely popular. Has that popularity surprised you at all?

Most definitely… we weren't expecting the success that we've been met with! However, it's a comforting thought in a way that people will still enjoy games which don't have multi-million dollar budgets and a team of 70 people working on them! Gameplay is always king, and Geometry Wars really brings that to the forefront in a way that we haven't seen in commercial games for quite some time.

Following from the previous question, do you think the success of Geometry Wars on Xbox Live Arcade would mean we could see more Live Arcade games from Bizarre? It's an avenue we'd like to explore, although we're not ready to announce any specifics at this time. Watch this space.

I'm assuming you are currently working on more Xbox 360 titles, any clues as to what those might be?

No clues yet I'm afraid… although you'll be hearing all about the Sega Project soon enough!

Many thanks to Ben for taking the time answer out questions and also to Lloyd and Sarah for making it possible.

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