Interview With Colin Berry, Lead Designer Of WipEout HD

How many people do you have working on WipEout HD?

We started with a very small team in spring 2007 of around 6 people. We are now up to around 25 or 30 to ensure the final code delivers all the great media feedback we’ve had so far following E3 and the Leipzig Games Convention.

Is there anyone who’s worked on all the WipEout games since the start of the franchise?

There are a couple of people yes, an Artist (Darren Douglas) and a Producer (Paul Tweedle) who started out by QA’ing the first WipEout!

What do you think makes the WipEout team so special?

There is a good team spirit; we all help each other out as much as possible. Also there are lots of people on the team who are fans of the series so there is a high level of care and attention to detail and it helps having talented designers, artists and coders on the game.

What was the one thing the team wanted to change/or introduce most for WipEout HD?

We wanted to provide a good solid online experience for a television based WipEout game. We see online play as a big feature in HD. Also 60 frames per second full 1080p was a day one priority. We also wanted to make it a great addition to PLAYSTATION Store by offering it as a downloadable title.

How long has it taken to make WipEout a full HD game for PLAYSTATION 3 (PS3)?

We started work on the artwork around about February 2007 and the code around April, so just under a year.

Would it be fair to consider HD as a port? Apart from 1080p visuals and 60 frames per second animations, what makes it different to Pure and Pulse?

Firstly people should not underestimate the changes that 60 frames per second and 1080p visuals make to the game. Sure the environments are taken from the PSP versions initially but so much work has gone into hi-resing them up, every building model, and every texture. The game looks so much richer. All the ships are new hi-res models with hi-res texturing and improved lighting too, so the visual changes are dramatically enhanced. The game also has a sleeker new HD front end, the handling model has been refined to fit the Sixaxis controller also the collision system has been improved. Then of course there is online multiplayer which fair enough appears in WipEout Pulse but it is great fun. Playing WipEout against other people on a big TV, it is a lot of fun. In some terms its easy to say ‘it is a port’ but that is something of a disservice, the game has had an overhaul and a freshen up in many little ways which combined give it a strong identity and make it a solid game in its own right. We certainly don’t regard it as a port. Then of course there is downloadable content, which depending on what we settle on, can further push the WipEout HD experience. We are hoping the initial release of HD will be a starting point. We really feel that WipEout HD will be a great addition to PLAYSTATION Store.

Do you think full HD has brought about a big change in the game?

I am proud of Pure and Pulse and what we have achieved with them, and WipEout Pulse is a damn good PSP game and experience, it is featured packed and will not disappoint. HD though offers something different, it offers the WipEout experience on a big screen for the first time in a long time, it looks awesome, it plays nice and feels smooth. It is a different experience for people who have maybe forgotten what WipEout on a big screen is like. And of course, 1080p visuals and 60 frames-per-second clearly combined with online play clearly make a big difference on a TV screen.

Tell us a bit about the game – is it for established fans or new owners of PS3?

Hopefully WipEout HD will satisfy the core WipEout fans and also be accessible to people who maybe have not played any of the series before. WipEout has always been seen as a hard game, a gamers’ game and that is something we have to cater for and so we have to have a blisteringly frightening speed class within the game and hard competitive AI opponents. But we also want to attract new players and appeal to people who maybe have not tried a futuristic racing game before who are used to their racing games involving cars. As such we have introduced 3 difficulty levels to accompany the 4 speed classes in the game, thus people can start at a beginners’ level if they are new to the game, or start straight off on the hard difficulty if they are a long time fan of the series.

Can you tell us about some of the additional downloadable content that’s going to be available?

We are still deciding exactly what downloadable content we will release for HD, but hopefully we will be releasing additional tracks which could include a mixture of old tracks and brand new ones. Additional ships and music are also on the list of downloadable content we hope to release. We are also looking into releasing an extra game mode or two via downloadable content, but the exact extent and feasibility of this, we are still looking into. So for the time being, nothing concrete, but plenty of options are available to us.

WipEout is renowned for its music – can you tell us about what’s in store for HD?

The initial release of HD will contain 9 music tracks from WipEout Pulse, including tracks from Kraftwerk, Mason, DJ Fresh and Stanton Warriors. All the music is going to be mixed in 5.1 surround as are the sound effects.

You can use the SIXAXIS controller – where will you use it because we think steering at 100s of mph will be pretty difficult?

We are currently looking into this, we have a few ideas but we also share the concern of how useful full Sixaxis motion control will be at the highest speeds. There are however several ways we are looking into implementing it, it could end up linked into the weapon functionality or the ship pitch control it doesn’t necessarily have to link to the direct steering control of the ship.

Are you satisfied with the levels of online gameplay for the HD version?

As a designer I am never satisfied with anything I always want more, more features, more time, more everything concerning each and every aspect of the game. We are still working hard on the online side of WipEout HD and it is progressing well. The online gameplay is good and due to the plug-in modular system of design and code we can expand the feature set of the game through downloads, meaning that the initial online experience on launch can be added to over time to further enrich the experience.

After such a distinguished history, where does a franchise like WipEout go from here?

For the time being we are continuing to work hard on WipEout HD and supporting it through additional content. Beyond that, there is not much more to add at the moment, although on a personal level I think online functionality should play a large part in as many games as possible these days where feasible.

Who holds the fastest lap record on any track in the office?

That is most likely to be Karl Jones, one of the designers. He is pretty much established as the best player, although one of the programmers, Martin Linklater would argue otherwise, and recently I have been close to catching up too ?

If you could add one more weapon to the game, what would it be?

Well after Pure, we wanted the cannon back and so we added it. I’m not sure there is one off the top of my head. The weapons are integral to the game and the balance of the game and we consider them heavily. I guess in future I’d like us to maybe look at some sort of battering-ram / snow plough type effect but this would more likely be additional functionality for the Auto-Pilot as opposed a new weapon.

Is there a track you’ve always wanted to have on a WipEout game that you haven’t been able to get?

I guess that is music track… We have tended to be very lucky with music in that we tend to get the people we want. People we have approached have been keen to provide us with work. Getting Kraftwerk was especially pleasing based on their history and body of work. From a purely personal point of view, there is a track on the Spawn soundtrack called No Remorse, it is Slayer featuring Atari Teenage Riot. I think a remix of that would be great, but it is purely my personal choice.