Interviews

Wheelspin

Interview: Archer Maclean fields our driving questions

Archer Maclean is the big boss man of Awesome Play and he's been in the industry for a while. His latest project doesn't involve snooker balls though as he's opted to create the best racing game Wii's ever seen. How anyone can top Mario Kart is beyond us, but we'll give any game at least one chance. Archer, over to you.

How long have you been working on the title and where are you in the dev cycle?

Archer Maclean: Wheelspin has been in development for over a year and evolved into something bigger than originally intended. We're close to finishing the game.

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You're famed for creating snooker games and now you're going to make the best racer Wii has ever seen. Why the change of direction?

Maclean: Over the years I've had a go at Fighting games (IK+), Shoot-em-ups (Dropzone series), puzzley logic games (Mercury 1) and off course half a dozen Snooker and Pool games, but never a racing game despite my interest in objects with wheels and big engines.

Back in 2007 I bought a Wii for fun and played most of the other racing games and was convinced I could do a driving game with a an excellent 'feel ' to it, and making the Wii-remote feel really responsive.

What can Wheelspin bring to the racing genre that's new?

Maclean: One unique feature of Wheelspin not seen on the Wii before is our support of an eight-player multiplayer mode, as well as the more usual spilt and quad screen modes. To achieve this we split the screen into a 3 by 3 grid with the mini-map in the middle. Obviously getting this to work with 8 controllers was pushing the machine and we had to cut some corners, but testing this has been a hoot in the office.

Also, players can earn credits allowing them to add some power and handling upgrades, which in turn will make some of the cars feel extremely fast to the point where blinking is not an option.

The various game modes take place on a variety of unique interplanetary tracks, often inspired by various famous films over the past 30 yrs or so. We didn't want to produce another racing simulation around a familiar real world track.

And in order to give a convincing feeling of speed, especially in single player full screen mode, it was imperative that we maintained a smooth 60 FPS in 480P mode without sacrificing graphic quality too much. There's no point in doing beautifully rendered scenery with 30fps or less, when the game is all about outright speed around a track.

You said that the game is "pushing the hardware further than any other Wii racing game to date." How are you doing this on Wii?

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Maclean: We set out to make an ultra fast and challenging racing game specifically for the Wii that would provide a smooth and fast 60fps experience on a big screen, without which the feeling of speed just wouldn't work.

This meant we had to push the Wii's abilities to the limit without loosing graphic quality, and also optimise the steering input using the Wii remote so that players could 'hang on' at speeds of up to 400mph and control their car. Unlike other high speed games where you merely float around the tracks, our vehicles are simulating real world physics (suspension characteristics, weight, centre of gravity, and so on) therefore allowing the cars to behave in a familiar car-like way.

We also wanted to optimise the feedback from the Wii-remote to give near instant steering response with no lag, although its important to stress that the Wii video cable must be connected direct to the TV input since AV processors and video recorders tend to add a delay of up to 0.5 seconds to the video signal therefore destroying the visual response to steering inputs.

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