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'Gamers don't want hand holding anymore - give them a challenge'

Insight: Ridge Racer dev argues games are too easy...

Bugbear is a developer of substance. Its hit-filled track record, populated mostly by the acclaimed Flatout series, is littered with menu options, mini-games and depth, and technology that pushes the PC and consoles to the height of their abilities.

As you'd imagine then, the studio - newly entrusted with Namco's classic Ridge Racer series - isn't happy with recent trends of automated game mechanics, mainstream fist pumping and all-round dilution of the ultra-tough games of years past.

Gamers want more challenging, in-depth experiences, argues producer Joonas Laakso, and the success of pull-your-hair-out-tough titles like Demon's Souls proves you don't have to hold players' hands to reach a big audience.

A focus on spectacle rather than gameplay has made for a lot of "disposable" game experiences, says Laakso - and he'd like to see a return to the challenge of older games...

I think games in general used to be a little bit simpler, but also a little bit more demanding. I'm not sure if consumers actually want all of this handholding we're offering them now.

Nobody expected Demon's Souls to do well but it did, and I'm really happy that Namco Bandai is now publishing Dark Souls.


I think that maybe there's a demand for more in-depth gameplay experiences than what have been catered to lately. Maybe we've been doing too much automation.

For example, our previous games in the Flatout franchise were really difficult games - I couldn't finish Flatout 2. There have been some really difficult games in the past but the fans seem to like it and we get fan mail weekly about it. People really seem to like those old titles and they want something like that.

I think that studios really have to find a balance between offering more spectacle and higher production values, but I think maybe as an industry we've gone too far in that direction - for all spectacle and too little gameplay, and games become disposable experiences instead of games which you keep playing for years and years.

Ridge Racer: Unbounded is out on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 in 2012. Read our first eyes-on preview.