It’s a fantastic 3D experience featuring the 17 riders from the 2010 MotoGP grid including Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa, and comes with the official bikes and all 18 tracks which make up this year’s calendar. There are a host of other excellent features too which make this a must-have for both gamers and MotoGP fans. Championship mode allows players to compete for the 2010 World Championship, with two camera angles giving amazing views and acceleration controls that replicate the lean angle of the bikes through accessible handling. Racing like a professional allows players to unlock all 18 circuits, and the game’s iPod library support function allows an individual soundtrack to be created.
When you put a game like this on your iPhone it’s very easy to just dive in and enjoy the experience, but given my interest in things like design and what happens to bring the sport and everything that goes with it to the fans I wanted to find out a bit more about the game and what it takes to create and deliver such a piece of work. So I had a Q&A with Tone Brennan from I-play, the producer of MotoGP 2010 Game for iPhone and iPod touch.
It’s a fascinating insight into just how much goes into developing and delivering a game, and a reminder that it’s very easy to take this kind of work for granted…
(This interview is also going to be published across my various MotoGP websites)
What is the starting point for a game such as this? How did you approach developing it?
The starting point was to see how we try and adapt the sport to a device like the iPhone. All of our research and previous games we have released have shown the App Store and the iPhone market is casual and arcade driven. So…the first step was to look at the handling and to try and make something that appealed to as wide a market as possible. We felt that if we got really arcade handling then this would do the best job of exposing MotoGP as a sport to as wide an audience as possible.
How long has the project taken from start to finish? And was it a particularly challenging game compared to other iPhone and iPod touch games you have worked on? What are the key things you focus on in delivering a ‘racing’ game?
We had a relatively short amount of time to create the game. It took 4 months in total. Added to that we wanted to make sure that the game was out for as much of the MotoGP season as we could then we were up against it to a certain extent. We were fortunate that the developer we worked (Digital Tales) with was incredibly passionate about MotoGP and had previously worked on the PS2 version of MotoGP 09 which gave us a head start. Dorna & Capcom were also excellent in assisting us with rider liveries, reference photographs & circuit maps which really helped. The key item for any racing game is handling. You can have the prettiest game in the world but if it isn’t fun to play then you’ve failed and people won’t enjoy it. That was the challenge…to try and get some handling that we felt would giver an enjoyable experience and not rely on gamers to spend a long time learning how to play. With a racing game like this you know what you have to deliver for the bulk of it. We knew what circuits, what bikes, what riders and how they would look, so the rest of it was up to us!
How many people worked on developing the game, and in what capacities?
We had a developer in Italy, Digital Tales, make the game for us. In total they had about 8 people working on MotoGP. The key capacities for a game like this are programming, art & design. On top of that at I-play there was me, coordinating the project, along with members of our technical art & design teams who worked closely with Dtales to make sure that we got what we wanted. We had a close collaboration with Dtales which worked well I think.
Did you find it helps to have designers and developers who understand and enjoy the sport to make the most of translating it into an enjoyable and compelling gaming experience?
Absolutely. Digital Tales are based in Milan and are fanatical about MotoGP. That really helped and they were keen from the start to make the best game they possibly could. The enthusiasm they showed towards getting the circuits and riders as good as possible. The designers worked hard on the handling models and went through many different models. Some were authentic simulation models and some were really gamey and arcadey. Ultimately we went with an acrade model which we felt gave a nice experience on the device, even though the inclusion of a boost isn’t authentic.
How do you go about pulling together all the circuits and background landscapes – the full 3D environments that help bring the whole gaming experience to life? And how easy was it to deliver the nighttime experience of the Losail circuit?
Dorna & Capcom were very helpful in this. They provided us with up to date circuit maps, photo reference and video reference for us to use as a foundation. Then it is down to the artists to reconstruct the circuits as closely as possible. We had to make sure that everything was as accurate as possible, right down to the advertisers and their positions. Losail was one of the first circuits we did, it was nice trying to get the night time feeling with the bright spotlights in there. We can put it all down to talented artists!
How do you go about learning and replicating the behaviour of the bikes?
Again we can put it down to passion and enthusiasm. The developers have worked on bike games in the past so had a good understanding of how bikes should handle in a game. They started by creating a realistic handling model and working on the lean, braking, weight transfer, etc. Then we moved to make this accessible and gamey. Once we had this at a standard we liked we had to tweak each of the handlings to try and reflect the riders. Using the parameters we had available we tried to instill as much of the rider’s personality as possible and make each of the bikes feel different.
The accelerometer controls on the iPhone and iPod touch clearly help bring an extra level of excitement and immersion to the game (leaning etc) – is it hard to make these work to their best effect?
The accelerometer is what makes the iPhone such a good device for racing games. Leaning to steer feels really natural. With so much lean on MotoGP it was obvious we’d only be using the accelerometer and not trying to put a control pad in the game. The trickiest aspect was making the bikes hold the lean around tight corners and making this feel as good as possible.
Did you employ many testers? Were you in a position to get any of the sport’s actual riders to test/play with the game before launch?
Unfortunately we couldn’t get any actual riders to play the game: That would have been fantastic though. We test the game thoroughly before we can launch and also carry out focus tests to check out some of the game aspects we aren’t 100% sure on. Added to that we had a lot of gameplay feedback from Capcom (who make the console version) and Dorna who were all very pleased with what we had done.
Is there anything you weren’t able to include or to do with this release that you would like to explore in future?
I would have liked to have had multiplayer in the game. That could have made for a great gaming experience. Also we had planned to do online leader boards for best times but we ran out of time for that unfortunately. Also in light of some of the feedback and reviews we’ve had since launch I would have liked to have had 2 control methods in the game – one that was arcade and fun and a simulation option for the proper hardcore MotoGP fans. Hopefully for the next one!
Do you have plans to introduce Moto2 or 125cc classes in future releases or versions?
We don’t have any plans to do that at this stage. MotoGP is the premier league and we wanted to focus on that. Of course I would love to make the complete package and have all of the bikes and riders from all of the classes in there if we get the chance though.
What has the overall feedback and reception been?
The feedback has been good in general. We have had some quite vocal cries of despair from hardcore bikers and MotoGP fans about our arcade handling and the decision to include a boost in this. I think these are the people who would have loved the much harder simulation handling model…and hopefully something we can address in the future. But anyone looking for a fun and instant blast around a famous track has exactly what they need in the game!
Do you have a favourite circuit from the game?
I have to admit I love Losail. I think it’s because I’ve played it the most and it provides more drama and contrast as it is set at night. My other favourite is Sepang though.
Hopefully this interview will help fans understand the amount of skill, love and effort that goes into delivering a piece of work like the MotoGP 2010 Game for iPhone and iPod touch, and if you don’t already have it then perhaps it’ll also encourage you to check it out.
You can get the full version from the iTunes App Store here, and you can also get a completely free “Lite” version of the game in the App Store here.
Many thanks to I-play, DORNA, Tone Brennan and Thomas Labeyrie