Hi, I’m Kevin 'Zaph' Burfitt, the head of development at Melbourne House, the developer of Test Drive Unlimited for the PlayStation 2 and PSP. Welcome to the first in a series of journals documenting the development of the game leading up to its release in February. In one of my upcoming journals, I will discuss the PSP version. For now, since many of you may have played the Xbox 360 version of Test Drive Unlimited, I thought I’d start off by comparing the Xbox 360 version to the upcoming PlayStation 2 version.
As a starting point, let’s focus on what aspects of the game will remain consistent between the Xbox 360 and the PS2 versions. Test Drive Unlimited PS2 takes place on the same island of Oahu, with the same network of roads (more than 1,000 miles of road) - all in a streaming world (no loading screens while driving around). So in a nutshell: 1000 square miles of island, hundreds of thousands of trees, buildings and other objects, made up of almost a billion triangles! If that’s not enough for you, this is all happening while you are playing online with friends and other racers from all over the world, all on the same server.
There are of course, some differences between the two platforms, so we should also note a few of the things you won’t see in the PS2 version of Test Drive Unlimited. Due to the technical differences between the Xbox 360 and the PS2, we had leave out some of the Xbox 360 version’s features: online trading, motorcycles, user-created races and avatar customization.
But not to worry – we’ve made up for those omissions with some amazing new features! The PS2 version is using Melbourne House's highly specialized "Racing Engine" for car handling, the same engine that grew up through DethKarz, GP500, LeMans and Grand Prix Challenge. The cars have all been hand-tuned for PS2 and they have definite personalities - from the heavy US muscle cars to the nimble Lotus, or the insane acceleration and wheelspin of the Supercars. TDU PS2 will suit both newcomers and hard-core racers, and everyone will have their own favorite car that handles just the way they like.
Single-player progression has been an important focus for us and we've made some significant changes that are apparent from the moment you start the game. Initially, we unlock a set of races near your starting point in order to get you going without overwhelming you. As soon as you drive your first car out of the rental yard you will notice the "Master Points" being tracked on the screen. Master Points are unique to the PlayStation 2 and you get these for driving fast, slipstreaming, and drifting - either while just roaming the island or inside a race. Races also award bonus Master Points for winning a trophy. Once you collect 100,000 Master Points you will progress from Rookie to Amateur and unlock another collection of races. This continues up through the ranks until you reach Master, after which your points are still being collected and recorded on the servers for bragging rights :-)
The second unique feature is "Rival Clubs," which are scattered all over the island. You will be invited to join a Rival Club in order to race against club members (AI NPCs) and eventually become the President of each of the clubs. Being invited into these clubs usually requires purchasing or winning a car of a certain type (e.g. the Caterham club requires that you drive in a Caterham). The races consist of head-to-head challenges created on the fly, and there's always a good reward when you become President of each club.
The next unique feature is the concept of a Race Series - these are collections of races which, initially, only the first is unlocked. You will need to win Gold to unlock the next race in the series, and once you've unlocked them all you will win a prize - often a new car! We also have "QuickRace" which (once unlocked) will let you fire up the game and do a few randomly chosen races with cars you may not yet have seen. There are more than 240 unique races around the island, many of which will feature in the QuickRaces. The QuickRaces are also the only place you can race in a multiplayer race in single-player mode (which is good for those who want to learn the course without being left behind the pack).
It takes our QA team about five days to complete a play-through of the single-player side of the game. In order to make racing accessible to all skill levels, you can choose to race against the AI in either Easy, Normal or Hard mode. The rewards are significantly better for Hard, but you'll be up against tougher opposition. Easy, on the other hand, is there so that even a beginner can get in and play the game and make progress (albeit slower than the hardcore players).
Oahu is a big island, and it's easy to feel lost out there, so we've added another unique feature to Test Drive Unlimited PlayStation 2 called "Auto GPS". When the Auto GPS is enabled it will automatically set your GPS target to a race that you have not yet tried, in which you can use your current car or one from your garage. If you've tried every unlocked race then it will start sending you back to ones you haven't yet won a trophy in. Once you've used it, you won't want to turn it off (unless you just feel like a leisurely drive around the island). Trust me, there's nothing better than popping into the Mercedes dealership and picking up a new Merc, then wandering out the door and having the Auto GPS direct you to a nearby Mercedes-only race that you didn't even know existed so you can try the car out!
Test Drive Unlimited PS2 is also online, and we have made a few changes to improve the online experience. First up, if you want to enter a multiplayer race, then you can either drive to a multiplayer race and see if anyone is waiting in the lobby, or use the new Drive-Ins which will automatically find you a race somewhere on the island matching your criteria, with people ready to race! Secondly, even if you are just cruising around the island, you can decide at ay moment to fire off an instant challenge. In the beta-tests there were regular meet-ups of players who just wanted to drive up the coast, enjoying the view (and showing off). We've also found that some people like to complete the single-player side of the game hand-in-hand with a friend, by doing the same event then waiting for each other before driving to the next event together. Lastly, every single race has an online high-score table. Any time you race while online (single player or multiplayer, or even QuickRace) your record will be uploaded to the server, and you can easily check your status for every race in the game from your home, so that you know which ones you need to improve in and which ones you've never even set a time for.
Thanks for taking the time to catch-up on the development of Test Drive Unlimited PlayStation 2! Stayed tuned for updates!
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