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ModNation Racers

Platform(s): PSP, PlayStation 3
Genre: Racing
Publisher: SCEA
Release Date: May 25, 2010 (US), May 21, 2010 (EU)

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'ModNation Racers' (PSP) Developer Interview

by Adam Pavlacka on April 23, 2010 @ 12:29 a.m. PDT

ModNation Racers is a thoroughly fresh take on classic kart racing that empowers the player to personalize their entire game. Players can express themselves by creating their own Mod character, styling their own racing kart and even building -- in just minutes -- an imaginative track that can be shared with the rest of the PlayStation community.

With an engine borrowed from WipEout, six player online racing and plenty of freedom to customize, ModNation Racers PSP is already enticing players. At a Sony PSP demo event in San Francisco last night, producer Vernon Mollette revealed one more tidbit – limited interconnectivity between the PSP and PS3 versions of the game.

Other additions to the PSP version of the game include PSP-specific weapons and abilities. For more details on the game don't miss our full interview with Mollette and be sure to check back (next week?) when we get our hands dirty with a beta version of the PSP game.

WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank and occupation!

I'm Vernon Mollette, and I'm a producer at Sony's San Diego studio.

WP: We just had a look at ModNation Racers for the PSP, and it looks just like the PS3 version, only shrunk down. Can you tell us what's similar and different about the features? Does it have the same tracks and characters? Can you still go online?

VM: Yeah, we actually tried to make it a one-for-one as far as the feature set. You have the same number of tracks, the same number of cut scenes for Career mode. As far as features go, we tried to make it as complete as possible, and it is in fact pretty much a one-for-one with the PS3.

WP: During your presentation, you called it "parallel development."  This wasn't a port. Can you expand on that a little bit?

VM: Sure. We took a lot of the same art assets as far as character parts, car parts, track pieces and the tracks themselves. We took a lot of the same art. However, we started out with the WipEout engine from our friends in Liverpool, and that gave us a good head start in drawing something on-screen. As we needed to mold that into the ModNation world, we kind of modified the engine where we needed to as far as the graphics engine, the sound engine, and, gosh, the whole creation aspect that wasn't a part of WipEout. It gave us a good basis on which to start. I guess that's parallel development. (laughs)

WP: You modified a racing engine that's designed for very fast, combative gameplay with floating vehicles in order to fit a game that has vehicles racing on the ground. What were some of the first challenges that cropped up during the development process?

VM: One of the first things was the actual physics engine. We wanted to make it interactive with the world around it, which WipEout was, but when you add in all the special moves and the different weaponry, that's when we really had to get into the physics and tune it and tweak it how we needed to and do a rewrite on that. That was probably one of the biggest challenges, but our programmer Andre did a really amazing job with it.

WP: Obviously you're focused on the PSP version, but have you been able to glean any feedback or positive improvements for the PSP version based on the PS3 public beta testing that's been going on?

VM: Sure. We looked at all of the feedback from the forums and everything that came back from the PS3. Since we were trailing a bit in development, it gave us the opportunity to react to that, and so we took full advantage of all that feedback that came back from the public beta as well as all of the focus testing that they actually did, which was extreme to get all the handling down. That, combined with our own testing, helped us get the game tuned and playing the way we wanted.

WP: Given that the games are so close, is there going to be any connectivity between the two, or are they identical but completely separate?

VM: We're kind of keeping that under wraps at this point as far as interconnectivity, but I guess I could say: Don't be surprised if you log in with your PS3 and then you log in with your PSP, you may have a couple of new toys to play with when you fire up your PSP next.  (laughs)

WP: If you had to sum it up in two to three sentences, what really makes the PSP version of ModNation Racers a game that's worth playing?

VM: I guess it's all the love, blood, sweat and tears that we put into making a great, fun, racing kart game. Then you add on top of that the full feature set of the Career mode, all the creation with character kart and tracks and the full online suite, and you wrap all that in a package that you can take with you and put it in your pocket. We're pretty proud of the product that we're putting out as far as ModNation Racers PSP.

WP: Is there anything about the game that we haven't talked about that you wanted to add?

VM: Yeah, there's an online suite where you're able to create and upload all the karts, characters and tracks and you're also able to download and remix them. That's a pretty big part of it, I think. Hopefully you'll never have to race the same track twice.


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