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TOCA Race Driver New Level Of Excellence

by Thomas on March 14, 2002 @ 3:01 p.m. PST

Codemasters' TOCA Race Driver* development team are about to showcase a new level of excellence in game production values, as action movie production methods are integrated into character and scene creation, for this dynamic and gritty racing game.


This fusion of the movie and gaming worlds means players will be drawn into TOCA Race Driver on a whole new level. Character-based narrative sequences throughout the game build the player's rivalries and friendships with in-game characters, giving the player a passionate reason to beat them on the track.

The storyline sees the player's lead character, Ryan McKane, enter his first season as a professional championship driver. However, his career path is far from simple.

Overshadowed by a great racing heritage, Ryan soon finds himself trying to live up to his father's reputation as a renowned race driver of past years whilst also chasing his older brother Donnie's current success on the world's most challenging circuits.

Ryan must win races to climb the championship ladder and earn the right to face Donnie on his level. The glamour of the racing world provides its own distractions; from the allure of fast women, to quarrels with pugnacious rivals.

It remains to be seen whether Ryan can overcome these odds, or whether he will be overcome by the ghosts of his past.

The game's development team has achieved the pace of a blockbuster movie by working with film production professionals. Paramount in achieving a high standard of animated scene visuals is TOCA Race Driver's implementation of advanced motion capture (MoCap) technology.

Unusually for MoCap scenes, character movement was recorded with full casts of actors performing each scene, with their speech recorded simultaneously.

While this is standard in movie production, it's a departure for MoCap in games, which usually captures one actor's movement at a time, before montaging a scene together.

Each scene was captured using a 16 camera Motion Analysis system (previously used for the 'Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within' feature film) on a soundstage at a studio in Long Island, New York.

TOCA Race Driver's MoCap scenes are played live, so the player's most recently raced car and track can be included in the scene, making the story much more personal and reflective of the most recent race.

Says Gavin Raeburn, a Codemasters Studio Head and producer of the TOCA series,

"It was important to take motion capture in this direction as it is closer to the way actors are traditionally filmed. When you separate actors and record them individually, you lose the naturalness and spontaneity of the acting."

As the story develops, it follows a nine-act structure, something that 90% of the top 200 grossing Hollywood movies adhere to. This technique produces an unpredictable journey through a believable story.

While the production of the scenes is high, they won't overwhelm the adrenaline-fuelled racing action of TOCA Race Driver's gameplay, as Raeburn explains,

"Each story sequence lasts between just 15 and 45 seconds. This avoids players feeling the need to press buttons to skip scenes. Certain characters will also feature in other parts of the game, replacing text information and option displays with actual speech.

"This helps dispense with the impersonal documentary feel of many licensed racing games and keeps TOCA Race Driver a dramatic and fast, though personal, experience throughout."

TOCA Race Driver is currently in development at Codemasters with a team of 58 working on it and is expected to cost £3 million in production. The title will launch on PlayStation 2 and PC in June 2002.



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