Welcome to the Club – Password: Driveclub.
An interview with Paul Rustchynsky, game director at Evolution Studios, on the label’s new DRIVECLUB game, challenges faced during development and the key roles played by two striking Mercedes-AMG models.
In terms of secrecy and subterfuge, the address was a perfect pick. Even the tiniest town in Britain has its own King’s Court – and who would suspect a technological innovation centre a good 20 kilometres east of Liverpool? When speaking to fans and experts of racing games, however, this address alone serves as a seal of quality. Founded in 1999, Evolution Studios have given us some of the best driving simulations in the history of video games. Or, in the case of the MotorStorm series, even shaped and supported the success of a key console (PlayStation 3) for an entire decade. In autumn 2013 (on November 15 in the US and November 29 in Europe), the PlayStation 4 release will launch a new era – with Evolution Studios once again sweetening the deal with the exclusive DRIVECLUB release. We talked to Paul Rustchynsky (32), the studio’s game director, about the new title, challenges faced during development and two secret stars of the game – a duo of stunning Mercedes-AMG models.
Paul, you have been developing car games such as the MotorStorm series for some ten years. How have the technical opportunities for car racing games changed?
I’ve always strived to bring to life the most immersive & exciting driving experiences imaginable, and as technology advances, it empowers me to push the levels of quality and authenticity with each and every game. It’s incredibly satisfying to see how far we’ve come from MotorStorm on PlayStation 3, and now I’m excited to be able to take this to the next level with DRIVECLUB on PlayStation 4.
PlayStation 4 has unlocked new ways of thinking about racing games. Over and above the increasingly immersive audiovisual experience and breathtakingly detailed cars and worlds, there’s so much more freedom to create richly entertaining experiences now. The new technologies and online networked capabilities of PlayStation 4 allows DRIVECLUB to harness the power of social networks; to connect players to one another seamlessly and to allow them to form teams that can support and challenge one another – and to extend the experience outside of the living room with tablets and smartphones and remote play on PlayStation Vita.
The way we design games is changing to reflect the ways that we want our entertainment to be permanently accessible, social and always on.
Real to digital.
There are several Mercedes-AMG models in DRIVECLUB, including the new CLA 45 AMG. From your perspective as a leading game designer, what are the most important characteristics of the CLA 45 AMG – visually and technically?
The car is a lot of fun to drive, so we’re working hard to make sure it’s a lot of fun to play in DRIVECLUB too. The 2.0-liter turbo engine is really what makes the CLA 45 AMG stand out – it provides a large amount of power and torque and combines with the all-wheel drive to give it a dynamic, exciting feel and a character of its own.
Before designing the game version of an actual car such as the CLA 45 AMG, how much and which information do you and your team need for your work?
We start by recreating the car virtually as a 1:1 model, using the Computer Aided Design (CAD) data that is used to produce the real car itself. We then photograph every inch of the car, taking thousands of images, inside and out. We also use motion capture of a driver getting into and out of the car to reproduce life-like animations in the game.
Finally, we pour over every specification we can get our hands on, from the torque curve to the suspension travel, so that we can capture each car’s essence and driving style.
What about the new CLA 45 AMG’s motor sound and the car’s many visual details? Have you tried to get these elements into the game as well?
The sound is an extremely important element of the game because it enhances the sense of being in the car and in the moment. At Evolution Studios we’re blessed with a passionate and talented audio team, who for DRIVECLUB took each car to a racetrack with a dyno and recorded every gear sweep and audio characteristic of the car, in a variety of live scenarios, using dozens of microphones positioned on the car inside and out.
This allows us to model fully 3D audio in the game, which along with the visual detail I described earlier, results in a staggeringly authentic and immersive racing experience that we’re very proud of.
How realistic can a game get in terms of handling, driving feel, sound etc? Would you say that eventually one might be able to recognise the game pendant of one’s own car model in a blind test?
One of the limiting factors is that traditional televisions don’t fill your peripheral vision, and in a real car it’s your peripheral vision that gives you a much better sensation of speed. Equally, this wider view gives you the ability to look further ahead or into an upcoming corner. We are however actively working on solving this challenge and are confident it’s something we can improve to bring the game ever closer to real life.
DRIVECLUB as an exclusive title.
DRIVECLUB is not only a new game, but it is also designed for a completely new console – PlayStation 4. Did this make your work harder or easier? Would you say that the new console allows for a new driving feel? Why?
PlayStation 4 has been built from the ground up with the developers in mind. Traditionally, a new console would mean a steep difficulty curve for the design and development teams, but the PlayStation 4 utilises architecture that is easy to use and quick to harness its power.
And we’ve used this extra power to create a new racing experience, a true first person racer, which captures the passion and flair of driving the best cars in the world on the most breath-taking roads in the world, together with friends.