By Kieron Gillen on June 6th, 2008 at 7:45 pm.
We’ve talked about Trials 2 a lot, we know. So we figured that it was about time we actually shut up and listened a little, and see what Red Lynx, the creators of Trials 2 had to say. A tag team of Creative Director Antti Ilvessuo and CEO Tero Virtala worked hard to answer our questions, speaking in a singular voice we will call RED LYNX. As a gestalt entity, it deserves capitals. We talk about their appearance on Steam, the concept of difficulty, downloadable game and have a competition to give away some Trials 2 goodies. Well, flags. But they count as goodies to the likes of us. Interview and compo… go!
RPS: Firstly, congrats on STEAM. How did that come about? How’s it working?
Red Lynx: We had heard lot of good on Steam from some other developers. As we definitely knew that Trials 2 SE has an interesting mixture of casual and hard-core game play, we had a strong feeling it should do quite well with Steam users, and decided to give it a try. As I guess with everything, opening the doors takes work, but when you know you have something valuable for both parties, things proceed smoothly once the doors have been opened. Steam definitely is a developer friendly environment, and we have been happy with it.
RPS: How about Steamworks? What’s it like to integrate?
Red Lynx: I think Trials 2 SE is one of the first ones who utilized a really large set of Steam features – and it was pretty easy and straightforward. Documents were good, and people from their side (many of them), both really knew their areas of expertise, did help a lot, and provided all that help very fast. Something you would always wish integration jobs were – but rarely are. So you might understand why we are so positive on Steam.
RPS: Also, at least from our perspective, you seem to have been quite successful with Trials. Do you think this is perfect timing for a downloadable game? Do you think you’d have made the same impact back in – say – 2005?
Red Lynx: Yes I think we have been successful with Trials, and the best part is, that this is just the start. I relation to timing for downloadable game… we think the market has already existed for years. If one would like speculate what would have the best time, maybe few years ago would have been even better timing. Some good downloadable games did really well already years ago. And when you consider Trials, in addition to game play things, it does have a lot of content, good looking graphics, etc – but due to our bit different technology approach, it is only a package of 100 MB, not 500++ as most console level PC games are. So the biggest barrier years ago, bandwidth, would most likely not have been that big obstacle. Nowadays, the good thing is that the gaming audience for downloadable games is really big… but then on the other hand, the supply of games has expanded. So competition is tougher and tougher.
However, the good point – that we think Trials 2 SE in its small part has helped prove- is that no matter what the timing and how many other games there are, you have really good possibilities for success if your game fulfills three simple criteria: 1) There is something that makes it different than other games (and this differentiating can even be a smaller thing, as long as players get the feel of it and become interested) and 2) The game really is good and 3) The game really is good. (You could actually also add a fourth point by just copy-pasting the point 2 once more) We think that especially points 2 and 3 are not fulfilled in many, many games that are pushed into market. And if the game really is not really good, the exact target audience segmentations, and massive marketing plans, and wide distribution channels, or clever sales plans do not make your game successful.
RPS: Trials 2 is – as the name suggests – a sequel. How did you come abouts to make Trials basic back in the day? Were you inspired by the games with a similar approach back in the ancient days?
Red Lynx: The original inspiration actually dates back a long way, all the way to the very early years of the company; early 2000. Back then, we could not forecast what all the different types of games we could be doing in the years to come. However, it was clear that underlying technology is a key building block of any game development. We concluded that if we created the basic physics extremely well in each of our games, we would simultaneously be building a very versatile basis. A basis that would enable us to do multi-faceted and very different types of games. As the years have passed, and the technology has evolved, it has also offered more freedom to design very different types of games, instead of having to focus on a single genre.
One of the initial game ideas back then, early 2000, was a motorcycle riding game, which would be extremely simple to control, yet would offer endless development opportunities. That is when we decided, that instead of typical trigger keys (seen quite a lot in bike games, etc), that activate a trick or outcome, we would go more towards real life physics. More towards a model, in which the centers-of-gravity of the rider, bike, and a combination thereof decide how the bike behaves when “ridden”. Effectively this was the start of the first small Trials web game. Even though the game has evolved immensely since then (to Trials 2 Second Edition), the core idea behind the game has remained.
RPS: When did you realise you wanted to do Trials 2? Was it before or after working on the Warhammer Handheld Game – was there any cross-over between the teams? What was it like moving from one to the other?
Red Lynx: One important factor in the background is that we have been very systematic in our own technology development for the last 6 years time, and have aimed at being flexible & open-minded in that development. In practice, we have always spent a bit more time when a new tech module has been developed. If there is an opportunity to expand the module in a way that it might serve also games in other genres (than the game it is immediately used), we have quite often done that. Own higher-quality games have been one dream for a while, as the tech, people’s experiences, processes, etc supported that, and with Warhammer (PSP & DS) hitting the market, we had free people who could focus on our first own bigger PC game. We had done quite a few small scale web & PC Trials versions [over] the years. Even though Trials 2 SE is in a completely different league to those are, the small games proven the addictive mechanics, so Trials seemed to be the right choice to go for.
RPS: Trials 2 really goes to town with the connectivity – the sharing ghost modes, the leader boards, so on. How important do you think it was to its success?
Red Lynx: It definitely is one of the key things. Doing something together, comparing oneself to others, having meters that rank you against others, competing against others, forming bonds and friendships – all that type of social activity, combined into exciting and enjoyable doing, it definitely draws to human nature, whether it is games or not. Now in games, you have multiple ways of doing that, we decided to go for one direction. In Trials 2 SE people play together, but not necessarily at the same time. Everyone sees from online leader boards, chats, statistics, etc that huge amounts of other people are playing as well. But when you play, you may simply focus on playing the game. There is nothing to
interfere that, while you ride. In Trials 2 SE that seems to work really well.
RPS: Trials is an incredibly punishing game. You can be repeating a two-second section dozens of times. This surely shouldn’t be fun… but it is. How does this get beneath our skins so much?
Red Lynx: Now you touch the absolute core of the whole game: combining the extremely simple controls (minimal time trying to learn the controls ) to a very realistic physics model. As a result, you have a basis for continuous development. With that, the game is actually impossible to ever master to perfection. This is a game of developing your skills – not the skills of your virtual avatar, or game character – but your skills. And that game of skill development never ends, there is no upper limit.
When you fall, you (should) know it really was your fault. You know where you made the mistake, and the game provides you easy approach to correct the mistake – start from the last checkpoint. Or check the ride of other players, and get hints from there. This game is about playing, just play it. Immediately. We decided not to have any nice animations between tracks, etc, because the point is to play the game, ride the bike. That keeps you connected to riding. You are there to ride. To complete the track, not to do anything else – and completing the track depends on your skills.
When it all depends on your skills, there definitely is and should be enough challenge. But the challenges should not be unfair – and in our opinion, they are not. This game is really about your skills, and event though the hardest tracks are really, really hard, when there are players who ride them without faults, you know there is room to improve your skills. It is actually interesting that quite many people say this is really difficult (but addictive) game. The game has tutorials, easy tracks, etc. The hard parts come at the end – shouldn’t that be the progress? Or is it that nowadays many games are too easy, they do not provide real challenge, where you really should overcome yourself. Really develop your skills to master to game.
RPS: You’ve been expanding it since release with significant updates. What sort of plans do you have for the future? What are the chances of the occasionally hinted-at-possibility of a construction kit?
Red Lynx: Trials game and the underlying game mechanics definitely do provide number of expansion opportunities. About future direction, it is too early to comment. There are still big gaming audiences that have never heard of the game, and we would definitely love to get them to try Trials 2 Se as well. Then there are non-English speaking territories, where Trials is a big sport, but where Trials 2 SE does not yet exist, we would like to see it there someday. And most importantly, this is our first larger scale PC game, and we have been extremely taken by the positive feedback both from gamers and game media. All these people are our first customers, and the team feels really proud on making them feel the game has been excellent value for money. Therefore, we are continuously strongly focusing on being active in the community, creating new downloadable tracks that gamers get for free, etc. Plans for the next steps are being done, [but] at the moment Trials 2 SE is the priority.
RPS: While we’re talking about expansions, there’s been some disgruntlement about the progression unlocking being added in the latest patch. What was the thinking behind it?
Red Lynx: Comments have been both supportive and negative. It seems that they are turning more into positive side. People try hitting the hard tracks too early. As the game is about developing your skills, one should proceed patiently. You have to learn to crawl before you can crawl on all fours… learn to walk before you can run… and learn to run fast before you can jump over 6 meter cliff
(If ever -> Inferno).
And Thanks to Antti and Virtala for their time.
Now… the compo. We have four (count ‘em!) Trials 2 flags here. They look a bit like this…
(Note: Trampish-Man Not Included)
To secure one of these fine pieces of videogame merchandise, just write to us with a subject line of “When My Sister Came Out As Bicycle She Was Disowned” to our usual contact address and tell us what your most amusing injury was and how you got it. Whichever most appeals to our group of specially gathered sadists, wins. Usual compo rules apply.