The lights are on
I had zero knowledge of Ridge Racer Unbounded going into my demo appointment at Gamescom, so imagine my surprise at discovering that it's actually a solid looking racer. For this showing, developer Bugbear focused on showing off a newly-announced feature: the track and city creator.
Strongly hinted at back at E3, the track creator was an addition to Unbounded that Bugbear wasn't expecting at first. The team has always wanted to implement user-created content in its racing titles, but there's a challenge in creating tools that will allow regular players to create worthwhile tracks. The team did not want to implement these tools until a user could create a professional-level track within a minute. They believe they've reached that point.
The turning point for Bugbear was the creation of a template tool that the developer itself utilized in creating every track in the game. Rather than hand-crafting each track, the developer creates square panels that they can then lay down and tie together, sort of like putting together a set of LEGOs. Once the tools were finalized, they realized that this was also the solution they'd been looking for in the realm of user-created content.
When a player goes into track creation, they will see an eight-by-eight grid of squares. They can fill as little or as much of the grid as they want. Bugbear says they are looking into offering different setups beyond 8x8, but 64 total squares will always be the max number available.
In the tracks Bugbear has created, they had a rule to never reuse the same block in the same track, but for user-created content, the team fully expects some players to gravitate toward certain blocks that they prefer. Most blocks only take a single space, but certain "highlight blocks" will take up two or more, usually so they can fit in a bigger and cooler set piece of some sort.
What's perhaps most impressive about the editor is what it does for players automatically. AI, traffic, and destruction options are all built into the blocks automatically without players needing to mess around. Certain block types will have destructible environments and shortcuts already available. The editor also fills in the areas outside your track, or players can choose to create those areas themselves.
Once you've created a track to your liking, you can publish it to make it part of your city. Players will be able to have a wide variety of tracks and events in their city. They can focus the tracks around a specific theme or style or make everything as different as possible.
Even if you don't use the user creation options yourself, you can still reap the benefits of it. When you turn on the game, you'll receive updates letting you know about newly published cities that you might be interested in jumping into -- whether it's content created by friends or pushed by the developer.
Bugbear also promised that thanks to the template system, created tracks are transmitted through a file that's the size of a text message, guaranteeing fast uploads and downloads. Unbounded is still a ways off from its eventual 2012 release, but the prospect of an endless stream of solid user-generated content has me more interested than I've been in a Ridge Racer title in a long time.
For all the bad press Ridge Racer gets these days, I loved R4. I've been hoping the series would get a non-launch title.