Rollcage Stage 2 is one of my favourite combat racing games. Dating back from the tail end of the Playstation 1 era, and battling Need for Speed 5 in net-cafes for the title of best racing game, it had a neat idea, cars with two sides that went so fast they could be driven on the roof of a tunnel. And rockets too. I’ll probably get to a dedicated article about it soon, so I’ll just sum it up for now. Varied tracks in locations spread through the galaxy, lots of weapons and pick-ups, great music, awesome split-screen multiplayer, many game modes, one of which involved football with giant boulder, and this really great graphical effect where the front of the car would glow bright red when you went over 400km/, which gave a sense of speed better than any motion blur. It was developed by Attention To Detail and published by Psygnosis, a Sony subsidiary. These days, you can only get the Rollcage games on Amazon and probably Ebay, and it has some issues running on modern hardware, but one of the devs was nice enough to try and fix them, in the form of Rollcage Redux. For a long while it seemed like I wouldn’t get the chance to see anything like it, but then, out of nowhere, came GRIP.
Created by a studio called Caged Element, GRIP is a successor to Rollcage that aims to take the basis of what made that series great, and build upon it. It’s even made by some of the same people that created the originals. The initial plan was to fund the development of GRIP through Kickstarter, for the sum of about half a million dollars, less then half of the budget of its predecessors. It was at this point that I got in touch with Caged Element to learn more about the project, but the studio decided that instead of continuing with the Kickstarter campaign, GRIP would perhaps be better suited for Steam Early Access, with a playable version. You’ll be able to try the game for yourself on November the 30th, and you can even purchase access to it right now on the official site, for as little as 16 dollars.
With that covered, here’s the interview with the members of Caged Element: Chris Mallinson, Game Director of the project; Robert Baker, Principal Programmer and programmer of the old Rollcage games; and David Perryman, Producer of both GRIP and Rollcage Stage 2, as well as level designer of the first Rollcage.
The prototype for GRIP looked great. How long have been working on it?
CHRIS: Thanks! Rob and I had been working on that prototype since early in the year. We were designing and learning at the same time, since many software programs were new to us, including Unreal Engine 4. It didn’t take long for us to start pushing out content at a rapid pace, though. Software these days has become so user friendly and streamlined that creating what you need is much less of a headache, and much more fun.
What made you chose Unreal Engine 4 for the development of GRIP?
ROB: We studied three options, though only two seriously. Initially, being a low-level coder used to hitting the metal with my bare hands I actually quite liked the idea of writing my own engine. As the scope of the game became apparent though, that idea seemed more and more ludicrous and it was swiftly forgotten. So we weighed the pros and cons of Unreal Engine alongside CryEngine (Unity 5 wasn’t then available). The two factors that really swung it for us was the massive user-base that UE has with lots of online information available, coupled with the relative health that Epic as a company is in compared to CryTek. Both of these are important business factors, especially if want to reuse code in future games. The fact that Unreal Engine 4 has a great user interface doesn’t hurt, either.
Have you tried to get a hold of the rights for Rollcage, and make GRIP a successor in name as well?
ROB: We haven’t actually, even though we’re relatively close to Sony and could maybe start to pursue that avenue if we felt it was right to do so. The reason we haven’t is that we want to write a new IP. GRIP is not just a way of avoiding IP conflict with Rollcage and Sony, it was intentional in creating a new brand, and a new game, but capturing the magic of Rollcage on which to build it. Rollcage was a special game, but there’s no denying it is 15 years old now. There is a perception that it is aged, because it has aged. We want to distill the very essence of what Rollcage was, and make something spectacular from it. Not by copying it, but by using its core at the heart of a new game.
One of the scenes in the Kickstarter video showed a car shooting through a wall. Will you be implementing scenery destruction like it was in Rollcage, for spectacle and slowing down opponents, or are you going to take it a step further, by altering the track itself through the use of weapons?
ROB: Destruction was the one area of Rollcage where we had grand plans in the game design document, but fell short on implementation due to us completely exhausting the CPU with everything else the game was trying to handle. We had a ton of code already written for it, but had to junk it because we simply had no CPU left to run it on. Subsequently, the destruction in Rollcage took a step back from front of stage and it became much less impressive than we had hoped for. GRIP, is going to put it back where it belongs, front and centre alongside weapons and speed.
This is absolutely one area where GRIP will differentiate itself from its forebear, and destruction will play a key part in the game. It will certainly be used to slow your opponents, and will also be used to open otherwise inaccessible areas of the track and create alternate routes for you to follow. It will also, if we have our way about it, look truly epic. Depending on the funding level we manage to acquire from KickStarter, we plan to implement some real, cinematic destruction set-pieces in the game to elevate it way above and beyond where we envisioned it all those years ago.
I’ve got very fond memories of playing split-screen combat in Rollcage, so I really hope the Arena mode gets funded. But have you given any thought to bringing back the Rumble Soccer mode? Rocket League seems to have made it very popular again, even though it lacks missiles.
CHRIS: Rocket League has indeed exploded with popularity. I think it would be a bit futile to add a soccer-type mode to GRIP since it’s being done so well already, but Arena mode is something we’d like to add, regardless. It’s already very fun just driving around shooting the AI in an open map, pulling powerslides, deploying missiles and dropping mines. Turning that into a proper game mode should make it a ton of fun.
The Kickstarter page lists quite a few familiar power-ups. How many do you have planned, and can you give some examples? Also, I’ve noticed that the teleportation power-up wasn’t listed, do you intend to have it in the game, or decided against it, on account of it leading to a lot of violent endings for Knockout races?
CHRIS: We’ve got quite a few pick-ups already outlined on the website in the pick-ups section, but many of those are potential weapons and power-ups, and could change depending on community feedback. We’ve already had quite a bit of discussion about it in the forum.
I think the main thing is to have pick-ups that are different from the ones in Rollcage, but still capture the charm and excitement of using them. Take the scorpion missile for instance: it’s quite similar to the classic missile from Rollcage, but instead deploys out the side of the car and has a more interesting flight path, with many variables affecting it’s direction. Makes the experience more immersive, we think.
As for teleportation, the forum members are pretty torn on whether to have something similar. We as a team aren’t huge fans of that power-up, but we are thinking of implementing something like a snare that can work in a similar way, but requires more skill to pull off.
DAVID: Above all else though, we need to balance the game. We want to promote close, nail biting, seat of the pants racing and the weapons systems are integral to achieving that. I personally also want to see a level of depth to the power-ups. So they’re immersive and feel substantial and not just a gimmick. I’d like to work on giving each weapon multiple situational uses so that people can develop their own style of using them (like when you fire a Driller through a Wormhole in RC1 and get a massive speed boost because you’ve fired it up your own rear). It’d also be great if each weapon could interact with each other weapon: perhaps, use a missile on someone who has just fired off a turbo and they’ll get a slow down effect instead. All of this is at the core of what GRIP is about: quick reaction, tactical choices and emergent gameplay.
Do you have any plans to add hats for the cars? They probably won’t be too aerodynamic, but it would be fun to see them burst into flames when the front of the car starts glowing red at high speed. Seriously, though, to what degree can you customize your cars in GRIP?
CHRIS: Haha. Currently we have no plans to add hats. You never know, though.
Cars will be very customizable, having a colour picker for every part of the vehicle (armour, paint, rims, etc) as well as body upgrades that replace bumpers, fenders, hoods, lights and other pieces, and of course a wide choice of tire types to use. We like customization in general, so expect a lot of it.
How is the Career mode going to be structured? Will GRIP have leagues like in Rollcage, or are you going for another approach?
CHRIS: Career mode will make use of all GRIP’s game types: time trial, elimination, duel, team race, arena and precision (if it’s in fact developed), and yes, it will have a tournament format, with progression to more difficult competitions.
We’re hoping we can include some expanded story features like military intervention (GRIP’s racing is within an illegal league) and environmental events affecting races, but it depends on the game’s budget down the line.
A lot of developers don’t seem to want to include split-screen multiplayer on the PC. Please tell me you’ll have that option.
ROB: We’ll have that option, for sure. Of course, it’s a heavier load for the hardware to handle compared to single-screen, but it’s too important to avoid. I speak from personal experience when I say there is a ton of fun to be had with the post-pub frenzy, and we’d lose so many fans if we chickened-out of the challenge. If we have to reduce detail in order to get it up to speed, then so be it. But it absolutely will be there, and looking as good as we can make it.
Can you share more information about race modifiers? How many elements can you tweak with it?
CHRIS: We’re excited about race modifiers and customization in general. I have roots in the Unreal modding community, so I really like to see PC games with a ton of options and mod support. We want GRIP to follow suit, with plenty of race modifiers and options to help keep the game fresh.
Some examples are time of day, weather, slow motion, gravity, respawn (on/off) as well as pick-up tweaks including weapon power and enabling disable specific ones – or disable pick-ups altogether, for those racing purists.
Many game options will have an enable/disable switch
In the unfortunate event that the Kickstarter for GRIP is unsuccessful, do you have any back up plans to continue development, such as releasing the game through Early Access?
DAVID: We’ve actually just taken the decision to cancel the Kickstarter and do just that: take it to Early Access. We all feel more comfortable going down this route. It’ll mean people will get their hands on the game a lot earlier and they’ll have an informed opinion if they choose to contribute with suggestions on our forums. We’re committed to getting community input throughout the development of GRIP and this new direction fits much better with that.
We’ve already gotten interest from a few publishers as well, so there’s not just one route we have to take for funding. GRIP is getting developed. That much is certain.
Thank you and good luck making GRIP a great game.
If you’d like to see more of those neat gifs, you can look them up on the official website. They are quite griping.