Interview by Jonathan Cullen.
In August of this year, RedLynx released Trials HD for the Xbox 360 through Xbox Live Arcade.
It was a surprising yet worthy success for the game as it is brillant. We loved it too: we gave it a 9.
But not wanting our love affair with RedLynx to end, we had the great offer of interviewing CEO Tero Virtala and creative director Antti Ilvessuo to see what their thoughts were on stuff like Natal or the PlayStation Motion Controller, DLC and a possible Trials game for the PSN or WiiWare, as well as talk about the success of the game.
Through the jump, and all shall be revealed.
GOONL!NE: First off, congratulations on the success of the game. You must be chuffed?
RedLynx: You got that right! It’s been absolutely fantastic to see how the game has been received by players. So much positive feedback, that…wau! What can we say? We are of course gamers ourselves, so being able to develop and publish a game that becomes this big success and receives this huge storm of positive feedback. We feel at the same time so humble to all the gamers and game media – and so proud to have this sort of success out there. As a 25 people indie-studio, this is naturally also business-wise a huge thing to us. For years we have been able to make games that have gotten high praise from critics, but this is really the first big sales success – and thus obviously, a success case among gamers, which of course counts a lot.
GOONL!NE: Does RL have any plans of DLC for the game considering the success of the game?
RedLynx: Yes, there’s gonna be DLC. We’re working on that now.
GOONL!NE: Can you give any initial sales numbers to the game so far since it’s release?
RedLynx: Unfortunately we cannot share the exact sales figures. However, as everyone knows, the game has been a huge success – and the sales figures have definitely been that as well.
GOONL!NE: The beauty part of Trials HD is that you can create your own courses. How did that pan out considering Microsoft’s stance on player created DLC?
RedLynx: We had no worries with this sort of things. On the contrary, Microsoft people were quite closely involved all the time during the development and were very supportive with the ideas we had for the game. Most of the people at Microsoft & XBLA that we have met, have been enthusiastic gamers. So they really saw the fit that level editor and sharing would have with Trials HD. It fits the game, its good feature for the gamers, and Xbox Live Arcade well supports that. So it was a common GO from everyone involved.
GOONL!NE: What advantages does releasing a game on Xbox Live Arcade have compared to releasing games on the PlayStation Store, WiiWare or Steam?
RedLynx: Well the user base for Xbox Live is huge. We haven’t yet released anything for PSN and Wiiware, so any detailed comparison would be hard and unfair. But with XBLA, we were really impressed on the professional support we as a developer got, and how developed the technologies and tools were. So considering the development process, we were able to focus fully on developing a great game for XBLA, and not to struggle with any secondary / support issues – that could in worst cases take a lot of time and effort. Hopefully it is on the same good level with other platforms, but that we don’t yet know.
Steam is then a great case, but as a PC platform, quite a different case than the online console systems are. It’s a major channel for PC games, definitely. Working with Steam has been really easy, and sure, Valve people know their stuff. So their support has been great all the time. With PC it’s the question of all the work you need to do to have before the game can even get into any sales channel. As the hardware and software combinations with PCs can be so numerous, the testing and quality assurance in genaral is quite a laborious process on PC side – if you want to aim at high number of users.
GOONL!NE: What are RedLynx’s thoughts on motion controls, especially things like the PlayStation Motion Controller, Project Natal etc. And are there any plans to incorporate either the PMC or Natal or possibly both in future projects?
RedLynx: The motion controls definitely expand the possibilities for whole new game experiences. New type of games, interactive experiences, new type of audiences. There are number of interesting developments that we all have seen in the press. If we would have to hand-pick one of the most interesting ones, we would most likely choose Project Natal. Motion controlling without the controller – with full body and movement mapping – it could be a leap to the next dimension, not just one more development step among motion controllers. In any case, our focus has always been multiplatform, and we’ve been many times working with new devices and platforms, so these new motion controllers definitely are of high interest.
GOONL!NE: Considering the success of the game on XBLA, will the game possibly see a release on the PlayStation Store or WiiWare?
RedLynx: It’s far too early to say anything on the future steps with Trials. We are still focusing on Trials HD and on the DLC coming.
In general, we’ve been really positively taken how fluent the development has been for XBLA, tools were in really good order, the Microsoft people truly were both gamers and experts in their own fields and gave us excellent support during the development. And of course Xbox Live at the same providers a big user base, so also commercial success is a very realistic possibility at Xbox Live. So continuing with Trials in general on XBLA is definitely a strong alternative.
GOONL!NE: Can you give us any info on any projects currently in development at RedLynx?
RedLynx: We are a multiplatform developer. The aim is simply to develop great, fun games, that also bring something new to the gamers. Games that we would like to play ourselves, but that are not yet available. Most likely the next smaller game we’ll publish quite shortly, will be our next iPhone-game. After that one very casual PC-game. And of course, we are still very strongly focusing on Trials HD, and there is a DLC coming.
Then there are some smaller games that we have done years ago. They were really addictive, and always had something unique. But back in those days we were mainly making bigger game projects for publishers and did not focus on making those smaller own games into polished sellable games. Planning some of them further, making them bit bigger and really polished, that sounds one interesting thing (among many interesting opportunities there are). But anything that we’ll do, we’ll focus on the one core game play things that we know is great and is also different. And make that as good as it can be. And make it for online distribution. So let’s see. And of course we’ll be thinking how Trials could evolve further.
GOONL!NE: How is it possible to have a game like Trials that seems like a game which doesn’t grab your attention at first, but then hooks you in, something like “oh, I’ll have one more go and then off to bed” and so forth?
RedLynx: That’s a good question. Most likely, there is no one simple answer to that. However, the closest we get by looking at the very core elements of the game. At the heart of Trials HD there are simple controls (accelerate, break, lean forward, and lean backward) combined into realistic / highly developed physics model. And this combination has been to polished to perfection.
There are no predetermined actions; you (the player) really control the bike. And even though the player would not think of this, this feeling definitely relates to the player. When you control the bike, you immediately start to get the feeling of how to control the bike. There isn’t anything complex in the controls that you could blame, you get them instantly.
When those simple controls are connected to very realistic physics model, there is a basis for continuous development. With that, the game is actually impossible ever to 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.. The game rewards, it punishes, and it teaches you all the time – when you play. And you learn all the time. When you make a mistake, you unconsciously know it was your mistake, and you quite often get it, why that happened. You know that you can improve, and you can pass that obstacle. So one more try…
GOONL!NE: Was there any particular inspiration to the game?
RedLynx: Trials actually got its start already in early 1999 from a simple question: “We have good 2D physics engine so what would be a good game to properly utilize physics?” From there, we came up with idea that you could ride a motorcycle in a cool new way where your posture controls the bike. So the biggest innovation of the Trials game isn’t actually the ‘riding bike over obstacles’ part, but rather the unique natural rider controlling mechanism which we implemented a number of times in smaller Trials-games over the years – and it is still found even in the most recent Trials HD game. We were able to test the highly appraised Trials-control mechanism and physics model number of times, and think if the features that would link well with this game mechanics. And Trials HD is the resulting big diamond at the current development phase we are at.
Trials HD is out now on Xbox Live Arcade for 1200 MS points. Find our review of it here. Thanks to the guys over at RedLynx for taking our questions.