Interview

Burnout Paradise with Craig Sullivan

Lead designer talks open world, online, next-gen, et al

With the critics lapping-up newly released racer Burnout Paradise, it appears as if Criterion and EA have reinvented their already popular driving series, injecting more than a splash of "next-gen" promise into the equation. Let's see what lead designer Craig Sullivan has to say on his new release.

How much of a technical challenge is the open world element of Burnout Paradise, and how important is this to the overall game experience?

We’ve always wanted to create an open city designed specifically for Burnout, however until now technology has always meant that for us to deliver amazing visuals and gameplay at 60 FPS we’ve had to constrain ourselves to a track. Now we don’t have to make those compromises. Burnout Paradise with Craig Sullivan

We knew early on we wanted this game to be radically new and innovative, so we started by looking at open world games and what conventions we wanted to break. We saw a racing genre obsessed with laps / checkpoint markers / chevrons and most importantly with a very linear progression structure. We set out to change all that. If we were going to go to all the effort of making a fantastic open city, then the last thing we wanted to do was essentially turn it back into a list of tracks. So the aim was to have everything open and non-linear where possible.

How does this freedom compare with the sandbox element of past Need for Speed titles, and other games offering players the chance to explore and choose what to do?

Moving to Open World allowed us to give the user complete and utter freedom, that’s what we feel Next-Gen gaming is all about. Many Open World games still have a linear story driving you through the game, in Burnout Paradise everything is open from the start, all the events are available, and you can choose to start at anyone you like.

We got rid of the menus and used the traffic lights as places to start events. Other cars start roaming the world as you win events and you can find them and take them down to win their car. However which order you do this is up to you. If you like a particular car the most and it is driving round the city you can go for that one first. Also you can any of the events in any order – the choice is completely yours. In fact, you don’t have to do events at all if you do not want. We have many places to explore and many hidden things to discover. The world is teeming with gameplay all around. The online mode sounds very ambitious, tell us more! Burnout Paradise with Craig Sullivan

Online is an incredibly important part of the game, the first thing we wanted to do was to make it easy to get online, as many people find it a daunting experience and just don’t do it. Also we just hate sitting wasting time in lobbies, so we’ve gotten rid of them, you connect online whilst playing the game, it’s that simple, it’s probably the first game where you will get online by mistake, which of course is a good thing. The focus of the online experience is playing socially with friends and there are 350 co-operative challenges in the game. Obviously you can still play will people all over the world, but the default is your friends list. You can play up to 8 players online, in Race and Showtime modes.

We also wanted to make the online experience personal and we use the Microsoft Live Vision camera/PlayStation Eye-Toy and webcam support to take your picture when you win an event or when you are taken-down by another player! We then send those mugshots over the network to the other players so that they can see your smugness or your dismay respectively. These pictures can be exported to the XMB where you can look at them, print them, send them to your friends or even upload them to the website of your choice.

Are there any differences between the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game?

They're the same. Xbox 360 will use the Live Vision camera, PS3 will use the PSEye. And on the Xbox version we have to bring the [menu] blades in when you go online. Burnout Paradise with Craig Sullivan

How does Paradise improve upon the frenetic car-crash fun of past iterations in the series, in your view?

The added power of the Next Gen consoles really allowed us to make the most of the car deformation and the crashes. We’ve always had crashes in the game, so we’ve got loads of experience in how to make them look spectacular; however in Burnout Paradise we’ve really been able to dial everything up with extra damage and effects. The car physics is something we have re-written, the extra power of the next-Gen consoles allows us to have a more realistic system, and also allows us to deform the cars to a level we have never managed before, as I’m sure you will agree the results look amazing.

How large is the singleplayer game, and how important is the multiplayer aspect to the overall title?

The city is huge with over 600 different things to find in it. in fact we still get members of the team saying, “wow I haven’t seen that bit before”. In terms of size it’s roughly 30 SQ KM of the Ultimate Driving Playground. Once you’re in the city you have complete and utter freedom; we wanted to change gaming conventions and as such everything is open from the beginning. You can choose from any of the 120 events right from the start, its Your Burnout Your Way, which was very important to us. Burnout Paradise with Craig Sullivan

In terms of both online and multiplayer, the focus has been more about playing with friends rather than playing with strangers. We believe deeply in co-operative play so we’re building lots of simple and fun challenges that groups of players can do together.

What audio will accompany the action?

The soundtrack for the game includes forty major artists including Alice in Chains, Jane’s Addiction, Soundgarden, Twisted Sister, Jimmy Eat World and N.E.R.D., as well as rising stars Airbourne, Jupiter One and Junkie XL who have been signed to EA’s own music label, Artwerk.

Burnout is one of the world's most popular racing franchises and demands a soundtrack that matches the game's intensity at every level. We believe we've crafted a truly volatile mix of rock's most dangerous tracks -- beginning with the iconic 'Paradise City'. Burnout Paradise with Craig Sullivan

Finally, where do you see Burnout heading next and are you confident Paradise has made the right moves to stand out from the crowd in a packed genre?

We feel that Burnout Paradise is the kind of experience that really represents the next generation of the PlayStation games and is what people getting into HD gaming should expect from the future. We’re 100% happy with everything we put into Burnout Paradise and feel it does stand out from the crowd, sure there are a lot more things we could have put in there but we would have been making the game forever, so at some point you have to stop adding and start crafting and polishing what you have into a well rounded, exciting, fun experience.

We knew going open world with Burnout would be slightly controversial to a very small number of gamers, but at Criterion we are always interested in looking forward, innovating and giving gamers a fresh new experience they could not have anywhere else. Burnout Paradise represents our vision of where gaming is right now and where we think it is going in the future. We don’t want to make backwards looking games and we don’t think gamers out there want to play tired old ideas.

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