Slick Entertainment, a development studio comprised of two guys, released “Scrap Metal” on Wednesday. A top-down racer released exclusively on the Xbox Live Arcade, its design was a product of the development duo’s wanting to build something other than a â€˜behind the car’ style racer. And with its simple controls, dynamic physics, plethora of weapons, and empowerment by way of multiplayer, it’s one hell of a digital title.
Blast: Your first project, N+ was a smash hit success, but not a racing game at all. Can you explain why Slick Entertainment decided to craft a vehicular combat racing title after N+?
Nick Waanders: N+ was developed in cooperation with Metanet Software, who designed the original game N for the PC. When we were done with that title, we decided to make our own game, something we always wanted to do. We brainstormed for a few days about which game this would be, and it came down to us both loving old style top-down racers. We also had some technology that could work with this game genre, so we were set.
Blast: Scrap Metal is not a simple racer or a straight demolition derby title. It’s a hybrid. Explain what you were going for when applying this formula?
Waanders: We built the engine to be very modular, so adding different game modes was fairly easy. Our first mission structure had lots of racing missions, but when we played through the missions, it became clear that we needed more variation. We added a demolition derby mode, and it was so much fun that we instantly decided to add more game modes such as elimination races, end boss battles, etc.
Blast: The market for digital download gaming is growing, where does Slick Entertainment and Scrap Metal see itself in this transition?
Waanders: When we worked on N+ we were convinced digital downloads were the future. There are no extra costs for packaging and storage, so it’s a lot cheaper and simpler. In the end, the gamers benefit because they can buy great games for less money — something we’re all for.
Blast: Were the environments in Scrap Metal designed after anything in particular? Or simply the creative vision of your artists and designers?
Waanders: At Slick, we’re only two guys, so it usually came down to editing the shape of the track first and making sure that the track flow was right, and we worried about the decoration/setting after that. Most of the settings were either related to the track names (Coal Harbour is a harbor track, Gastown is a gas factory track), and some were simply the twisted imagination of Kees (Technical Artist, Vice President).
Blast: Scrap Metal controls very easily. There are no crazy button mashing combo sequences and its control mechanic are simple and inviting, yet the game itself has a heftier feel to it. Was this a design choice from the onset and if so what does incorporating such appealing and intuitive controls offer the gamer?
Waanders: We’ve always been big advocates of simple controls. N+ showed this really well: there was left and right and jump. That’s it. Those were really all the buttons you absolutely needed to control the game. Making the controls this simple meant it was a lot more accessible for people, and therefore easier to pick up.
When we built Scrap Metal we decided that we didn’t want the cars to feel too arcade-y. We like the physics feel, it gives you a good feeling when you actually are able to slide a car around a corner properly. That in and of itself is fun – the player is battling the movement of the car, not battling the controls, which is exactly what we wanted.
Blast: Scrap Metal is part of the month-long Microsoft Block Party event. Sandwiched between Toy Soldiers and Perfect Dark is a tough place to be. If gamers have only enough money for one, why should it be Scrap Metal?
Waanders: Scrap Metal is a different genre than Toy Soldiers and Perfect Dark, and we believe each game in the Xbox LIVE Arcade Block Party is excellent in its own right. Scrap Metal is an awesome top-down racer, the likes of which you’ve never experienced before, and exclusive to Xbox LIVE Arcade. So if you’re a fan of race games, you owe it to yourself to try this game out.
Blast: A multiplayer component is becoming more and more common in today’s gaming universe and Scrap Metal’s multiplayer is fleshed out, well-polished and a lot of fun. Where on the importance ladder was multiplayer in the development of Scrap Metal and how did Slick Entertainment go about nailing it so well?
Waanders: Multiplayer was one of the main requirements for Scrap Metal. We actually implemented it on top of our single player game, and when we tried it out we were shouting at each other across the room within minutes! It was a lot more fun than we even expected. This set the stage for more multiplayer improvements, especially the special weapons and the King of the Hill game mode.
Blast: The amount of variance in vehicles in Scrap Metal is staggering. What does having so many vehicular options afford the player and why is this important to Slick Entertainment?
Waanders: We started with three cars, and we tried to get them to control the way they look. So for example, I’d expect a big monster truck to be a bit bouncy and leaning over in corners, while I’d expect a muscle car to accelerate really fast and be hard to corner. When we got this right for the first three cars, Kees started modeling more and more cars, and we tried to give each its own handling characteristics.
One of the main goals in our game is to â€˜scrap’ other cars. When you scrap them, the wreck of their car goes into your junk yard. You can then grab that wreck and repair, repaint, and upgrade it into an awesome new car for your own garage. This is where lots of cars pay off!
Blast: Your game, a top-down racer felt refreshing to me. Its design was simple and this unique perspective truly makes it stand out. Why make a top-down racer?
Waanders: Because we were sick of playing â€˜behind the car’ style racers! Especially in car combat titles, we find it really hard to know what’s going on around you if your camera is always pointing forward. What happens behind you is just as important as what happens in front of you! Add to this that you can build awesome visual effects in a top-down view and you’ve got one action packed game!
Blast: Weapons: Scrap Metal has lots of them. From a can-opener to a shotgun, the player has a wealth of opportunities at their fingertips. Where did the ideas for these weapons come from and how much time and effort went into designing them?
Our tools allow for very fast iteration (everything is real-time), so it was very easy to try out new things. Most of the weapons were inspired by movies that used crazy weapons (â€˜Zombie land’ comes to mind). We decided it would be good to give each car its own weapon so that we could balance the game better. This also made designing the weapons a bit easier.
Blast: I’ve played Scrap Metal, thoroughly enjoyed it and wrote my review. But this is your chance to win over our readers. The floor is yours. Explain why gamers should play your game and why missing out on it is a mistake.
Waanders: Cars. Guns. Explosions. End-bosses. Multiplayer. Need I say more?
“Scrap Metal” is available today on the Xbox Live Marketplace for 1200 MS Points or $15.