So earlier this month LeftStickDown sent over some questions to 2XL Games in regards to their new title Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad and what the future may hold for the company. Be sure to read on for all the latest details and maybe even a hint at their next title.
Hi there. My name is Robb Rinard and I am the Creative Director at 2XL Games
1.What is the day to day life at your studio like?
For the past seven years our office is in a very nice office building in the heart of the Biltmore in Phoenix, Arizona. We are surrounded by financial institutions and what not where people look pretty glum going to work most days in their suit and tie. Our office is super casual and a very comfortable place to be creative. My partner Rick Baltman and I are both committed to providing our developers the best possible environment to be creative. We want to see our employees and their families succeed in life and I tell the guys all the time that in a small company (about 60 of us) that everyone’s role is crucial to our collective success.
2.What’s your job title and what is the best/worst part about your job?
Hands down the best part of my job is seeing someone pick up one of our titles and just light up with excitement. Like any company, we’re obviously in business to make money, but no money or awards come close to seeing people enjoy playing something you’ve worked so hard on.
Saying no is the hardest part. I have to say no much more often than I’d like. From business development, to product and feature ideas. I wish I could say yes much more often.
3.Any weird or wacky people that you work with?
During the development of our Baja: Edge of Control title, I got to hang out with many of the race teams that run Trophy Trucks in the Baja 1000. It’s a real eye opening experience. Most folks don’t appreciate what goes into it. From the many months of preparations, to the crew of 50 or so it takes to pull off the race. They usually head down to Mexico with multiple semi-trucks full of pre-runners, race tracks, chase trucks, machine shop, helicopters and pilots and an entire support staff. The team I rode along with in 2008 told me they spent 355,000 dollars on the event. First place? 8 thousand dollars. Clearly a labor of love.
4. I know in recent years most of your releases were mobile titles, did that affect your decision in making JM Offroad an XBLA/PSN title instead of full retail?
Retail boxed product for the console market is on the way out. A dying breed that will soon only be the domain of the Coke and Pepsi of gaming, aka Call of Duty. Most folks are tired of paying 60 dollars for a single game, and the onset of the mobile market really pushed up the timeline on the transition from boxed to digital product. We feel JMO is a great game at a ten dollar price point and sets the standard for what people can come to expect in a high quality digital download title.
Compare JMO to Dirt 3. Clearly Dirt 3 has amazing graphics and presentation, but they spent roughly 25 times the amount of development budget we had. JMO looks and plays great at 60 fps at 1920×1080 which is quite a challenge on the PS3.
5.Could you describe JM Offroad for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet?
Jeremy McGrath Offroad is a four wheeled racing title set in the desert southwest. Players start off racing smaller Class 5 VW buggies and move thru 5 different vehicle classes, culminating in the Trophy Truck class. It support up to 8 player multiplayer for hours of extended fun once you finish the career. It’s a great title for under ten dollars and is available on both XBLA and PSN!
6.How large was the team working on JM Offroad and how long has it been in development?
It was a team of about 15 core developers. We spent a little over a year creating the title. And then the better part of a year working around all the crazy hoops Microsoft makes a small developer jump through in order to be on their platform. Sony on the other hand were great to work with and gave us excellent support throughout.
7.When you first set out to make JM Offroad did you envision it to turn out the way it did?
Through working with Jeremy, I was especially happy with how the driving model turned out. We set out to make a truck racing experience that felt similar in nature to our 2002 release of Sony ATV Offroad Fury. We wanted the physics to be fun and approachable, but still have a depth that more advanced players can explore to really push the performance envelope.
8.Looking back on JM Offroad now that it is being released, what are the things that you are most proud of?
Any title running on PS3 at 1920×1080 at 60 fps is something the team should be very proud of. It ain’t easy! I think the hazards really turned out cool too. You never know when a landslide may kick in and send a set of giant boulders down the mountain towards you!
9.Was there anything you were hoping to get into JM Offroad that did not make it? Any chance you will try and get it in as DLC?
JMO2 could benefit from a more robust lighting model and make use of HDR textures. Other than that, just more content in terms of courses would be great.
10.Can you give us some tips or strategies for JM Offroad?
Sure, most folks find the clutch boost feature somewhat of a mystery. The trick is: when you are coming into a turn, right at the point when you are done braking and ready to accelerate out, tap the clutch boost button and the engine will deliver a short burst of power. The slower you are going at the time you kick it in, the more effective it is. Sometimes, it’s actually better to over brake a little as the added boost from the clutch will rocket you out of a turn and into the following section at higher speed.
11.Now that JM Offroad is released, what’s next for your studio? Maybe Baja: Edge of Control 2? We had to try
I’m interested in developing a flight combat title for XBLA and PSN over the next year.
12. “What things did you learn while developing ‘Baja: Edge of Control’ that carried over to JM Offroad?”
Baja was a good reminder that in order to reach the broadest audience you need to keep the difficulty of the driving experience under control. JMO does an excellent job of simplifying the driving experience while keeping it alive and challenging.
13. You have a great advantage over many smaller developing companies in that some of your employees worked for Rainbow Studios in the past. How has their experience helped with your titles?
With veteran guys like Stephane Roncada and Dave Dwire designing our tracks, that alone gives us a big advantage over a lot of developers. Add in Rick Baltman on physics and my experience designing offroad titles and you have a winning formula. Our team at 2XL is awesome. There aren’t a lot of 60 man studios left in the world that are totally self-sufficient. To date, we’ve never accepted any outside investors and have been able to self-fun our development efforts all while growing the studio for the past 5 years. It’s a credit to the entire team!
14. Did you all come from game developer/designer backgrounds at 2XL?
No, lots of our programmers come from the aerospace industry. We have a lot of big brains on the team. For example, Rick Baltman designed the autopilot system running many of the drones used by the military. He also designed the software used at ILM and Digital Domain in movies like Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor. All the planes in that movie used Ricky’s simulation software.
15. What can you tell us about the physics in JM Offroad and how they compare to previous titles released by 2XL?
The physics models that Rick and I develop continue to evolve with every new title we release. Even doing titles like Splashdown for Atari allowed us to explore fluid dynamics and whole host of other interesting physics properties as a function of making a Jet Ski water based game. Offroad has a lot more to do with fluid dynamics than one might think. Road racing is all about down force and tire contact patch. Offroad racing is more an exercise in hydro planning all the time.
16. Can you tell us what the future might hold for JM Offroad?
We’d love to continue the franchise with JMO2. Time will tell how well it’s received commercially.
17. Lastly, 2012 was a big year for gaming what games do you play when not working on your own?
Last year played a bunch of Red Dead Redemption. Still playing old Battlefield 2 on the PC. On mobile been playing a bunch of Zombie Gunship and Ricky Carmichael Motocross Matchup. I’m done with Call of Duty. They lost me with the kill everyone at the airport level. Amazing what decisions greed lead some people to make.