A couple of months ago, Dyson and I went down to this town in the middle of f*cking nowhere called Joshua Tree. It’s about two hours east of Los Angeles (or five hours east if you’re going on a bus that breaks down halfway there), and the fact that there is civilization out there is amazing. I guess you have to be crazy to live out there. We seriously passed by a house that had a giant boat in their backard. Keep in mind that there was nothing but desert for miles around. Crazy people, indeed.
Anyway, I almost died out there for Destructoid to get this interview with Martin Filipp, developer relations on Ride to Hell, an upcoming game set to hit Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC later this year. Martin and I talked a bit about the game, giving me a chance to find out what it’s all about. There’s virtually no information out there about the game, so now is your chance to learn about what Ride to Hell is shaping up to be. Try to guess at which of the three activities almost left me crippled for life while you’re reading the interview.
Hit the jump for the interview and to see how I nearly took myself out for Destructoid. And be sure to keep an eye out for some videos of the game coming soon from Dyson.
What’s the story in Ride to Hell?
It’s about a Vietnam veteran who has returned from war who was imprisoned in Vietnam. He’s returned to an America that he doesn’t understand anymore. The game takes place during the ’60s and there’s a lot of change going on in the culture, society and so on.
He tries to find his way back, get his feet back on the ground. In doing so, he joins a motorcycle gang called the Devil’s Hand. They’re his family now and they help him get his feet back on the ground, to get settled and to get everything done. He starts off, in classic biker terms, as a Prospect that will become the leader of the biker gang as you go through the story.
The game is about freedom of choice, simplicity. You can explore the whole [game] world; there are no boundaries in this world. It’s really an open sandbox, which means every part of the world we show to you is accessible. We don’t have the philosophy that if we show you something that is cool that you’re not allowed to go there.
Why did you decide to tackle such a unique story? What was so appealing about the 1960s and the biker gang culture?
We tried to find something that was new and a rich setting that hasn’t been done in the games industry. We didn’t want to do a World War II shooter because there’s so many out there and there are cool companies that do them very well and we don’t want to interfere with them.
So we were searching for something new, new content and new gameplay. So we came up with the ’60s and we realized there was no game covering that era so far. By doing research of the ’60s, we came across the biker culture. We put the puzzles together and we ended up with a sandbox game called Ride To Hell.
When I think about motorcycle games, the first thing that always comes to my mind is the Road Rash series. How you can punch, kick, and use weapons against other riders. Will we see any of that in Ride to Hell?
Absolutely. You will have the opportunities to fight with opponents that are riding parallel to you. We use weapons like baseball bats, tire irons, chains, typical biker weapons. You can also interact with vehicles on the road.
Will we be able to jack cars and drive them around the whole time if we want to?
Sure, if you want to do that. That’s the choice thing that I mentioned. We give the opportunity and it’s the choice of the player to do whatever they want in the game.
Will we see anything other than cars and motorcycles in the game? Like maybe planes or helicopters?
Everything is on the ground [laughs]; there are no planes or helicopters. We do cover everything from a child’s tricycle, to small motorcycles, cars and the biggest thing we have in the game is a huge mining truck. There’s a huge mining company in the game and you can take their mining truck to drive around.
It’s not just about bikes, that’s the important thing. All vehicles are accessible and can be used in the game.
How deep is the customization feature for the motorcycles?
Customization is one of the key features of Ride to Hell. A bike shows off the personality of the biker. The cooler the bike is, the more respect you have. We’re not like any other racing game where you can only just change the color of your vehicle. We offer the possibilities to really build bikes from scratch. You can pick a frame, engine, wheels, fender, mirrors, headlights, handlebars, turn signals, foot rests — all of the parts that are needed to get a bike are offered to a player. If you see a bike in real life and want to rebuild that bike in the game, you can.
How many possible combinations are there?
When we started adding the amount of parts we were adding to the game, we did the calculations which ended up being one point something trillion possibilities. Then we added more parts and now we can’t calculate it anymore. There are an infinite number of possible bikes.
How will you gain new parts?
You start off with some basic parts in the beginning and as you progress through the game, you gain access to new parts. You can build a variety of bikes and have several bikes in your garage.
Are all the bikes based on realistic designs? Will we be able to build a super bike that can go light speed?
[Laughs] It’s all based on real bikes. You can make your own crazy creation, but it’s still got to look like a bike and run like a real bikes. There are no real brands in the game, it’s all made up.
Where is Ride to Hell set?
It’s set in the West Coast of America, mostly California. It’s all based on real satellite data so we actually picked all the nice cool parts that we think would be interesting to players. Borders of Canada, San Francisco, down to the Mexico border and as far east as the Sierra Nevada. We have different environments available to the player so it’s not always the same boring setting. If you travel a lot, you’ll see the environment is changing based on real-world facts of California. It’s a compact version of California, our own little version.
How will the game progress? Will there be any type of side quests?
There is the main mission that you can follow to see how the story will evolve. There will also be a lot of side missions that will give you more information about the [game] world. There’s a lot of hidden information that is given to you by characters in the game. You can also do nothing and just ride around. We believe, as a studio, that the player doesn’t need to unlock 30 missions to get access to the world. When you get Ride to Hell, and you start the game, the whole world is open to you straight away.
Some of the side missions will also see you expanding your territory. You can get diners, gas stations, repair shops and more.
How long is the game?
I can’t give you figures. It won’t be five hours, it won’t be 200 hours. It will be a reasonable time, it won’t be too much. We believe a lot of people would like to see the end credits and if we have an insane amount of hours, people won’t be motivated to play all the way through.
Did the team look at any movies or books from the ’60s for influences?
We totally believe in proper research. We really spent a lot of time in pre-production just getting our stuff done and preparing to make sure we got a cool product on the market. We looked at all of the movies done in the ’60s, not just the major things that are obvious like Easy Rider and Hell’s Angels on Wheels. We also looked at a lot of slick biker movies that were done then, where a lot of actors started their careers. Jack Nicholson starred in a lot of those movies and they were cool inspirations for us.
We also read a lot of the books of the era like gonzo journalism from Hunter S. Thompson, who spent a lot of time with the bikers. He did a nice book based on that experience that had a lot of influence on us.
We looked at a lot of different things from movies, books, and pictures that influenced the style of the game.
Were there any influences from other videogames used in Ride to Hell? Was there something you saw in another game and said to yourself, “Hey, I can improve on that. I can do it better!”
We would be a bad developer if we didn’t do that. We screen all of the competitors, we screen all the products. That’s kind of the development process — if you don’t do that, you’re doing something wrong as a developer. You always have to see what other people do, check what they’re doing and see what you can pick for your game and as you said, make maybe better. Obviously all of the sandbox games out there, recently released, are of an interest for us.
It’s not just about the sandbox in this genre because a lot of functionality and features that are used in any game not used in that genre can be useful to that genre. Maybe it hasn’t been done yet because no one has taken the time to look at that.
Basically, all games that are out there are inspirations. All games are being watched, screened and if it’s cool we will use it.
What’s the soundtrack like?
We have licensed music, over 300 songs! They are the original songs recorded back in the ’60s. We also hired a band for some original exclusive songs.
We thought a lot about having music on the bike. Bikes didn’t generally have radios on them. We figured the atmosphere of the setting lives for the music. So we needed to have the music. The explanation for us as a developer to justify music on the bike is that the biker could have a small transistor radio on the handle bar. Music transistor radios were popular back then.
Any talk radio stations?
Yes. We have different radio stations, different announcers. They will give you information about the world, about the game based on things that actually happened in the 1960s. They’ll also talk about things that the player does in the game. So if you do something and change something in the world, you will hear about what you did.
Thanks for your time, Martin!
So what happened in Joshua Tree? Now, I would love to tell you that I started a fight with a biker at the bar because I was hitting on his girl or something cool like that. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. What actually happened was that I’m not really good at driving ATVs.
Basically, I took a jump way too fast and lost control. I fell off the ATV, and my right hip took the entire impact from the fall. Not to mention that the ATV landed on my left leg. Like the shark that I am, I got right back up, checked to see if anything broke, and then flipped the ATV to check if it was damaged. The only thing that broke was the flag stick on the back of the quad, which I promptly planted into the ground, claiming the desert for Destructoid. After that, I got back on the ATV and kept on riding for another half hour before calling it a day.