I have to agree with Sean Murray, founder of Hello Games, when he says that "leaderboards are very dead to most people. We've all gotten used to the fact that we're not going to be at the top of leaderboards so they're not really alive to us anymore, I think. I don't care about them, and I think a lot of people don't. Unless you're number one, you don't care that much. When you're number 10,000 or whatever, that might be impressive, but really, it's not."
So the solution that Hello Games came up with is somewhat along the lines of what Trials Evolution did. Basically, you will see the ghost data of people playing the same level you are that brings sort of a simulated multiplayer experience into the single-player. You'll be seeing up to ten colored streaks with people's respective Gamertags as they race through the same level. You always see the person at the top of the leaderboard, plus your friends, and really anyone else playing, whether it's their past data or their live data as they're playing it, well, live.
Now being the top player means more as your ghost data will be in everyone's faces directly instead of just being displayed on some leaderboard that will barely be looked at.
"When the original Joe Danger came out we basically got to see people play through," Sean told me. "We could watch their progress on the leaderboards. So when we were playing a level we would know like there's 10,000 people playing this level right now. If I told you this, and then made you play it, it actually kind of amplifies it a little bit. Once you know like 'Oh, I just crossed the finish line, and 100 other people crossed the finish line too.' It just feels a bit more interesting."
While you'll only see up to ten streaks at a time, you're not just going to be shown ten set people. The game will be simulating hundreds of players that will fade in and out based on proximity in the level. It's being designed to give something more for those players looking for a more competitive experience.
"When you're making a sequel you have this really big problem which is how do I cater for all the people who have played the original to death and also all the people who have never played it?" The solution, according to Sean, is layers. There's the basic layer where you're just racing through, collecting stuff, and playing it how you think you should be playing Joe Danger. Then there's the whole competitive layer that will make newcomers think people are, well, cheating.
Basically, there's two ways to play Joe Danger. Sean showed me this by having me play through a level. So I went through the stage, following the course and sticking through the route. Then Sean took over and completely embarrassed me by using all sorts of different tricks to sail across the level, barely touching the ground. What took me a little over a minute took him about 22 seconds to accomplish.
That's where I think newcomers will think people are cheating, at least to me anyway. They'll see the ghost data of a player flying over the course and lose their mind thinking "How are they doing that?!" But it's totally fair game, and as you learn the ins and outs of Joe Danger, partly through the ghost data replay, you'll find there's some real depth that you can really dive into.
Be sure to check out our other interviews with Hello Games for more on Joe Danger: The Movie, coming out sometime this September for Xbox Live Arcade.