Article by Andreas "Interman" Misund
Beam Breakers is an exciting new racing game that is being developed by Similis and to be published by Jowood September 2002. It takes a new approach to racing by putting the gamer into a world similar to The 5th Element and Back to the Future by introducing flying cars! Its furiously fast gameplay and stunning graphics definitely looks promising, so while waiting for it to be finished you can check out our Q / A with four of the team members: Martin Schlierkamp, Andre Thiel, Rainer Reber and Huong Minh Duong.
Starting off, who are you, what was your role in the development of "Beam Breakers", what did you and your team develop in the past?
Martin Schlierkamp: I was responsible for the main vehicle and city designs in the first place. I also designed and illustrated the characters and their gang logos. The final game logo and its overall corporate appearance was a close collaboration between Andre Thiel and myself. I also took part in the development of the games? story and missions, as well as in additional 3D modelling and environmental design.
?Beam Breakers? was my first game project at Similis.
Andre Thiel: My job while doing Beam Breakers was making the final CI with Martin and mainly environmental design and texturing. I also did the videos and I was responsible for the game design. Before Beam Breakers I worked on "Catan - Die erste Insel" (PS One) with Reiner.
Rainer Reber: I am the main programmer of "Beam Breakers". Games I have worked on in the past have been the 3D engine parts of "Battle Isle" Parts 2 and 3 (PC), "Extreme Assault" (PC) and "Catan - Die erste Insel" (PS One).
Minh Duong: My name is Huong Minh Duong. I am the main level designer of "BB". My role in the development of "Beam Breakers" was creating several cities with different structured road process for the player and give him most possible realistic environment of the cities when he fly?s through.
Please introduce Beam Breakers.
MS: ?Beam Breakers? is the definite in future urban car racing! Nuff said! ;))
RR: Our goal with "Beam Breakers" was to create a racing game that breaks the limitations of its genre by bringing racing to the third dimension. "Beam Breakers" contains elements of games like "Wipeout", which focuses on fast races and reactions, but it also relies on elements of mission mode-heavy games like "GTA III" or "Driver".
How far are you in development and how long did you work on it?
MS: Looking back, I?d say we were in production for one and a half years, having started in the late summer of 2000.
The German version should be in the shops by the time I write this.
What is the plot behind Beam Breakers, what sort of missions will you have to accomplish? Please make an example of a mission and how you will have to act to make the best out of it.
MS: You are a newbie in the heart of Neo York and you want to make your way up the footchain. So you join one of the local street gangs and start doing jobs for your new boss. You have to deliver pizza, hunt down rival cars from other gangs, destroy street cafés, steal cars and, ultimately, win illegal street races against other gangs. But beware of the police; they?re not far behind you and your fellow ?Beam Breakers?.
To accomplish the missions in the most successful way you have to know the city. You decide which way you go, which shortcut you take. Your map will show your target, be it a car to steal or an enemy to attack, but you are free to find your own way through the giant city to reach that target.
RR: "Beam Breakers" takes place in Neo York, the "New Big Apple", in the year 2173. You have to compete against 5 other gangs. You steal cars, chase cars, destroy environment, and finally race against members of other gangs.
What single player modes other than "history" will the game feature, how long should the game keep the average player busy?
MS: Besides the mission mode a single player will be able to go on a sightseeing trip in the observation mode. He will have to escape from the police in the survival mode. In the championship mode he will race against all the other gangs.
RR: We have an Observation Mode where you can drive around town without a time limit, a Survival Mode where you have to escape from the police for as long as you can and the obligatory Championship Racing Mode. I think you should be busy with the game for a long time.
Please tell us something about vehicles, how complex are them, what sort of powerups will the game include, how many vehicles will Beam Breakers include and which are main differences amongst them?
MS: The vehicles in Neo York in the year 2173 don?t need roads anymore. Since the invention of antiGrav technology cars of any size and shape float through the skies of the city by the use of force fields and extremely durable and strong turbines which bring ?em up to speed.
The Player starts off with the old ?n ugly Pizza Car. In various missions he will later have access to other faster cars, which can be upgraded through various pieces of tuning hardware.
?Beam Breakers? will include 30 plus accessible racing cars. They differ in their maximum velocity as well as in their floating behaviour.
While racing or executing missions you will have the opportunity to collect items that will either temporarily enhance your car?s speed, distract the police, push away the public traffic in your way or that will repair every damage your car has taken so far.
RR: We have more than 30 different vehicles in the game. Powerups contain Chassis Reinforcement, Speed Up, Acceleration, Navigation System Upgrade, Driving Stabilization.
What gave you inspiration to make a racing game with an hovering future cars, racing around those kind of cities that remainds scenes from movies like "5th element" and "the judge"?
MS: Movies like ?Blade Runner?, ?Back to the Future Part Two? and ?The Fifth Element? have shown us examples of how futuristic cities with flying cars should look like. We wondered why there was no game on the market yet (think back to the summer of 2000) which explored this kind of scenario for a gang war and racing experience. And we simply ran with that idea.
RR: At the time we started developing "Beam Breakers" there was no game like this on the market, so we thought it would be nice to be the first company with such a game.
MD: Well, in "5th element" and "Judge Dredd" you can see the wonderful pursuits between the skyscrapers and the traffic. But! You only see it and it was amazing, isn't it? Ok! Now you can switch on your DVD player and watch those amazing scenes for several times until you get bored. Always the same pictures and the same buildings and etc. Our vision was to get interactive in these amazing cities. Imagine! You can fly your own hovercar to any locations of the city and see everything you like to see or start your own pursuits against other hovercars and flee from the Metropolice!
Why do you think Beam Breakers will have a place on the huge market of racing game?
MS: Because it?s unique. There is no other racing game on the market that shows a traffic-heavy future city that?s not just eye-candy but an important part of the gameplay. You have to move your vehicle within three dimensions, avoid collisions with other traffic cars and the city structure and have to be aware of your rivals and the police ? here we see who?s a whimp and who?s a pro! ;))
RR: We hope that people who like games like "Driver" may also like a racing game that takes place in a future scenario with flying cars. Especially after seeing "Episode 2" I think we produced the right game.... ;)
MD: Because there is no other racing Game like "Beam Breakers"! Even "NY Race" cannot be compared with "Beam Breakers". When you play "BB" you will see lots of vehicles, pedestrians, animated advertising, clouds, sunflare, trees, flowers, elevators, rotating headlights, cafes, trains, more traffic above and under the player. When you look down you can't see a ground because the player flys in highest traffic level of 2 km huge skyscrapers. And everything is moving in the front, left, right, behind, under and over the player. You just feel like you're in the real rush-hour of Manhattan. And the engine works very well with all this. Have you ever seen and played a Game like this before?
Will the game include a violence parts? and if it will, will it include a parental lock?
Early on in the development of ?Beam Breakers? we decided against the integration of violence, the use of weapons, etc. in the game. After all its main purpose is to give the player a previously unseen racing experience.
Will the game include a multiplayer local game? and if it does what sort of racing mode the game offers?
RR: Yes, you can race against up to 5 other players on over 30 tracks.
AT: All the races of the mission mode are available in the multiplayer mode.
Will the game include multiplayer over a LAN and/or Internet? What sort of multyplayer race modes the game will provide?
RR: LAN, races against other players as seen above.
What graphic engine is Beam Breakers using, how would you compare the result to other competing/similar titles? How long it took you to produce this kind of detailed in game graphics?
MS: ?Beam Breakers? uses our in-house developed graphic engine.
Compared to other future racing titles of similar scenarios and gameplay, I?d say we blew the competition!
Actually, we spend most of the production time with the realisation of our vast scenario. Even early level tests held details that were included in the final version of the architecture of Neo York.
Rainer Reber: We use a self-developed 3D Engine written in assembly language, which supports T&L, SSE and 3DNOW. I think there are not many 3D Engines out there that are able to display the same amount of polygons.
How do you describe the process of making the game(interesting, fun, hard, funny)? Did anything weird happen during Beam Breakers development.
MS: Every day we came up with new weird ideas! The hard part was to include as much of our design ideas in the game while making it a real gaming experience at the same time!
There were moments were we all were looking at the game onscreen, thinking, ?wow, we did that?!? ? the first time we saw Mario Coopmann?s textured versions of the town, especially East Village and Harlem ? Philipp Posko?s designs for the Chinatown environment and the ?Tron?-like Tutorial ? Minh Duong?s last minute re-design of the majority of the levels which made them look three times as high up in the sky as we thought possible ? Björn Lubitz? additional reflecting windows in Downtown which were literally added in the last night before deadline!
At times we would have a ?breakthrough? either in the graphic department as well as on the programming side almost every day! ;)
RR: It was a difficult process to adjust the speed and steering of the cars to the geometry of the city and vice versa. We had to find the right way between placing too many obstacles in the players path, which led to 'players driving all the time into walls or pipes', and using less obstacles which was just boring. I think in the end we managed to find a good way between those extremes.
One of the most exciting moments during development was the first time the traffic system worked and the engine displayed 500 traffic cars at the same time on the screen.
MD: It was a lot of fun to create the cities and fly through afterwards just to check if everything looks like we have imagined. But one of the hard works was to give the lighting to each level. At the beginning I didn't know what kind of lighting I should give each city. Should it be evening or sunset light or in the morning? Is it foggy or rainy? The hard thing was to give the right contrast of light and shadow 'cause if it wasn't right then it looks awful. So I had to tune the lights and shadows step by step and load it again and fly through again and again until I could say: "This is beautiful!"
And something what was a lot of fun too was to give the cities their heights. At the beginning the skyscrapers wasn't really high. I very was dissatisfied. So I took the grounds of the whole cities and extruded them until it was high enough like in the movies. Then I created the traffic for the new height and here it is! I flew through again and looked down, it was amazing! It looked like there were lots of vehicles with their own rush-hour under me.
AT: I think we all learned to project a strong vision into a great piece of code. It was an evolutionary development process and everyone in the team participated strongly with his ideas. In the end we can all be proud of it and we are looking forward to express even greater visions into an amazing a unique gameplay experience.
Please describe, honestly, in your own words what do you think about "Beam Breakers", did you get it where you want to, do you feel it miss something and are you looking forward a sequel or an addon/expansion pack in future?
MS: I think ?Beam Breakers? includes as much as 90% of what we all wanted to see. Some ideas were dropped to benefit the gameplay, other stuff didn?t make it?s way to the final version because of our schedule. But all in all, in my eyes the game is a real achievement for all of us. It is a real team effort and it rocks!!
As for now, there are no plans for a sequel or an add-on.
RR: There is always something that could have been done better, but I think in the end the final game is very close to our first vision. We still have a lot of ideas for a sequel but at the moment it doesn't look like we will make one.
Why should mr.End User spend $[put your local store retail price here] on Beam Breakers in your opinion?
MS: Because it?s a racing game beyond comparison.
Because it?s got a scenario you won?t want to miss.
And because it?s a plain fun experience!
RR: A lot of people moan about missing innovation in current games. This is your chance to tell us developers that it pays out for us to try something different than the 1000th Version of a fps or an old school racer.
Anything to add, any final wise word?
And don?t endanger other drivers, citizen! Thank you.
RR: Don't get to think your car can fly just because you played "Beam Breakers" for too long! :)
Minh Duong: Beam Breakers? Just rocks!
AT: Prepare for the real rush-hour !