October 3, 2000

TEAM 17 INTERVIEW

Debbie Bestwick talks Worms World Party & Stunt GP


Team 17. Even the name brings back so many emotions from people. With classic games such as Alien Breed, Body Blows and Project X the company has always put gameplay first. Five years ago the company unleashed the first Worms game to much critical acclaim. It was a multi-player strategy game which is still selling to this day.
Team 17's most recent projects include Worms World Party which will be the first 3rd party online game on the Dreamcast when it hits the shelves in the coming weeks. Their other major title this year is Stunt GP, which has been in development for three years now, and is set for release in late November to coincide with the Playstation 2 launch. This awesome looking racing game will also hit the Dreamcast by Christmas. Future Gamez decided to have a chat to Debbie Bestwick, Team 17's Commercial Director, about these highly anticipated games.

THE COMPANY

Firstly Debbie, could you tell us a little about your work at Team 17 and what your current role is at the company.
I'm Team17 Commercial Director and have been with Team17 from the start. It was my job to make sure that Team17 games were on sale throughout the world and the development guys could focus on making great games and not worry about the Sales/Marketing and general business side. Today it's still pretty similar but as we are totally a development house these days, compared with being a publisher in those early Amiga days - now I make sure we pick the best publishers possible for all our games and make sure that guys like yourself (meaning the press) know all about them.

How many people currently work at Team 17?
Around 60 people.

The UK has a strong list of games developers including Bullfrog, Lionhead, and of course Team 17. What makes England such a great place for games development?
It's a great country what else can I say :) No, it's probably the British attitude for creativity and independence, there are more and more start-up developers in the UK everyday. Although as for Team17 well, our building is like the United Nations. We have development talent from all over Europe.

How did Team 17 get involved with Sega and the Dreamcast in particular?
Team17 have always maintained the attitude of supporting as many platforms as possible, specifically when it comes to our Worms games. When we were doing Worms Armageddon last year and Sega showed us Dreamcast we liked the hardware a lot hence have been one of the UK busiest developers supporting the machine since.

Have Sega been very helpful with development of the games?
We've not needed that much help to be honest, but Sega have been very supportive of the titles we are doing for Dreamcast and, as and when we've needed anything they've delivered where ever possible. The most support needed has been for the on-line side of Worms World Party and Sega have been helping with that product and hopefully were close to finishing the game.

What did you think of the launch of the Dreamcast in Europe and what are you thoughts on the system nearly a year later?
The initial launch in Europe was quite successful and I think all developers and publishers pinned great expectations on the machine continuing the success through-out 2000 unfortunately that hasn't quite happened which has been a great shame the hardware is great and the quality of software is superb.

Do you think it can still compete with the upcoming Playstation 2, Gamecube and Xbox?
I think immediately Dreamcast has to compete with PS2 over the Christmas period (Gamecube & XBox are a way off). A lot comes down to what number of machines Sony make available to Europe and what games. Dreamcast has the advantage of a price point half of what PS2 will be released at. As well as a very strong line-up of games including a few high profile on-line games if they manage to get finished in-time for Christmas. Sega have to push those areas very strongly and pray that Sony don't have to many spare machines kicking around.

As to how it will compete with Gamecube & XBox, well lets see what happens this Christmas with Playstation2 first.

WORMS WORLD PARTY

Worms World Party is the second Worms game to hit the Dreamcast. What are the major differences between this new game and Worms Armageddon?
Multi-player simultaneous play, from ANYWHERE in the world! The game has hardly any discernible 'lag' and promotes a social feel with players chatting. Playing online has never been so much fun, play against other wormers from anywhere on the planet. Special areas divide game types up such as Beginner, Anything Goes etc. Participate in, group battles with teams allied or not. Chat with other wormers not only prior to a game but after as well.

Huge online (web-based) community already exists as well as a host of fervent worms-fan websites. Websites covering everything from Clans to tactics. Jokes, stories, cartoons, tips. Just about everything you can imagine for wormers.

Award winning online & strategy game-play. This is the funniest and most addictive game you'll ever play. It's hilarious fun that you can enjoy on your own or with all your friends. Now that online play is here you'll always have a friend to play against.

All-new tournament mode. Set up a tournament game with up to 8 teams and play in the Worms World Cup. Players set up the teams and options and the game will do the rest. Even add computer teams to take part in your tournament.

Over 70 Single-player Missions and 20 extended Training levels. Huge collection of missions with every style of game you can imagine. Missions range from puzzle style to time attack where players can replay to obtain the best time.

Hugely expanded training modes - hone those worming skills! Training now covers much more from basic to advanced and teaches newbie wormers tactics which will prove invaluable online. Target training now includes civilian targets, which hinder your attempts to become the best. Check those targets!

Worms Weapon Library - earn tips from the top! The Wormopeadia gives instructions on every weapon and utility along with unique tips straight from the cream of wormers.

WORMNET for Dreamcast (similar to existing Wormnet for PC players) Wormnet, the wormers passport for online gaming. Plus completely re-designed front-end, New WWP music, New Soundbanks, New cartoon animations, New Custom landscapes, In-game graphics, Controller support and many many more.

This new game does focus on the multi-player aspect of the game. Will the game be playable online through the Dreamcast network?
ABSOLUTELY it will be 4 players and is playing superbly :) At one point we were a little concerned about the performance but the development team have done an absolutely fantastic job and should be commended for how well it actually plays.

Obviously with Worms being a turn based game you have a lot more leeway with the slow modem speed and lag times compared to a First Person Shooter. How has the development team found the Dreamcast's 33.6k modem?
I'm not sure the development team will agree with the phase "a lot more leeway" :) . The 33.6K modem isn't the problem, it's the fact that it's a software modem and not a hardware modem. That's the crux really. Processing power has to be taken away from doing the game to power the modem. 33.6k and 56k would have the same performance really. If it had been a hardware modem it would have been a lot better, put it that way. The fact that it's a software modem has been 'the' major development headache of this game.

Have Sega been very helpful with the online gameplay aspect of the game?
The actual on-line gameplay content is all down to the actual development team here at Team17. It's the actual hosting the servers for the game where Sega come in and it's here were we are working very closely together to make sure that everything is ready for the actual release.

The PC version of Worms World Party includes a level editor. Are there any plans to include this editor on the Dreamcast version and if not, why not?
Unfortunately no, the image files (landscapes) that are used in missions are over 1 meg in size. There's nowhere to store this on the DC (PC is easy, downloading a 1 meg zipped mission file to your hard drive is no big deal). We did look at doing a simpler dumped down version, but it wouldn't have been as good or really fitting with a console game - the PC mission editor is a windows application, there's that many options and variables in them it wouldn't really work on a console.

One of the biggest complaints about Worms Armageddon was the lengthy wait for the Dreamcast CPU to take its turn. Has the development team reduced the wait for the CPU?
The CPU logic has been tweaked but the Worms are still a law unto themselves when making certain shots. I suppose it gives them a bit of character. We didn't want to spend too much time in this area when the emphasis of WWP has always been multiplayer. That's not to say the single player game has been neglected - there's going on for 80 new missions, training events and what we call 'Time Attacks' where the player has several against the clock tasks in which to clock up personal best times etc. The new missions are all fantastic - we've added loads of new features to our mission scripting system meaning the missions are a lot better, varied and unlike any in Worms Armageddon.

Are there any plans to utilise the VMU for mini-games or trading worms at all?
This is something that was discussed a very long time ago and we decided against it. It would have been a nice feature but we felt there was so many other more important features that we wanted to put in that were very time consuming such as the on-line side etc.

Worms Armageddon was among the best multiplayer games ever, and Worms World Party looks set to follow. Is this something that you focused the development on?
Absolutely! Worms has always been commended for it's multi-player side and in Armageddon we expanded upon that. With Worms World Party it all actually came about after a discussion with Sega a long time ago when we were discussing the on-line potential and the result was that we would do a new game that was totally focused on Multi-player and on-line gaming.

STUNT GP

Your next big game is Stunt GP which is scheduled for release on Dreamcast, PC and Playstation 2. Can you tell us a little bit about the game?
Absolutely. Stunt GP is a no holds barred driving experience that combines flat out high-speed racing with high-flying stunts. Imagine StuntGP as your favourite brand of slot-car remote-control racing cars, the game takes place in the Stunt GP universe, with organised events and a full range of Stunt GP upgrades, accessories and optional extra's. it's a wild, adrenaline fuelled arcade-style racer that features our very own unique brand of mini-RC racers. The aim is pure racing action mixed with outrageous stunts on wild circuits. We've created our own 'SGP' brand and mixed real-world physics with out-of-this-world action.

Will all the platforms launch simultaneously, and when can we expect them on the shelves?
They will all launch simultaneous and should be on the shelves in late November. (PS2 launch in England is November 24)

The Dreamcast already has quite a few racing games including impressive titles such as V-Rally 2, Speed Devils and Wacky Racers. What will make Stunt GP stand out from the crowd?
By it's emphasis on the stunts and it's bearing directly away from realistic or photo-realistic "on rails" driving games. We've gone for a very different look and feel right from the off, crossing the street boarding cultures with racing and SGP is the result. Also the realism of the physics and dynamics makes for a much more rewarding game experience. The car reacts to the environments superbly, enabling players to get a real "feel" for what they are doing. In terms of unique features, the stunt elements and aerial stunt abilities transcends the title way beyond the common or garden racing game.

How long has the title been in development for now and how complete is it?
The game has been in development for around 3 years and it's currently just going through bug testing stages and fine-tuning.

How many people have worked on Stunt GP?
The total team size is around 20 people.

As we can see you are driving R/C models in the game. What made you decide to bring R/C cars into the game?
We decided upon RC cars for a variety of reasons; They represent fun and excitement; Can take a lot of damage; Have scaled performance above and beyond that of their real counterparts; Flexibility in their design - no restrictions on shape and performance. Since we were planning on a large stunt element to the game, we felt it suited R/C cars since the game is also viewed in 3rd person perspective (which is necessary due to the stunts). The physics on the antennae also serve to give even more feedback from the physics and dynamics engine. With the RC cars it also enabled us to create our own unique branding and SGP "product" with which we have devised the SGP game "universe".

Does the game feature realistic physics?
Absolutely, not to mention groundbreaking dynamics. Every aspect of the vehicle is important, all items are dynamically modeled, right down to tire temperature and pressure. The physics are important since they allow the car to react as a player would expect and once you've experienced it, other "bodged" driving games are unpalatable.

What benefits are gained by performing stunts during a race?
SGP introduces a new concept, the aeromile. Basically the car gets points for being in the air. The more points you get, the bigger reward, the better upgrades you can get for your car. Stunts significantly boost your aeromile count and also kick off combinations where pinball-style multiplication can occur to give you massive scores. Most people will stick to racing for a while before they become adept at pulling off stunts and when they do, the game will open up more. Performing stunts also gives you a useful energy boost.

What sort of stunts can be performed?
In total around 36 different stunts i.e. flips, rolls and spins can be achieved in the air, in addition to double-spins/combos and the like. We will also reward periods on 2 tyres, great skids and things like that. Basically we will reward exciting, cool drivers with lots of points with which to upgrade in the championship.

How many and what kind of customisations can be done by the player?
We've calculated over a million different possibilities, but there are a number of different key components that can be gradually modified or enhanced to change your vehicle. These will have key effects upon the handling and response of your vehicle. At certain times you will upgrade to a new car entirely.

The graphic engine of Stunt GP is impressive, what was the biggest challenge for you? How long have you been developing the engine?
SGP's engine is a number of elements together, the graphics look even better since they are calculated with real-time physics which emphasises the movements and makes it look realistic and natural. The dynamics modeling also serves to animate the vehicles, especially the independent sprung suspension for each tyre, and this again serves to only amplify the quality of the graphics. The rendering engine shouldn't be forgotten either as this visualises the whole environment. The biggest challenge was a combination of tying up the physics and dynamics - and in particular the collision dynamics, which was a very difficult task. The various engine-components of the technology and their tools have been developed over the last 2 years.

Doing stunts is an essential part of the game, what sort of stunts are your favourites?
My personal favourites are stunts that simply happen naturally as part of the break-neck racing... including dramatic power-slides, skidding onto 2 wheels and flips/rolls which are accidental but no less impressive. Whizzing around in the stunt bowl is also great fun and there's a lot of satisfaction to be had from a vertical jump and twist, or flipping a vertical 180 and correctly flipping again before landing.

How many cars and tacks will the game contain and will there be secrets to unlock as you progress?
There are 20 vehicles included, with some hidden. Set across 3 different types;
Wild Wheels 4x4 offer better grip, acceleration and especially torque for getting up those heady climbs. Wild Wheels vehicles are also much larger and robust than the other two classes.
Aero-BlastersM offer maximum stunt-based airborne control and are ideally based for a combination of agility, grip and speed.
Speed-Demons are the ultimate in RC performance, with stunning top speeds. Unfortunately they guzzle energy and are fairly fragile.

There are 25 tracks set across 8 different environments and it's a fair old mix of track styles, but what you can expect are real-looking tracks, not "managed tubes" which most racing games are. This time, you'll see the circuit from all angles, go back on yourself, see all the other action. There's also ramps, crossovers and huge loop the loops.

Secrets absolutely, we hope to continually reward the player by unveiling new tracks challenges cars and upgrades as they go

Has there been any racing games that have provided you with inspiration for Stunt GP?
A number of titles, we (as a team) were really fond of Ariolasoft's Racing Destruction Set on the C64 all those years ago - and Geoff Crammond's Stunt Car Racer. We're also big fans of most of the popular modern home and arcade racers and some influences have been drawn from there - and also classics such as Mario Kart and Diddy Kong Racing for pure fun.

What was the hardest part during the developing Stunt GP?
The physics and dynamics, no question.

OTHER GAMES

Team 17 have a great history with games dating back to the Amiga days. Which game has been the biggest success for the company?
Success can be measured at different levels.
Worms obviously is hugely successful in-terms of it's Excellent sales, Awards & Gameplay, for the original Worms 1 to be still selling almost 5 years after release this has to be the biggest achievement for the game. (It's very difficult to think of any other game that has achieved that kind of success).
Alien Breed was also hugely successful, as was Superfrog, Body Blows & Project X all which contributed to Team17 winning Joint Software Publisher of the Year back in 1993 (We shared the award with the mighty Electronic Arts).

Will you ever do another Alien Breed game? That is one of my, and many people I speak to, favourite games and would be fabulous in 3D.
Alien Breed is also one of my favourite games, the answer is YES we are already well into the design stages on the next game as to what content etc it's too early at this point but we will speak more about it when it's further down the line.

We already know that Team 17 are developing Stunt GP on the Playstation 2. Do you have any other titles in development for the system, Worms perhaps?
Playstation 2 will be a very important platform for Team17 as it will be for all developers Team17 will be developing various games as to which games you'll have to wait and see.

Will Team 17 be developing any titles on the Xbox or Gamecube? If so are there any details that you can pass on?
Historically we have released games on just about every available platform so I don't see XBox or Gamecube being any different as long as it fits with our Publishers business models & it's right for Team17.

ABOUT YOURSELF

What games do you like to play in your spare time?
I'm a big Dreamcast fan and have an excellent collection of games. Unfortunately I don't have that much spare time, but the games I've played the most in the last 12months are: - Ready 2 Rumble, Trickstyle, Soul Calibur, Crazy Taxi & Stunt GP (whenever I can get hold of a build from development, I love the Stunt Bowl section it's incredibly addictive).

Violence in video games is a big issue in the media these days. What is your opinion of violent games such as Kingpin, Soldier Of Fortune and Q3A?
Violence in games if it adds to the gaming experience fine, but if it's in just to cause controversy and gain some extra PR absolutely NOT. The games industry has an age rating systems in-place the same as video's & movies so I don't have an issue with it personally, it's down to the retailers to ensure that a 15/18 rated game is sold to the correct age groups.

Would Team 17 ever consider making an violent game, or is it something you try to avoid?
To date we've not developed a violent game, that's not to say we won't if a design showed a great game that was right for Team17 then we would consider it. It's not something were looking for but if it was a fantastic game then at the end of the day we'd want to do it. Under no circumstances would we ever stick blood and gore into a game for the sake of it, it has to add and be part of the gaming experience we are aiming to deliver.

What is your favourite food?
At the moment it's Indian Curries I absolutely love them specifically after a few beers on a Saturday night.

Thank you very much for you time....
David Warner ~ Future Gamez


Team 17 can be found at : http://www.team17.com

I hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much as I did in conducting it. If you have any comments or questions E-mail me at : phantom@winshop.com.au