When OutRun2 first appeared on Xbox, we were all a bit surprised - not so much by SEGA's decision to bring a relatively concise arcade racing game to a home console, but by the degree to which relatively unknown developer Sumo Digital had managed to expand the game without losing track of what made the arcade original so good.
Now, just over a year later, we're about to turn toward another instalment from the Sheffield-based team, this time incorporating OutRun2's arcade successor, OutRun2 SP. With the game just a couple of months away from release on PlayStation 2, PC and PSP, we fired off some questions and the trio of Mark Glossop (executive producer), Paul Porter (technical director) and Darren Mills (creative director) were good enough to take some time out to answer. Read on to find out just how much of the two OutRun2 arcade games have been incorporated, what challenges the team faced in bringing it to PSP, and more on the nature of the conversion beyond the arcade template.
Eurogamer: First things first - it's only been confirmed this past week and yet it's out in March 2006. How long have you actually been working on the game?
Paul Porter: We started pre-production with a small team back in October 2004. We had to prove that the quality could be achieved on PlayStation 2 and PSP that the community would expect with the OutRun franchise. We only went into full production when we had developed a fully customised engine that Sumo and SEGA were both happy with.
Eurogamer: SEGA's said that Coast 2 Coast features 30 stages drawn from OutRun2 and OutRun2 SP - how much is there from each, and how much of your own work?
Darren Mills: We've actually taken all the stages featured in both OutRun2 and OutRun2 SP, people already know and love them so we've spent a lot of time making the courses drivable in the opposite direction and ensuring the quality of the arcade originals transfers across to the new platforms as faithfully as possible - as well as adding some unlockable surprises later in the game.
Eurogamer: The initial release also mentioned a new mission structure and license mode - can you tell us anything about those?
Mark Glossop: The player will receive a license, which is essentially a profile that keeps track of the player's progress. The new mission mode is completely different from the original Xbox version - it is less linear and allows the player more freedom. Its structure will be familiar to OutRun fans.
Eurogamer: Will the game feature the same kind of unlockables as OutRun2 on Xbox?
Mark Glossop: There are unlockables in the game and we use a different system to the original Xbox version. Now the player earns 'OutRun miles' during gameplay which can be exchanged in a shop for items to use in the game.
Eurogamer: Obviously this is the series' first PSP outing, but of course it's not the first PSP game that Sumo's worked on. Is Coast 2 Coast PSP handled by the same team that did TOCA Race Driver 2 PSP for Codemasters?
Paul Porter: Some of the TOCA Race Driver 2 PSP team have indeed been working on the PSP version of OutRun 2006. We have a lot of PSP experience at Sumo, as OutRun 2006 will be our fourth PSP title.
Eurogamer: What sort of things do you have to take into account in porting a racing game like OutRun 2006 to PSP?
Paul Porter: There were a number of challenges we faced bringing OutRun 2006 to PSP. There was a lot of optimization and memory reduction required to get the game onto the PSP hardware. We wanted to ensure that we kept the beautiful vistas and exceptionally long draw distance on the PSP, and we have achieved this by developing a new suite of tools and re-working a lot of the original artwork.
In developing the Tour mode for the console versions, we found that some missions work really well on PSP, but some are better suited to PlayStation 2, so there are different missions available on the different versions.
Finally, one of the key considerations when bringing the game to PSP is the handling and controls. We have spent a long time tuning the controls to work well on the PSP, so you can get the same satisfaction as you perform those never-ending power slides.
Eurogamer: To what effect will the PSP and PS2 games link up?
Mark Glossop: There will be certain unique unlockables only available on the specific platforms, however they can be purchased on one platform and transferred to the other.
Eurogamer: Will the game feature online racing on all formats? Will there be any kind of ranking system, or will it be strictly pick-up races?
Mark Glossop: Online racing will be available on all platforms and there will be a ranking system.
Eurogamer: Can you tell us anything about the soundtrack to the game? Last time you had remixes from Richard Jacques among other things...
Mark Glossop: There are additional tracks to the ones found in the arcade versions but I'll leave it up to the player to find out what they are.
Eurogamer: Have you made any changes to the handling model? How do the new cars differ to the old?
Mark Glossop: We have remained faithful to the handling found on the arcade versions but the controls have been tuned for each console version. The handling is slightly different in OutRun2 SP compared with OutRun2 and we have included both to allow the player more choice.
Eurogamer: What do you see as OutRun 2006's strengths relative to the great many other arcade racing games on the market, such as Need For Speed and Burnout?
Mark Glossop: The OutRun franchise is one of the most famous racing brands in the world and many of its strengths come from its arcade background. The game is designed to be instantly playable but also have that 'just one more go' feel as you're sure you'll do better next time. Surprisingly to some, the game has many hidden depths and can take many months to master and become a world class player.
On top of this we of course have the gorgeous tracks which are another trademark of OutRun2. These are works of art in themselves and one never fails to be impressed by some of the views that encountered as you crest the brow of a hill.
Eurogamer: Will you be supporting PC and PS2 steering wheels like the Logitech GTForce?
Mark Glossop: Unfortunately for technical reasons we have no plans to support force feedback on the PS2, but we may for the PC version.
Eurogamer: OutRun 2006. Out in 2006. Aren't you worried you're going to offend the rest of the games industry by actually putting the right year on the end of your game title?
Mark Glossop: The name was confirmed relatively late in the day - maybe that's the secret?
OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast is due out on PS2, PC and PSP in March 2006. We'll have more news on it soon.