It's very likely that Trials HD will be a strong contender for the Eurogamer Readers' Top 50 Games of 2009, if you know what's good for you. The core motorbike game is - in the words of Michel Roux Jr - developed to perfection, and the life-prolonging editor is the same toolset that RedLynx builds its own stages with. The small Finnish studio (that we visited earlier this year) has done good. We can't wait to find out what's in the excellently-named BIG Pack of downloadable content.
In the meantime though, how about getting our skills up to scratch? What an excellent idea. Good thing we've got RedLynx's Top Men to contribute some tips and tricks on how to do so.
RedLynx's top riding tips
Creative director Antti Ilvessuo, despite alluding to being rubbish, knows a thing or two - he did create Trials in 1999 with his brother, after all. Don't progress "too hastily" onto hard or extreme tracks, suggests Ilvessuo, but linger on medium-grade levels collecting gold medals instead. This will teach you good riding lines and flow. "Also, the hard level tutorial is there for purpose," he adds mysteriously.
Jorma Sainio, project manager and network coder, is one of the best Trials HD players in the office. Ilvessuo says he should have his own driving school, and so he will: Jorma's Driving School. JDS preaches practicing easy levels and getting gold medals early. JDS also notes that you'll need two special moves for hard or extreme maps. "Spring pre-loading" is one, and is done by leaning back on ramp approach and then throwing yourself forward at launch. This gives a small boost and helps jump distance.
The "bunny hop" is more difficult. For this, lean forward and then quickly back, applying gas and then leaning forward to jump. "This makes you jump higher from ramps or even from flat ground," says Sainio. And in combination with aligning wheels for landing, this will require "a pretty fast thumb".
Animator and video maker Saku Jalkanen addresses the tricky issue of landing on a steep upward surface. He tells us this is easier to do when a bike's rear wheel lands ever so slightly ahead of the front. Aha.
Ville Anttonen is the lead artist at RedLynx but isn't very good at Trials HD. Oh dear. "I'm not as pro as the rest of the guys so I keep my blood pressure down by staying on the medium tracks, and I make sure to keep valuable fragile objects out of reach if you know what I mean?" he says. "I reckon this game 'reads' your playing hours; the more you pour in, the better you'll be. Simple." Or basic, like Anttonen's Trials HD skills. [Burn. - Ed]
Sami "Sipe" Saarinen, graphics designer and modeller, says keeping your airtime to a minimum will speed you up. "Most common way to do so is to flip your front wheel over a ramp's edge, touching it, so your direction is forward instead of upward," he coaches.
Lead programmer Sebastian "Sebbbi" Aaltonen's top tip refers to the ancient art of maximising global ranking. At last. "You should first try to pass all easy tracks faultlessly and then progress one difficulty level at a time," Aaltonen explains. "Remember, even a single fault drops your rating points considerably, so take it easy and do not rush to improve track times before you've reached zero faults. And always focus on tracks where your scores are worst, because improving a platinum time by 0.1 seconds doesn't improve your rating much."
Toni Lääveri, menu designer and iPhone dabbler, has a lesson on frustration to share. Wound up to the point of throwing the pad at the dog? Cool down on an easier level and try to beat your record there. "Sometimes getting a new gold medal may get you the same kind of rush as just passing a hard or extreme track," he says.
Henry Tofts showed up at the Eurogamer Expo 2009 in Leeds, good man, and apparently eats large quantities of chocolate. Tofts reckons track decoration is the weakest part of community-made maps, so stuff more in! Establish a strong theme (he built a flaming Balrog into one of his maps) and leave no floating objects - nail them to girders or to supports for believability. "Think visually," he advises. "Be memorable, it's the best way to sell yourself." And before you release your map, be sure ask friends to test, as all feedback is useful feedback.
Lee Rowland also attended the Eurogamer Expo 2009 in Leeds wearing a (very comfortable and warm actually) brown hooded Trials HD jumper [why the hell do I care? - Ed]. He pours around 20 hours into each map he makes and echoes Tofts' advice to "stand out" and use the editor creatively to make strange constructions. Also, checkpoint things properly, or most players will never see the end of your course. "Difficult sections should each have their own checkpoint," he says, "even if that means they are placed very close together. Players can then retry a tricky part without the frustration of repeating an earlier one again. Just because you can clear the obstacle you built every time does not mean others can!"
Konsta Kontunen, Mr Pahapertti, is RedLynx's pro Trials HD rider and holds 2nd position on the global Leaderboard, Ilvessuo tells us. But he doesn't want to share his speedy tips. Instead he wants you to make sure your physics-based obstacles work consistently. "There's nothing more frustrating than having to fault because the physics didn't work the way they were meant to," he says. "Try to make obstacles that don't require luck, and place objects carefully so there are no annoying bumps or edges and players know which are on the driving line and which are not."
Level designer Toni Hollming adds: "Remember that the players are like pets - they need to be rewarded with a checkpoint after performing a trick."
And that leaves Vesa Halonen, who is apparently too busy coding to comment. No votes for you!