The original WipEout design document revealed

"WipEout has a soul…"

WipEout launched in the UK alongside the PS1 20 years ago this week - and for the first time one of its creators has published its design document.

Nick Burcombe, who worked at UK developer Psygnosis on WipEout, gave Eurogamer permission to republish the design document, which includes additional pages intended to support the game's later US launch.

The document reveals details on tracks, ships, pilot backstory and game design. There's even a history of the anti gravity technology used by WipEout's futuristic rally. There are some cool playing tips in there, too, if you fancy revisiting the blisteringly fast racing game.

It offers some fantastic insight into one of the PS1's defining games, which went on to help secure PlayStation's place as the console of choice during the mid to late nineties.

Burcombe, who founded Table Top Racing developer Playrise Digital, offered some background on the document in a note sent to Eurogamer. We've republished it below.:

WipEout Design Document - A footnote for context.

I've seen some comments on the web already that this document is too loose and woolly and not a Technical Design Document, so I think it's only fair to give it a little context first.

This Design Document is really only a Game Direction Document. Of course, much more activity was going on in the studio in all areas, including programming, art and design. Many other chunks of the game design are not documented here at all. It's a real shame (from a personal point of view), that all the hand-drawn, paper designs for the race circuits are long lost to me - I would have enjoyed looking through those again.

So this was never meant to be a Technical Design Document in any way shape or form. In fact, it was actually my first ever attempt at a game design document and although I'd done some scripting work on the 'End of Level Bosses' for Microcosm and contributed to the action scripting for 'Scavenger 4/Novastorm', this was the first time I'd had a crack at figuring out the whole game - and as you can see, (36 tracks, reduced to 15, reduced to six in the final product), there was some inexperience at play, but I put it down youthful enthusiasm and optimism.

The goal of the document was that the people on the team could have some level of confidence that someone knew where the game was heading and what this futuristic racing world was all about. Yes there's a lot of fluff in it and it might come across as a pitch document to some, but if someone on the team had any questions about what we were supposed to be making, (rather than "how are we making it", which would definitely fall under the "Technical Design" remit), they knew they could come and talk directly with me and I would hopefully have an answer for them. As always in development, there were changes and compromises along the way, but in terms of getting the team pointing in the same direction - simple documents like this serve a useful purpose.

In fact, this is still how I design games now, Table Top Racing: World Tour (our new, console-led, follow up to our mobile hit Table Top Racing) only has a "Game Direction and Scope" document rather than any technical design. In fact it's actually a Powerpoint with more visuals in it than I've ever put in a document before, and the main reason I can 'get away' with only using a 'Game Direction Document' rather than a technical design, is that I'm fortunate enough to work with brilliant, highly-experienced programmers, artists and designers who can extrapolate the 'intent' of any given design feature, add to it, improve it and then implement it directly in the game.

Besides, I couldn't write a technical design as I'm not a programmer, I'm only concerned with how it supposed to make the player feel and what they will encounter in the game. If you rely too heavily on TDDs to drive the game, it often leads to the creation of cold and lifeless games.

Game Direction and Team Confidence - that's the purpose for this style of document.

So why share it? Well it's 20 years since I'd seen this document and just four days ago, my wife had saved it from a 'blanket incineration of all my old Curlymonsters paperwork', so you can thank her. I initially shared this, mainly for those with a long-term interest in the WipEout franchise. I've also had a lovely warm feel of nostalgia reading back through it and so it seemed appropriate to post it in-line with WipEout's 20th Anniversary (EU release). I know the die-hard WipEout fans will enjoy comparing it to the final product and I hope they enjoy it. I also think that it would be great to see more of these type of documents online and so perhaps help demystify the process.

In summary: it might be loose and fluffy by today's AAA standards, but it was 20 years ago and I think the result speaks for itself. The whole team: Concept, Art, Programming, Design, Sound FX, Music, Graphic Design, Marketing, Legal and Licensing, PR, QA and of course, Sony who created a revolutionary ground-breaking platform that transformed the whole industry - the WHOLE team did an amazing job in creating something special.

WipEout, I think, has a unique place in UK gamedev history because it has that 'little something that can't be bottled', that help it transcend stereotypes and redefine who would call themselves a "Gamer". WipEout has a soul and I think everyone who worked on it over its 18 years of development can be proud of that.

Nick Burcombe


For more on the WipEout series, head over to Eurogamer's article, The rise and fall of Sony Studio Liverpool, in which we talk to WipEout developers about the famous racing series.

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About the author

Wesley Yin-Poole

Wesley Yin-Poole

Deputy Editorial Director  |  wyp100

Wesley is deputy editorial director of ReedPop. He likes news, interviews, and more news. He also likes Street Fighter more than anyone can get him to shut up about it.


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