We sat down at the Gaia Industries launch party of Street Trace for Xbox Live Arcade a few weeks ago in their Downtown NYC offices. The Xbox Live-enabled title is one of the most ambitious for the XBLA service, focusing primarily on online racing battles. As revealed in our interview Street Trace has come a long way, inspired by Tron, moving on to a PSP concept, and then finally ending up on XBLA.
Where did the concept for Street Trace come from?
The concept came from a game I actually built twenty years ago. Tron just came out and I was a kid, just about eleven or twelve and I made a little Tron-based game on the Zedex Spectrum, a really old machine.
It certainly sounds old.
That was the initial thing, and made it 3D about five years ago. And although it came from this initial idea of the trails, about three years ago we made this prototype. We changed it from being futuristic to grungy, and changed a lot of the stuff around. A lot of our inspirations are coming from games like Twisted Metal, Tony Hawk, SSX, the whole hoverboard and skating genre that we love. It's a mix of all those things.
The Tron comparison seems apt, considering the giant trails your character leaves behind in racing.
We switched the idea of the trails from Tron so that the trails actually benefit people, instead of killing them. When we initially prototyped it, the trails were supposed to hurt you, but because the game became so dynamic and fluid, with jumping and grinding, that the mechanic wasn't working. We had to go back to the drawing board and say "why isn't this working" and we ended up swapping it.
So the trails then become akin to the wake in jet ski games?
Yeah. It also makes it easier to see the competitors ahead of you. If they're far away in the environment, it's easier to find them.
Was Street Trace always designed to be an XBLA game?
The game initially started off the size of, maybe a PSP game. A smaller console game, or a PSP game. But then we talked to the Xbox guys, and they thought it would be a great Arcade game. The problem was, it was too big. So we cut it down, and decided to make it a big XBLA game, with Live support, which is what the game is so strong in. So, ultimately an online enabled XBLA game ended up being better than doing a PSP game.
What would a "bigger" version of the game supposed to have?
There were supposed to be five locations: Tokyo, New York, Paris, Monrovia, Tibetan mountains. This was old, old stuff, with a very different story. Lots of different levels, and a big single player campaign. We had to cut out the tricks. We had a very big story, but couldn't fit it in the 50MB limit. That's why we're coming out with a comic book. We focused our attention on the gameplay, but the story is there.
What is the "story" of Street Trace?
Basically, the story is about street tracers. You can think of them as your local skateboarders, and they have their own local city tournaments. The goal is for each of the characters to become the champion. Of course, fame and cash go to the winner. It's New York in the future, and the corporations have taken over everything, and it's all about finding the right kind of sponsorship. I don't know if you noticed, but the entire game takes place in Brooklyn.
No, I didn't notice!
When you go on the Brooklyn Bridge, you're allowed to go to the edge of Manhattan. It's because it's closed out. Most of the rich and opulent are in Manhattan, and you're playing as the underdog, and ultimately you want to get into Manhattan. The story also revolves around the discovery of antigravity, and the corporations and military abusing it. There's a lot of story, and it's going to be in the comic book. The actual game of Street Trace came from the military. Once the war was over, the veterans came back with their equipment, and their children eventually developed this underground sport.
Do you think this game compares to any other XBLA game out there?
If you go through the list of the Arcade games, there's nothing that comes to the scale of it, especially when it comes to multiplayer. Eight player Xbox Live multiplayer. I don't think anything compares to it.