Hi, my name is Jerry Nguyen. I review Xbox games for Geeky Pleasures. I have some questions about Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad‘s design, Jeremy McGrath, and the games business.
Hi, my name is Robb Rinard. I’m the Creative Director here at 2XL Games
JN: How many of the developers have driven a Motocross vehicle prior to developing this game?
RR: We have a good number of authentic off-road racers here in the office on the dev team. In the past year, we’ve released both a Jeremy McGrath Offroad racing title for XBLA and PSN, as well as a partnership with Ricky Carmichael on our Motocross Matchup title on iOS and Android. One of our senior track designer is Stephane Roncada, who was a world champion Supercross rider before retiring and becoming a track design for us here at 2XL Games.
JN: During the course of development, did you all go out and drive on a course?
RR: Going back to our work on Baja: Edge of Control from 2005-2008, we spent years going on trips with some of the top trophy truck guys in the world. We didn’t just go to races, got to spend time both as passengers and behind the wheel of these great machines. That was a fantastic experience I’ll never forget, and definitely had a strong influence on the development of JMO.
JN: Did you have to change any of your design ideas based on your personal experiences driving a Motocross vehicle?
RR: We’ve been evolving our view of the real world versus the gaming world for years now. With each new off-road title we create, it’s an opportunity to explore a slightly different point of view. With Jeremy’s new game, we introduced a new power-sliding physics model unlike any we’d made in the past. It’s a blast to drive, while still being very approachable across a wide range of skill sets.
JN: What led to the inclusion of the dynamic track obstacles? I haven’t watched too much Motocross, but are rogue hay bales a common occurrence?
RR: The hazards are great. We wanted to introduce a small new game mechanic with the structure of what you’re already used to performing out on the track. Giant boulders rolling down the mountain towards just add to the mix of an already exciting experience. Folks love it!
JN: This probably dates me, but I kept feeling some hints of Smuggler’s Run by Angel Studios in this game. What were some games that influenced your design? Did any of the developers play Jeremy McGrath Supercross World on the PS2?
RR: Smugglers Run was a fun game. I enjoyed the Evolution Studios game Motorstorm, but I never felt the physics in that game, or the engine sounds were what I was looking for. Jeremy has some really great authentic engine audio and an approachable physics model with quite a bit of depth to it.
JN: What compromises were made from the beginning of the game design to the final release of the game?
RR: We decided on day one of the project that we wanted the game run at 1920×1080 and 60 frames per second on the PS3, which has the lesser GPU compared to the 360. So this was a big challenge to uphold thru out the dev process. We ended up with a simpler lighting model than I think we wanted. No dynamic HDR in this game. That said the sense of lighting in the game is really solid thanks to the team’s hard work!
JN: What do you think sets your racing game apart from all of the other racing games on the market?
RR: We observed that the off-road market was really underserved with quality games in the digital download space. So we set out to fill that gap with a great playing off-road driving experience unlike anything else in the market. If you watch things like the way the vehicles suspensions handle the rough terrain, you’ll see a level of simulation and attention to detail not found in many 60 dollar retails, let alone a great looking downloadable game for under ten dollars.
JN: At what point in the making of this game was Jeremy McGrath brought on board? Was he there from the beginning or was he brought in after a Motocross game idea was developed?
RR: We’ve know Jeremy for years, going back to our work on Microsoft Motocross Madness. We have him in the studio as often as possible to spend time turning laps and helping improve the driving experience. He’s the king, on and off the track!
JN: He has a sizeable number of voice prompts in the game from pre-racing tips to in-game turn by turn directions. How much time did all of this take and when in the development process did you decide to incorporate this much voice feedback?
RR: It took at least 8 trips to Phoenix, just to handle all the recording and VO work he did in the game. And many more trips working on the vehicle handling and track design.
JN: In addition to the licensing of Jeremy McGrath, there are plenty of other corporate sponsors that appear throughout the game – whether it’s the name of the racing series or whether it’s plastered over your race truck. How did those deals happen? Did the in-game corporate sponsors have any say over the design or marketing of the game?
RR: Our off-road partners entrust us to make great entertainment products. They help us market the game and we in turn give them visibility inside the product. It’s been a mutually beneficial experience for over a decade now.
JN: What kind of sales figures would you need to declare the game a financial success?
RR: Well the good news here is that JMO cost a tiny fraction of what it costs to develop a game like Dirt, or Forza and looks almost as good. Those games have budgets in the tens of millions of dollars. That, coupled with marketing and cost of goods manufacturing set the bar very high in terms of what they have to sell to break even. For them a one million selling game is disappointing. For the budget we had on JMO, we’d be in sequel territory after selling only a couple hundred thousand copies. And at under ten bucks, it’s a steal!
JN: Who do you think will want to play your game? Do you feel that the marketing for your game has successfully reached that audience?
RR: We have partners all thru out the off-road space to help spread the word about JMO. Our mobile audience is huge with over 25 million downloads of our mobile titles to date. That’s a sizable audience to market to just within our own existing mobile titles.
JN: What led to the decision to release the game as an XBLA vs a full retail release? How did you determine the price point for the game?
RR: XBLA and PSN is a great platform for visibility. Anyone browsing can pick up our game an instant and start playing as soon as the download is finished. It’s convenient. Also, we wanted to make a game that was extremely affordable. The view on the digital platforms is much different, too. If we had printed discs, the cost of the game would more than likely double for the same content, and it’d be taken less seriously next to the $60 titles. On XBLA and PSN, it’s among other great games for the same price; at $10, it’s just simply a good deal that we feel most perspective gamers can get behind.
Editor’s note: Read Jerry’s review of Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad here.