Interview - Riptide GP Renegade Makes A Splash On Android TV

By John Gaudiosi (gamerlive.tv) - Mon, Aug 22, 2016

Vector Unit has returned to the flooded futuristic waterways for the third time in the Riptide GP arcade racing franchise. The latest game, Riptide GP: Renegade, is available now on NVIDIA Shield Android TV, Apple TV, Steam and PlayStation 4 (and is coming soon to Android, iPhone, and Xbox One).

A spiritual successor to Midway’s arcade classic, Hydro Thunder, this franchise blends the mid-air stunts of SSX with the racing waterways of Jet Moto. Players are dropped into a future where hydro jet racing is illegal, but that doesn’t stop armored riders from outrunning the cops through a post-flood city. This game has been built from the ground up for big screen gaming as well as on-the-go fun, offering a career mode and multiplayer gameplay through splitscreen and online support.

Matt Small, creative director and co-founder of Vector Unit, talks about this latest racing game in this exclusive interview.

What were your goals heading into Riptide GP: Renegade?

We wanted to reboot the Riptide GP franchise and bring some of the more exciting arcade racing elements from Hydro Thunder, which was our first game, into the Riptide universe. So there’s a lot more interaction in the levels, a lot more extreme environments where there are things exploding around you and giant machinery collapsing and things like that.

What’s the storyline in the world of Riptide GP: Renegade?

Riptide GP 1 and 2 it were essentially futuristic Moto GP on water. And in Riptide GP: Renegade your character starts off as a Riptide GP racer, but then gets framed by one of his rivals for doing illegal street racing and ends up getting tossed in jail and tossed kicked out of the circuit. So he has to climb his way back up into credibility by doing the thing that he got busted for doing -- illegal street racing.

Who are the main characters?

That’s one thing that we’ve added in Riptide GP: Renegade. In the past we’ve always had a single character that you can play with. In this game we have nine characters. There’s the two main characters, a male and a female rider Impact and Poison. And then there’s also a whole host of boss characters that you race as you play through the single player game. Once you beat the boss characters, they join your team and you can select them and race with them. There’s a robot character. There’s a hacker character. There are all different flavors of bizarre characters that you meet.

How are you pushing this genre forward with Riptide GP: Renegade?

We’ve done a number of things. From a gameplay standpoint, we’ve added things like point-to-point tracks. So now we can have a race that starts in one place and ends up somewhere else, which means we can have really huge waterfalls and things that you jump off of. We’ve also added shortcuts and interactive elements. For instance, on one lap of a track you might not be able to take a shortcut and then on the second lap something happens in the game world that changes the environment and allows you to take a shortcut.

What’s different about the way you created Riptide GP: Renegade?

One big thing about Riptide GP: Renegade is that we started off development with high-end platforms and consoles in mind. And then we are porting from there down to lower-end platforms. That really has upped the fidelity in the game and the quality of the art and graphics.

Can you talk about the single player experience?

There’s a Story Career mode, which is the main single player career mode with story elements that you play through in the game. But then there are also little side quests that open up as you play along, so each character that you encounter might have a separate little side quest that they can go on that unlocks something at the end like a new boat or something. Then we also have a number of different game modes like a Quick Race mode and VR Challenge Mode, which is an asynchronous ghost racing mode. So you can basically play against recordings of your friends’ best times as you fight to see who gets on the top of the leaderboards.

Can you talk about the multiplayer gameplay?

We have online multiplayer. We have in addition to the asynchronous Challenge Mode which I mentioned earlier, we have online multiplayer, which supports up to eight players at a time. We also have split screen multiplayer, so on most platforms that's where up to four players can with game pad controllers (or remotes) and stuff like that can play on a single screen.

How have you worked with NVIDIA on your game?

NVIDIA has always been a really good partner with us. We enjoy working with NVIDIA hardware, especially all the DirectX implementations. They’re always really pushing forward the graphic power on Android platforms in particular. We all own SHIELD and we play on them a lot. NVIDIA has occasionally supplied us with advance hardware so that we can see what’s coming up and we have an idea of what target we’re shooting for on the high-end when our games come out.

What are your thoughts of Android itself as a platform?

Android is a great platform. We started off as console developers and switched over to doing mobile games. And we actually started on Android, so it’s something that we’re very comfortable with. Android is one of the primary platforms that we develop for. We love the ecosystem and it’s always been a really good platform for us.

What excites you about Android TV?

Having started off as console developers, we’re really comfortable with what people call the 10-foot experience sitting on a couch with the controller and having a big screen. Since we developed Riptide GP: Renegade with the console experience in mind, it’s a totally natural fit for that. We’ve been doing mobile development for a long time and Riptide has always been a game that works really well with touch screen controls. One of the things that’s great is being able to play on a big TV and then with cloud saving you can basically walk out the door with your phone and continue the game where you left off while you’re sitting on the bus or wherever.

What impact do you think NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV could have with the gaming ecosystem?

Of all the Android TV devices that we’ve tried, NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV is the closest to a real gaming console. It’s really powerful. The graphic fidelity is amazing. And the fact that it ships with a game controller really drives the fact that it’s a gaming platform. That’s part of the reason that we released first on SHIELD Android TV, before it becomes available for other Android systems.

What do you see NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV opening up for game developers moving forward?

More game developers who are mobile developers are thinking in terms of gamepad gameplay and the couch experience. The thing that’s tricky about it is that games can’t just court one or the other. You have to actually develop a game that works with both. As more people think about how they can make this game work really well on touch screen and with a gamepad, we’re going to see more quality games coming out that support both experiences.

How have you taken advantage of the Android TV’s technology to work with your game?

We’re supporting OpenGL 3 and there’s a lot of advanced graphics features in the game like lens flare, water splashing on the screen and anti-aliasing. Some of those are effects that we developed for the console and then we’re actually able to bring them over to mobile now.

How is it adding controller support for your game?

From the time that Android first started offering controller support we’ve been supporting it in our games. One of the things that’s really important is the ability to fluidly switch back and forth. It’s not like you have to go to the control screen, switch to gamepad mode and then start playing. If you’re playing with a SHIELD tablet for instance, as soon as it detects that there’s a gamepad connected, it will just switch into gamepad mode. It takes some doing to make the UI work well with both gamepad and touch, but we’ve been doing it for five years now, so we have a system down that works pretty well.

What impact has Tegra X1 technology had on the gameplay experience NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV users will have?

The biggest impact is graphic fidelity. For the kinds of racing games that we develop, having really high resolution and really fast frame rates is critical to the gameplay experience. If you get stuttering frame rates then it really impacts your ability to cut the corners close and pass other players. We’re able to maintain a high level graphic quality with Tegra X1 technology but at the same time you can play it at 1080p at 60 frames per second.

If you don’t already own the best Android gaming device out there, there’s no better time to pick up an NVIDIA SHIELD to experience one of the most thrilling futuristic racing games of the year.

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