Right around when the Wii launched inXile announced they were bringing Line Rider to the Wii and the DS. That was in 2006 and we were supposed to get the game in spring 2007. During the past two years inXile has quietly been working on the project and now they are ready to talk about it. I asked Chris Keenan, Producer at inXile, what took so long to bring Line Rider to consoles and what makes Line Rider 2: Unbound different from the free to play game that’s already online.
The console version of Line Rider has been in development for quite some time. What extended the project development time? Were there difficulties in making the Wii or DS version?
Chris Keenan, Producer at inXile: It has. We really wanted to get it right. Development on Line Rider was interesting because there was a large amount of feature creep. Once we started working on a feature, it would spawn ten new ideas on things we could add to the game to make it better. It was hard to not include some of them in the schedule, since we could directly see how they would positively impact the game.
There are always difficulties that show up when developing any game. Specific to Line Rider, the DS gave us some issues early on. We had a very determined team working on it so they were temporary problems. We had to be very clever on the DS due to hardware limitations. It also took quite a bit of work to get the track/puzzle sharing component of the online back-end up and running well. We wanted to give players a chance to show off and trade their creations and have all of this in one specific place (www.linerider.com). It took quite a bit of back and forth with Nintendo to come up with a system that works for everyone and follows the guidelines that they’ve set.
One thing that surprised me about Line Rider 2: Unbound is there is a story mode. Can you tell us about it and why you felt Line Rider 2 needed a cohesive narrative?
The flash version of Line Rider was such a new style of play when it was released. When Bostjan (the creator) put it on DeviantArt.com, it was the only game of its type on the internet. As soon as we knew we were going to put it on the Wii and DS, we asked the entire company to come up with ideas on what we could do with the property. There weren’t any other titles out that we could compare it to for ideas, so we could be as creative as we wanted with it. Early in development, we created an awesome puzzle mode and knew that we wanted to link them together in a series of obstacles to challenge players. As players complete these puzzles, they are rewarded with unlockables and cut scenes giving them a glimpse into the Line Rider’s world. We wanted to keep it very light and playful. The cut scenes turned out great and have a mischievous Roadrunner/Wiley Coyote feel to them.
Will the PC, DS, and Wii versions of Line Rider: Unbound have different tracks?
The DS has different tracks from the PC and Wii. Those two versions have the same puzzles that fans will try to solve.
What's it like working with TechDawg? Did he have any input on the controls too?
Working with TechDawg was a blast. It’s amazing how his brain works in relation to Line Rider. When we started production on the puzzles, I would play around with them and they were good. Then I’d see a TechDawg video come out and it would be absolutely unreal. It was at that point that we decided “why not have TechDawg create these maps for the players?” I called him and asked if he’d be interested in coming out to Newport Beach for a few weeks. He flew out and we talked Line Rider, game and puzzle design and he got started making maps. When he handed off the first one to me, I looked at it and thought “oh yeah, he gets it.”
Since he has a family in Michigan, he couldn’t stay for too long. We would continuously send him builds for evaluation and track making. I knew he would try wildly creative things that I would never think about so having him on board was a huge benefit to the game. TechDawg is a power user so we wanted to make sure there was enough content and depth to keep him happy while maintaining an easy to use control scheme.
Thinking of the controls drawing with the stylus seems like a natural fit for Line Rider 2: unbound, but I'm not sure about free handing masterpieces with the Wii. How are you dealing with issues like remote accuracy?
The issue of remote accuracy on the Wii was one of our biggest risks on the Wii. Because of this, I wanted to make sure the team tackled it early on in development. I’ve played way too many Wii games where the controls were washy and non-responsive. The goal was to make it feel like pen on paper. I believe we succeeded in making the input feel responsive. This combined with some new tools, like the Bezier curve line and menu navigation UI, help to compliment the players input.
How does the online component work? I heard users can upload levels via Nintendo Wi-Fi, but how will people be able to sort through the database to find quality creations?
From within their Wii and DS, players will be able to upload and download tracks. I can hop on my DS or Wii, create a puzzle or track and upload it to the linerider.com website. When I go online, I can create my own personal page that will link up to my console. From my computer, I can manage the tracks in my personal repository, write messages to my friends and view other tracks or puzzles that others have uploaded. The DS also has wireless capability so we can trade track through this method while in the same room with each other.
We’ve spent quite a bit of time refining the website so that players can share their creations easily. Using the DS as an example, I can choose to upload the track to my personal page or to www.linerider.com. If it goes to the Line Rider website, it will be moderated for inappropriate content by us, and then placed on the website. Players can vote on their favorite tracks that they’ve downloaded and this will push them higher in the list. You can sort by favorites, time or other filters when trying to select a track.
If I design a Line Rider 2: Unbound level on the Wii will I be able to play it on my DS or PC? Is created content cross platform?
The content won’t be cross platform in Line Rider 2.
Is there any connectivity between the DS and Wii releases of Line Rider 2: Unbound?
We decided against this early in development due to the difference in the math systems that the Wii and DS use. Line Rider has such a focus around physics that the minute differences in the fixed point system of the DS and the floating point in the Wii would cause tracks to playback differently.
Will TechDawg or any of the Line Rider 2: Unbound team upload levels for the community?
Absolutely! Even after almost 2 years of development and countless hours of bug testing, we are still having a blast playing Line Rider 2. You will certainly see new content available from TechDawg and the team here at inXile.
We will also automatically send the community tracks through Wi-Fi. In the content sharing section of the game, there is a “favorites” tab. This will be new content provided by us. We have a few slots to fill so it will rotate with intriguing fan created content, new TechDawg puzzles or tracks or those created by our in house team.
Have you thought about releasing Line Rider 2 on any other platforms? I think it could be a good application on the PS3/PSN if you support the PlayStation 3 YouTube API.
We certainly aren’t ruling anything out. Thanks for the interview! That was fun!
Images courtesy of inXile.