I was lucky enough to meet Martin Edmonson a few weeks ago at an Ubisoft event down in Santa Monica. As I recently mentioned, I was a huge fan of the original Driver PC game, going so far as to physically ruin my first copy of it from overuse (and possibly a bit of neglect), so meeting the man behind the game was an absolute treat. I ran into him again (a few times, actually) at E3, near the Driver: San Francisco booth, and took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about the upcoming Driver game.
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MR: This is Chris, with Marooners’ Rock. I have Martin Edmonson here from Reflection Studios and Driver: San Francisco. Can you tell me a little bit about Driver: San Francisco and how it continues the story of Tanner?
Martin: Well what we’ve done, really, for the character of Tanner is continue the story from the end of Driver 3. Well, several months after the end of Driver 3. At the end of that game, Jericho shot Tanner, and actually this is six months after that. Jericho’s been tried and sentenced for that crime. Tanner, basically, knowing Jericho very well like he does, knows something’s going to happen. He doesn’t trust Jericho, he thinks that something is going to happen, and he ends up being ultimately right.
MR: Now, I know that Driver: San Francisco still keeps a lot of the great gameplay elements, as far as the physics, that the previous Driver games had. Is that something that was really important to you guys, coming into it, to keep that same feel that you had achieved with the previous games?
Martin: It was actually one of the key things, really, because the whole thing is that the original Driver game, one of the things that made that so unique was that feeling of the cars, the heavy rear, you know, too much power for the chassis 70’s muscle car, big slides, spinning wheels, smoking rubber, that kind of thing. So we worked very hard with our own proprietary physics engine and tuned it to really try to capture that. I think what we were really after was that players could pick up the pad…if they were fans of the original Driver, they could pick up the pad and say, “Driver’s back.”
MR: Very cool. Now, there’s a new gameplay mechanic in this, because of part of the storyline, that allows you to kind of jump out of one car and jump into another car. What spawned that idea? Where did that come from and what are you hoping the players will be able to do with it?
Martin: Well, the idea came from a simple…well, a simple idea really…which was Google Earth Live. This is the idea of that, but the whole thing is live. All the cars are still driving around, all the people are still walking around, and Tanner can…well, the player can just grab any one of those cars instantaneously…and it’s a seamless thing, and you can rapid fire shift between multiple cars. You can even shift from one side of the city to the other side of the city instantaneously. At the simplest level, it can be used for acquiring missions…it can be used for just shifting into a cool car that you find. But if you want to get more into tactics, there’s all sorts of things you can try doing. You can try shifting into a vehicle to try to take out an enemy, or the opposition. It’s not that easy, so it’s not a cheat, but it’s something that you can try playing with. It’s a really interesting mechanic when you try to apply it to the multiplayer in Driver, because we’ve put a lot of effort into MP Driver. We have 19 modes, and what it does is it allowed us to design gameplay mechanics and gameplay types in a way that we’ve never been able to do in a driving game before. So there are things like base defense games, and capture the flag… Things that you just wouldn’t associate with a driving game become possible because of shift.
MR: I noticed that there were quite a few multiplayer modes, and those 19 modes, that’s split between local and online…some are local, some are online?
Martin: Yeah, exactly. One of the things that we did with the extra time spent on the game was to develop a two player splitscreen experience, and that has certain co-operative modes and competitive modes in there. Then there’s the online, which supports more players, up to 8 players depending on the game type. They, again, are team based co-operative types of games…team 1 vs team 2…and there are also competitive games as well.
MR: I won’t take too much more of your time. Is there anything that you personally want to get out to the players about Driver: San Francisco that you’re really looking forward to on their behalf, or that you want them to get out of the game?
Martin: I think you could probably just summarize it by saying, literally, Driver is back. It’s been a long time coming, it’s been a long time since the last Driver. It refocuses the action on the cars, on the feeling of the cars… Anybody who was a fan of the original Driver can pick up the pad and, I know, I’ve seen it so many times, just love the handling of the cars, because it feels like that original heavy feel that I spoke of before. Plus the fact that we have over 130 licensed cars, the first time that we’ve done that in a Driver game, gives it that authenticity of playing with cars that you’ve seen in the movies. That whole movie inspiration has been pushed really to the max. We have thirteen movie challenges in there. These are challenges based on some of the most famous car chases ever in Hollywood. This, I think, is something that really refocuses the game on that Hollywood car chase experience.
MR: Thank you very much for your time, I really appreciate it. I’m really looking forward to the game.
I’d like to thank Martin Edmonson for Driver. It consumed hours of my time, and with Driver: San Francisco, I can foresee even more hours of my life spent slipping away in front of my 360.