Often, people love a story of the prodigy studio. The plucky young underdog, who made their first game and had it blow everyone else out of the water. Destruction Allstars, the newest game out for free right now on PlayStation Plus, that’s not the case. The game is the pinnacle of the developers own history- Game Director Colin Berry has a huge history with Formula 1 and Wipeout, with and John McLaughlin’s studio Xdev has the highly specific experience of making PlayStation launch titles.
We got to speak with Colin Berry himself, along with John McLaughlin, Senior Producer at XDev, co-developers of the game. They had a lot to say about the long road to making such a bold gambit of a game.
Of course, one of the burning questions behind a game is always “how did it start?”. According to John, it came from recognizing the future developers’ strengths.
“Xdev have a history in Playstation launch windows in PS3 with Motorstorm and 4 with Resogun and so on and so forth so we were brainstorming lots of ideas on different games and one of them was like- we though about the old Destruction Derby and we thought how awesome could we make damage on PS5? and it basically went from there”, he says.
“And basically we went to Lucid who we knew had a great heritage of racing games because we’ve got former Bizarre Creations guys, we’ve got former Studio Liverpool guys who worked on Wipeout and the F1 games, and former Evolution guys as well, so we knew they had a great heritage with vehicle-based games”, he continues.
“And then we worked with them on basically a presentation and from there, things of old, so we started this discussion with ‘what if you could get out of cars? What would that be like?’. So, we knew straight away we wanted this to be really fast paced, lots of destruction, and basically so we wanted people to be able to acquire vehicle, wreck people, get wrecked themselves, and once they’re wrecked they’re out on foot and then its about evading opponents while you’re out on foot and then acquiring another vehicle, whether that’s a new vehicle or taking someone else’s ride so, it basically grew from there”.
David vs A Sports Car
One of the big things around Destruction Allstars is defining what the game is- sure, it’s got cars, but it’s not a racing game. Just as much of the game takes place outside of its various vehicles, where you run around as the titular Allstars trying not to get run over. According to Colin, balancing this was one of the game’s big challenges
” Its difficult, you’re juggling one plate here and one plate there”, Colin says. “When you’re in a vehicle, you’re safer than when you’re on foot, when you’re on foot, you’re vulnerable, you have the natural, greater agility on foot than when you’re in your vehicles. So you can jump, you can’t when you’re on a car u can dodge, u can evade , u get 360 movement on the spin of a dime because you’re on foot”
Colin explains that they didn’t get this man-vs-car combat right on the first go, but in the current state of the game just being thrown out of your car didn’t mean you were helpless
“We have characters that were very vulnerable, and then that made u to go ‘well, what can we do with the characters? how can they combat the vehicles?’ . So that went in very early on. ‘What if you dodge and you can jump on a roof of a vehicles?’ “, he says.
The mechanic he’s explaining is the riskiest way you can get a new car in Destruction Allstars. By jumping on the top of cars, you can do a minigame to get control of the car. From here, you can choose to either take the car for yourself or perform a Wreckover- destroying the car.
Normally, these kinds of developments would come from a lot of player feedback via things like public beta testing. However, as a launch title for the PS5, Colin and John explained they didn’t really have that luxury.
“Making multiplayer is always a challenge, because you need more people to test every feature and to test everything. Making multiplayer games is difficult, it’s a challenge. Makin’ a multiplayer game for a launch window for a new console is difficult, because you don’t get the chance to do closed beta or an open beta like you could if you were coming out on a console that’s already out there so that’s a challenge, and it’s an interesting one but it’s obviously one we could identify very early on and work around”, Colin says.
“When we first started prototyping really early on, we knew we had something special with people playing entirely white box multiplayer but like, the laughter we were getting from the team, we just knew we had something special and it’d kinda grown from there really”, John added.
Building A Game For The PS5
That’s not to say they went in blind, though. Lucid Games and XDev are made of people with no shortage of experience working on launch titles, such as Colin who worked on Wipeout in the past. Instead, it was more of making sure they could make use of all the technology available to them by virtue of being a PS5 exclusive that was more of a challenge.
“When we chose the team, in terms of Lucid They’ve also got a lot of experience. Collin’s got experience, he’s worked on launch titles before, on Wipeout. At Bizarre Creations those guys worked on launch titles as well, even as far back as I think Dreamcast and Xbox and things like that. So there’s a lot of experience on the team, there’s a lot of learning as well. But also there’s a lot of new challenges because in this industry, you’ve never learned everything. There’s always something new. New consoles, new challenges”, John says.
“For example, Dualsense and Haptics, This was something so new for us. So it’s kind of like what can we apply from past learnings? Not much, we’ve had rumble. Haptics has given us something new”.
According to John, the studios’ combined experience allowed them to iterate on a lot of their past experiences. Destruction Allstars may not be part of a franchise, but hearing John describe the experiences of all the developers on the game certainly makes it sound like the spiritual successor to their legacies in vehicle-based chaos.
“I think you’ll find with every kind of Game Development and new console, while there’s things you can learn from, there’s experience you can say it contends with. Like the arcade handling from Motorstorm, to kind of like design from Wipeout while its not been direct copy, you can find influences there”, John says.
“But then there’s new challenges as well and the new challenges with the Dualsense, but then we’ve got things that make things better so like the SSD- all of a sudden, we don’t have to worry about loading times and what do we need to do for this loading screen. We don’t have any loading screens! But then at the same time, we’ve got the spectacle of the game, and we don’t wanna just put a player, boom! straight in within a second”, he continues. “Because we want people to get the spectacle of the characters coming in to the arena and all that kinda things. So we kinda have a sports entertainment TV panned with splashes and swipes and things like that. So different aspects and different challenges- while there’s some things we can kinda go back to, you’ve always gotta move forward cus of learnings that we’ve made on Motorstorm, totally different from making this game on PlayStation 5”.
Making A Cast Feel Global Requires Global Efforts
Aside from the vehicular chaos, one of the things a lot of people are going to rememebr Destruction Allstars for is its very unique visual style. At launch, the game comes with a roster of 16 “Allstars”, playable characters that come with their own skills, as well as powerful Hero Vehicles that suit their playstyles.
Surprisingly, the game has a very diverse roster- there’s a host of non-white, non-male options to play as, such as the Nigerian Bluefang or the non-binary Jian. Even Southeast Asia gets some love in Ratu, the Indonesian Allstar. According to Collin, they had a rigorous design process to get here.
“In terms of the character themselves, I’m very proud of them, the team’s very proud of them, I think XDev are very proud of them as well. Early days we started out with some very loose ideas for what we wanted for a character. And this was like on paper. This was the kind of music this character would listen to, here’s a codename for the character. We didn’t say whether male or female, we didn’t say how old. We just gave people a loose bio and what our character wanted was to get influences and to get- each character had to have a real sense of authenticity. and that was key to us. And the best way to do that was to go and get artists from around the world to work on the character with us. And these weren’t necessarily game artists, and that was key as well”, Colin says.
“We wanted new upcoming talent. And our art director Chris is like, he’s got his finger on the pulse of everything new. He’s like mr New Guy- He’s got new clothes, new shoes, he’s the guy who knows what’s going on around the world more than anyone in the office. And he’s like, patrolling instagram, patrolling the internet, going “oh there’s a comic book artist that I really like in Detroit. Let’s see if she wants to work on our game”. and so he’s trying to get in touch with that. And so we ended up with comic book artists and graphic novellists, helping define our characters from south Africa, India, Indonesia, Sau Paulo, Detroit, Tokyo, and probably missing a couple places. I think it was about 10 artists from around the world, who were helping to form the very early concepts of the characters.”
“Some artists would go ‘hey I really like this character bio, I’ve done three sketches. Here’s this character old, here’s this character young, here’s this character female’ and I’m like, ‘ok, cool!’ and we’d get them and we’d start picking which ones we like, which styles we like, and then narrowing it down to a group of characters and going, ‘hey, we really like your style, and you’ve done these four characters that we really like, can you take these 6 characters that we’ve had from other people and put your spin on those? ‘ “.
“So we got a real sense of authenticity from the people building the characters and they weren’t necessarily just people who would work in games, and that was important to us, to get people and voices from everywhere around the world. Because everyone around the world’s got different influences, they’re thinking about different things all the time so we’re getting a real, a massive mixing pot of ideas that we’ve distilled out, and ended up with an incredibly diverse roster in terms of visual looks.
“They all look like they belong in the same world, the same game, but there’s characters that they straight away latch on to like ‘yeah I like that character’ “.My daughter is like, 7 or 8 years old, she’s 8 yesterday, actually. She loves Twinkle Riot, she’s her favorite character and she’s like *excited noises* and she loves BoxTop as well. They’re her favorite characters”.
“I love Shyft and Fuego, Fuego’s got that 80s heavy metal kinda vibe to him so hes one of my favorites. I think theres a character there for everyone, or more than one character for everyone as well.So that’s cool. That’s kinda the process, it was a long process, but it was good and it’s proved incredibly worthwhile”.
The Plan Moving Forward
From the get-go, Destruction Allstars is a Live Service. Naturally, this means that the team can’t really rest on their laurels after the game ships, since they also need to plan for content to keep people coming. Colin explained that rather than holding off content for future releases, he sees the update-based model as an opportunity to go back and revisit things that might not have worked before.
“Because we’re a live service like John was saying earlier, it means “yeah you know what? maybe we didnt have time to do this particular character ability” cus we got 16 characters but when we brainstormed all the character abilities we came up with you know more than 20 obviously, we distill it down, we pick 16 to do.”, Colin says. “And there’s a couple that were their Character Abilities, that weren’t suitable for the characters we had at the time or from a technical standpoint you know that ones gonna be a bit trickier to do, its gonna take a little longer, its gonna be a bit riskier to do them all, so lets hold that one back until we get the right character and the right circumstances.
Colin described that it wasn’t just the characters that he could revisit, but many other parts of the game could now be re-explored since the game had a more solid base.
“But we’re in the process as we look at the coming months, the coming years, of going “do you know what? lets go revisit- now that the game is defined and the rules are defined, lets go revisit that game mode that we liked 18 months ago but wasnt quite sitting right and had to fall by the wayside”, he explains. “But maybe now in a stable environment, with everything working as is lets go back and revisit that game mode. Lets go back and revisit different team size. So those kinda things really, theres no huge, big feature that we went oh no we can’t do that. And we didnt get to do it. And anything that we haven’t done that’s on the tip of our tongue, that we want to do, we’re able to do now through having it as a Live Service which is great”.
“Yeah just iterating what Colin said, having that final game that stable game, now where everything’s kinda balanced for launch gives us that platform to go back and look at the old stuff”, John adds. “But also come up with new ideas as well. That you may not have thought about two years ago because everything is still kinda in two different stages. But having that stable balanced game now is gonna allow some pretty awesome things and we’ve got so many awesome things in the pipeline”.
Above All Else, Have Fun
With the game finally out, both John and Colin are hoping the decision to put the game out for free works out. It’s not entirely free-to-play- the game will be a fully priced title after its 2 month stint on PlayStation plus ends. So they both hope people will take advantage of the chance to grab the game for free now .
“Being in PlayStation Plus is amazing, its mean so many more players can access the game from day 1. I think that’s really important for multiplayer perspective, and so people can find matches really quickly and have fun in the game, people gonna find their favorite character they favorite mode, and we’re really excited right now to see what people are going to do, and we’re gonna be looking at analytics, we’re gonna be discussing the game with the fans of the game, on social and stuff like that”, John says.
“We really wanna engage with the community, we want to go on a journey with the community, and we wanna them to feel part of it we want them to feel like a part of the growth of the game post launch as well, and enjoyed the game that we’re launching as well”, he continues.
Colin shared a lot of the same sentiments as John, really hoping people enjoy the game they worked so hard on.
We just hope people grab the game next week in PlayStation Plus and I think people will realize very early on, how fun it is and how this crazy moments can knock them out”, Colin says.
“As you explore the characters you find there’s a depth in there and strategies and there’s things to learn”, he adds. “But theres nothing quite like smashing into on opponent right at the end of the match, you know you get the points that you need just to steal the lead at the end its really satisfiying or being one of the last two characters of around and grateful and just manage in they wrack you they wrack your out the car but you did a flying kick and you knock them off the edge and you win”.
“Theres so many moments in this game that statisfy, and even being wrecked and damaged yourself can be satisfying, you be like “arghh, I got wrecked!” but you look at it its look beautiful and spectacular colorful, so then theres so many moments that just look great and play like nothing else”.
Destruction Allstars is available now for free on PS5, via PlayStation Plus. The game will be available for free until April, after which you’ll be able to buy the game.