As promised in our preview, here’s our interview with Riders Republic Lead Game Designer, Manfred Neber. With upcoming betas promised ahead of the game’s launch on 2 September, you sports enthusiasts out there must be itching to actually hit the dirt and experience it for yourselves. While you’re waiting on that, read on and see if some of your questions have been answered! Interview has been edited for clarity.
DEVELOPING THE GAME
GamerBraves: In your words, what makes Riders Republic different from the Trials series?
Manfred Neber: Even if we are both featuring two-wheeled machines, Riders Republic is totally different by being an open world you can freely explore with 5 unique sports, alone or with your friends. In this open world with its seven unique regions, players will find a lot of open playgrounds or tracks to master during events, competitions, or unique multiplayer game modes like Tricks Battle or the 50+ player mass races.
Trials are great and fun games, so I hope Trials players will love Riders Republic too!
GamerBraves: What have you learnt from developing Steep?
MN: We listened a lot to the community, gathering insights. As devs, we experimented here and there, made mistakes, and found great success with late additions like the rocketwings or the X-Games which helped us shape some of the aspects of Riders Republic. For instance, snowmobiles are in the game as it has been one of the most requested additions. We have witnessed how players interacted with each other and its positive contributions, hence social and multiplayer have been key pillars on which we decided to build Riders Republic. We wanted the game to be more welcoming too, to let anyone jump in, figure out the controls and assist options to play the game the way they see fit.
DEVELOPING THE WORLD
GB: You’ve focused on parks in the United States for launch. Why not opt for a selection from various other countries?
MN: I think there are two parts to this obvious decision. As we were deciding on our sports line-up and introduced the mountain bike, many of the most iconic stories and references are from the US. The national parks are home to some of the most prestigious competitions and incredible videos, as theaters of the most thrilling moments of the sports we featured.
When we approached the design of a new world, we wanted to have something that could feel beautiful, rich, varied and into a single place for all our sports, and didn’t want multiple maps. Few places on Earth could offer the variety of locations in the same geographic area – snowy mountains, rocky terrain, narrow canyons, deep forests etc. The national parks have another thing going for them: the postcards. Lots of people have seen these shots of Half Dome (Yosemite National Park), Angels Landing (Zion National Park), Thor’s Hammer (Bryce Canyon National Park). We had the technology to reproduce these places, so the promise of bringing players excitement made the US National Parks the obvious choice for us.
GB: As I understand it, the world is pretty seamless, and you’ll encounter other players along the way, so, it’ll be always online? No “true, offline” single player?
MN: The game is designed to be online, and it’s definitely where you’ll have the true experience of Riders Republic. There is an offline mode called Zen Mode where you’ll be able to freely explore the map and ride everywhere you want seamlessly, but all activity and progression will be turned off.
GB: How big is / are the map(s)? How connected are they?
MN: We have one single map featuring 7 distinct regions: Zion, Canyonland, Yosemite, Mammoth Mountain, Sequoia Park, Grand Teton. All regions are reproduced from topology and GPS data, so they are true to reality complete with memorable vistas and famous landmarks. Each one offers a unique gameplay experience for our 5 sports.
Of course, we’ve welded them together which isn’t true to reality, but this is done for gameplay purposes, condensing the playgrounds to offer gameplay everywhere.
GB: Can you elaborate more on the exploration? E.g. finding landmarks, heading to starting points for tracks/courses
MN: We really want players to connect with the world, so to us, travelling this beautiful place is a key ingredient of the overall gameplay loop. So yes, you’ll be travelling to reach events, and by doing so, you could be attracted by signs in the surroundings to find hidden surprises in the map. There are plenty of things to discover as you explore – stunts, challenging activities, landmarks as key points of interests, even lost special gear! All of these are incentives for you to leave the road and explore, discovering trails and places where you can have fun just riding.
GB: The fast travel was only mentioned for Riders Ridge; is it available for starting points?
MN: Each event has a fast travel point close to it, and many of the summits too. So, you’ll find many places from where you can start your exploration.
ON PROGRESSION / STORY
GB: What can Riders offer to those who want a certain degree of linearity e.g. a “story mode” of sorts?
MN: We introduced Careers to guide player progression. There are five, one for each of the sports: bike racing, bike freestyle, snow freestyle, snow racing and air sports. In each Career, you’ll travel the map, participate in events to earn EXP and unlock more events to reach big competition, like the Red Bull Joyride. Ultimately, your goal is to reach the final competition of the career, like the X-Games for snow freestyle or Red Bull Rampage for Bike freestyle. Progressing your Career will unlock new gear: bikes, skis, snowboards etc… and also sponsors to sign with to unlock exclusive outfits and gears.
GB: Could you elaborate on the depth of Brett’s involvement?
MN: Brett is one of the founders of the Republic, the old soul that made this community and setting possible. He’s no longer the young man who conquered the most intense lines and challenges you’ll find in the Republic, nor is he the “cool dude” setting trends, but he is the incarnated spirit of the Republic (bad puns included).
When you arrive, he’ll mentor you along your path to the Rider’s Ridge Invitational. While Brett is the OG, Suki is another character who will tag along your journey as a fellow rider. She’s Brett’s friend, akin to the “cool grand sister” of the family, to Brett representing an almost bygone era of outdoor sports, as a pioneer.
ON GAME MECHANICS
GB: How is the trick calling done? e.g. trick names, scoring?
MN: Every rotation you do has different names depending on the axis involved and number of degrees done. Depending on the sport, these names can change. On top of that, players can add tricks like grabs or bike tricks which will be added to the rotation name.
GB: I would feel that the physics would be important in a game like this. Could you explain the work behind it?
MN: We have 3 different versions of physics in the game:
- Riding on surfaces e.g. for bikes
- Floating on / into surfaces e.g. snow sports
- Air sports
All of these work together for navigation, air control, absorption on landing and gear collision. Then, the stats of gear is tweaked in a way that it uses the physical parameters differently to offer real progression in terms of a player’s performance for both racing and tricks to offer a variety of experiences.
GB: It’s an extreme sport game and all, but how accessible is it to newbies who want to try something new? e.g. accessibility options, auto-landing (not scored)
MN: It’s been key for us to make sure everyone can enjoy the game the way they see fit, so we designed many options to let players customize their experience according to their skill or desires. You can select from different pre-defined control scenes or completely customize your controls, different difficulty options and assists for landing tricks to ease you into the game and safely discover the system. The more you turn towards full manual / hard modes, the more scoring and progression bonus you’ll get. It’s up to you to experiment and find the best setting, and you can change it any time.
GB: Due to gear having stats and are upgradable, how is balancing done? Balancing for scoring metrics?
MN: For solo events, players can choose from four difficulties: Standard / Pro / Expert / Elite, which corresponds to the four gear qualities. Of course, your skills make up the difference. For example, when you use expert gear in an expert difficulty event, it’s a good start. If you are struggling to reach high ranks, it means you need to train your skills. On the contrary, if you always finish first, it means you’re too good for that difficulty, and you need to play in Elite for better rewards.
In multiplayer game modes – Tricks Battle, Free-For-All – a division system is used to define your skill bracket. Every session you do increases / decreases your division points to reach a new division level. The matchmaking will be based off your division level to ensure you face opponents at the same level as you.
THE SOCIAL ASPECT
GB: I think there’s a very specific type of fun people get from trick-riding games like Riders, could you talk a bit about where you really hope fans will have the most fun with it?
MN: It’s a tricky question because I think there is a lot of opportunity to have fun in the game! Put it this way: it depends on what kind of player you are. Some love the game because it has their favourite sport they can compete in with their gear, reproducing tricks they know. Others spend hours lost and free riding the map, immersing themselves in this rider’s paradise.
We are excited to see how it will evolve, to see how creative players get when it comes to social interactions. Emotes are already used as a kind of language, and players might find the trickiest place to land during matchmaking to play crazy emotes while people are watching them. You could be waiting for a Mass Race and see a group doing synchronized dance emotes. When you browse photos, there is already a trend of people trying to take pictures with the training bike – which does exist! – in the most ridiculous places possible. With that creativity, I think we will have a lot of fun moments emerging from it!
GB: For a lot of games with a racing element, playing with your friends stops being fun once they get too far from you. How will Riders Republic keep all players engaged in the game?
MN: That’s true, and we will carefully monitor that after launch. We have a really positive dynamic in our approach. For example, you just started, and your friend is an experienced player. By inviting you into the group, you’ll be able to play Versus on any event your friend has already unlocked, so you can play what you don’t have yet. By doing so, you can progress and unlock content for yourself when you play on your own later on. Alternatively, you could explore together and have your friend show any points of interest on the map, and you can teleport to a group member instantly. Playing with friends can fast track your progression in a way.
GB: Could you elaborate on the PVP playlists? i.e. rotation, seasons, private PVP playlists?
MN: At the moment, our goal is to have core playlists that will always be there, like Tricks Battle, Freestyle FFA, Racing FFA. Then, we bring in new experimental playlists for a limited time regularly, then adjust accordingly to community feedback. We already have cool time-limited playlist ideas already for the first months of the game!
Private PVP is VS Mode, where you get into a group with some other players and play VS mode for any event, and I do mean any, across over a hundred races or tricks events to challenge your friends on.
GB: Mass Races are said to happen every hour at different locations. Is there a hard cap of participants? Dropping out midway?
MN: Yes, the hard cap is the same as player count on screen, so 50+ for next-gen platforms and 25 on current gen. Obviously, we don’t recommend you drop out as you’ll lose out on all potential rewards, and Mass Races are quite generous. It’s once an hour, so if you make the count, better stay till the end!
GB: Could you talk about the technicalities of having this title on current gen consoles, having to compensate for less powerful hardware? e.g. 50+ riders only specified for next-gen consoles
MN: We definitely had to compromise, but the core of the game is exactly the same. We made sure the current gen experience was fun even with less players and 30 FPS, with Mass Races reduced to 24 players. Yes, player count contributes to this community feeling, making it chaotic, intense, crazy and a social experience never seen before. Still, how many games display 24 players on screen at any time? It’s already a real, unique living world that you can immerse yourselves in.
GB: What about track creation? How in-depth is it? How is its ease of use?
MN: We have an event creation tool in the game yes, a first step for us that we will build on in the future. Basically, any time you ride in the game, we generate a trail in the system. If this trail fits the constraints for creating the event, it’s available in the editor. There, you can find all the valid trails you recorded during your session, so pick one, choose the finish line, checkpoint positions, event rules, time attack or score attack. Give it a name and poster and then share it to the community.
You can do that with any sports, any gear and even mix sports during your ride for crazy multisport events, so we’re eager to see what creative players can do with it! I won’t say it’s easy to use, but it removes a lot of friction of a “classic” editor, as you start from a ride you already performed. It could be a big opportunity where you perform an amazing ride / actions, and almost instantly turn it into an event for the community. We’ll have a creations browser in-game to find all these community creations for you to try and beat them.
GB: Is there Trick creation?
MN: No, but we will listen to the community and see post launch if it’s something they really want.
GB: Anything you can say about projected content updates? DLC to include either more US parks, or from other nations?
MN: We already announced some Year 1 content, with the future addition of BMX: a brand-new discipline with events, new tricks parks, etc. We’re focused on the launch of the game now, and soon we’ll talk about the post-launch roadmap. Our goal is to stay with US National Parks for the moment.
Once again, much thanks to Manfred Neber for his time for this Riders Republic interview. Hopefully, this will satisfy you until you manage to play the game for yourself, so good luck out there in the wild!