Reincarnation is supported by an in-house graphics engine, codenamed Beelzebub. What made you decide to construct your own tech for the game rather than license a third-party engine?
Neil: At the beginning of the design process, we had detailed discussions about what tech to use. My personal preference was to continue developing Beelzebub, which has been in constant development at Stainless for most of the company’s life (under various guises). However, we also evaluated middleware options, and came to the conclusion that it would probably be as time consuming using middleware, as updating and re-writing our own tech. In hindsight I think we were grossly over-optimistic in this assumption, but I still think the decision to keep the tech in-house was best, and will reap benefits in the future once the task reaches the required level of completion.
How does modern graphics tech affect your approach to open environment design? Are there things you can do now that you weren't able to do previously?
Neil: It’s all about hardware horsepower, of course. I wouldn’t say we’re able to make a level bigger than ever, however (for one thing, we’re still constrained by budget and manpower, and so we can’t over stretch technically or in terms of scope) – but then I don’t think we really need bigger levels in order to have fun. What we are able to do is make vehicles and levels far more rich and detailed than we ever could before.
One of Carmageddon's most remarkable features was its use of physics and the vehicular damage model. How are you integrating these for Reincarnation?
Neil: This was the key tech innovation in the original games, and so we feel duty-bound to push it to a whole new level in the new one! Patrick has been pretty much dedicated to the vehicle damage coding for the duration of the project, and it’s looking awesome as a result. The physics have been polished right up by Dr. Kev Martin, the physics PhD who wrote the original and has been with the company throughout our 20 year history.
Fifteen years on, will players still identify with Carmageddon's brand of humour?
Neil: I can’t see why they wouldn’t! Surreal and silly humour never gets old, surely? We designed the game so that the humour would make the violence and gore something that you laugh at, rather than trying to shock or repulse players, and from the reactions to the game so far it seems that gamers are enjoying it in the spirit it’s intended.
Carmageddon's driver AI was another major component, with different moods and behaviours. Will this be making a return and, if so, will you be making any changes or enhancements?
The AI is better than it was in the original game. We actually significantly improved it for the mobile version of Carmageddon, and it’s continually being tweaked and improved, mainly by Si Lacey, our lead programmer – another Carmageddon programming veteran.
What new "creative" ways of dealing with rival racers can players expect to see in the game?
Neil: There are a whole load of new PowerUps for players to use against rival drivers in Carma:R: As well as old favourites like the Repulsificator, Slaughter Mortar and Mine Shitting Ability, there are new P-Ups such as Opponent Tosser, Opponent Ejaculator, and Bodywork Vac… All of which will do varying amounts of damage to your enemies. Opponents will have a limited ability to repair, so that if you damage them and then move on leaving them in a crippled state, they’ll repair their systems damage (lost wheels, trashed transmission or engine, etc.) so they can come after you!
Reincarnation is also on Steam Early Access, allowing players to get in on the development process. Since Carmageddon has a pretty well established framework, what exactly does Early Access bring to the development process?
Neil: Early Access gives us access to a huge amount of feedback, whether it’s bug reports, feedback on game features, or suggestions for what the fans want included in the game. For instance, there was a very vocal collective calling for us to reinstate the “wheelspin” control recently, which we’d actually dropped from the design because it seemed that it would be difficult to implement for players using a controller. However, following a discussion on the forums where a solution was suggested, we realised that yes, it would work – and so the feature got reinstated. This is a small example, but it shows that even when the game is pretty well defined, there are always details – features or content – that can be influenced by public feedback.
What's been the most difficult aspect of developing the game so far?
Neil: We want to do more than the budget and schedule will allow! But probably the core aspect that’s been most difficult has been the re-write of the entire Beelzebub engine tech, pretty much from the ground up – in particular the renderer, which really has been re-written from scratch. This took far, far longer than we wanted, and so it’s still being finished and optimised now while the game is in Early Access. We would really not have wanted this to be the case, but that’s how it’s turned out. The knock-on effect of the amount of support we therefore need to give, and the increased pressure on the core tech team, has been a real challenge.
What your time-scale now? How long until the game is "done" and what's left to be added?
Neil: We’re saying, “early Autumn”. We have a very aggressive schedule for the whole team which means that everyone is working like crazy towards the deadline. That means there’s a LOT of additional assets to go into the game before the end date.