Early last week I got the chance to sit down with Lee Rowland, the senior level designer for Trials Evolution from RedLynx and ask him a few questions about the game and the community surrounding it.
GameGrin: How did you come to work at RedLynx?
Lee Rowland: I was very lucky really. I used to create custom tracks for Trials HD and one of the developers from RedLynx found my tracks and asked me to come on board to help with the Big Thrills DLC pack for Trials HD. From there, it's history.
GG: Some of our readers may not know what Trials is; could you summarise the game in 10 words or less?
Lee: I've had this question before but never in 10 words. Let me think. Physics based motorcycle riding game. No, actually, scratch that - Infuriating physics based motorcycle riding game.
GG: What do you think attracts people to Trials Evolution?
Lee: I think the main point would be the quick restarts. These allow the player to continuously try an obstacle with little delay meaning that they are just constantly playing the game rather than waiting on loading screens. Another thing would be the feel of the game. It's not that difficult of a concept when you drill down to it, it's just getting the hang of the physics involved. Then there's our whacky sense of humour, people seem to like our little in-jokes we include in some of the tracks. Lastly would probably be the variety of tracks we include and giving players the ability to create their own.
GG: What inspires you to create some of the most bastardised tracks for end-game content?
Lee: The thing you have to understand is that the RedLynx generators are powered by anger so we encourage frustrating tracks! Joking aside though, we don't go out of way to annoy you, but we're not going to make it easy for you either. The game helps you to slowly learn as you go so when you get to the more difficult stages, you've got at least some grasp on how to play the game. We try and make it so you think "just one more time and then I'll be able to do it" and because of this people spend hours "just one more time"ing it.
GG: On average, how long does it take to perfect a track and when do you know that track is complete?
Lee: To a level designer, especially me, a track is never finished. There are always small tweaks that you can make to make certain bits more difficult or have something slightly more entertaining to look at but in reality, we have deadlines to make. We have to complete the track before it can be tested and then sometimes we have to make amendments so each track tends to take about one or two weeks. It's always sooner than I'd like it to be but it's all about balance.
GG: How do you find the right balance between 'hard enough' and 'too difficult' but keep it enjoyable?
Lee: We like to essentially dangle a carrot in-front of your nose coaxing you forward. We put checkpoints strategically throughout the track, sometimes within view of the previous checkpoint, meaning that the player will want to complete that little bit more. They know that if they can get up this little ledge, they'll be at the next checkpoint and onto the next obstacle. Along with this, we make the tracks consistent. You can't start with a long flat plane of grass and then all of a sudden go into huge jumps and tricky climbs. If it's an easy track, it's easy all the way through and if it's a difficult track, it's difficult all the way through.
GG: Do you have to gold [medal] every track that you create?
Lee: Luckily we don't; that's what we pay testers for. The testers have to be able to no fault the track - among other things such as bug and glitch finding - for it to be acceptable but we have some of the worlds best Trials players on our testing team. The track creators only have to be able to complete the individual obstacles.
GG: Have there been any maps that you can't complete? If so, are they user or developer created?
Lee: Tons. I can complete every one of the developer created tracks (maybe not no fault, but I can complete them) but some of the user created ones are nuts.
GG: Did you ever envision the things people would make with the in-game editor?
Lee: Not at all. We made some skill games in-house when we were developing the game but the users have gone far past our expectations; however, you have to take into consideration that they have no deadlines to stick to and no copyright to take into account. There are loads of different maps such as Pacman and Donkey Kong but we could never make anything like this because of copyright issues. The Limbo inspired map we have in Trials Evolution didn't start off as a Limbo map. It was originally dark blue but somebody pointed out in the office that it looked alot like Limbo so we got in touch with the developers and asked for their blessing to use it's likeness. Without their blessing, we wouldn't have been able to make it look as it does.
GG: On the subject of the editor, have there been any levels that you've thought "damn, why didn't I think of that?"
Lee: Definitely. Some of the styles of track I've seen have been insane but I try to stay away from track central a lot of the time because if I create a track, I want to know it's of my own creation and it's very difficult to not see a user created track and think "that's a good idea, I could use that".
We have written a preview of Trials Evolution: Gold Edition from the same event which you can read here.