Blur: Out of reverse

Blur: Out of reverse

By Rob Crossley

March 2nd 2010 at 4:01PM

What a difference a delay makes: We speak to Bizarreâ??s Jed Talbot

When Develop first got its hands on Blur back in June last year, we noted that while there were a few doubts over the game’s appeal, the Bizarre Creations team have the pedigree to overturn our pessimism. It looks like Activision felt the same way.

Towards the end of 2009 Bizarre’s Liverpool-based team, rather begrudgingly, handed Activision a master copy of its battle-focused racing title. Though it may have been ready for retail, the consensus was that Blur was far from finished.

Activision’s next move was one of uncommon forethought. Instead of shipping the title at Christmas, Bobby Kotick’s publishing empire handed Blur an eight-month production extension. The payoff is already evident; Blur is now a bold, exciting and highly-polished racing title, and Activision is now backing it big.

Develop sits down with lead designer Jed Talbot to discuss the impact of the delay, and where the project stands today.

How far into development was Blur before it got delayed?
We were about twenty months into the project before Activision gave us an eight month extension. That’s never happened to us before! Maybe it’s the first time we’ve ever needed it. For us, it was a great move from Activision and the perfect move for the game.

We’re thankful that Activision had the foresight to see the game’s potential. It could have gone another way for us, really.

What have you used the eight months for?
We’ve taken a long hard look at the graphical side of the game, as well as the environments. There’s a lot about the environments that we wanted to tweak here and there. We wanted to make the game look nicer, look brighter, look more fun to be in. We’ve also tightened up the physics, and the car handling.

We’ve also looked at the road layouts. There were a lot of areas where we’ve had tight sections of road, which when we looked back at them thought: “hang on, this is a twenty-car race. This is a battling game. Do we really need that bollard in the middle of the road? Do we really want players to spend this much time crashing rather than racing?”

So it allowed us to streamline the courses, make them look more beautiful, give the races more guidelines; essentially things that we just didn’t have the time to finish up.

That almost sounds like you were in post-production.
Yeah. Yeah, that’s exactly what it was.

SCEE’s audio director Dan Bardino recently told us that, for the good of the final product, projects should go through a phase of post-production.
I would completely agree with that. And that feels like what Blur’s had. We basically put the game on the editing floor, and some bits have changed.

What would have happened to Blur if it was released at Christmas?
Well, it’s definitely more fun now than it was six months ago. It had a very good visual identity, we’ve essentially been honing it. So, all I can say is that the game will do much better now than it would have done before. It is essentially the same game, but now we have the time to release a multiplayer Beta, to give people a chance to see what the game really is like.

Overall, the experience of releasing Blur is going to be much more positive than it would have been. We as a company are feeling much more proud of the product, and we’re feeling much more proud of ourselves.

What was your lead platform for the project?
Xbox 360.

Usually, the differences between the PS3 and 360 – particularly in terms of RAM allocation – lead to problems when porting between both. How are you addressing that?
I’m probably not the best person to discuss this stuff at length, I’m more of a designer. So, honestly, I’ll find it hard to answer these technical questions.

What I could say, is that the PS3 port is coming on quite well.  I personally don’t play it that much because we’re on the thin edge of development trying to look at other things like how balanced the gameplay is.  But we’ve got all the technical guys creaming over the PS3, and they’re saying that both versions work as well as each other.

I imagine it’s a priority that both versions are comparable?
Yes, absolutely.

Unlike many other racing titles, it looks like Blur is not going to invest in a licensed soundtrack. Was this a question of budget?
There’s a couple of reasons why we didn’t throw in a string of popular music tracks. Firstly, pretty much every racing game does that. Why does every racing game need these pop bands to promote them?  That seems to be the way people think nowadays.

What we want is good music. Do we really think that Avril Lavigne is going to sell a copy of the game? What we really think is that music that fits the game, fits he visuals, is much more important than having some big-name star help us sell one more copy of the game.

Other companies can do what they want, and EA have got a great reputation for signing these big bands, and I think it works for their sports-type games. But for us, we knew that we needed music that would fit with the game, rather than sell it.