Driveclub on PS4: perfecting car creation & why only Driveclub 2 will be prettier – Evolution explain all
It starts, explains Perkins, with getting specifics from the car manufacturers. “They supply us with pretty much the data they use to build the cars physically. We write that out to one to two-millimetre definitions. Then we build an image around it, slowly building it up and keeping the fidelity nice and crisp.” Most racing game studios will take real-life data and use it to build virtual cars, but Driveclub goes to beyond-fastidious lengths in the name of authenticity. That means drawing the vertices of every polygon of every car – inside and out – by hand. GT6 might be big on tessellation, which draws a more complicated mesh of polygons between basic shapes, but for Evolution that doesn’t offer the required level of control. Show-offs.
If shaping the cars is all about being slaves to detail, creating each location gives the team a chance to stretch itself creatively. Rather than real-world tracks, Driveclub offers fantasy ones that twist and turn around recognisable real-world locations. The team even travelled to a particular location just to photograph an indigenous plant and then put it in the game.
Judging by the unfathomable draw distances, it’s also a chance to use that MotorStorm expertise to make you feel part of a larger world – and no, we’re not talking hashtags and friend requests.Although since you’ll be playing Driveclub with a great big Share button between your thumbs, each location’s a potential ambassador for the game as it hits YouTube: “Certainly my pet hate is having a lush vehicle and PS2-quality graphics behind it,” says Perkins. “I want people to be looking over after people press the Share button, walk past YouTube and say, ‘That’s real life.’”
“PS4 packs a huge amount of graphical grunt. You’ll not see vistas like this on this generation again – actually, maybe in Driveclub 2″
Driveclub is able to indulge such detail for two reasons: one, it’s the first racer on PS4 and a blueprint for the genre as it moves into the next generation, and two, it’s the game Evolution has wanted to make for almost a decade – as far back as anyone we speak to can remember. If you’re going to wait that long, be sure you’re going to do it right, says Rodgers. “Sometimes these ideas are ahead of their time, and it wasn’t until the stars aligned with the ecosystem of games moving on and the launch of hardware that was powerful enough to support it, that we found ourselves in a position to create Driveclub.” PS4, he tells us, “packs a huge amount of graphical grunt. You’ll not see vistas like this on this generation again – actually, maybe in Driveclub 2.”
Like Guerrilla Games, Evolution’s been involved in developing the DualShock 4, too. Rustchynsky says that the new curved shoulder buttons with increased travel were a big priority for the Cheshire studio, along with taller, stiffer analog sticks. Then he throws quite the curveball: “One other thing we’ve been looking at is the Sixaxis gyro control. Obviously there was Sixaxis on PS3, but this is significantly more accurate. We’ve been looking at this as a 1:1 steering method… it genuinely does make the driving more involved.” Well, they all laughed at Christopher Columbus when he remapped ‘accelerate’ from X to R2 at PS3’s advent.
One of the trickiest things to nail in physics terms, Rustchynsky continues, is getting the car to drive comfortably in a straight line one minute, then giving you enough max lock to get round a hairpin the next. “We’ve engineered a number of systems that intelligently predict what a player wants to do at a point in time. It sounds like it’s not something that would work, but it’s so intuitive; so slick. I can be driving down a straight at 200mph, but then I’ve got a harsh 90º turn right at the end. When I put that steering lock in, I can turn in and feel like I’m in full control of the car.”
These details, like the correct bolts in every footwell, and the correct indigenous plant life in every location, matter in Driveclub. They matter because Evolution isn’t just building a driving game – it’s defining the characteristics of the entire genre for a console generation. “What we really want is for people to say, ‘They’ve done that way better than us’ and then adopt [our techniques],” Perkins tells us. “But we won’t tell them exactly how it’s done. They’ll have to work out the hard bits for themselves.”
Don’t let the cynics fool you – this isn’t a knee-jerk, ‘are we still relevant?’ lunge at next-gen. It’s nine years of passion, strained eyes, proprietary software, obsessive tinkering, and recruiting the best. A whirlwind is brewing on PS4’s horizon – and it’s going to become much bigger than a MotorStorm.