Legacy Interview

Tuesday, January 8, 2002.
Circus Maximus: Chariot Wars Box artCircus Maximus: Chariot Wars

XboxAddict.com interviews Tony Simerman, Producer at Encore Software about their upcoming title called Circus Maximus: Chariot Wars.

Q: First off, could you please explain a little bit about Circus Maximus?

A: Circus Maximus: Chariot Wars combines the thrill of combat with the adrenaline rush of racing. This takes place in huge environments throughout the Roman Empire, from the frozen wastelands of Germania to the Coliseum in the heart of ancient Rome. Competitors race to the finish line, and use skill and strategy to avoid obstacles, outwit competing teams and battle against other chariots. Players must keep balanced on a chariot that is careening down narrow uneven roads, tracks and bridges. Adding to the excitement is the players’ ability to control two characters: the driver and the warrior. The driver maneuvers the chariots and guides the stallions as they charge through the twisting terrain, while the warrior fights with a signature weapon and shield. Competitors can play as many as 20 different characters while taking on different opponent teams.

Q: How did you come up with the idea of a combatant chariot racing game?

A: The spark for this game was being told that a game like this was not possible. Early in the pre-production process, we were told that animation of horses and a racer/fighter play balance couldn’t be done convincingly. Of course, this motivated us to prove them wrong!

Q: How does this differ from a traditional racing game?

A: Combat is used as and “end to a means” to win races. Opponents that are killed during the race re-spawn to ensure that there is fighting from start to finish. The “Death Match” is also very cool. This changes the goal from winning a race to killing. The first to five wins the day.

Q: What research was done on the ancient Roman Empire for this game?

A: Our art director has a degree in ancient history, so he ensured that the game is as historically and architecturally accurate as possible. Two examples of where this comes into play: - Research indicates that the Coliseum contained painted frescoes. In the game, we included those frescoes, which adds color and excitement to that track. - The lighthouse in Alexandria was a marvel of its time. It is included in the Alexandria track, and recreated based on available images and drawings. It was originally drawn to scale, but our testing proved that it was too big (players only saw the base). As a result, we proportionately scaled it down so that gamers could see the entire structure as they raced on that track.

Q: How many different modes of play are there?

A: Circus Maximus: Chariot Wars offers four different modes of play, including: - An arcade race mode where players can set up races with all of the unlocked teams and tracks. This includes races and death matches. - The multiplayer mode, where up to four people can play. Players can play full-screen on the same team as a warrior driver combo against the AI. Two to four players can also split the screen and go head to head. - An advanced level. This requires a high degree of skill to master all of the techniques. - The “Academy” mode, which provides training challenges to instruct the player in the finer points of chariot racing and combat.

Q: How do you take elements from racing and fighting genres and finish up with Circus Maximus?

A: The real trick is to balance the two elements, and Circus Maximus’ game modes and tracks were designed to achieve this balance. The races on the larger, wide-open tracks – such as those in Alexandria and Germania – put emphasis on driving, with the combat elements as a tool. Races in the oval Circuses – such as the Circus of Nero and Circus Maximus -- put more emphasis on the player’s combative skills.

Q: How do the driver and the warrior work together in order to complete their goal?

A: In the single player mode, control of both characters is available simultaneously – and this results in a frantic, adrenaline-rush race/combat experience. The warrior picks fights via a taunt command and attacks with a variety of moves. The driver uses bump and grind tactics to crash other racers into objects as well as negotiate shortcuts. Triggers are used by advanced drivers to simulate the reins of the horses. At the higher skill levels, the controller is used to lean the chariot around corners and make tight turns. In the multi-player mode, the control is split between warrior and driver. The team must communicate for things like getting into fighting position, leaning for tight turns and ducking under objects that block shortcuts.

Q: How does Circus Maximus capture the image of chariot racing from ancient Rome?

A: It’s really a cumulative effect. The models are well researched and portray all of the archetypes of the ancient world. The motion study of the horses makes the animation of the teams very realistic. Combine this with the awesome sounds of screams, thundering hooves and an interactive movie soundtrack, and the experience is unbelievable.

Q: How hard was it to recreate this image?

A: Circus Maximus: Chariot Wars was the most complex project that the team members have ever worked on. When all of the horses and chariots are on screen, 1,200 bones are being uniquely articulated. The tracks are huge, with completely varied terrain. The lap time on most is between 3 to 4 minutes. This game is not “cookie-cutter” geometry!

Q: Last of all, did the movies Ben Hur or Gladiator have any influence in your decision to make this game?

A: When we started the project, we were looking to do something that looked like “Ben-Hur” meets “Road Warrior.” We think we have achieved that. Gladiator was more of an inspiration as a great film about the period than a direct influence on the title. And, since development on Circus Maximus: Chariot Wars began early in 2000, the game was already well underway when the movie Gladiator was released.

We'd like to thank Encore Software for doing this interview with XboxAddict.com and most importantly keeping the Xbox community informed.

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