Legacy Interview

Wednesday, May 28, 2003.
Outlaw Volleyball Box artOutlaw Volleyball

We talk a look at the next volleyball title to hit the Xbox.

Q: Outlaw Golf was a great example of golfing gone bad...in a good way. The underlying golf engine was spectacular. Was the same amount of detail and technology applied to Outlaw Volleyball to create a truly competitive and powerful volleyball engine?

A: Yes indeed. Right from the beginning the main design goal of Outlaw Volleyball was to make a great playing game. Just like in Outlaw Golf, the gameplay came first and everything else was gravy.

Q: Sand, sand, and more sand. What can you tell us about that wonderful sand?

A: Well the sand in the game is fully deformable and there are lots of great particle effects when players run, jump, and of course dive. However, I would like to point out that not every one of the 10 courts in the game actually has sand. We have everything from a grassy backyard, to an ankle deep sewer to offset the traditional sandy beach courts.

Q: What was your inspiration to take some of the zany characters of Outlaw Golf off of the golf course and onto the volleyball court?

A: Our process for choosing characters is based on finding personalities that lend themselves to ridicule. Whether its golf or volleyball, the first step is creating a character that you can work with. Having said that, after Outlaw Golf we certainly had our list of personal favorites and wanted to use these characters again in Outlaw Volleyball. Since we decided on 16 characters, it seemed fair enough to keep 8 from Outlaw Golf and then bring in 8 new ones.

Q: What was your most difficult challenge with developing this game?

A: Balancing the gameplay and interface. Until now, all the other volleyball games chose to dumb down that actual gameplay portion of the sport. In hopes of making their games easy to “pick up and play” they ended up stripping a lot of the personality out. Furthermore, I think too much emphasis was placed on “presentation.” So we attacked the problem from the opposite side. Our challenge from the beginning was on getting the gameplay tight and balanced. This meant that we wanted to allow long volleys where either team can win at any moment. We wanted to incorporate the teamwork, strategy, and sometimes utter chaos of volleyball. Doing so took us down many different design roads and its been quite a challenge to make the game simple and intuitive while at the same time allowing players to have a full spectrum of moves and strategies that they can use.

Q: Can we expect any 'easter eggs' hidden throughout the game?

A: Yes… lots of them.

Q: What are the different types of courts and locals that we will get to play in and which is your favorite?

A: We have 10 courts available in the game. They range from Tar Beach (which is Bronx rooftop), to The Ice Box (which is a volleyball court that’s set up around a polar research base.) Then there is Stinky Falls, which is a court located in an underground sewer and hosts some really cool water and lighting effects. My 2 personal favorites would have to be Coney Island -- because I grew up in Brooklyn and hung out on the boardwalk all through my childhood -- and Colon Ave, which is an almost exact replica of the house in Staten Island where John (our 3D director) grew up. If you have ever been to Coney Island or Staten Island… then you will surely appreciate the attention to detail.

Q: Will Outlaw Volleyball support widescreen and any Hi Def resolution (720p, 1080i)?

A: No Outlaw Volleyball will only support 480p. The problem is that we always want to throw in as many graphical goodies as possible and its impossible to do so and still have the bandwidth to support a higher res. Unfortunately there are not enough HDTV users that are clamoring for 1080i support in order to justify reducing the visual content for everyone else. Personally I’d love to do it since I play all my games in HDTV at home. But I think that as more people get HD monitors, we will start supporting more resolutions.

Q: Since the music is a big part of this game and changes dynamically to different situations during the game, does this mean that custom soundtracks are out?

A: No actually we have full custom soundtrack support. We wanted a “beach party” ambience in the game and figured what better way then to have all sorts of different music in the background. We worked with Nile Rodgers to produce a very cool soundtrack for the game, and then gave users the ability to add their own tunes too.

Q: What new challenges came about with developing Outlaw Volleyball for Xbox Live?

A: Gee where do I begin? The biggest challenge was keeping the experience the same on Xbox Live as well as a local game. Volleyball is a very fast game (especially with blocking and spiking) and we could not afford to let anything slip or else one person will see themselves spiking a ball into their opponents face, while the other guy would see themselves blocking the same shot. We could not allow the same pops and gliches that might otherwise be okay in an FPS. I think we handled these challenges pretty well, and players should get a pretty darn good experience even with a little lag in their connections.

Q: One of my favorite elements of Outlaw Golf was definately the fact that you could beat up your caddy to regain your composure. I was thrilled to see that this element made its way to Outlaw Volleyball. One downside was that the beatings were always the same. Has this changed for OV? Will you be able to beat up your opponents on Live as well?

A: This time around you can only beat up on your opponent. The fighting is more akin to a real fighting game then it was in Outlaw Golf. Players pick which of their opponents they want to fight, and then duke it out. Additionally if you win a fight, not only does your character gain composure, but the same amount is taken away from the guy you just beat up on.

Q: The very funny Steven Carell, best known as a correspondent on The Daily Show and also appearing in Bruce Almighty, did the voice of the announcer in both Outlaw Golf and Outlaw Volleyball. Did he adlib any of his lines or was it mostly scripted?

A: Yes on both counts. We always start off with a script, but a guy like Steve is such a great comic that he would routinely adlib on the fly. So in the end we got a little of both.

Q: Do any of you play that 'other' volleyball game and if so has it influenced your approach to Outlaw Volleyball?

A: The main influence that the “other” volleyball game had on us was that it solidified our approach to making a volleyball game. By the time that DOA came out we were already pretty far along in development and we had already made certain important design decisions. We were concerned that maybe we should make things more simple. Then DOA came out and we got to play a really simple volleyball game, and realized that it wasn’t all that much fun. Then after playing it we were much more encouraged about our approach. In addition, we felt a lot better about the attitude of our game. Outlaw Golf was pretty tame compared to this game as far as attitude is concerned. So after playing the sugary sweet DOA volleyball game, OV will come across more like a shot of tequila (without the salt or lemon.) And that’s pretty much what we want.

Q: Will you be able to have a guest play with you on Live?

A: Yes.

Q: Will you have any downloadable content available or are there any plans for such a feature in future Outlaw games?

A: Yep. We will have downloadable courts, characters, and clothes for Outlaw Volleyball. Our hope is to have stuff available as soon as the game ships… but don’t quote me on that one quite yet.

Q: What was your inspiration for all of the different characters, and more importantly, what they are wearing?

A: TV, movies, other games, people we’ve seen in the street, weird voices in our heads… the list goes on.

Q: Do you plan to sell replicas of the swimwear that appears in the game?

A: No plans yet, but it sure would be fun to work on the catalog.

Q: Does each player have different strengths and weaknesses, and are there ways to improv these skills?

A: Yes, every player has their own skills and abilities. This means that big dudes will always hit harder then some of the girls, but at the same time the girls will often have better control of the ball. Every character in the game will improve their skills the more you “drill” them. The Drills are a series of twisted mini-games that are designed to build up a character's skills as well as teach players how to play the game.

Thanks Mike for chatting with us and informing us Addicts!

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