PSLS Presents – Steve Lycett, Sumo Digital

Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing is set to pit Sega’s best loved franchises and characters against each other in frantic races across various famous Sega locations in what it sure to be a fun and enjoyable game. To discuss the title, PlayStation LifeStyle talked to Steve Lycett, the Executive producer at Sumo Digital, the developers of the game, about the title, the franchise, the DLC, and much, much more.

PlayStation LifeStyle: Who are you, and what is your position at Sumo Digital?

Hi there! I’m Steve Lycett, Exec producer at Sumo Digital. Which is a fancy name for the guy who orders the pizza’s and tells everyone they have to stay late all the time. Some folk out there may know me by my online nick S0L – though I rarely say what the 0 stands for. On ASR, I’ve had the pleasure of being in charge of a team made up of some very clever and talented folk who have been coding and arting till their fingers bled!

PSLS: How did you manage to balance the different characters and their cars so that racing was even and fair?

We’ve managed it with a lot of time, care and attention. It’s been pretty epic really, we’ve got a lot of characters, all with their vehicles and their own special moves, a plethora of weapons on top, and then tracks with shortcuts to balance too.

For example, bike characters can do wheelies, which gives them an extra boost that cars can’t do, and then anything that flies doesn’t get affected by surfaces that slow the other vehicles down. That’s before you take into account the scale and weight differences between say Eggman in his Monster Truck, and Alex Kidd on his bike…

Actually looking back, it’s almost like we made life difficult for ourselves! We think we’ve cracked it though – certainly we’ve played it a lot, especially in split-screen and I think we’ve nailed it.

PSLS: How would you view comparisons to Mario Kart?

You know, you’re not the first person to ask us that. If anything, it’s rather flattering that people are expecting us to be comparable. On the face of it, I can see why people compare it. But I think we’ve got some definite advantages.

For a start we’re mixing multiple universes, with Mario, you’ve only got Mario characters and tracks. Here we’ve got Sonic characters and tracks, but we’re also bringing characters in from SEGA games old and new. So you’ve got Jet Set Radio, Space Channel 5, Shenmue, Super Monkey Ball – and that’s just the more recent ones. We’re also fetching in things characters from new games, like Zobio and Zombiko from House of the Dead EX, and also lots of classic characters. Just think of us as sneaking into SEGA’s vaults and running out, swag bag in hand.

Then the game itself is based on classic SEGA racing. We’re more about speed, drifting and action. If you imagine OutRun, but turned up to 11 and with tracks that twist, turn, corkscrew and loop then also throw in huge, massive, massive jumps, then you’re not far off!

So yes, they’re both party games, and they’re both about racing and having fun, but aside from that they’re quite different!

PSLS: There hasn’t been a casual Mario Kart style game on the PS3 or 360 before, why do you believe developers haven’t brought this genre to the High Def consoles before?

I think this generation; everyone has been too obsessed with gritty realism! I also believe you need a strong suite of characters to carry this kind of game too – which isn’t something that’s easy to create from scratch. PS3 has been more of a hardcore player’s choice, but especially now the prices of both machines have dropped, I think there is a wider audience ready to play. For us, we’ve done our best so it’ll appeal to all ages and abilities. We’ve got three skill settings, Beginner for younger kids, Advanced for most people, and Expert, which is for the true hardcore!

We’ve put a lot of time into split-screen too, it does 4 players, and there are multiple modes, so you’ve got races, battles, game modes like Capture the Chao, and more! Few games these day seem to offer split-screen, which is a shame as whilst we all love playing online, there’s nothing quite like rubbing in a victory in person!

PSLS: Are there any plans for DLC for the game?

We’re looking into it – but there is nothing concrete yet. We’ve got some great ideas already – and plenty of suggestions from the forums already!

PSLS: Will the PS3 version receive exclusive characters, like Banjo and Kazooie on the Xbox 360?

Unfortunately it doesn’t!  That’s not to say we haven’t been putting in the effort though, in fact throughout development it’s been the PS3 version that’s been the lead platform. You’ll have noticed that at E3, GamesCon and Summer of Sonic, it’s always been the PS3 that’s been the demo machine of choice. We’ve also ensured that PS3 features, like PSN, Trophies and online chat are all supported. I think we’re also one of the few recent games to include SixAxis motion control too. If DLC happens, we very much want to do it on PS3 too!

PSLS: Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing combines many characters from various IP’s, are there any characters that you would really loved to have included, but couldn’t?

Just as with Sega Superstars Tennis, we’d love to have got in more, but we have a finite budget and timeframe. We did lots of research to see what characters people wanted in SST but didn’t appear which is mostly why you see Ryo from Shenmue in there. That’s almost purely down to fan requests.

I know there’s been a lot of fan call’s this time for Vectorman and Ristar too, but they should have shouted more at the end of SST! By the time they were being requested heavily, we’d locked the character roster!

I can’t say just yet who I would have like to included either – then I’ll have de-confirmed someone as not being in. I keep getting told off for that!

PSLS: How has your experience with developing Sega Superstars Tennis changed your approach to this game?

You would have thought it would have taught us a lesson to bite off less to chew, but if anything, it foolishly encouraged us to bite off even more! I think SST proved we could get lots of IP’s together and make it work – we’ve used that experience to push it a lot further this time.

At the end of the day, every time we do a game, especially big multi-character games like this, you learn and do things better. I think I can say, hand on heart; this is the best thing we’ve done yet at Sumo as a result.

PlayStation LifeStyle would like to thank Steve Lycett, Sumo Digital and SEGA for taking the time to have this interview. Stay tuned to PSLS for more interviews and PlayStation news.