This is 2015, and this is the 5th edition of Hello Planet.
It’s one year later, and while the communication was minimal, our work was going at maximum speed. I already said it many times: 2015 was a year dedicated to Trackmania. We are still working on things for Shootmania and Maniaplanet, but they are going to be more our focus on 2016.
We have finally released the information that we are working on Trackmania for consoles! The whole studio is looking forward this big release. And I hope that Trackmania Turbo will be like a classic game that we can boot again in many years, with the same hardware & software, and enjoy both from good memories and always renewed stuff, thanks to the huge campaign, map editor or random generator. Somehow, I wish this game to be like a pool table, flipper or a babyfoot for families. It’s still in front of a screen, or in virtual reality, but there is something really simple, pure and infinitely skilled that makes it somehow like an object more than a spectacle.
Since the foundation of the studio, we have avoided to work on something else than the personal computer because the PC is well adapted for what we do and what we will do. But there were just too good reasons to make console versions and I will try to explain them, as well as to answer the difficult questions.
The good reasons
- After E3 2013, thanks to the console specs, we knew we could do it while keeping the studio focus on Maniaplanet for the future.
- Reach even more players with Trackmania thanks to the game quality, launch and lasting appeal
- Take time to work on the Lagoon environment
- Take time to work on the living room aspect of Trackmania, to play with relatives and friends in front of the big screen!
- Improve the Trackmania API for Maniaplanet: the game is all done with manialink & maniascript.
And probably the best we got out of it is also the opportunity to build a stronger team that should help a lot for our next Maniaplanet steps.
The difficult questions
- Trackmania Turbo is standalone on PC. It will create another additional place of community, instead of all in one place.
- Lagoon will release only next year on Maniaplanet, to take time to adapt content at best.
- We intend to make a commercial move for players who wish all TM envs in Maniaplanet & the TM Turbo game.
- A restricted choice of consoles, since it’s the same team working on Trackmania Turbo & Maniaplanet, for reasons of time.
For me, dividing is the only big question, and seems to be a counter part of looking to have best of both worlds: TM Turbo for a finished product & Maniaplanet in a constant evolution by players & us. So, it will be a challenge, we have some things to do to help, including the release of Maniaplanet 4, but it’s also partly in the hands of the community players to transform this division in addition.
Many other questions will have to be answered later, like the question of a beta or the way the online will be done, but we have to wait and come back with more info later!
Some people talk about it as only what has been released. But for us, Shootmania is more global and includes many steps. The next one is to offer wider range of gameplay. It should be skilled at all levels but with various types and accessibility entry points. The result should be a game that is open, diverse, fun, highly skilled, with good matchmaking and beautiful visuals. And once it’s ready, we will go in the beta of Maniaplanet 4 and take more time to look at the highly skilled players wishes regarding the released version or upcoming new things made for them as well. Shootmania will benefit of the Nadeo stronger team in the years to come.
On the Maniaplanet side, we are deeply working on the foundations of the next years of work on UGC & esport. To explain the work we are doing at the moment, I am going to explain how the studio is organized. Since the number of people at the studio has nearly tripled since we arrived at Ubisoft, we went from a single team to five teams: CORE, LIVE, SOFT, DATA and GAME. So let me introduce each one of them and talk about their work:
CORE : Core technology R&D of Maniaplanet
During the last 12 months, they had to make our specific technology to be able to handle multiple hardware systems. It required us to work on 64 bits and DirectX 11-like evolutions, opening the door to easier port to others platforms potentially in the future like SteamOS, Vulkan or DirectX 12 if it becomes a priority. A specific attention was given to virtual reality, which combines really well with Trackmania. They also introduced the concept of achievements for Trackmania Turbo, but in a way that Title makers would be potentially able to make them later. Among other things are that the loading times that has been decreased and the video technology around WebM has been improved by making more multi-threaded. Some more specific work has been done on car special effects, sound and animation. And finally, a huge work was to make the Trackmania script API for Trackmania Turbo to be capable to make the best game as possible in the more agile way as possible.
LIVE : Online services for players.
It is now a team of engineers working to invent and develop online services for Maniaplanet. Over the last year, they had to set up a whole new architecture. While the goal was to support the hosting for Trackmania Turbo, including UGC & game sessions, it should enable us to develop in a more faster way and robust way the upcoming services. Among some services that are already designed & developed at the moment for Maniaplanet 4 are elements for help and for stats. And again, the specific aspect of our technology is not to only make it for one game, but enable this for used made titles to benefit of these features as well.
SOFT : Creative software for players
They are here to imagine the instrument of video game creation of tomorrow. Their mission is to provide software dedicated to video games, usable by amateurs or pros, to make gaming experience. At the moment, they are working on various parts, such as the Module Studio, which is intended to provide the place to create components that you can easily share or reuse in various creations. As an example, it could be a score table, an inventory or a menu. The Item Editor & the Action Maker are also being deeply improved. Some experimental work is being done on animation interface or finding way to create 3D directly from within Maniaplanet. At the same time, the import of 3D models is getting a dedicated and helpful interface. Another big work is also to enable new actions for Shootmania, by us or made by players more easily and with more possibilities.
DATA : Design & create the data of the virtual worlds
Their role is to provide worlds for Maniaplanet experiences. Lagoon work started nearly a year and a half. They also took time to do specific work for the console edition. After, they will have to move toward Maniaplanet 4, including work on making the right split of what to push into it and what belongs to Trackmania Turbo. Some specific work will also be done on Storm. This team is getting bigger and better, and you should be able to see it nicely in the times to come!
GAME : Gaming experiences & showcases for Maniaplanet
This team combines technology & data to make the games, with their contribution being about the rules, the interfaces, cars or characters, levels, musics etc. They are working on Trackmania Turbo since last year. And while they are making these experiences, it helps to improve the technology and data required to make them for the players. For Maniaplanet 4, they already started to work on cool samples for Shootmania that we intend to release, with sources, at the same time or a little while after. The sources could be scripts or assets, to be re-used by users for their own experiences.
Even without much updates since last year, there is now 15K daily players vs 10K at that time. I know it still has to improve, and in all places, but I wished to thank the players, their tremendous energy to make the place alive and some youtubers & streamers as well. While it’s part of our engagement and hard work to make this possible, it’s always fabulous to see how creative players are, like the recent nice & strong projects on various aspects from the community. And it’s obvious that we want to contribute as much as possible at all of this in many ways, with small steps or big ones.
Maniaplanet is designed as a big project, because I believe that we need to concentrate on big things, big ambitions, such as making the players prove how much they can bring by being different, passionate, positive, respectful and creative. And that’s just good to work for this, on Maniaplanet with the great Nadeo team. And I wish to say that Ubisoft is really behind us on this, on the same goal and for a long time. For me, it’s more than a big company, it’s a great company!
Florent Castelnérac, Managing Director of Ubisoft Nadeo.
Feel free to talk about it on the forum!