An update from Rob, Firemint’s founder
I don’t usually make a lot of comments or posts. The main reason is that if there is something important to comment on, then there is usually something twice as important that I should be doing. For example, if people have a problem with any of our games, I shouldn’t do a song and dance about it, we should be working on a fix, and when we have fixed it people will be happy. If we have a new game or a major update coming out, then we should certainly let people know about it, but most of my time needs to be spent making sure that it is everything that we want it to be. So basically, I am busy, which is hopefully a good thing for our games!
However, a lot has been happening this year, and with the Real Racing 2 announcement and a lot of exciting updates coming out, I am making an exception for a short song and dance before I get my head back down and work.
Our community team
Many of our customers may know some of us from various forums, including our Producers, Chris and Lara, some of our Quality Assurance team, Lucas, Mark and Owen, and Alex, Communications Manager. All of these people have been helping to respond to your feedback and queries, and keeping our friends and fans informed of what we are doing, while they continue to keep up with their other duties. However one of the best things we have done recently is to welcome Sam to our team! Sam is our dedicated Customer Support Coordinator and he is already making a big difference to the level of service we can offer. We are really excited, because making sure that everyone is well looked after while also working on important updates and new games was one of the things that has been so difficult for us in the past. It was also really hard to find the right person to lead our community efforts because it was critical that they have an exceptional degree of technical knowledge as well as customer support skills, so that they can actually help figure things out. With Sam’s background in quality assurance as well as community management, we are thrilled to welcome him to our Firemint team.
That is not to forget all of the hard working coders, artists, designers, producers and quality assurance testers working their butts off to make our games and our updates. Our team now has 50 people – check the credits in any of our games to see who some of them are.
Real Racing 2
I just wanted to make some comments for all Real Racing fans, following on from our Real Racing 2 announcements. First, thanks heaps for all the positive feedback and encouragement, we have been working on this game for a very long time and we are still working extremely hard on it now! All your excitement and encouragement is felt by everyone working here and it gives us all a lot of energy.
Although we are holding out on some cool details that we are not ready to share just yet, it is not the only reason that we haven’t shown all that much of Real Racing 2. We also have to consider licensing approvals before we show things and as long as we are in development and still polishing the game, it is hard to get a build to show that doesn’t have bugs and issues.
Some of our Real Racing fans have understandably expressed concern about the physics after seeing the recent gameplay video. I want to put your mind at rest somewhat by explaining that there are still bugs in the game and it is still in development. Additionally, it is difficult to capture all the detail in a video of a retina display device, both the capture and the compression process take a lot out of it. The video showed someone playing with brake assist and traction control on. We also have a steering assist system that can be turned on to make the game more approachable for arcade gamers.
For those who are technically minded, the replay system is a separate game system to what you play in-game. The replay does not run the full physics system again, it simply records the car positions at various time steps. The replay system is designed to handle millions of replay files uploaded and stored on our servers. That replay data is processed by YouTube video production servers and anti-cheating systems, as well as being used to show you your performance on device. So you can imagine that keeping this data well compressed is a key part of our technology, which is part of the reason for the reduced fidelity in the replays. The replay capture and rendering system still has a few bugs and issues. The reason it is buggy is largely because it is not the most important component of the game, so it is the last thing that we spend our energy on.
One of the issues with the replay system that was captured in the video is that it was not using our highest LOD (Level of Detail) textures like the game itself uses. Another issue is that it is not properly capturing angular momentum and it is not always interpolating well so the car can look stiff and movements jerky. The depth of field rendering system is also blending out detail and reducing the frame rate compared to in-game rendering. Doing that tends to look poor on a highly compressed video. The car, and particularly the wheels you see are the second LOD down and while the lighting, reflection and glint system is working, a white car, combined with a capture process that can tend to clamp out bright details does not show this off our lighting so well. So yes we do have reflections, and pretty nice reflections in my opinion, but you are not really seeing them there.
We still showed the video, because we still reckon overall it looks great and when you are dealing with a YouTube compressed video taken from an iPhone, of a retina display… well, we figured a lot was going to be lost anyway. It is just a single car on a track, so not the most exciting video we intend to show, but it seemed important to let you all see something that is not the trailer, it makes the game more real, so to speak ;). If you have any questions about anything else in the video, please feel free to ask in the comments below, and we’ll do our best to answer.
Oh, also, there are two major sets of code and assets within the game, there is one for earlier generations and one for iPhone 4 and iPod Touch 4. There are a few combinations that sit in between these two, for example the 3GS uses the iPhone 4 build as a base, and the iPod touch 2 build is based on the 1st generation build but with higher framerates. I cannot adequately express how much work it has been to support these older devices at the same time as a great iPhone 4 build, but simplifying our task and only dealing with one build would have felt like an unacceptable compromise. Everything is stored in one app – if you upgrade your iPhone or iPod touch you will already have everything you need for the retina display.
Also, for those who are asking, an iPad adaptation of Real Racing 2 is still a while off. We have big plans for it and it will take more time and a whole lot more work.
In the meantime, thanks for the overwhelmingly positive response, we are really excited about this game and we are doing our best to create a game without compromises. Our success will be up to you to judge when the game releases.
Still focused on Real Racing and Real Racing HD
Also, just FYI, we are still working furiously on Real Racing HD and Real Racing, including a 4 player Game Center online multiplayer update for Real Racing which we are really excited about. Our Real Racing HD multiplayer update has already been released, along with iOS 4.2 for iPad.
The next Real Racing 1 update also includes a mechanism to restore your game unlocks based on what we know of your progress from your Cloudcell syncs. That is, if we seem to have a record of your game that indicates more progress through the game, then the game will offer to attempt to recreate your unlocks from our server.
For those with save game loss, it is an incredibly frustrating issue. However, unfortunately it is not as simple to fix as it may seem. We cannot recreate why some people have lost their save games, and we have seen this happen on many other non-Firemint games, with various hardware updates, or restores, iOS updates or game updates. We don’t know why this has happened to a few people, so sadly we can only seek to repair the damage. As a result of what we’ve seen here, Real Racing 2 uses our next generation of Cloudcell connected technology, which retains your save game on our servers.
For those who don’t know, we have now published Flight Control for Nintendo DSiWare, and Flight Control HD is available on Playstation 3 Network in Europe and Australia, and Steam worldwide (for both Mac and PC). We are really excited about the recent release of Flight Control HD on Steam, and we are also looking forward to releasing the game on the Mac App Store soon. For those who are asking, if you want Flight Control for your Mac, you can get it now on Steam and you will also be able to install it on your PC at no extra cost.
Our iPad fans are hopefully enjoying the online multiplayer version of Flight Control HD that we recently released along with iOS 4.2 on iPad. However, I’m happy to reveal that online multiplayer via Game Center is also coming to Flight Control for iPhone and iPod touch (with optional voice chat) so watch out for that! In fact, this update marks a milestone for us…
Celebrating 30 updates in 20 months
The Flight Control multiplayer update was our 30th free update since we started producing them. Looking back, it’s suddenly easy to see why we have been so busy :) It’s amazing to go back and see how our games started and what they are now. The industry is really changing from a product industry to a service industry.
A lot of people ask about new games, and our answer is always yes, we are working on new games and we have been for a long time, but no, we will not tell you what they are! What you probably aren’t so aware of is just how many prototypes we have built and discarded or put to the side because they just didn’t feel right yet. We want to create games that mean something, that are fresh and innovate in some key way. When we have a keeper, and when we have gotten it to the stage where it is close to finished and we are really loving it, we will let you know. Real Racing 2 is definitely a keeper!
Founder & CEO of Firemint