As we finally get closer to new release season once more, we get a chance to rediscover the perfect game we saw last September in Rayman Legends.
On Feb. 18th, the game will launch on the Xbox One and PS4, making this the debut for the series on next-generation systems. The game's initial release back in 2013 was greeted with critical acclaim and consumer satisfaction, but there were still changes and new additions to come to the next-generation versions of Rayman Legends.
Today, Examiner.com had the chance to speak with Rayman Legends' lead game designer Emile Morel about the Xbox One and PS4 versions of the game, what sorts of new features we'll see that incorporate the PS4's touch pad, the bright future for social implementation in games and so much more.
Morel first talked about some of the new features coming to the Xbox One and PS4 versions of the game, as well as when the team started and finished working on these new versions of Rayman Legends.
"We started working on these next gen versions in July last year, a few weeks before the release of the current gen versions of the game. And we finished in December so it was around 6 months of work for a rather small team.
"We were very happy with the game we released on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, PC and Vita, so we didn’t want to change anything in our original version. And the amazing reaction from the press and gamers when the game was released confirmed that we shouldn’t modify too many aspects in the game. But at the same time were excited to add content that really shows off these next-gen versions, to give them a special value.
"So that’s why we added all these new elements to the next-gen versions of Rayman Legends: the new playable Heroes (specific to each console), the 'challenges' on Xbox One (a new kind of time limited achievements specific to this console), the Camera Mode on PS4, and the possibility to play the whole game on a Vita connected to your PS4 in Remote Play.
"As soon as we started working on the game, we started developing this new content to make sure it would be in the final game," Morel said.
Improved visuals and some new features for the game's online experience are among the biggest changes for Rayman Legends on Xbox One and PS4. Morel discussed a new status they have created for the most active and dedicated Rayman players.
"We improved the community and social aspect by adding a new VIP status in the Online Challenges of the game. This status (visible in the game’s various leaderboards) is linked to a new playable character (called Champion Ray) and it will be granted to the most active and highest-ranked players in the Online Challenges, and to players strongly involved in the Rayman Legends community.
"When we’ve seen how much time and experience it takes for some of these Online Challenges and we had to do something special for this level of player," Morel said.
Switching from the game's online offerings, Morel discussed some of the specific, new features players will enjoy when they play Rayman Legends on the PS4.
"The PS4 version using the controller touchpad. When we first saw the touchpad on the PS4 controller, we immediately realized that it could be a great solution to one of our concerns as developers working on a game like Rayman Legends. To explain, since the imagery is all hand-drawn, there are lots of amazing and funny details our artists put in the character animations and level backgrounds.
"Most of the time people play the game very fast (because it’s such a rush!) and don’t always stop to check all these unique details. The Vita version has a cool feature that allows you to zoom in and out of the image by just moving your fingers on the touchscreen, allowing players to see all of these miniature additions. When we saw the PS4 controller we realized it would be a great tool to include the same feature in the next gen versions of the game.
"Combined with the Share button on the PS4 controller, we created Camera Mode which gives players an easy way to share screenshots and videos of their play sessions in the game. It’s a fun feature that allows you to be as creative as you want when capturing your own signature screenshots.
"The touchpad of the PS4 will also be used in the game to make you scratch your Lucky Tickets. Which just feels really natural, giving you the feeling you’re scratching an actual lottery ticket for the big win," Morel said.
When it comes down to working on a game just for the PS4 and Xbox One, the process is very similar and is conducive to developers creating the best game on both platforms.
Morel talked about the team's experience working on the PS4 and Xbox One, as well as a sentiment one developer shared with him about loading times on a next-generation game.
"Honestly these loading times in the previous versions of the game never really bothered us. It’s something that comes with current gen gaming. But we are a team that loves a challenge so removing them was more of our engineer’s personal quest.
"It was pretty simple in their minds, 'We have 2 new powerful consoles, so let’s see everything we can do with it!' I actually remember one of them telling me: 'Loading times on next gen, you can’t be serious…' And the first time we played the game without loading times it was truly amazing.
"To us it was like rediscovering the game. Jumping in and out of levels goes so fast now just makes the whole navigation in the game far more fluid and really adds to the frantic pace experienced while playing Rayman. Of course our engineers had to familiarize themselves with these new systems, but apart from that there weren’t any major problems that came up.
"This was probably made even easier by the fact that the current gen versions of the game use the UbiArt Engine and are already running at 60fps in 1080p which is already the best you can offer to gamers these days!" Morel said.
The Rayman series has a strong history of creating characters that take humorous aim at other forms of media in entertainment these days, and they have decided to aim internally with the Xbox One and PS4 versions of the game.
"Yes, there will new playable characters to select in the Gallery of Heroes on each next-gen console. On PS4, you’ll find Assassin Ray, a character inspired by Edward Kenway from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. On Xbox One, you’ll have Splinter Ray, a character inspired by the famous Sam Fisher, as well as Ray Vaas and Far Glob, 2 characters inspired by Vaas, the psychotic villain from Far Cry 3.
"On both versions, players will also have to possibility to use their Uplay points to buy a new character called Funky Ray. And as I mentioned before, the best online players in our community may be rewarded with an exclusive VIP character called Champion Ray.
"The inspiration for these new characters came from the team working on the game. We really like the idea of placing cameos from other famous video games characters inside our game.
"Since the Rayman universe is already filled with so many references to movies, books and songs, this is something that works really well for us. We definitely want to thank the teams from these different games who were nice enough to let us to take inspiration from their characters and Raymanize them to create wacky new (but familiar) Heroes!" Morel said.
The social components of both the Xbox One and PS4 were major elements Microsoft and Sony promoted before the two systems launched last year, and Ubisoft's Morel talked about the bright future and optimism they have for social features in the future.
"It was great to get to work on these consoles; for developers it’s always very exciting to be among the firsts to work on new hardware. We really wanted to play around with the new features and possibilities these consoles provided, like the challenges on Xbox One, or the Remote Play and the Share button on PS4.
"Microsoft and Sony are bringing exciting additions like these to next-gen gaming and we see so much potential for creating fresh, new gameplay experiences to players. And yes it’s true that the architectures of the two consoles are similar which has definitely made the development of the next-gen versions quite easy. And that’s also one of the reasons why the two versions are very similar in terms of visuals and performances.
"I honestly can’t tell the difference between the versions when I see them running side by side… until I finally see a tutorial showing the buttons from the controller," Morel said.
Finally, Morel spoke about the experience he and his team have had working on the PS4 and Xbox One thus far and how they expect it to benefit the team moving forward.
"Working on these next gen versions of Rayman Legends was a great experience for the whole team. Our engineers familiarized themselves with these 2 new systems and are now quite aware of the specificities of these new consoles.
"From a design point of view, we’ve been able to examine the new possibilities offered by these consoles and saw the new doors they could open for future titles. We really like the social features that are at the core of these new consoles, especially the fact that you can easily share screenshots and videos from you gaming session.
"For me this is really giving a way to players to express themselves through their games and to always share their experiences with their friends and with the community. We’ll have to wait to see what games these consoles will offer us in a few years, but this social aspect could really bring new and exciting ways to play video games," Morel said.
Rayman Legends will launch on the Xbox One and PS4 on Feb. 18th.