Interview with Burnout Paradise’s Big Surf Island Producer Pete Lake

Downloadable content is big business in video games at the moment, with Microsoft famously paying Rockstar Games over a million dollars to create new episodes of Grand Theft Auto IV.

One pioneer of DLC in recent years is Criterion Games, the brains behind the car-smashing racing series: Burnout.

As a Burnout enthusiast myself, I decided to get in the passenger seat with Pete Lake, Producer of Big Surf Island, to find out how this latest release would enhance the landscape of Burnout Paradise.

James Parry: How do you feel the Big Surf Island DLC will enhance the
Burnout Paradise experience?

Pete Lake: Big Surf Island brings a whole new location to Paradise City. People have been exploring the existing landscape for over a year now, finally we can bring them somewhere new to drive and have fun together. With the new location we are also adding more of everyone’s favourite activities, new experiences and new vehicles to drive.

JP: There’s more of an emphasis on the ‘playground’ aspect of Paradise with this update, what’s the reason for this?

PL: We have been working with our community to understand what people love to do in Paradise City. We know everyone loves the more playground elements of Paradise like the quarry and the airfield. We set out to make the entire Island like one of these, a super condensed, explosion of fun.

JP: Will there be any gameplay updates with this DLC? Such as the ability to place waypoints on the map to allow players to converge on an area more easily?

PL: We are adding many new gameplay updates with the Island, far too many to detail here. Really noticeable things are the new visible checkpoint markers. All of the events on Big Surf Island get you to drive through checkpoints so we needed to make sure the player can see them where ever they are, so adding visible markers in the world was important. On your question, there are numerous Freeburn challenges which get people to meet at specific locations, if you want to meet up with friends try one of these.

JP: After the extensive updates to Paradise to date, what thought
has Criterion put into its next title? Burnout or otherwise.

PL: We are always working on new ideas and figuring out the best way to bring them to our customers. Currently the best way has been to develop them into Burnout Paradise, who knows what else we may develop in the future and how we will get it into people’s hands.

JP: Do you think the emphasis on DLC in Paradise is something which will becoming increasingly common for other games in the future?

PL: I know it will for us, it’s changed completely how we think about development. It’s so exciting to keep bringing new experiences to
people and to use those to bring people together in exciting and fun
ways.

JP: Freeburn Online is a big part of Burnout Paradise, what new
experiences can we expect from the new challenges?

PL: We have a set of 10 new challenges for Big Surf Island which showcase some of the incredible new locations on Big Surf Island. New for the Island is the ability to play each of these challenges with any number of players. No more waiting around for your 8th friend to get online before you can complete the challenge.

JP: The free-roaming aspect of Burnout Paradise as a whole was a
big risk to take after the previous titles, how effective do you feel
it’s been overall?

PL: I think it’s been a huge success. We have delivered a location people
love whether they race or just like to drive and explore. We can see people all like to play the game in different ways and express themselves. Big Surf Island brings something for all these people; there are new events but there are also new billboards, Mega Jumps and Smash Gates to reward discovery.

JP: Last year the bikes update changed the Burnout landscape forever, what is the future of bikes in Burnout? Are there any tailor made sections in Big Surf Island?

PL: Big Surf Islands offers 12 new roads to rule on bikes during night
and day and plenty of areas to explore at high speed.

JP: Many racing games strive to create a real and authentic simulation of driving, rather than simply a game. How important do you believe realism is to racing titles, and games in general?

PL: I think a sense of believability is very important and is a different concept from a simulation. Players must believe what they are doing
is possible so they can enjoy doing it. We want to make games which are accessible and fun to play, with the Bikes we spent a lot of time on the handling to ensure that it remains a really fun riding experience inside the believable Burnout world. Just creating a simulation of bikes wouldn’t have been fun and would have been out of place in our world.

JP: How much have you been considering players’ input and opinion
in the updates and changes you make in Paradise?

PL: We have a very active community and we have involved them as much as possible during development of all our DLC. We’ve even had people tour the office during development. We run our Crash TV podcasts and have developed our Criterion Games Network so we can ensure our community gets the feedback it deserves from us.

JP: Some claim downloadable content is often profiting from content which should have been included in the original retail release, what is your opinion on this?

PL: The downloadable content you are seeing for Burnout Paradise could not have even been thought about until we had released the game and seen how people reacted to it. We could not have designed Big Surf Island without the support of our community.

JP: How do you think the content and significance of DLC, Criterion made and otherwise, will change in the future?

PL: I hope we (and other developers) can continue to offer our players more and more new experiences. The game is bigger than the box it comes in, offering players new ways to experience the product and new ways to expand it are really important.

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