WipeoutZone interview with Scott Naylor

As a game designer working at the former Leeds development studio and highly involved with the production of both Wipeout 3 and Wipeout 3 Special Edition, Scott Naylor is more than qualified to deliver some insight to what went on behind the scenes at the time.

In early 2003, Scott volunteered himself for an exclusive question and answer session for the pilots at WipeoutZone. It’s taken a while for him to compile the answers, mostly because he tried to get answers for the questions he didn’t know the answer to offhand. Great stuff!

Working at Leeds / Wipeout3

Working on the Wipeout3 project for me was the highlight of my career so far. I had just started out at Psygnosis Leeds Studio which at the time was in the process of changing to SCEE. I had only worked for 3rd party developers until this point and didn’t know what to expect. I thought that I was going to be out of my league and wouldn’t stick it for very long? how wrong I was. It was the best studio in SCEE, and they closed it?!

I can say this hand on heart as since then I have worked at Cambridge and now Liverpool, the people at the Leeds Studio were like my second family. I was on good speaking terms with all the employees and never felt out of my league, everything was explained to me by Wayne Imlach and Mark McGinley who have both since gone on to bigger and better things.

The work that I did on wipeout was varied, exciting, and challenging, who out there would like to be given a pencil and paper to design wipeout tracks?

I remember buying the first Wipeout game with a playstation the day it came out for ?500! So this was a great honor for me to work on Wipeout.

The one day I’ll never forget is after releasing wo3, I went in to the office and Jono (Jonathan Freedman) our studio boss was running around with a BAFTA award surgically attached to his hand, shouting we’ve all won a bafta!! I didn’t even know that we were in the running for one? that was a real good day.

At approximately what date did the Leeds studio get the directive to develop this third installment of the game and when did concept art begin to be produced?

This would have been roughly at the end of 1998, I started working Sony Leeds on the 04/01/99 and concepting was already underway.

How long a period was devoted to concept development before the game began to take concrete shape?

Approx three months was devoted to conception. We had to re-do a lot of the technology as 2097 was a little untidy on top of the original title code, and it needed re organisation and updating with new techniques. As the project was a sequel a lot of this time was spent on core game play mechanics, track design, track pad placement and designing the new challenge mode.

Who was responsible for the ’city and industrial park’ look of the game, which is so different from the 2097 predecessor?

Nicky Westcott and Nick Phillips were a driving force in the style, however the entire team contributed and the focus come from a collective rather than an individual.

Why was the development of WO3 given to Leeds instead of being continued with the previous team? did Sony just want a different take on the game? were they impressed by a concept shown to them ’’on spec’’ by the studio?

PS2 dev kits were not available at the time we started looking at what projects to do. If we as a studio were to uptake PS2 development we would have to wait, so we decided to take two IP’s and develop the next iteration in the brand development, that we knew we could do fast development turn around on. Those were Wipeout3 and Colony Wars Red Sun. However, having said that, we did Wipeout Special edition straight after Wipeout 3 as we had a very short development period with this tittle.

Did one person do all the designs for the new ships?

Again, a style was decided and a collective helped to develop each of the ships.

Is it true that nobody ever noticed that it was originally Piranha instead of Pirhana during development?

Gulp, I never heard or noticed this myself. Sorry.

The ’cloak question’. Does it really protect you in the same way as a shield, appart from preventing the enemy from locking you? I mean true invulnerability to mines and no loss of energy when wallbanging?

Baring this is 4 years ago, and I am refering to memory, I believe Cloak was not full invunrability, you could be damaged by collision with walls and mines, but you can devistate other craft if you drive directly through them in cloak engaged status.

Why did they change the weapon announcer from what is shot to you into what you picked up? Did they consider it was more useful?

Yes, this was considered to be more useful - like having your own personal KITT (from Knight Rider! RF).

I want to know a bit more about the origin of prototypes. Where they rejected as normal tracks? Were they originally conceived as prototypes?

Actually, these were a bonus, we had been asked to do something different for addition in the Japanese version of the game, and decided they were too good to leave out.

Why did they make LS4 so difficult? A prize for top racers?

Wipeout is one of those titles where it is very difficult to keep everyone happy, we want the average racer to enjoy the game and get a real sense of challenge from the game, however we also want the hard core mad ass race heads to also feel the burn at the top end of the game...... so, hopefully someone found it tough but achievable.

Why are there different handlings (appart from different timing, that’s unavoidable) for the different versions (PAL, NTSC, SE)?

Simple, different territories literally do have different preferences; in some areas of the world achievement and reward are more important than challenge, and vice versa.

Why did they enhance Assegai in SE?

If I remember right this was a game play balancing thing. Not 100% sure though.

I have always wondered why wall scraping boosts your craft.

Wipeout has always been about speed, the only way to get any better at a track is to take the corners faster and tighter than you did last time. The more we tested it the more annoyed we became with the collision stopping you dead when you touch a wall. This was a design call, there was a great deal of discussion over this matter at the time of development, in a nutshell we decided that going faster if you skimmed the wall would be fairer on the player.

How is it that having link mode, which is an added value to a game, it isn’t even mentioned into the original package? They could have mentioned it, even if it was hidden.

We simply threw this in for free!! there were various issues with the link cable, not much uptake by the gamers made it something that was not worth the test time, we had done the work for it early and so left it in, with the option of pulling it if there were too many bug issues. As it was it worked great.

Why did they drop the display of contrails in NTSC version?

Honestly..... in the final master build, someone forgot to turn them back on.... either that or it had something to do with a bug verses time constraints...... who knows, I can’t remember, but lets just say they are really transparent for the sake of it eh :’)

What was the inspiration to do the intro from the craft exploding and going backwards.

This could possibly be down to Designers Republic’s influence? Not sure though?

And, why don’t the craft explode in the game?

Expensive FX = less speed, more speed = sacrifice.

Did you consider doing any real in-game advertisements, similar to Red Bull or *shudder* Kappa?

This was talked about, but it was decided against, probably a good thing as our development cycle was only around 7 months.

Not meant to be a criticism, but the intro movie always seemed unfinished to me. Was there ever supposed to be more to it?

Not as far as I know.

What kind of things were considered to be put in the game, but left out for any reason?

Lots and lots but unfortunately you’ll have to wait until future wipeouts ;(

I second the question on the weapons announcements. Always seemed like a strange decision to me. Was it because the new icons were more difficult to identify at those speeds?

We basically just wanted to make the racing aspect of the game more immersive, so as a result we didn’t want the people looking down at there weapons icons as much

Ok from the original Wipeout which does not count but why whoever you are chose this game and became so sucessfull and how did you do it?? Thats included WO3 & WO3 SE.

Not sure who came up with the original concept and why... I think that is your question answered!?

How did you came up an idea from originals games??

Not sure who came up with the original concept and why... long before my Sony Days, I think that is what they mean!?

What made you guys decide to use the (in my opinion) not so good looking trails. As compared to the nice looking "2097’ish" trails seens in the betas? And why did they change the colors of the Assegai craft from the original blue colors?

The colour change was possible a palette thing or an art call, none of which I had any say or control over.

Who came up with the name Goteki in Goteki 45? and why? Who made the intro? Are there any storyboards that could be posted for viewing? How did you come up with some of the names, for example, P-mar, assegai (sp?)? Are they just made up? inspired? translated? Yes, these things interest me......

Sorry don’t know who came up with the names, I have no story boards as such this was all lost when Leeds Studio closed down. If I was to guess though I would say that they are made up names because they sound "future-cool".


Scott Naylor

** Thanks to Phil Quirke-Webster for helping me with the management related questions.

A very big thank you to Scott for taking the time to answer these questions for us, providing a great service to the community.