12 January 2007

The PC Motocross Dream Is Dead...?

It's all but official. My last hope for a resurrection of excellent PC motocross gaming is all but dead.

Holy crap this rant is long... if you'd like to get to the point quicker, feel free...

In January 2006, Rainbow Studios released MX vs. ATV Unleashed it's first PC motocross game since Motocross Madness 2; released in 2000.

The Motocross Madness (MCM) series wasted any other motocross games on the PC hands-down with it's excellent graphics, realistic (for its time) racing feel, super sik high air, intense racing, mega-fun tag mode, stunts and more.

The game had infinite replay value thanks to the ability to create custom content. "Kamshaft", of Cameron Graphics fame, hosted the biggest central repository of this custom content on the web ... and it was awesome. The whole MCM community participated in the forums and MCM file sharing at his site. The site was put up as "Motocross Madness Central" for the first game in the MCM series. It then turned to "Motocross Madness 2 Central" when MCM2 was released.

In late 2005, Kamshaft took down the site after bandwidth restrictions and cost of running the site became too much and MCM2 play had lowered significantly over time with the advent of newer games with better graphics and what not. Yet there were some still dedicated to the game (like my own Team FNG.)

Kamshaft was still offering his entire MCM2 custom content collection on 6 DVDs for $80, which I purchased. 19GB of compressed custom content ... the game will never die for me.

In around November of 2005 (maybe a little earlier...) we caught wind of news that Rainbow Studios had finally decided to give another shot to the PC crowd by releasing MX vs ATV Unleashed in January 2006. Kamshaft put up a new "MX vs ATV Central" site and the community once again flocked together in eager anticipation for what we hoped would have as much heart and soul (and endless fun) that the MCM series provided us.

Sadly, the game failed miserably for several reasons:

  1. The game was released later than promised; and when it finally was, it was a ridiculous search to try to find which stores actually had it. (I pre-ordered two copies paid in full from a local EBGames shop and didn't have mine on release day. Online orders placed the day before release day from EBGames site were sold to those people who had their game on release day... which enraged me, but that's another story...)

  2. By the time we finally got the game... it's user-interface (UI) was completely horrid. It was a direct port from the console version of the game with no modifications to the navigation menus which could've been done MUCH simpler for a PC version.

  3. Related to the UI issue was the fact that only half the PC gamers could get connected to games online. The defacto was provided was through in-game menus connecting through GameSpy. If the fact that we had to go through 15 menus to just set up a game for people to connect to wasn't bad enough... you had to click through 2 extra screens to chat with the people in your game lobby, and then click back through two more to get back to the "lobby" to see who was in your game. It was pathetic

  4. Once you had your lobby set up, no one could join your game, because the required ports to play through today's firewalls were incorrectly documented; and despite spending several hours myself testing and discovering the correct ports... half the community had resorted to using Hamachi to try to set up private VPNs to play on. Since there was no good central place to matchmake, the online portion of the game pretty much died; essentially killing off the greatness of the game.

  5. They kept the console approach of "We're going to lock all of the tracks and let you 'unlock' them, to simulate the feel of "new content" since we can't offer you the ability on a console to create new content yourselves. Two words... Weak... sauce... Thankfully, there was a cheat code to unlock them all so we could *ahem* attempt to get online and race. But since we couldn't get online and race... the few tracks available in the game got boring real fast.

  6. Stunt mode sucked. Stunts was one of my favorite aspects of the game, taking unrealistically high air and coming down and landing it was an adrenaline rush like no other... Stunts in MX vs ATV Unleashed were fun for about 10 minutes, and only because we could pull backflips and 360's. But the fact that your score dwindled dramatically for trying to pull the same stunt/combo more than once, it was extremely difficult to pull any REALLY high scores; especially because the only way to get a high score on a given jump was to pull a backflip or 360 combo. In their attempts to make the game feel more realistic, they went too far and limitd the amount of air you could take on your jumps as well - and even when you springloaded for extra air - it the landing ramps weren't conducive to landing things that high... maybe I'm just still used to how MCM2 worked, but it tanked.

The game's only saving grace was the fact that they did still provide a way to make custom content for the game. Some of my favorite track creators returned and made a few new tracks. But alas, by the time the new tracks had come out... the community had peetered out from the online scene due to reasons listed above.

One racer posted a link to a new game a few weeks later called TrackMania Nations. It was a free racing game created for the Electronic Sports World Cup, created by a French company named Nadeo.

Yes, many of you already are familiar with this, because it was the nail-in-the-coffin for MX vs ATV Unleashed as far as FNG was concerned. It consumed all of our time for nearly a year. We were so sucked in, we bought the previously released versions of TrackMania as well. In late 2006, we were even more amazed by TrackMania United.

Why is TrackMania so successful?

  1. Easy to use interface - setting up local or online games is incredibly easy.

  2. Not only did they provide a full-blown in-game track editor, they provide a full-blown replay editor, so you can show off your awesome runs with incredible camera effects. Like the MCM series... endless replay value

  3. The same intense racing rush and high flying action (with the added benefit of driving on walls, through corkscrews and other fun action...) that MCM used to offer... just a lack of motorcycles.

So why am I writing this rant?

During the hustle and bustle surrounding the excitement for the release of MX vs ATV Unleashed back in late 2005, I discovered that Robb Rinard of MCM fame had defected from Rainbow Studios (makers of the MCM series) and with some other colleagues created a new company called 2XL Games.

I emailed Robb back then, in fears that this console port would disappoint (because I'd previously played MX Unleashed on the Xbox and was sorely disappointed... went right back to my Motocross Madness 2.)

I asked Robb if they were going to make another really fun motocross game for the PC. He said he couldn't tell me yet what they were up to, but that they were in the process of making a framework for some incredible new games that would start being available maybe 2 years later or so. I decided I would be as patient as possible and wait.

Well, with the death of MVA and TrackMania consuming my game time for so long... I decided to check in on the 2XL website the other day to see if any updates had been posted there. This is what I found...
"2XL games is currently developing multiple console titles on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 for a major game publisher..."

HELLO!?!?!!!!! This is what pissed me off about Rainbow in the first place... they sold out to consoles because they could crank games out faster and potentially make more money since games were harder to pirate. While I can understand that business decision, my heart was crushed as I had seen the demise of good PC motocross racing. And with each subsequent Rainbow release, it felt to me that the heart put into their games was less and less and it was now just a cash-flow machine and not a team devoted to making fun games.

So now my dreams for a new PC Motocross game with the same magic and fun that the two MCM games provided are once again dashed to pieces.

Don't get me wrong... the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 are great pieces of hardware, but online gaming in the console arena is still in its infant stages; and with the lack of user content creation for console games... it's simply not as fun as the PC gaming world has been. Sorry, but it isn't.

So I try to go to Kamshaft's MX vs ATV Central site to post the bad news, and when I went to the old link... mxvsatvcentral.com I was redirected to the Xbox Addict website.

Buh-bye any hopes for new PC Motocross games that will be worth playing... it was a nice dream while it lasted. Nadeo, don't pull a Rainbow.


Anonymous said...

Hi, do you know how I can get access to a MCM track I posted on mcm central years ago?

That One Guy said...

@Anonymous: Yes, I bought the entire database on a bunch of DVDs when they shut the site down; so I probably have it and can get it to you.

Let me know the name of the track and an email I can contact you at to send it to you.