In the pretty Rhône-Alpes town of Annecy (occasionally referred to as the region’s own Venice), a revolution is underway. Creative Director Igor Manceau and the team at Ubisoft’s studio in the city have only one goal: to bring something fresh and new to the forgotten winter sports genre with their upcoming game Steep.
We sat down with Manceau for a chat during a press event at Ubisoft’s UK offices in Guildford last week. He discussed the vision behind the game, the team’s research and development efforts, and why Steep is a real passion project for the studio. Check out the video below for all the details, lots of new footage, and a few sneaky peaks behind the scenes.
The Three Pillars of Steep
Manceau explained that the team kept three key pillars in mind while making the game. First up, they wanted to create a huge, beautiful open world playground for players, based on the varied terrain of the Alps. Second, they wanted to offer a variety of sports – letting the player switch between skiing, snowboarding, paragliding, wingsuiting and even just walking at any time. Thirdly, they wanted a strong focus on sharing. This applies in a number of ways – from simply sharing unique experiences with other online players you meet while mooching around the mountain (in the Closed Alpha, the team unexpectedly saw some players just going for mountain walks together rather than choosing more “extreme” pass times) to the video editor which lets you share your finest moments straight to YouTube, Facebook or Twitter.
Your goal within the game is to build your reputation and reach the pinnacle of the sports world. You’ll do this by participating in challenges and invitationals, and taking on the game’s narrative “Mountain Stories.” The higher your reputation, the more access you get to to “VIP” features like hot air balloon and helicopter drops. Depending on how you play, your progression figures into a one of six distinct playstyles to which the game reacts, so as you play you’ll get the chance to show the rest of the community what kind of player you are.
Authenticity and Research
With Annecy sitting at the foot of the Alps, the majority of the team are involved in snow-sports to a greater or lesser extent. Many ski or snowboard in their spare time, while Manceau himself also does the occasional spot of Paragliding. The location also gives them access to some of the biggest brands in the industry – Salomon, Red Bull and Go-Pro for example – and their associated athletes. All of these personal experiences, partnerships and relationships were called on to ensure the game had real authenticity.
To get character movement just right, the team took inspiration from the methods freestyle athletes use to train. Before taking to the snow, professionals use trampolines to perfect their tricks and ensure their flexibility (some apparently taking to the bouncy canvas 300 days a year.) With this in mind, the team assembled a huge trampoline set-up in a local gymnasium, surrounded it with mo-cap cameras and equipment, and captured the French Freestyle team doing their stuff. The results are unlike anything you’ll have seen in a winter sports game to date.
The team also saw sound as a huge factor in mountain-based immersion. Last winter, the studio’s sound engineers took to the slopes to record real skiers and snowboarders, which they later augmented with more traditional foley techniques to create a soundscape that’s both realistic and spectacular. Music is another key part of the audio experience, with French-Alps based band Zikali called in to create the beautiful interactive music which reacts to your progress through the game. On top of this, a strong licensed soundtrack ties into the game’s challenges to keep players focused.
The game that keeps on giving
Annecy Studio’s pedigree in multiplayer and live games (among other achievements, they created the Spies vs. Mercs multiplayer seen in Splinter Cell and all the multiplayer modes for the Assassin’s Creed series) means they’re committed to making sure Steep has strong post-launch support. New challenges will be added on a weekly basis (some following the format of the official Freeride World Tour), along with new outfits and other soon-to-be-announced DLC features. On top of this, a huge post-launch update will add an entirely new landscape to the mix: the enormous open world of Alaska will join the Alps as a free download for all players.
If all the above has given you the Alpine Horn and you fancy giving Steep a try, you’re in luck. The free Open Beta runs on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC from the 18th to the 21st of November. All you’ll need to do is sign into the PlayStation Network Store, the Xbox Store or Ubisoft Club / UPlay between those dates, download the Beta and get involved. For more information on the beta, click this sentence.
The full version of Steep releases on December 2nd. Stay tuned to UbiBlog for all the latest news and announcements in the run up to launch!