If you’re interested in two-wheeled motorsport and you like your video games, then chances are you would have played a game by Milestone Studios. The leaders in the virtual motorcycle racing scene, Milestone have a plethora of hits behind them, with the RIDE series, the Monster Energy Supercross franchise and numerous MXGP offerings filling their back catalogue. But they are possibly best known for the stunning re-creations of the MotoGP scene, with MotoGP 20 their latest title to release on Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia and PC. After being wowed by what it has recently delivered, we reached out to Milestone in order to try and find out what makes them tick, and how MotoGP 20 came to be. Their studio producer was more than happy to take the time to answer our questions…
Hi. Please could you introduce yourself – what is your role at Milestone Studios and on the development of MotoGP 20 and other titles?
Hi, I’m Michele Caletti, I’m the MotoGP producer, so basically I’m in charge of the game direction for the franchise.
So sell it to us, why should gamers be interested in MotoGP 20 on Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia and PC?
It’s a big leap in several ways: from the physics, to the managerial career, to the historical mode.. there’s a ton to enjoy for MotoGP or just motorbike racing fans.
For any veterans of the MotoGP scene, what are the major differences between MotoGP 20 and its predecessors?
We have made the bike handling more realistic, and so even brutal at maximum realism settings. Braking, managing tyres and fuel, power maps, there are several layers of complexity beyond the simple “being fast”.
The career mode has been extended significantly, with new customizable teams, and the possibility to hire (and fire) crew members, develop the bike with your R&D and much more.
And for the newcomers looking for an instant adrenaline hit – where should they start with this game? Should they jump straight into the career mode?
That’s an option, but for complete newcomers i recommend the simplified physics, and starting from Moto3. It’s a great riding school (while having a lot of fun), and then progress to Moto2 and MotoGP.
Like every year there’s a solid simulation, that can be “softened” with helps and slowing down the neural AI, to enjoy the game at every skill level.
Could you tell us more about how the development of an annual series works? Do you try to go right back to the drawing board as often as possible or is it a case of building on from the good bits of any previous game and working from there?
We start with a number of ideas that somehow popped during the game development, but was too late to incorporate, we listen to the players’ feedbacks, we add the eSport experience, and we try to capture something from the real MotoGP world, that’s always a good source of inspiration obviously. So, sometimes you can keep expanding what you already have, but sometimes it’s time for revolutions. The big question is always “why should people buy this game?” or “what will this MotoGP game remembered for?”. Simple answers are usually the most effective ones!
It’s safe to say that MotoGP 20 looks and sounds stunning. How important is it to the team to deliver the most accurate visual and audio representation of MotoGP as a sport?
It’s a big part of the show. We go to the races (this year is particularly bitter in this sense) and we take pictures, video, sounds, but most importantly we dive into the feeling, we try to absorb as much as possible, and what we bring home is what we can put into the game, beyond the bike blueprints, or the technical pictures.
Sticking to those lines, and as a game this latest edition is seemingly spot-on in terms of bike physics too. How do you ensure that what you are developing is true to the real world handling of each bike?
It’s very hard because the MotoGP bikes are prototypes and data isn’t simply available. What we do after the first drafts is to match the lap times, speeds, gears, and feelings to the onboard laps, to the TV replays and when available to the riders’ opinions. The result has to be realistic, but also fun to play, so it’s a complex process.
The career mode is obviously the main draw for any game – how many hours do you anticipate the average player to spend immersing themselves in here?
Taking it seriously, so 50% long races, running free practice tests, and starting in Moto3 it can easily turn into a 70-80 hours progression to MotoGP. 100% length races, with all sessions can double it. But you can, at the same time, start from any class, and have a much shorter (and less intimidating) progression in 10 hours.
The Historic mode in MotoGP 20 is an absolute gem too, but could you tell us more about how it all works?
While last year was about famous duels between riders, for 2020 we opted for a somehow more enjoyable system with random-generated races, so mixing an amazing roster on track, just splitting 500 and MotoGP eras.
You race, you win, you earn points and with those points you can unlock new bikes and riders. Some of them are cheap and common, some are rare and costly. All in all, a great excuse to race against Doohan, Schwantz, Lawson, Criville, Pedrosa, Lorenzo, Stoner…
And keeping to that mode, alongside the already available Historic Pack, are there any new riders being lined up for integration into the Historic mode in the future? Perhaps going way back with the addition of some old school favourites like Barry Sheene?
Unfortunately the Dorna license covers many years, but cannot stretch back to Sheene or Spencer times. Having those riders I think would require separate licenses for bikes, sponsors, and riders, a licensing nightmare in short!
Were there any significant new ideas being talked of for MotoGP 20 that had to be removed for any reason? Or does the game have everything that you as a team wanted to include?
We always have ideas, from tame to very wild, and some of them come too late in the development process. We’re working on some things, that can be added to the career mode, but i cannot anticipate too much now!
It’s not just MotoGP that your team at Milestone deal with, and there are many other motorbike themed experiences; the Monster Energy series, RIDE and MXGP. Are elements of each of these series integrated into each other to ensure that both yourself (as developers) and us (as players) know roughly what to expect? Or are they all standalone projects that require specific development cycles?
Some projects have more in common than others: we share much more with Ride than MXGP. The game structure can differ a lot, but in terms of physics, graphics, there’s a lot we can share. But don’t expect the same handling in Ride, for example: they have different bikes, and possibly a different vision about how the game should feel. All projects are independent so we can have benefits without having to just copy-paste.
And how has this year’s release of both MotoGP 20 and Monster Energy Supercross 3 gone down? Has the global pandemic affected what you had initially hoped from sales?
We were quite lucky because we were in the last phases of development, so there was no major impact and we had time to organize from home. Then we’ve reached a steady pace so while it’s not ideal, it’s tolerable. In terms of sales we had a predictable shift towards digital, and an increase not only for the latest titles, but also for our past ones. I like to think that if people are playing are effectively staying at home, while we have to.
Milestone have also occasionally moved away from their two-wheeled focus with the likes of Gravel from back in 2018. Are we likely to see further four-wheeled based racers coming from the team in the future?
The car racing scene is crowded and has a very high level now, one never reached in game history I think. We make games for passion, so from one side we’re 110% busy with our bike games, on the other I don’t see much room for something new, fresh and inspiring in the “car” domain. But never say never, things keep changing…
And finally, where do you see Milestone going from here? What do you have lined up for the future in terms of games?
We want to increase the quality of our games, we want to surprise players, and the next generation of consoles will allow us to make a significant step forward, not only for the graphics. We’ll be able to pull out some new ideas, and make better games.
Huge thanks quite obviously go out to Michele for his time, and we hope you find his answers a neat little insight into how MotoGP 20 has come to be, and where it may possibly be going in the future. With Milestone set to join the next generation of consoles with new ideas, it’s an exciting time to be a motorcycle racing fan.
If you haven’t yet picked up a copy of MotoGP 20 or even their previously released Monster Energy Supercross 3, head on over to the Xbox Store to pick them up.