ShootMania (technically “ShootMania Storm,” but no one actually calls it that, apparently) is French developer Nadeo’s first-person shooter take on their popular decade-old TrackMania racing series. It emphasizes simplicity, fun, and user-created content. Publisher Ubisoft recently invited GamesBeat to a private hands-on event, pitting journalists against the all-girl pro-gaming Frag Dolls in 3-on-3 matches.
There’s definitely something enticing to a true pick-up-and-play game, but ShootMania has an unfortunately blatant budget feel, especially in terms of graphics. Despite already having tens of thousands of levels, those on display during our demo session were aesthetically indistinguishable from one another, and they seemed a few years old.
After a few losses and a few wins, we turned to Josh Milligan, the senior director of online strategy for Ubisoft’s digital titles, to discuss the upcoming game.
GamesBeat: OK let’s start from the end of the interview first, just for fun. When is the game coming out?
Josh Milligan: ShootMania will be launching this year. Currently, it’s in beta. The full game will be $20 dollars. Right now if you preorder it, it’s a 20 percent discount, so it’s $15.99. If you preorder it, you get instant access to the beta, which is what you’re playing today. We have over 15 different game modes and over 20,000 user-generated maps.
GamesBeat: How many official maps from Ubisoft will there be?
Milligan: That’s a good question. It’s a small number, because most of what we have has been created by the community. We’ve been doing a good job of bringing forward the ones that the community’s creating that everyone is really interested in. Everything you played today was community-based.
GamesBeat: How deep are the content creation tools?
Milligan: If you’re familiar with TrackMania, which was also done by Nadeo, TrackMania has had mapmaking for a long time. It’s been around for over eight years. So their whole background was creating tools so that gamers could create maps, interact with all kinds of crazy stuff. The map tools are leveraged from the same system, and they allow for a lot of customization. There’s a scripting tool, so you can make your own game modes. The game mode you played today, Speedball, was created by the community.
GamesBeat: What are the core pillars of ShootMania? What are the things that are most important to the development team?
Milligan: Easy, accessible, fun, quick. The thing is, when you get into some of the FPSes today, they’re incredible in all the customization and complexity and depth. But when I took you over, I just said, here you go, and sat you down. You were playing right away. You had a good sense of what to do, and you didn’t have a lot of questions after that. You probably just wanted me to leave you alone, because you know what you were doing.
When you get really into games today, into an FPS, you’re not necessarily going to have someone else to play against. Unless they’re playing in your game, they’re not going to want to compete with you. What’s great about this is, anyone can use this as a neutral place for competition, for fun, for accessibility. I think that’s a lot of the core thing: for the game to be fair, to be accessible to everybody, and then being able to create the games and competitions that people can get involved in.
GamesBeat: Is it online only, or does it have a single-player mode with bots?
Milligan: It’s an online game. We’re working on the element of whether we’ll have bots added in. But it’s primarily about competition online.
GamesBeat: You’ve gotta have bots, in my humble opinion, especially for someone like me who plays really late at night and servers aren’t always full of other players online at that time.
Milligan: I’ll definitely give that feedback back to the team.
GamesBeat: ShootMania has more than 15 game modes. What are the highlights? What are three of the most unique modes, or your favorites?
Milligan: Probably my favorite is Royale. Royale is, you have this giant energy dome. Like if we use this table as an example. When you get to the middle and activate it, you get points. Then the energy dome starts closing in. You can have 30, 40, 50 people running around in there, and if you get caught on the other side of the dome, you’re dead. So it forces it down to the very middle, where there’s only a tiny little space to run in, and the last person wins. It’s a really fun setup.
Then there’s Elite mode. Elite mode is really for your pro players. What you have with that, if you think about the great eSports moments, the underdogs, the moments where you’re really rooting for somebody to win…. You have three players, with an average weapon, and then you have one player with an advanced weapon and more shields. They have to go in and take out the other three. So the Elite mode is a really good setup. And then this one, Speedball, which I just love. Get the ball, get it to the other side, get it to the other players to score. It’s a good team setup.
GamesBeat: Was it intentional to make it fairly easy to die? Because that kind of simplifies it, but you also have to be a little more careful. It seems to make it more strategic.
GamesBeat: It just seems like — this isn’t a question, but it’s just my experience, and maybe you can share your own anecdotes — but I noticed that if two players dropped down and ran around in a deathmatch style, they could actually keep the other team busy while one player just makes a run with the ball. No one even seemed to notice them.
I guess what I thought of was that most people, even in Call of Duty, where you’re supposed to work together, they like to play the lone wolf. They want to kill, even though in these modes you can win without killing someone, if you’re fast and quick enough. That was kind of interesting. I think it’ll be interesting to check out the other modes.
Milligan: It’s interesting, a lot of game modes. People do just want to kill other people, and they forget about what the objective is. They get distracted a lot. [Laughs]
GamesBeat: What platforms are you targeting?
Milligan: PC only.
GamesBeat: Any reason why Xbox Live Arcade or something like that is not on the table?
Milligan: It’s a good question. Nadeo has had a really strong history with making this kind of PC title. For them, it’s all about the level of quality and the level of focus. They want to make sure they’re making the best possible products with their experience. So for them, putting it on PC is the right place and the right way to focus on it. That’s not to say that in the future, there won’t be other platforms. But right now this is in their wheelhouse.
GamesBeat: Will it be on Steam?
Milligan: Our plan right now is to use ManiaPlanet. We’re looking at other distribution chains. ManiaPlanet is our main client, where you can also access TrackMania.
GamesBeat: You said there are custom maps. Is there mod support?
Milligan: Well, basically, you can create the individual maps. As far as doing mods, I don’t believe so. It’s a good question. I would need to get more specifics on mods versus map creation. I’d be happy to follow up with you on that.