Catch a ride in full 3D with “Crazy Taxi” for Game Boy Advance
Speeding your way this spring is a full-3D version of Crazy Taxi…for Game Boy Advance! Graphic State is the mastermind developer behind the project. Creative Director Richard Whittall tells us how they did it.
If there’s one thing Sega is known for, it’s innovation. From Sonic and Panzer Dragoon to and the first online football game developed for a console, Sega has always been at the forefront of gaming innovation.
One of their most memorable creations is Crazy Taxi, a simple driving game that packed more depth than we could have possibly imagined. All you do is pick up passengers and deliver them to their destinations. Somehow or other, Sega made it fun.
After being ported to every next-gen game console, it was assumed that Crazy Taxi would make an appearance on the Game Boy Advance. Although I liked the idea of playing CT on the go, I didn’t like the idea of having to play a two-dimensional, top-down version of my favorite arcade game. Little did I know, I wouldn’t have to.
Graphic State, the developer of Crazy Taxi: Catch a Ride (the full title of the GBA version), didn’t turn the game upside down by reworking it for the Game Boy Advance; they reworked the Game Boy Advance for Crazy Taxi!
The developers were able to create a full-3D version of Crazy Taxi using Rush, an all-new 3D engine that they created. The results are quite amazing.
See what I mean?
Being enormous fans of Crazy Taxi, we called a cab and drove to the Small Apple to meet up with Richard Whittall. Richard was the creative director for Crazy Taxi: Catch a Ride. During our interview, he provided us with many details on this revolutionary project.
Question: Which game is
Crazy Taxi: Catch a Ride based on?
Richard Whittall: It is based on the first game, the original arcade game.
How does the gameplay differ from the arcade and console versions?
RW: We have tried to keep the gameplay as close to the original - the cities are very faithful reproductions and all the car maneuvers are in there. Naturally we couldn't include quite as much traffic as the original versions, but we have definitely captured the Crazy Taxi feel.
Are all of the classic gameplay features (crazy boosts, crazy throughs, etc.) intact?
RW: Yes - they are all in there - all the same moves from the original game can be performed on GBA.
The Crazy Taxi series has been known for having some pretty cool characters. Which ones are playable in Catch a Ride?
RW: We have included the 4 characters from the original - Gus, Gena, B.D.Joe and Axel.
Are there any hidden characters or vehicles?
RW: Unfortunately not - because the cities are so large, and we have included most of the original textures and all 4 original taxis (with a lot of animation frames), as well as 9 Crazy Box games and a lot of music and speech we had zero extra cart space for anything else.
The arcade and console Crazy Taxi games featured music by The Offspring. Are they featured in Catch a Ride as well?
RW: Due to licensing issues these tracks are not included on the GBA, however we have created music very much in that style - with a lot of really high quality guitar and drum samples.
What kind of music can we expect from the game? Instrumental rock, rap, pop, etc.?
RW: Mainly fast rock/punk tracks - a lot heavier than a lot of other GBA music.
The first two Crazy Taxi games were packed with familiar, real-life locations like Pizza Hut. Are any of those going to make an appearance in Catch a Ride?
RW: Again, licensing issues did not allow us to use those brands, we have replaced with similar stores with non-licensed names - so for example Tower Records has been replaced by another record store, so the layout of the cities remain the same.
Are any of the Crazy Box games (or any other mini-games) making an appearance in Crazy Taxi: Catch a Ride? (If so, please give us some details on them.)
RW: Yes, we have nine of the Crazy Box games in there, including Crazy Jump, Crazy Balloons, Crazy Turn, Crazy Bound, Crazy Flag, Crazy Rush...
The GBA version of Crazy Balloons looks like
it’ll be just as fun as the console versions.
The Rush engine sounds pretty impressive. Technologically, what things can it do, and how do those things affect the gameplay?
RW: It is a full 3D poly engine - so it is ideal for most types of game. This engine allows us to develop games in 3D on the handheld, providing a much closer gameplay and visual experience for the player to those found on the next-gen consoles and PC. It includes an open plan environment meshing system which allows use of huge landscapes (such as the cities in Crazy Taxi), only limited by cartridge size. Also - as it is a software renderer we are not restricted to the GBA's sprite limitations - so we can have more sprites on-screen, including very large sprites.
The problem with Game Boy Advance is that its weaker processor tends to slow down fast-paced games. Has this been a problem for Crazy Taxi?
RW: We have kept the frame rate as high as we can in Crazy Taxi - around 15-20 FPS.
How many cars are you able to display on screen at once?
RW: At times we have over 20 cars on-screen - to make sure the city streets are always busy with plenty of AI traffic.
Wow, that is incredible! Can the Rush engine be adapted to other games and other gameplay types?
RW: Yes - it can be adapted to any game - such as:
Racing Games from Nintendo's own Stunt Race FX to Sega's Virtua Racing to true 3D kart racing games like Mario Kart 64.
3D Fighting Games like Virtua Fighter, Tekken and Soul Calibur could now have portable versions that actually do the original game play justice.
3D Flight Combat Games such as X-wing Vs Tie Fighter, Star Fox, Elite and Ace Combat.
First Person Shooters - such as Doom, Quake III, Perfect Dark, Duke Nukem.
RPG’s / Action Adventure Games - such as Tomb Raider, Zelda, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil.
Fixed Path Shooters - such as Virtua Cop, Time Crisis, Silent Scope, Space Harrier.
What was the most challenging aspect of converting a 3D arcade driving game to a portable system with much weaker hardware?
RW: The biggest challenge was recreating the huge city environments of Crazy Taxi, and making sure there was plenty of traffic on the streets. I would say Crazy Taxi is about the most technically challenging game you could do on a handheld machine.
It may have been tough, but Graphic State succeeded
in developing Crazy Taxi for Game Boy Advance.
I can’t wait to see what they take on next...
Has your accomplishment with Crazy Taxi made you want to take on another big development project? Say...a GBA version of Shenmue? (Grins)
RW: We all enjoyed working on Crazy Taxi a lot - it was fantastic to have such a great game to work from, and to be given enough time to really capture all of the gameplay and visuals, and THQ were great to work with. I would personally jump at the chance to develop a GBA version of Shenmue – that would be amazing!
Thank you for a wonderful interview, Richard.
RW: Thanks for listening - and I hope you enjoy Crazy Taxi: Catch a Ride.
I’m sure I will. I can’t wait to play it!