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THE INSIDE TRACK – chapter 3


Hey Turbochargers!

Are you enjoying this hot summer? I hope so because I want you to be fully rested and eager to race when Hot Wheels Unleashed™ 2 – Turbocharged comes out! However, we still have a month and a half ahead of us, so I’m sure you’ll be more than ready. In the meantime follow me, your favorite reporter from “The Inside Track”, on my never-ending quest to find juicy new information to share with you.

Devs are nowhere to be found and it’s evident they’re hiding from me. Tsk, that’s so unprofessional… I’m just doing my job. But I won’t give up. If they won’t come to me, then I must come to them.

What? Wondering what I’m gonna do with this computer? Well, uhm, you know. Things. I mean, talking to people isn’t the only way to gather info. Don’t worry, I won’t do anything bad! I’m a fair reporter after all. I’ll simply use this tool I got thanks to my sources last time I spoke with the team. Why that look? Of course, I’m telling you the truth! Would I ever do something reckless like using an unchecked program and a password from a not-completely-reliable source that happened to contact me recently?

Wait. Why’s the computer acting on its own? No no no no, what’s happening? A virus? Please no!

Threat detected. Initiating defensive measures. All data on this system will be erased.

Hold on! I’m not a threat! Please don’t do this. This is my only computer, they won’t give me another one.

Analysis of input: Incoherent speech detected. Processing… … … Threat level: minimal. Source evaluation ongoing. Still not reliable.

Hey! Who are you calling unreliable? I’m the best at what I do, thank you very much.

Identification of overconfident tone. Matching data. Accessing the database… … … Welcome, annoying reporter.

Annoying? You, rude pile of cod- wait. Welcome? What even are you? How do you know me?

I’ve been trained by developers. Through data correlation, I got “the annoying reporter” result. You are allowed to ask. Info is limited to a single topic only. No exceptions. What do you wish to know, annoying reporter?

Well, isn’t that something? They’ve gone all out with this. I suppose I need to refine my stealth skills.

Self-critique detected. Processing… … … Your analysis is correct. Well done, annoying reporter.

Stop calling me that! Anyway, one topic, uh? Since you’re an AI, what about the online system?

Checking the database. Two relevant entries found: the R&D folder and the Lead Designer folder.

Two even? This day is finally taking a lucky turn, I can’t believe it. Let’s start with the R&D one.

Processing… … … Crossplay & Lobbies. Fabio Segantin, Lead Online R&D Programmer. Initiating video playback.

We decided to facilitate playing with friends without affecting the chance to play with other unknown players. To achieve this, a so-called group system has been created This system allows you to form a ‘party,’ simplifying the process of entering and exiting lobbies without unnecessary disruptions. The Party System aligns well with our matchmaking approach. In addition, to foster this cohesion among the party members, we’ve chosen to restrict voice chat exclusively to party members. Here’s a diagram of how it works.

As you can see, each Party operates within its dedicated voice channel, even while sharing a session with other Parties. By doing this we wanted to assure a space as safer as possible while keeping communications between Party members on – even if some of them are not in the session, they can still hear and talk to others.

To sum this up, the new online experience commences with inviting friends to join a Party, followed by transitioning to a specific lobby through our matchmaking system. This means that lobbies will no longer revolve around grouping individual users but rather different Parties, united by a more intricate and comprehensive matchmaking mechanism.

Since I know who we are dealing with, yes, this is only the surface of the Online System. Perhaps you could consider this an appetizer of sorts. Feel free to ask any questions you may have; I’m here to provide answers.

Am I that predictable…? It’s a rhetorical question, computer, no need to answer that, thank you.

So, prior to the lobby comes the Party. And when discussing this topic, we can’t ignore the elephant in the room: the whole cross-platform/crossplay matter. Looking back at the first game, we knew that this would have been one of the first features to implement: listen carefully, or better, use that recorder you always carry as I have to make a few clarifications to let you understand all of it.

We have three distinct scenarios to consider, two of which are fixed and one that is temporary: no cross-platform play, mild cross-platform play, and finally, full cross-platform play. The first and last options are, as you might anticipate, the fixed setups. If you are not fond of the idea to play with users from other platforms, simply disable the cross-platform function. But if we have full cross-platform, what about the mild – I’m sure you’re wondering. Well, as I said is a temporary measure to let you play cross-platform while we refine the full one: learning from the first game, we don’t want to give you a feature that is incomplete or that may conflict with other aspects of the game: to make sure you can still play with users from all platforms, even though you cannot invite them to your Party for the time being, we added the aforementioned mild cross-platform. And this raises your next question: how does all of this work? Again, let’s look at the following diagrams.

The first scenario is quite straightforward: with the cross-platform function disabled, not only will Parties consist exclusively of players from the same platform, but the sessions will also be limited to that platform. This setup is tailored for those who prefer a straightforward online experience.

Moving on to the second scenario, which I’ll reiterate, will serve as our temporary solution during the initial days after the game’s launch. In this setup, while you won’t be able to invite players from different platforms to your Party, the matchmaking process could land you in a lobby alongside Parties from other platforms. As illustrated, Session 1 showcases a combination of a PlayStation and a Steam Party; Session 2 features an Xbox and a PlayStation Party; and finally, Session 3 exhibits two Steam Parties alongside one Xbox Party. It’s important to note that these are merely examples; the possibilities extend to various combinations like Xbox/Steam or even Xbox/PlayStation/Steam.

Lastly, the third scenario is the most comprehensive. Here, not only can you invite players from different platforms to join your Party, but you can also find yourself in a lobby with a diverse array of Parties. The examples provided above are by no means exhaustive; they are merely intended to provide a general understanding of the mechanics at play.

Ok, seems pretty straightforward up to this point. Now, I wonder about the invites…

As for the invites, the most crucial aspect to remember is that an invite serves the sole purpose of joining a Party. It’s important to exercise caution, as accepting an invite while actively participating in a session will result in being removed from said session and added to the inviting Party. If you receive an invitation while engaged in a race, it’s advisable to wait until the race concludes before responding—there’s no need to rush. The decision to limit invitations to joining a Party rather than a session not only addresses technical challenges but also prevents the potential disruption of the user experience within a matchmaking game by introducing a player who was not accounted for during the initial search phase. Here are other diagrams to better explain the various cases.

As you can see, in the PlayStation scenario, two Parties are currently engaged in a Session. If Party 1 extends an invitation to the player from Party 2, and that invitation is accepted, the recipient will be exited from the ongoing session and seamlessly incorporated into Party 1. Conversely, within the Xbox scenario, the outcome differs: the action results in a player transferring between Parties without any interruption due to the absence of an ongoing Session. This works fine for the full cross-platform too.

This shows the same procedure as before but applied to a full cross-platform. Party 3 invites Xbox from Party 1, who’s playing a session: Xbox accepts and must leave the session to join Party 3, which is not involved in any Session yet. Meanwhile, Party 1 invites Party 2, who accepts and joins the new Party without, though, enteing the ongoing Session. They’ll wait until it’s over to play another one.

All of the above, except of course for the matchmaking, will also work for private sessions: the only difference, as said, is that there will be no matchmaking before going to the actual gameplay. I know you’ll probably ask more about this, so allow me to delve deeper: the Party Owner, the one who creates the Party, has some privileges like removing Party Member or promoting a Party Member to Party Owner.

Among these, they can also choose between public or private session/lobby. A private lobby can hold a maximum of ten players and while setting it up the Party Owner can set different options:

  • They can select the game mode by letting all the party members vote, or they can select it personally while also choosing to toggle or not vehicle collision. The same applies to track selection, which can be selected by voting or by the Party Owner, as they prefer.
  • They can limit participation in the race to only one vehicle category using the following filters: Any, Stock, Powered, Ultimate.

If a party member doesn’t have vehicles listed under one of the categories above, except for Any, they can still play the session thanks to the Loaned Vehicles: as the name suggests, they are vehicles that let the players play in a session even if they don’t have any vehicle for a specific category. The Loaned Vehicle roster is made up of vehicles given to the users on the first boot. We thought it could’ve been a nice touch to the game since it lets players enjoy a session even if they don’t have some vehicles.

I think I got it. Invites work for Parties, not Sessions. If you accept while playing, you’re out. If you accept while not playing but a Party is racing, you’ll join the Party and then wait ‘til the race’s over. And then there’s the Loaned Vehicles thing, that’s really amazing! This ensures that nobody gets left out due to a lack of certain vehicles. This leaves… yes, only the track and vehicle selection. After that, we’re done with all the R&D stuff.

Last thing from me for our fancy reporter out there, tracks and vehicles. Track selection will follow the matchmaking process. Once in the lobby, participants will cast their votes for the track they wish to race on, utilizing the same straightforward approach employed in the previous game. This uncomplicated method is designed to cater to everyone’s preferences, so we’ve opted to retain it as is.

As for the vehicle, players can choose a default one before entering the vehicle selection: this will set it as the first on the list but if it’s not right for that particular track they can always choose another.

That’s all about it. Hope you note everything down because you won’t access this video twice. You know, safety measures: the sort you might have overlooked when you installed that rather dubious program.

I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that. So, to sum it all up: we have a Party System with a dedicated voice channel; invites work for Parties, and yadda yadda, I’ve already said that; there’ll be a provisional mild cross-platform while the devs polish the full cross-platform – which will let the players invite users from every platform; once in a lobby, in order, you search for a race, then select the track, then select the vehicle and finally you can start the race. Seems flawless and easy to understand.

That is 100% correct. Good job, annoying reporter. Do you want to check the Lead Designer folder?

What do you think, my friendly and surprisingly sarcastic bunch of codes?

Processing… … … Online System & progression. Francesco Riggi, Lead Designer. Video starting.

Well, if it isn’t our restless reporter. I can’t see you, of course, but if you’re watching this it means you got yourself in trouble with some program, right? Let me cut to the chase, then. Knowing you, you’ve already listened to Fabio’s explanations regarding Parties, crossplay, and all the technical stuff. This only leaves us with the Online System within the game itself, with progression, rewards, and so on.

First things first, there is an online player level. It’s like a ranking, though we don’t call it that way, but same as every other ranking it’s affected by your position at the end of a race, whether it’ll be a classic online race or any other online mode available: the closer you are to the podium, the more exp you gain. Ten is the max level you can reach and to level up you need more experience every time. Since we have an offline and online player level, let me clarify this: remember when I said that the shop refresh time would have been shorter based on your player level? I was referring to the offline player level. It’s fair to those who play little online or don’t at all. We don’t want to make preferences between players.

In addition to this journey to the top, we have badges for you to show other players whom they’re dealing with. From the first one you gain, the others will be added automatically when you reach the designated level. The Leaderboard will show every player that has gained at least one Flame (this is what we call the online exp), listed by the total Flames they have. Try to reach the top, or at least the very first positions! You may wonder, if the online level cap is ten, how does the Leaderboard work then? Well, things don’t end when you reach the max level, because your position in the Leaderboard depends on how many exp points (flames) you have: you’ll always need to fight to maintain your rank! Last, while in the Leaderboard menu you can filter to see your friends’ position.

As for the rewards, there are no differences between game modes – you’ll obtain the same reward regardless of what you’re playing but it’s subject to your performance – and they are the following: coins, online experience, and offline experience (yes, offline player level increases when you play online).

I think it’s all for now. I’m confident you’ll be back with other questions since we still have a lot to show, but today you gained lots of information. Don’t be a stranger and watch out for suspicious programs.

Very funny, really. But he’s right, this is really juicy info. Don’t you agree, B.o.C.?

Irony detected. Processing… … I suppose it’s fair to call me Bunch of Codes, annoying reporter. Especially considering I’ll now be a permanent resident on our computer, we need to get acquainted [WHAT DID YOU SAY?]. For all our readers, see you on the scoop by your new “The Inside Track”.