Despite still being in soft-launch in select markets like the Philippines and France, Asphalt 9: Legends for Android and iOS is one of the more polished racing games at the moment. In our first impressions of the sequel to 2013’s Asphalt 8: Airborne, we noted a marked improvement in almost every department, from controls to visuals and, of course, the variety on offer. However there are still some unknowns such as Asphalt 9’s release date in other markets and why developer Gameloft stuck with one lap sprints we’ve experienced in our time with the game. Gadgets 360 spoke to Gameloft’s Gary Germain, Product Marketing Manager on Asphalt 9 to find out more.
We noticed that Asphalt 9 looked exceptional on an iPhone 6s, hardware that’s nearly three years old. Needless to say, it even scaled well on cutting-edge smartphones like the OnePlus 6. This made us wonder what Gameloft looks at in terms of base performance for mobile hardware.
“We’re trying to deliver the best gaming experiences to all supported devices. Higher-end devices with faster GPU allow for more intense graphics, however those additional graphics details do not affect the gameplay so a mid-end device user can enjoy the game like a high-end device user would and compete fairly against him/ her,” Germain says.
As for the differences between iOS and Android, Asphalt 9 has the option to switch the visuals up from their default setting to high on Google’s OS. Don’t expect a similar option on iOS due to Gameloft’s optimisations, Germain claims.
“We’ve always tried to push the visual boundaries on every iOS device and guarantee a smooth gameplay experience on these devices. To do so we set up the optimal visual intensity balance for the best device performance,” he says before explaining why the ability to switch between visual options is limited to Android.
“Unfortunately for Android, the vast coverage and variety of devices makes it very complicated to maximise each and every single device, this is why we enable users to customise their experience if they feel their device is capable of more or less load.”
Speaking of Android, there’s been a lot of attention garnered by gaming phones. The likes of Razer and Asus have devices primed towards gamers sporting high-refresh rate displays and bespoke controller options. At the moment, Gameloft’s focus is to ensure Asphalt 9 “runs perfectly on as many devices as possible for launch” though Germain isn’t ruling them out entirely.
“Of course, we’re always looking at new features that can enhance the Asphalt experience but it’s too early for us to commit on anything yet,” he says.
Moving on from hardware, we had to ask about Asphalt 9’s Touch Drive control scheme. It’s a new option that lets you control your ride similar to Subway Surfers or Temple Run — allowing you to select your path and dodge out of harm’s way. Germain revealed the thought process and development path behind it.
“Mobile gaming has evolved with more games perfectly fitted for touch devices. Touch Drive control was designed with the same goal of making the game playable with one finger only so that it can be enjoyed by the widest audience without requiring too much efforts. From there, countless iterations were developed until we found the right balance between AI assistance and player’s input,” he says.
Furthermore, he adds that the split between users choosing Touch Drive versus other existing control options is in “good parity”. Newcomers begin with Touch Drive and graduating to other choices. Experienced players directly switch to their preferred control method from the outset.
Another point of difference with Asphalt 9 versus past entries is how it borrows from arcade and simulation racing sub-genres. The moment to moment gameplay is fast-paced while its customisations are aplenty, akin to the likes of Microsoft’s mainline Forza series. Here, tweaking your engine, handling, and nitrous are all core to the experience. It’s a shrewd mix and one derived from its players. An interesting direction when you consider the previous game focussed on players acquiring as many cars as possible.
“We’ve used the learnings from the previous Asphalt games and the feedback from our players to develop and prioritise the customisation options in Asphalt 9,” he says before stressing that the team plans to add a larger number of customisation options in the future.
This doesn’t mean however, that you won’t have different cars to try out thanks to the game’s refuelling mechanic. Each car has a fixed number of fuel tanks with every race consuming one of them. Refuelling a car means you can’t use it for a race. Germain says this is intentional in order to have users try different rides.
“While your preferred car is getting a refill you can decide to pause your gameplay session or go ahead trying other cars in your garage, letting players discover cars that at first would have disregarded,” he says.
In terms of the races themselves, gone are the multi-lap contests of past entires. Instead, they’ve been replaced by short sprints. This was intentional to make it easier to progress through the game.
“We introduced the concept of short sprints in order to make Asphalt more accessible to people on the go, when you don’t have much time to dedicate to a full race or are unsure if you can commit to five minutes on a long race. This also helps on making the onboarding [familiarising users with the game’s systems and features] and early game progression much faster and dynamic. But the game also features plenty of mid and long duration races. It’s up to the player which one to launch at every given moment,” he says.
Finally we had to ask when Asphalt 9 would hit India and would Gameloft take a page out of Tencent’s book by releasing an India-specific version of the game with a smaller download size?
“Hopefully soon,” says Germain on the Asphalt 9 India release date. "Though, we cannot confirm any release date yet. Currently, there is no plan for a specific APK, however this is something that we’re willing to address in the future.”
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