Carmageddon developer: ‘If anything, we get more criticism for our crappy jokes than the violence’

After a 15 year absence, original developer Stainless brought the Carmageddon series back in 2015 with PC release, Reincarnation.

Now that title is coming to PS4 and Xbox One as Max Damage, and is even set for physical retail via publisher Sold Out.We speak to studio co-founder Neil Barnden about this new release, and whether he’s concerned about a backlash to the series’ violence.

Tell me about Carmageddon: Max Damage – what’s the lift pitch?

Carmageddon: Max Damage is the racing game where pedestrians equal points and your opponents are a bunch of crazies in a twisted collection of killer cars coming to PS4 and Xbox One. It’s got dynamic damage, action replay, achievements, collectibles and challenges, it’s got nuns, penguins, bears and wheelchairs. It’s the antidote to racing games.

Until Carmageddon: Reincarnation in 2015, there hadn’t been an entry in the series for 15 years, since TDR 2000. Why was this? Why bring the series back?

UK publisher SCi held the rights to the Carmageddon brand, and after the lacklustre performance of the third game in the series (the one not developed by Stainless) the company failed to find anyone who could produce the goods again for them. SCi’s focus shifted to other things – it acquired Eidos and then were in turn was acquired by Square Enix. It was our opinion that Square was never going to do anything with the brand, and so we opened discussions that turned into negotiations to buy the brand. This took a couple of years, but at the end of it, Carmageddon was back where it belonged, and we were able to get to work resurrecting the title.

In the UK, the original Carmageddon was famously censored for its blood and gore. Is a negative reception to the violence in Max Damage something you are concerned about?

It’s 20 years since the game originally launched, and as everyone is well aware things have moved on apace right across the media, with games these days being both far more realistic in appearance, and in their depiction of violence. While this is the case, we’ve consciously made the decision to keep the look and tone of Carmageddon firmly planted in slapstick comedy territory. Carmageddon is all about cartoon violence, silliness, surreal situations and puerile punning. If anything, we get more criticism for our crappy jokes than our violence.

Developers can self-publish these days. Why partner with Sold Out?

Sold Out is handling the boxed retail publication, as it has a proven track record of experience and expertise in this area. Stainless is self-publishing the game digitally.

Carmageddon Reincarnation raised $625,143 when you crowdfunded it in 2012. What was yourexperience of Kickstarter?

The Kickstarter campaign went brilliantly, it was really bloody hard work but well worth all the effort. The tension is a killer – although everyone knew that Kickstarter campaigns often trough massively in the middle section, to see the pledges dip after a fantastic launch response is heart-stoppingly tense, and we worked SO hard to keep everyone engaged and keep the pledges coming in. We had some great feedback and the support was tremendous: it confirmed, if we needed what we already knew confirming, that there was a lot of existing love for the brand and a new generation eager to support it too.

Would we do anything different? Well, I wouldn’t have suggested so many physical rewards. We’re still surrounded by a mini-warehouse environment to this day, with boxes crammed with posters, t-shirts, card games and other items to be sent to the backers. It’s a massive logistical task, and it’s taking a lot of admin to deal with it all – and costing a fortune in postage all around the world.

So, we’d definitely consider doing a Kickstarter campaign again in the future. But the extra goodies we offer will all be digital.

Max Damage was delayed by one month, from June 3rd to today (July 8th). Why was this?

The month’s delay to launch was at Sold Out’s request as it identified a better worldwide launch window in July. It’s as simple as that. We were quite happy to comply, as it gave us a slightly wider window of opportunity for some final polish on areas of the game.

What are your expectations – both commercially and critically – for Max Damage?

We are expecting the game to be a good seller. It’s a lot of game for the money, there’s a good 25 hours plus gameplay in the Career mode and the multiplayer is a hoot. It’s a game that’s had a lot of extra time spent on it and a lot of content added, since the ‘final release’ of Carmageddon: Reincarnation on Steam, which we know was a flawed first time out. Max Damage irons out the bulk of the wrinkles and is a far superior product as a result. It’s also ideally suited to console, and as an arcade combat racer” title it’s got its own unique niche in the market.

Critical expectations? Not many games are lucky enough to be universally well-received. And Carmageddon has proved itself always to be a game that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But we have proven that there are lots of people out there looking forward to playing Carmageddon again, and believe we’ll also create a lot of new fans with Max Damage.

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