FlatOut: Exclusive developer diary - part four

Mental stock car pile-up FlatOut is released for PC, PS2 and Xbox this Friday and it's already been met by a slew of positive reviews. But what's it like working on a game during its very final stages of development? 3D artist Ilari Lehtinen talks us through it...

Here's the good news: this is it. Or very, very close to it. No, we're not gold yet at the time of writing but all the to-do lists on our project server are showing 'OK' or '95%' for almost all tasks.

We'll have fierce competition in November but we feel confident on delivering what gamers have wished for. We are tweaking the menus, balancing gameplay, hunting and eliminating bugs and so on. It's the usual final run of the development cycle, seemingly easy but not to be taken lightly as it's actually the most important part. So far we haven't run into any major catches and things look good. Marketing is about to start, homepages are about to hit the web and we're looking forwards to the first reviews and comments.

Right now, in this room, there's split-screen camera adjustments, ragdoll driver screenshot capturing and a gameflow chart being done to help the testing team at Empire. And then there's me, writing this diary. After I finish this, I'll be taking screenshots using one of the Xbox development kits scattered around the office. We tried capturing frames from a DV video in a hurry but the quality was horrible.

Track designers are currently doing minor optimisations and visual modifications to the tracks, while fixing minor things such as fenceposts in air (inches only, a thing nobody would notice unless they knew). Cars are finished and modifications will only be done if testers notice any bugs. Code is nearly done, only some gameplay functions and tweakings left.

We'll be polishing and honing everything to the last minute, not because it's needed but because we want FlatOut to be the leader of the pack. As you can guess, at this stage everybody does what they can, regardless of what their normal work is. The team has a huge drive to finish and finetune FlatOut into a polished racer that's massively fun to play on all platforms and all the efforts are now bearing fruit.

You might think we've had an overdose of the game already but the simple fact is we still enjoy playing it. From time to time, there's loud shouting and applauding coming from the conference room, as people get into the ragdoll groove with the stunt modes. Over and over again.

Which reminds me, have I mentioned how mind bogglingly cool it is to play FO with four-player splitscreen on a large projector screen? My apologies if I haven't.

It's no wonder people working at the other offices in this building keep giving us a bit sideways look. I guess you could say we're the 'dynamic' company of the building, so to speak...

There have been moments when somebody has had the urge to hurl a monitor (or a co-worker) out the window but that's all part of the creative process. It happens in any game-dev studio. No, really, ask any British developer. They're famous for things like that and don't ask how I know. However, 99% of the time it's been smooth sailing.

FlatOut is released for PC, PS2 and Xbox on 5 November