Destruction AllStars is a brand new vehicular combat game for PS5, one that follows in the footsteps of Destruction Derby and Twisted Metal before it. The game is available today for all PS Plus subscribers that have been able to get their hands on a PS5. It's a high-octane racer where you and 15 other would-be lords of vehicular destruction duke it out in packed arenas for bragging rights and trophies. But it almost didn't exist – at least, not in the way that we're seeing it today.
This project has been in the works for over three years, a collaboration between Lucid and Sony XDev Europe – the wing of SIE Worldwide Studios which collaborates with external partners to bring games like Resogun, Motorstorm, Heavy Rain, Until Dawn, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, and Returnal to the platform. But before the studios settled on the idea of a "global sporting entertainment event where stars and cars collide", which senior producer John McLaughlin tells me has been a northstar for much of production, Destruction AllStars could have been something else entirely.
Looking to the past
"We had been working on Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions and we were working on Switchblade," says Berry, reflecting on the studio's work with an established IP in 2014 and its flirtation with a Twisted Metal-style vehicular combat game that it released in 2018. "We were starting to think about what we were going to do next. We put pitches and ideas together and went to see if we could get something signed up."
As part of that process, the studio quickly began looking at its history for some inspiration. It has alum from Bizarre Creations (Project Gotham Racing), Evolution Studios (Motorstorm), and Studio 33 (Destruction Derby), while Berry himself has worked on five iterations of WipEout at Psygnosis, and the studio began to wonder whether something "could be pitched to Sony that would get its interest?"
The result of that thinking was a perfect storm of sorts. "Can we speak to XDev about their old IPs? We were working on other games, but we were thinking of things loosely around older IP because we had done Geometry Wars 3 and that went down quite well for Activision," Berry continues. "Maybe we could go to Sony and say, 'hey, can we do an updated version of X, Y, or Z?' And then John McLaughlin and Sony showed up on our doorstep."
Just as Lucid was considering ways it could pitch a revival of older games, Sony came knocking with a pitch of its own. "They turned up and said, 'we've been thinking about Lucid, and we've got this idea of what we could do around destruction,'" Berry recalls. However, speaking to McLaughlin, a senior producer at XDev who has spent over 25 years with the studio, the genesis for this relationship didn't start with destruction but rather an intention to return to a type of racing game that was left behind in the era of the PS4.
"We were having these conversations internally quite a few years ago. We've kind of been in this position before, dealing with launch windows; with PS3 we had Motorstorm, and with PS4 we had Resogun. So we were beginning to think about the PS5. And this was before we had any information about the PS5," McLaughlin laughs. "We just knew it was coming and that we'd have information within the next six to 12 months."
The team started kicking ideas around and it landed on what McLaughlin calls "a throwback to PS3 – Motorstorm, Burnout, Split Second, and all of those kinds of games". When XDev thought more on the idea, it realized there was one area that fell by the wayside with racing games in the last generation - destruction; awesome, explosive destruction. "It just started from there. We went to Lucid because of the pedigree of Bizarre Creations, Sony Liverpool, Evolution Studios; they know cars, so let's brainstorm."
Freedom to experiment
I asked John and Colin which of Sony's dormant IPs it had initially explored reviving, but the pair laughed for a solid 30 seconds before confirming that it was unable to say. It is, however, clear from our conversation that Destruction Derby was one of them – the legendary vehicular combat game developed by Reflections Interactive and published by Psygnosis back in 1995. Destruction Derby and its 1996 sequel weren't PS1 exclusives, but the game's enhanced damage modeling did do one hell of a good job of showing off what the console was capable of.
When XDev began to think of ways it could present the next generation of crashing cars – an easy way to show off the power of the PS5, particularly in 4K and with HDR to utilize – updating the crinkles in Destruction Derby's polygonal chassis were a natural starting point. It's in that thinking, however, that the teams realized that the core play would need to be heavily updated to work in today's market. "In one of the early conversations we had, we had looked at Destruction Derby. It was like, 'do you remember that destruction!'"
"And of course Destruction Derby has loads of different memories for different people, but… well, one of the things that we did remember was just how slow it was," McLaughlin says, reflecting on how quickly smashing and crashing ground to a halt once you were dealing with a broken axle. "It got to a point where you were just trying to get to the finish line or trying to wait for the time to run out. Whatever we were going to make, we knew we didn't want that – we wanted it to be fast-paced all of the time, and we wanted to encourage more destruction and wrecking."
Berry notes that there are a couple of staffers at Lucid who worked on Destruction Derby Raw in 2000, so perhaps they know the pain directly of trying to keep an old property fresh. Either way, the game director tells me that as fun as it is working in the past, sometimes you just have to grasp at the opportunity to create a new IP with both hands. "There's a lovely familiarity in doing something that you've been working on before, and certainly Destruction Derby was an influence on the game and has been throughout, but, well, new IP is exciting!"
It gives developers "space to be inventive" when you're able to work from scratch, Berry says, adding that "new IP is important for developers to hone your skills and push your thinking a little bit, so you're not just doing the same thing over and over." From McLaughlin's perspective, investing in a new IP for a PS5 exclusive, rather than reviving a property loaded with player expectation, made total sense once the team started conceptualizing stepping out from behind the wheel. "At first, it was just about the destruction. It was really, really early on when someone had the idea to get out of the car. From there, we realized that being able to get out of the car, and get into another one, in this type of game changed and improved everything."
"So any kind of thoughts of being Destruction Derby or any of our previous influences kind of fell away quickly, as we realized that we had something pretty special on our hands," reflects McLaughlin. That's when we came up with this idea of a 'global sporting entertainment event where stars and cars collide', which is exactly what Destruction AllStars is today."
This interview ran as part of our extensive look inside Destruction AllStars: How Lucid Games is bringing the next generation of vehicular combat to PS5