Back in 2015, the newly founded studio Caged Element dropped an eye-catching debut trailer for their first title, GRIP: Combat Racing, a spiritual successor to the Rollcage games of the late 90s and early 2000s. Their journey to launch over the past three years has been an unconventional one, but GRIP has managed to garner quite the audience nonetheless ahead of its launch on PC and consoles later this year. We recently had the opportunity to check in with Caged Element co-founder and GRIP game director Chris Mallinson and discuss the game’s journey to launch and their plans for the months ahead, plus dive deep into some brand new details on the multiplayer modes.
For Mallinson, creating a Rollcage title for a new generation of gamers seemed like a no-brainer upon meeting the studio’s co-founder: “Caged Element’s other co-founder Robert Baker was a developer on the original Rollcage games and after I stumbled across his blog in search of Rollcage-y goodness, we started to chat. It was clear that Rob was still very passionate about Rollcage, and I was keen to be involved in anything that bought that great concept back to life.” Shortly after the developer’s inception back in June 2015, the team put out an ultimately unsuccessful Kickstarter, but the positive reception from the community led to an early access version hitting Steam the following year, which kicked off over two years of fan-fueled feedback and changes. “Put simply, there was no way we could have dumped the kinda play time into the game these guys have,” said Mallinson. “I mean, some guys have hundreds of hours. They’ve helped GRIP become the balanced but high octane experience it is today. We simply couldn’t have done it without them, especially those who supported us from the very beginning through our website campaign.” A key area that Mallinson specified that was highly influenced by community feedback was the balance between the fifteen vehicles spread across three classes, which required plenty of fine-tuning to maintain equality across the wide spread of cars.
Even as recently as 2015, there has been public evidence that fans have been eager for a multiplayer Rollcage experience, jumping over the technical hurdles to enjoy the 360 degree racing action. This comes as no surprise to Mallinson: “I think racing fans like the challenge of the original Rollcage and it’s concept is pretty easy to love – those awesome RC cars from the 90s inserted into a video game and armed to the teeth…” As a result, Mallinson and his team are looking to fill the multiplayer void for this sub-genre of racers, going as far as to put custom code for specific key elements including player syncing and collision detection, while also keeping things fresh thanks to plenty of vehicle customization and various racing modes, including the Arena which drops the finish lines in favor of all-out destruction. The online multiplayer will feature up to ten players simultaneously, plus the option for local split-screen racing, which was a must-have for Mallinson despite the current trend. “Split-screen has been mourned for too long,” Mallinson said. “Looking back at the best gaming moments of my life, many of those cherished titles – Rollcage included – revolved around couch multiplayer. For us it was never an option to not include split-screen in GRIP. Sure, it’s come with some technical challenges, but the trade off is well worth it.”
As GRIP heads toward launch, Caged Element is continuing to polish the final product, particularly on PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, with guaranteed resolution increases and a goal of 60FPS across both platforms. The Switch won’t be left out either, with exclusive features including two player tabletop play and potentially more after launch. Caged Element has additional plans for the game post-launch as well, including free racetracks and arenas, purchasable customization options, plus “fun ideas for new modes, vehicles and events” for the first six months after release and beyond. None of the purchasable DLC will be pay-to-win, Mallinson confirmed, as the developer hopes to avoid building a divide within the community. When asked about the future of GRIP as an eSport, Mallinson replied, “We’d love to see GRIP adopted by the eSports community and this will be an area we hope to support after launch. Ultimately you can’t force this stuff but we think the game has great potential in this space and we’ll be looking longer term at what we can do to support this.” For now, the team is content with finally having a concrete date for the official launch of GRIP, and the positive buzz around it so far makes it a unique racing game to keep an eye on as we drift and flip towards November 6.