Woosh! Test your elytra skills in tomorrow’s free update
We’ve got a pretty swish update soaring onto consoles tomorrow, bringing with it a free, all new Mini Game. It’s called Glide and it’s designed to test your aeronautical skills to the very limit. Strap on a pair of elytra and hone your swooping skills on an exhilarating aerial track – the first in a series of free tracks to be released.
Beat the clock in the Time Attack mode, using thermal drafts and speed boosters to your advantage, or go for points in Score Attack by hitting all the hoops. Careful study may reveal sneaky shortcuts to refine your runs, so keep your eyes peeled! You can choose to beat your personal best in solo play, pit your wing-skills against other players online, or – on Xbox One and PS4 – take a swing at the all new Glide leaderboards. This update also boosts the number of PS4 and Xbox One players possible in both Glide and Battle up to 16, and all platforms get a more spacious lobby, too!
I had a chat with 4J’s art director David Keningale and level lead Michael Hansen about the mode and launch track. How did it all come about?
“Putting the Elytra in for the Console Edition Christmas update was the big driving force,” says David. “The cogs were already turning while we were building the elytra tutorial level. That said, we assumed it would be a ring-based flight course, like PilotWings. It was only as we were building the tracks that we realised just how much fun Time Trial was – and that inspired us to add more shortcuts in order to make it even more fun.”
While the team explored a few different ideas for the launch track (some of which survive as forthcoming challenges) it was the track inspired by their Battle map, Cavern, which got the best reception in testing.
“We put Battle's Cavern map into the track – it took less than three seconds to fly through! We quickly realised that Glide's maps would have to be huge.”
“We wanted to create a track which was almost like a journey to finding the Cavern Battle map,” explains Michael. “The whole theme of the map is based on the architecture of that Battle map, so they linked together really nicely.”
“We actually thought, hey, this will save us some work!” says David. “But then we put Battle's Cavern map into the track as a test. It took less than three seconds to fly through! We quickly realised that Glide's maps would have to be huge.”
And so they are! The launch track is a giant descending spiral, that moves from open areas, to tight bore-holes, before opening up again, the path regularly split by columns and other highly face-plant-able hazards.
“You start off in the Overworld, in a great canyon,” says David. “From there we wanted to introduce familiar terrain with little elements from Cavern, just to sort of hint as to the region you’re in, and as you descend the architecture gets more elaborate and less ruined. It’s almost like an archaeologist’s journey. We started off the build by digging tunnels, and trying to get interesting flight paths, and then we looked at where we could open up the map more. There’s a large atrium with some really tall architecture that works really well from that aspect, creating a crossroads between lots of a little shortcuts and different routes.”
“The thermals give you that roller-coaster feeling. You’re flying down, and it’s getting frantic and tight and then all of a sudden you get this lift up.”
The use of thermals to give the player lift allows for an interesting variety in the terrain, rather than a continual angular plunge.
“The thermals basically give you that roller-coaster feeling, you know?” says David. “You’re flying down, and it’s getting frantic and tight and then all of a sudden you get this lift up and then you sort of pause and then you dive down again. It gives you both adrenaline boosts and little breaks in the downward trajectory, giving you a chance to look around a little and see what’s going on.”
You’ll need to keep an eye out for those shortcuts – some aren’t obvious at all, and may take a fair bit of practice to master.
“We put the map into test with the Microsoft Test Team,” recalls David, “and though the test team loved it straight away, we had some of the senior members at Microsoft complain that some of the shortcuts were actually impossible. So we sent over a video of how to do those shortcuts – that’s when the competition really ensued. We ended up leapfrogging each other with our best times!”
In the Score Attack mode, you get to choose between different routes marked by rings – the level of difficulty and point value indicated by their colour and decreasing size: green for easy, yellow for middling, blue for hard.
“These routes all overlap, so you can get scores by switching between routes,” says David. “But, if you want the challenge, you can also just go for the yellow or blue rings. They’re much harder to get. You’ve got to be much more skilled in order to get them all.”
Glide has pretty much taken over the Mojang office – if you’re anything like us, you’ll be quickly fixated on taking down your friends scores, eking out every precious second from the course. Look out for more tracks in the near future – some free, some as part of a Season Pass. You can get a glimpse of these at the end of the trailer.
“The first DLC pack going out will be themed around beasts,” says David. “We have a kraken-themed level which takes inspiration from Battle’s Cove map. You burst out into a huge open area with two battling ships and a giant, giant kraken that you fly right up and over. It’s a really great experience. Then we have an exciting glacial track that uses the Ice Spikes biome as inspiration. We have lots of yetis running through the map and giant fossils for you to avoid and to fly through. And the final one uses the Chinese Mythology pack – you’ll be flying alongside dragons and around the fantastic, epic terrain of China!”
Keep your eyes on the skies for free maps, too – like the forthcoming Temple-inspired track, which sweeps through jungle canyons, mines and archaeological dig-sites!
We hope you enjoy the new mode! Just don’t beat my score.