The origins of Big Mutha Truckers are very interesting. Eutechnyx has a reputation for developing highly accurate racing simulations based on lifelike physics and handling models, featuring licensed vehicles and accurate performance dynamics. We'd just completed another serious racing sim for the PS1, but when it came to our next title, we decided we wanted to develop something that didn't take itself as seriously and was not so focused on "pure" racing.
Also, as it was our first next-generation title, our goal was to produce a title that would make maximum use of the new systems' improved specifications and was much broader in scope, and not just do a graphical update of a previous game. We'd been working on developing streaming technology and so wanted to do a more "free roaming" type of game, as this would be an ideal showcase for this newly developed technology. This also meant that any titles we developed would be much less linear in their design and could give players something much more than "just racing."
We were thinking around a number of ideas on this front when our publisher at the time approached us with a simple concept: it wanted us to produce a driving game based around truck driving, but they didn't want a racing game or a coin-op style title, -- it wanted something with more depth and strategy. In other words, a free-roaming style of game.
During a three-day series of meetings with our publisher's designers in July 2001, we began to flesh out the ideas. We began with a simple question: why would a trucker drive from one place to another? We quickly hit upon the rather obvious motivation of "Trucks take things to places… don't they?" and so the "trucking and trading" model was born.
Big Mutha Truckers.
Any ideas of "fixed delivery challenges" were quickly pushed aside and instead we decided to let players purchase different "valuables" from different cities and then deliver them to a place of their choosing. This decision had the "free roaming gameplay" box on our checklist covered.
But the game still needed an ultimate objective, so we came up with the idea of "The Trial by Trucking", where the player chooses one of Momma's trucker kids as his or her persona and has 60 game days to make as much money as possible, thereby beating their siblings and inheriting the family business. Sure, it sounded like the plot to a chase movie, but that's exactly the mood we wanted to reflect. With this in mind, we began to focus on some key scenario elements, as we have found that the content we want to deliver affects our technology choices.
We came up with a short list of key elements:
Because we believe that games by their very nature should make players feel good, one of the major motivators we put into the game was the ability to make wads of money. Not just a few grand--we were talking serious investment. A real "feel-good factor."
These thoughts immediately brought visions of Kris Kristofferson in Convoy, not to mention films like Smokey and the Bandit, and Every Which Way But Loose. It was probably because we'd seen too many Burt Reynolds movies that it just seemed natural that the game would be set in the "Deep South", where the good ol' boys are running moonshine, the sheriff's corrupt, and there's feudin' folk around every corner.
With our publisher in agreement regarding the basic concept and "plot drivers," we went away and started fleshing the game design out, beginning with the key characters. We started with the titular Mutha, who would be everyone's nightmare for a mother. She's cheated, swindled, and generally fiddled her way through life, and no matter how much her kids try to follow in her footsteps, Momma always would have gone a step further.
From Ma, there were her four dysfunctional offspring:
The cast of rednecks from Big Mutha Truckers.
We're firm believers at Eutechnyx that the game's technology should be used as a means to deliver the entertainment content, not replace it. With this in mind, we were always keen to give as much thought on the story, location and character elements of the game as we did on our technology.
Taking the characters forward though, for real interaction there had to be conflict, and to achieve this we created a large number of non-player characters with fairly weird and wacky backgrounds that each player character would respond differently to. This was something we felt very strongly about, as we wanted to make our characters as lifelike as possible. It also meant - from a player's point of view - that playing as each character offered a different experience beyond simply having different handling. In effect, we wound up producing four games in one.
We then began populating our world with interesting and diverse characters. We didn't want to simply have "a mechanic" or "a barman," so we concentrated on developing characters with more depth. For example, there was "Red", the ex-con bartender, jailed for a series of major armed robberies and now recently released from sing-sing. Now he's trying to shake off his past and open up a franchise of bars, converted from former slaughterhouses. In total, there were over 30 non-player characters in the game, with each given as much thought and consideration as the player characters.
Of course, travelling between locations had to present the player with both entertainment and challenges, so we also worked on a number of events players could encounter on the way: police, biker gangs, natural disasters, and more.
The design team melded this mix of character conflict with interesting locations and driving challenges with the ability to make money and get a real financial reward, to create Big Mutha Truckers.