The stunning virtual playgrounds of Riders Republic are often so rugged and breathtaking, it's easy to forget that such places exist in the real world. But as the new exclusive documentary from gTV shows, the great outdoors can be even more incredible when experienced firsthand.
Developed by Ubisoft Annecy, Riders Republic invites players to an exhilarating social playground, where they can experience the thrill of outdoor sports in an open and densely populated world.
While nature spent millions of years carving out the landscapes of American National Parks, the team at Ubisoft Annecy didn't have that luxury. They scouted the locations and used satellite images to create the environments. Then, with the help of Associate Game Director Boris Maniora and his team, they crafted them into courses that are fun to play.
This documentary from gTV records Maniora's first time visiting Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks after working on the game. He reveals how ecology inspires him, and how he hopes that games like Riders Republic can help people reconnect with the natural world.
We sat down with Maniora following the documentary shoot to ask him about his favorite parts of the experience.
What surprised you the most when you first experienced the National Parks in real life?
Boris Maniora: We started by visiting Zion National Park, and my immediate reaction surprised me: I wasn't particularly impressed. The mountains' red and white hues are very pretty, but the height was not as imposing as I thought they would be. But you should never stop at your first impression, and when I did the Angel's Landing hike, it was a truly unique experience! The verticality of the cliffs is breathtaking from the summit. On the other hand, Bryce Canyon struck me from the first second we arrived in its gigantic amphitheatre of rock formations. The colors have a soft and poetic beauty, coupled with the unreal image of thousands of stone columns. It gives you the impression of being in a dream.
Having worked on the game, did you already feel familiar with Bryce Canyon and Zion when you arrived on the ground?
BM: The game’s map was created directly from satellite images, so the terrain of Zion and Bryce Canyon is the same in the game as in real life. I was surprised at how accurate it was. I could recognize all the mountains, viewpoints, and areas of interest almost as well as a tour guide would. I had a strong feeling of "déjà vu," which allowed me to appreciate the places even more, and to soak up their energies.
How did it feel to see the Wall of Windows in Bryce Canyon looking so similar to the one in the game? Your team did a remarkable job on this.
BM: The rock formations of Bryce Canyon, specifically the vertical columns called "hoodoos" and the walls, were some of the most important technical and creative challenges in Riders Republic. It was meticulous work to "carve" these rocks faithfully, while twisting reality to turn them into a playground. For example, we flattened the tops of the hoodoos to allow cycling, and lots of passages and "bridges" were created between the different levels to allow easy and fluid navigation, and to make it as fun as possible for our players.
Finally, we dug holes in the walls to create maximum opportunities for air sports, such as wingsuits, rocketwing, and paramotor. I would also like to express how much I admire the team, to have achieved such a feat. I’m really proud of what we achieved together. When I was in front of the Wall of Windows, I saw myself in the wingsuit, playing to score as many points as possible.
Do you think that games like Riders Republic can help players become more interested in nature and ecology?
BM: Today, we’re really missing a connection to nature. Unfortunately, many people don't have the opportunity to have this connection, or simply lose it over time. Riders Republic puts a spotlight on spaces of indescribable beauty, but also of a disconcerting fragility. Despite the fact that we chose to highlight National Parks, which are by definition "protected," these ecosystems are still vulnerable to climate change. I hope that by including these magical spaces in our game, it will push some players to ask questions about nature and ecology, themes that we can never talk about enough.
It looks like you did a lot of hiking. Do you have any advice for first-time hikers?
BM: I would have loved to have done even more! The only advice I can give is to take your time. Staying on-site as long as possible, doing different hikes – no two are ever the same. Give yourself time to soak up the atmosphere, the sounds, the smells. I was lucky enough to witness an incredible sunrise over Bryce Canyon from Sunrise Point – those sorts of experiences are priceless. It's not about taking a photo for Instagram and heading to the next place. It’s an experience to live fully, because they are places out of time, and you have to experience them as such.
Riders Republic is available on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Stadia, and PC, exclusively on both the Epic Games Store and the Ubisoft Store. The game is also available on Ubisoft+, Ubisoft’s subscription service. February 10-14 also marks the game's first Free Weekend.
gTV is Ubisoft’s media channel dedicated to video gaming culture. It showcases all the ways videogames influence our world, from sport and fashion to arts and science. This documentary launched this week on gTV's YouTube channels worldwide.
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