Before the start of this year, I was very much excited to begin working on our new GDW projects. This was mostly because I was under the impression that we would be making a racing game. It’s no secret that I love racing games, I love cars, and I love driving. Making a racing game would have undoubtedly been my number one decision for the GDW project this year. Unfortunately the system must have been changed and we were given the decision to make whatever game we wanted. Damn freedom… always has to come at the worst times!
Given that I didn’t get my chance to make a racing game this year, I have told myself that I would spend this summer trying to make a basic one. But summer plans almost never go the way they’re suppose to, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I came back to school in September with next to nothing to show. Nevertheless, a plan is a plan, whether or not I get to it is an entirely different story.
Like I said, if I were to actually make one it would be highly basic and probably not very impressive. But it would still be a valuable learning experience. Hopefully some day I’ll get a chance to make something worth looking at, and if that time ever comes, I’d like to have at least some idea of how it would all work. When I think about making racing games, some very challenging tasks come to mind. Things like A.I. (easily one of the most important aspects of any great racing game), car physics, and having a distinctive style and personality.
Designing competent A.I. would probably be one of the most difficult challenges for me. I can already assume that you just need to make all opponents perform spline interpolation around the track, but it’s so much more than just that. Opponents need to be able to swerve across the track to pass other cars; they need to be able to make out distances and speeds so that they can slow down and speed up around corners; and they need to be made to act like humans, and therefore be able to make mistakes. As much as I love Gran Turismo 5, the A.I. is very lacklustre. You can tell they were just made to follow their paths and that’s it. They never make mistakes and they never react to your presence on the track. Very, very boring A.I. Compare this to a game like F1 2011, where A.I. drivers often crash, bump, and spin out. They will also employ various racing tactics like getting in an opponents slipstream for an added boost of speed. Overall it makes for a much more satisfying racing experience.
Car physics is definitely another massive undertaking, and the math required scares me to be honest. Not necessarily for the more arcade style racing games, but for racing sims, which is what I would ultimately want to make. I would imagine that you would need a beast of a collision detection system because you would need to be able to pick up even the slightest bumps in the road. Also things like suspension, tire pressure, and aerodynamics all need to come into play. The slightest changes in car setup can have dramatic impacts on performance and handling, and it should be reflected in-game. Basically, all I can imagine is hundreds of variables all needing to lead into one ultimate equation.
Lastly, style and personality are also very important for me. I’m not talking about the kind of cars that are in the game, but rather the kind of experience the game provides. For example, Gran Turismo 5 is very much just a driving simulator, not to be mistaken with racing simulator. GT5 does not have the kind of racing spirit you will find in a game like GTR Evolution or F1 2011 for example, where it’s much less about the drive, and a lot more about the experience of racing the cars. With all the penalties, sounds, and competition of a real race, these games provide an extremely entertaining racing experience. That said though, GT5 still has it’s own unique style as well. For starters the steering and control are absolutely perfect, and the physics are very much realistic. I also love the sheer amount of cars available, with over 1000. It’s hard to get bored when there are that many cars to test and tune. If I were designing my own racing sim however, I would take aspects from all these games and combine them to shape a game that’s both a racer’s dream, and a car enthusiasts fantasy. Now that would be sweet…
It’s interesting to see how racing games have evolved over the years. I still remember playing Cruisin’ World on N64, and now I’m playing games that brush the edge between reality and fantasy. I’ve seen many new racing games that are pushing the envelope even further with things like real-time tire deformation and tire wear and dry lanes forming on wet tracks. I’m sure in the future we’ll continue to see developers pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and I would love to be part of the action.
This is awesome….