So, we’re making a driving game. Why? Aren’t there already lots of driving games?

This is a question we occasionally ask ourselves, and the answer is usually the same.

“They’re nice and all, but well…we’d like to try something different!”

This is the thing. A good driving game can be fun in a very rare way – I think it’s that pure sensation of motion, the same feeling of flying or gliding across the landscape that you feel when you’re surfing or snowboarding, or dreaming about flying. It’s a very visceral thing. Which makes it all the more frustrating that the genre has become, in a way, rather formulaic.

I think this is going to be the hardest thing for us – the game’s coming along nicely, the basic framework is there, but it’s the handling of the cars, and the feeling of them on the road. That’s the most important thing, and one of the most difficult. It’s easy to work on graphics, and fairly easy to tell when they look good or rubbish. But gameplay? Gameplay! It’s just the most subtle, nebulous, downright goddamn difficult thing to quantify. But if the gameplay isn’t good, you might as well not bother.

In essence, it boils down to a whole bundle of parameters for responsiveness, acceleration, pivot points, just a whole load of tiny numbers that combine in completely unforeseen ways to create FUN or NOT FUN. There’s an fascinating interview with Jaime Griesemer, one of the designers on the Halo series, on balancing the gameplay of Halo 3, definitely worth a read.

It’s hard, but it’s also one of the most satisfying parts of game design – as soon as we’ve got these menus and unlocks and things out of the way, I’m looking forward to getting into it. Anyway, while we’re working away on that – how about a quick look at some games that DID do this right?


Supermono’s top 3 driving games of EVER:

1)Mario Kart, 1992, SNES. (Dave: yeah, that would obviously have to be very high on the list – almost perfect!)

2)Super Skidmarks, 1995, Amiga. (Tak: oh yes – on the Amiga – I worked with the guy at LH who wrote it too!) (Dave: hahaha I loved this as well! Racing cars with caravans attached, that was genius!)

3)Super Off Road, 1991, SNES. (Dave: Yeah, that was excellent, I used to beat my brother at it all the time…The upgrades were cool as well!)

1) WaveRace, 1996, N64. (Dave: It’s not the size of the ship, it’s the motion of the ocean, as they say! Sure, they’re not cars, but if anything captures that sense of motion perfectly, it’s gotta be WaveRace on hard difficulty!)

2) Burnout 1, 2002, PS2. (Dave: This was just brilliant – not so much the handling of the cars, which was good and everything, but the insane “one crash and you’re dead” 2-player splitscreen mode, racing into oncoming traffic. That was HARDCORE. That mode also worked really well as a drinking game, strangely enough.)

3) Sega Rally 1994, Arcade. (Dave: I am so conflicted about this. I really want to put Wipeout 2097 in there, because it was just the coolest-looking game ever, but for gameplay, nothing beat playing Sega Rally in in an arcade cabinet with the steering wheel and pedals. Ahhh, the sound of the turbocharger on that Toyota Celica as you drift round a corner….loved it!)

What’s your favourite? Let us know! And stay tuned for the next Drive Forever post!

9 Responses to “Making Drive Forever, Part 4: Playing Games”
  1. Shunnyzon says:

    I’ll go with Mario Kart. Simple and intuitive

    Still wish there were those power-up mushrooms on the roads during the commute to work everyday…would make my life so much easier and get me in on time too!

  2. Paul T says:

    1) Mario Kart SNES
    2) Micro Machines MegaDrive
    3) Konami GTi Club Arcade

    Why no Micro Machines?

  3. Paul T says:

    Actually scratch that – GTA San Andreas needs to be in there

  4. Forum Admin says:

    Aaah so much choice! PT – micro machines was cool, definitely, great tracks & handling – but I always found the weird multiplayer thing a bit annoying. Where you go off the screen and lose instantly. That might be because I sucked LOL
    GTI Club was ace – you know there’s a PS3 port of it? That demo brought back some memories Awesome handling on that Mini. And GTA, well, is GTA, although it’s kinda not *just* a driving game. In terms of gameplay influences, this is definitely gonna be more GTI Club/Micro Machines than GTA!

    Everyone seems pretty much agreed that Mario Kart is the best though :-)

  5. DGH94 says:

    Although not a TRUE driving game; I absolutely loved Hot Wheels: The PC Game. I used to play it everyday after school back when I was in third grade. I think I beat it a good 15 or 16 times.

  6. Forum Admin says:

    Wow – I didn’t even know there was a Hot Wheels game. Will check that one out!

  7. Rob says:

    I also had a love affair with Wave Race back in the day. I didn’t own an N64 so had to annoy my mates (who hated it) whenever I wanted to play it. They were further annoyed when I was inexplicably quite good at it.

    1. Super Mario Kart – natch.
    2. Slicks ‘n’ Slide – obviously Super Skidmarks is the original article, but I played this 90s PC game endlessly and I still think it’s one of the best pure arcade driving games (GeneRally is its modern descendent).
    3. Network Q RAC Rally (1996) – although the Colin McRrae games, particularly 2, have it beat for polish and are probably the best all-round rally games, I don’t think any others have captured the absolutely brutal levels of endurance and concentration that the sport requires. Sweden, in the dark, for 2 hours. What a game.

  8. Rob says:

    ..that Sweden comment obviously belonged to the McRae part. Oh well.

  9. Ian Callaghan says:

    Lotus II, III on Amiga
    Ridge Racer on PSX

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