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A Rational Approach To Racing Game Track Design
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A Rational Approach To Racing Game Track Design

September 6, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next

Initial D vs. Maximum Tune

So far we know that Maximum Tune and Initial D both have different approaches to vehicle dynamics and track design. However, they can both be described as highly empowering experiences for non-drivers. Both games provide a different experience and mood, so by analyzing some specific examples of track design within these games, we can come up with a track design language that will be useful when taking a rational approach to track design.

Characteristics of Maximum Tune track design and vehicle dynamics

  • Tracks are much wider as they are designed for four players, instead of two or three in Initial D
  • Much higher track speeds, so corners are more forgiving
  • Designed to have other NPC vehicles on the road during gameplay
  • Lead players can choose to take a different route through the course
  • Much fewer tight turns than Initial D

Characteristics of Initial D track design and vehicle dynamics

  • Two player network play against either the AI or other players, which emphasizes close, focused rivalries
  • Slower speed vehicles which operate on narrower tracks
  • Race line punishment
  • No traffic obstacles

Hanshin Express Line: Maximum Tune 3  

The Hanshin Express Line is a popular track in Maximum Tune 3, and has a lot of similarity to the track design in Daytona USA -- particularly the beginner circuit. The track is wide and has lots of sweeping, on-camber corners. Just like the Mt. Akina Circuit used in Initial D, the Hanshin Express Line is an embellished version of a real-world roadway -- this one in Osaka, Japan.

As Maximum Tune is based around the illegal freeway racing scene epitomized by the manga series Wangan Midnight, there is an emphasis on creating tense yet flowing high speed maneuvering through regular traffic.

As mentioned earlier, Maximum Tune is able to implement its ideal clipping points early in the corner, hence allowing for greater corner exit speeds. The way that it achieves this is by making the corner exits wider than the entries. From an emotion point of view, this may sound boring. However, the designers of Maximum Tune have built in a clever feature to embellish the player's actions and make them look better than what they actually are. This concept is known as needle threading.

Needle Threading: Maximum Tune

The Hanshin Express Line is epitomized by these needle threading corners. Put simply, a needle threading corner is one which provides a very wide corner entry point, an ideal clipping point (just one) and then the perception of a very narrow corner exit (Figure 19).

Figure 19

Needle threading corners have significant emotional value, and often give the perception of mastery for the players who are able to achieve them. Just like anything in game design, it is all about making the player look better than they actually are -- especially in the highly voyeuristic environment of the arcade.

Figure 20 shows how this sense of mastery and achievement is achievement. As the player corrects towards the ideal corner exit point, the vehicle is still sideways whilst passing through this "needle thread" point, making the track walls closer to the vehicle. The positioning of the camera is purposeful and captures this impossibly accurate near-miss which would more often than not lead to disaster in real life -- especially at the speeds cars are traveling at within the game.

Figure 20

When implemented a needle thread corner, the initial design needs to be done without the narrow exit point. If you look at Figure 20 and remove the barricade, we can see the design methodology at play. In Figure 21, you can see how the corner exit becomes noticeably wider than the entry, meaning that the ideal clipping point can be much earlier in the corner designs. The addition of the barricade is the illusion that the player needs to embellish their actions and make them feel empowered.

Figure 21

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next

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