“In the Groove, a dynamic reconfigurable slot car racing game.
Relive the golden age of slot car racing with this action packed supercharged simulation.” I. Artist Statement/Philosophy/The WHY Factor
In the Groove" is 3-D slot car racing game. The overall design of the game is simple, in that it is for one or two players, where the user controls their car by means of throttle management and they are able to change lanes. The main goal of this game is to create a slot car simulation that is easy and fun to play.
When creating a racing game, it is most important to create the illusion of speed. If the player doesn’t think they are going fast, then the game will seem easy and the player will lose interest. Creating this illusion is best accomplished by having stripped alternating colors on the roadbed that blend together as the player increases velocity. This effect is further enhanced by having solid objects alongside the track and bridges which the player can driver under. This objects let the player know that they are traveling fast because they pass by very quickly.
This game is very different from other racing games in that the user has to maintain a certain level of control with their car. Slot car racing is all about going fast and trying not to fly off of the track. This game is created with this concept in mind. Unlike other racing games where the user is mainly focused on his opponents, this game has the user paying more attention to the track and the speed that he or she is carrying. There is a meter in addition to the traditional HUD elements, and this meter shows the player how much they are in control. This helps remind the player that they have to find balance between speed and control. Go too fast and the user is likely to fly off the track and lose the race.
Groove Rider released for Xbox and Gamecube, is a similar game in that it is also a slot-car racer. In addition to this many other racing games have been produced over the years, but no slot car racers. Some notable successful racing games: Grand Turismo, the NASCAR series, F-Zero, Colin McRae Rally, and WRC World Rally Championships.
Distinctive factors in this genre are the elements of speed and competition, multiplayer capabilities, and big crashes.
III. Target Audience
This game is for young children and adults alike who want to experience a quick and easy slot car simulation. It isn't geared towards the serious gamer, but more towards a person who wants to have fun gaming experience with little effort to learn the controls. More often than not today, games are far too complicated for a person to just pick up and play. We want to create a game that doesn’t require you to read pages of instructions, or need someone to explain all the different controls to you.
IV. Introduction & Story
If there is enough time, a story will be implemented where the user must race in a tournament to become grand champion of the slot car racing circuit. Due to the fact that there are only 2 people working on this game, it is likely that there will be no story mode.
V. Immediate and long term projected socio/cultural project impact
This game requires the user to maintain a delicate balance between speed and control. Hopefully people will be able to relate this issue of balance to life. All too often are we trying to go too fast in life and accomplish as much as possible. As humans we can easily break down when we try to go too fast. The balance meter in this game signifies the constant awareness we need to have in life, and the times when we push ourselves to the breaking point.
VI. Delivery System & Requirements
A PC with OpenGl support and 256mb Ram is required. It is also possible the game will be ported to Sega Dreamcast.
The user interface (UI), will be a simple menu system allowing the player to setup a profile (keeps track of name, and records), do a quick race, or view the credits.
The game itself will be played from 3rd person perspective with 3 different camera angles.
Chase Cam – Directly behind the player’s car, about 3 degrees tilt
45 Cam – 45 Degrees up, allowing the user to see more of the car model.
Driver Cam – This is not a traditional driver camera (inside the car looking out), but a camera positioned from the perspective of someone who would be controlling the slot car. It is called “Driver Cam,” because if you were really driving a slot car, this is what you would be looking at.
VIII. User Interaction
Controls will consist of one button for throttle, and 2 keys to turn left or right to change lanes. Throttle will be controlled by one button mapped on the keyboard. The longer you hold it down, the more speed your car will pick up until you reach maximum speed.
The player will compete in a field of 4 racers, on several different kinds of tracks, all modeled after classic slot car race track. There will be a maximum of 4 lanes, and the track will occasionally break apart, or cross over.
The user will have a choice of several different cars, each of them having different attributes.
Speed: (range) poor---fair---average---high---very high
Note: The better a car’s turning, the harder it is for it to fall off the track.
Muscle Car – a tricked out street car built for speed: (speed: high, turning: poor)
Touring Car – a tricked out street car built to take turns (speed: poor, turning: excellent)
Stock Car – a traditional stock car: (speed: average, turning: fair).
Race Truck – a hybrid cross between a stock car and a pickup truck: (speed: fair, turning: average)
Formula 1 – a full blown race car: (speed: very high, turning: good)
IX. The World Layout
The tracks will all be set in the same environment due to time constraints. The environment will be a recreation room, meaning it will be well lit and it will look like a furnished basement. Items that may be seen there: chairs, card table, pool table, bar, etc…
X. Level Design
There will be 5 basic tracks that the user can chose from.
Easy – maximum lanes made for high speed racing, only 4 turn pieces.
Easy track 2–a long front straightaway and a twisty back side.
Hard Track- No real straight-aways, all twisting turns, player never really gets up to full throttle
Very Hard Track–a high speed front straightaway, longer than the oval, with several twisting sections on the back part of the course. The goal of this track is to have both extremes of pure speed on one half, and very slow racing on the other.
In addition to this, the user will be able to create their own tracks using the track creator. In order to implement this feature in the time given, the user will not be able to change elevation in the creator.
XI. Visualization- characters, flow charts
The player is their own character, as in the user profile they create when they play. They can compete against their friends and compare records on the tracks.
Due to time constraints and team constraints sound is not a priority. At the least this game will have engine noise in order to properly create the element of speed to the player.
XIII. Rules and Gameplay A. Setup, B. Gameplay, C. Scoring
Every Race is basically the same. Start when the lights turn green, change lanes to get around your opponents, don’t drive too fast around corners and crash (pay attention to your meter), and try to win the race.
XIV. Program Structure
All of the programming for this project will be done in C++ and displayed in OpenGL. It will involve the creation of a very basic physic system for the car's movement (sliding and falling off the track) as well as a track system for joining the track pieces together so that the cars can traverse across them. Model files will be converted from .Max to .ASE which are text based. We are using .ASE files because they are the only file extension we could find an exporter for that we know how to use. General text based data files will also be created to hold the information regarding the specifics of each car and the user profiles.
XV. Technical Specs: Physics, Rendering System, Lighting Models
Physics: cars stick to track, unless on turns, then calculations are made to determine if the player’s car is exceeding the escape velocity. If it is, then the car will crash off of the track.
Rendering System: OpenGl and win32
Models: All car, track and environment models will be made in max, and appropriate shaders applied to create lighting effects.
Late September - Have concept art finished and all the ground work laid out.
Early Oct - Finalize the number of tracks, as well as each track layout. Also have model exporter working properly.
Late Oct - Have tracks assembled and, have all track pieces finished and polished.
Mid Nov - At least one car fully completed and can drive around a track (Alpha)
Late Nov – Have the track editor finished, and all tracks that get created load properly.
End of fall semester- Game works with simple mechanics, physics in place possibly. Re-evaluate deadlines for spring semester.
Brief History of Slot Car Racing –
It started off in England as a post war modeling activity. Originally called “Rail Cars” because they ran on “railroad” like rail, this hobby was very popular with veterans in England during the 1950’s. It wasn’t until Americans became involved in the mid 50’s that someone decided to put the cars in serious competition. The idea came up for large commercial hobby shops with multiple lane raceways and the first commercial raceway in the United States is credited to Tom Cook of Kalamazoo Michigan. Tom and a couple of friends, Harry Hedges and Bill Wilson that are reported to have designed the first slot track in the US. It was 1/40th scale, meaning the cars were 1/40th the size of real race cars. The motors used were an iron lump for a magnet and it was of railroad train origin. The frames were very simple, connecting the motor and the axles, while the guide was just a pin with brushes dangling on either side.
In 1966 it became the American Hobby, and there were clubs across the US with major hobby companies such as Lionel, Varney, Eldon and Aurora creating cars. 1966 through 1968 were the “golden” years of slot car racing, in that there were reportedly some 20,000 commercial tracks in operation involving almost every town in America. There are more than 300 commercial raceways still in business today, and many toy companies still produce various themed slot car sets for children. Most notably are Tyco and AFX.
Ian and I decided to make a slot car racing game due to our fascination with the hobby when we were younger. We both enjoyed being able to construct our own tracks and watching little versions of popular sports cars race around them and crash. Another motivating factor was the ease at which we felt we could create something like this. We both love video games and we figured a project like this is well within reach. It is not a difficult game to create in theory because the cars are limited to stay in specific lanes, but we felt that we could use this to our advantage and create a game that is complete and well polished. In addition to this, being able to update this game further down the road with more cars and tracks is achievable due to the game’s solid structure.
Various research has been gathered from reading user reviews fromGameFaqs.com and GameRankings.com, as well as various tips on modeling techniques from iDevGames.com. In addition to these sources, I have gathered data from Game Developer Magazine and Game Design Perspectives by Francois Dominic Laramee. As a whole these sources have helped me see the key points to designing and creating a racing game.
The element of speed – This is the most important topic that these sources covered. It is necessary to convey speed to the user. Necessary techniques to do this include: using dashed textures on the track that blend together, having signs and bridges that quickly pass by the player, and having a good speedometer for the player to reference. The player’s vehicle doesn’t need to be traveling fast in the game world; the user just has to think it is.
Keep it competitive – A user doesn’t want a game that’s too easy or too hard for that matter. The races should always be close, and the more passing, the better. The AI should be geared around how the player is performing. If the player is slow, then the AI should race at his speed. Consequently, if the player is very fast, then the AI should be keeping up and challenging him at every given opportunity. Competition = Excitement
Completeness – Don’t release an incomplete game. Make sure that all the elements of your particular racing genre are covered. From cars, to tracks, to the racing itself, if something is incomplete, the odds are the user is going find it, and become angry or bored. It’s important to keep the user’s attention, and a good way to do this is by not skipping over important details. In addition to this, make sure the game runs smoothly, and there are no noticeable bugs. Although it is difficult to eliminate all bugs, getting rid of the major ones should be priority 1.
These are references I used to learn more about slot car racing, as well as slot car racing based video games.
Groove Rider by Encore Software - A fantasy slot car racing game for Xbox and GameCube.
HO slot car racing - Contains information on specific brands of cars as well as tips and track layouts.
British Slot Car Racing Association - Contains a good supply of information about the hobby.