In wrapping up the development of Road Rage I hit one or two snags. This annoys the hell out of me since it is largely due to big holes in the game’s design.
I’m a designer who likes to have the core stuff ironed out long before I get my hands dirty with code and graphics. The central mechanics of the game are the first thing I figure out and everything else gets built around it.
For Road Rage the central theme is the winding road that shifts at pace beneath the action and provides a rapidly changing restriction to the player’s movement. If the car veers off-road it incurs significant damage.
This all worked out well initially. I’d used the code base for Spy Chase as a foundation and built upon it with layers of activity. The problem was that the game was actually far too easy to play and I wasn’t willing to compromise any of the design features.
The road movement look neat, the laser fire from the player’s car worked well, the missile fire from the enemy looked great and the explosions and special effects all added a wonderful depth to the game. But it was just too easy.
The player’s movement was limited but fairly swift in the x axis and his laser fire was rapid. This I liked. Everything played out smooth and it felt like the most complete arcade game I’d ever made.
Injecting the time limit was a late addition and it really intensified the challenge.
Then it occured to me that the fundamental issue was with the player’s ability to shield damage from bombs, cars and the off-road. This increased the player’s chance of survival through to the health regenerating Checkpoint between stages.
I played with a few different means of punishing the player and settled on a single hit from a bullet or missile destroying the car. Bumping other cars and trucks took a small amount off the player’s “health” (pretty vital as bumping is a key feature in the game and a fair bit of fun) and running off-road added larger amounts of damage. I didn’t want to destroy the car for veering off road as in some cases it’s unavoidable. Better to add damage and encourage the player to return to the road at the earliest opportunity.
So the game dynamics are now set such that the player avoids enemy fire at all costs and shifts left and right to collect, dodge and shoot. So much so that you could pretty much remove the road and backdrop and it’d play out like an old school shoot ’em up.
I think the game is a huge amount of fun and faithful to the arcade game designer’s ethos of short, challenging and intense fun for your coin. Hopefully it will encourage a high percentage of replays!
Road Rage will find its way to the PlayStar Arcade in the next week or so.