A Happy Accident

This is gonna be a shorter design post, about how my favourite design element of the vehicles came about.

The original inspiration for Trafique came from Quarantine, a 90's video game about driving a taxi in a cyberpunk city. Though, in terms of how Quarantine implemented its design, it might be more accurate to call it a Doom clone with very slippy movement. Quarantine is very much a game about combat: the taxi fares are the only part of the gameplay that isn't combat driven, and your car is armed to the teeth.

Early in pre-production, Trafique was going to be much more directly imitative of Quarantine. The cars were going to have weapons, and it was going to be set in a run-down, irradiated cyberpunk Moscow. (At this point in development, the game was going to be called Trafik.) This conception of the game persisted into early development, with the player's car being modelled with nacelles in its hood where weapons would go.

Through mulling over the design, though, I eventually came to decide that if the game was entirely about the movement systems, with any combat being an implementation of the movement, that it would be both cohesive in design, more unique in concept, and easier and cheaper to implement. But the model was already made, with holes where guns would go. The decision to make the game entirely about driving was inspired by an old browser game called On the Run, which sadly appears to be no longer playable.

My initial thought was to remove the nacelles and make the hood solid again; this would have the advantage of reducing the poly count. But I also thought that maybe I could repurpose it. Taking inspiration from the classic hotrod look, my immediate thought was to have the nacelles represent the engine protruding through the hood.

At first, this would have been purely through point lights tucked in the nacelles, as if the glow of the engine was coming up from under the hood. Then, I decided that the actual engine would be protruding, in the form of two spinning wheels. In the fiction, the cars levitate by electromagnetism, so having the "engine" component be something spinning fits with the concept, even if it makes no actual mechanical sense.

I love the engine wheels because they add visual interest to what would otherwise be static car designs; it helps disguise the fact that this is a game about hovercars because I don't know how to animate models yet. Their speed corresponding to vehicle movement adds responsiveness, it gives the design a little more juice. I think it's probably the single best artistic idea I've had throughout production, and when I sat down to make the game, it wasn't going to happen.

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