Tuesday, July 7, 2015

EoRG: Vehicle Lists

John Marine | 8:41 PM |
A racing/driving game is only as good as the vehicles in it. Whatever vehicles are chosen to fill a roster of vehicles depends on a number of variables and goals to reach in a game's design. Such a game's success can depend entirely on its vehicles and the experiences offered in it. This blog post takes a look at vehicle lists in games and the importance of them can mean for a racing/driving game.


Before I Begin...

People, I want to apologize in advance. Why? I have been trying to come up with my "Elements of Racing Games" series for so long for this blog. Every time I feel closer to wanting to release a topic in this series, I either put it off or don't complete my posts. Today is a win for me as I finally introduce my series on elements of racing games. So...


About the Label: "Elements of Racing Games"

Blog posts under this label are part of my "Elements of Racing Games" category. Here, I look at a number of different issues and elements prevalent in a number of racing games. This is more like the inner workings of most racing games. These posts include certain elements and even breakdowns of certain racing/driving games. The main goal is to hopefully get you to appreciate certain games more by breaking down everything in an analytical manner.





--- Elements of Racing Games: Vehicle Lists ---

EORG Vehicle List
Will the vehicles in a racing/driving game have enough for all kinds of experiences, and how can such games take advantage of these vehicles?

The kinds of vehicles you can use in a racing/driving game help establish the sort of character and tone a game of its genre can have. Having a diverse array of machines can either enhance or dull the experience. Many racing/driving games try to offer as diverse of a collection of vehicles for as many different experiences as possible. If a game lacks having an acceptable amount of vehicles, how far you can actually enjoy a game will vary. So it is therefore important for games to have as diverse of vehicles as possible.

Some games don't have as diverse a vehicle list. Such examples include something like most cartoon kart racing games. A lot of the characters in such games are basically equal so your choices are limited on the vehicle choosing front. The reason why I named this as "Vehicle List" rather than "Car List" is because not every racing/driving game is exclusively cars. For example, "Test Drive Unlimited" (except the PS2 version) has featured motorcycles in addition to cars.

So what difference does having a solid vehicle list make? Here are a number of talking points on this matter...


What is in a Vehicle List?

A list of vehicles in a racing or driving game can set a certain character to each game. A general question to ask is, "what do I need to make my game stand out?" One may also ask what vehicles would fit the game best. It is best to have a vehicle lineup that is suitable and not random or out-of-place. For example, a monster truck racing game would NOT benefit by having a Ferrari to race in the game.

Certain games benefit with certain kinds of cars. Take a look at the ToCA Race Driver series in the PS2/Gamecube/XBOX generation. The three games in that series featured various race cars of various performance levels. In addition, real-world racing series have been part of the games in this series. While none of the ToCA Race Driver games were never about one specific series (though the ToCA namesake is all about touring car racing), there are certainly a vast array of cars for you to race as hard as you like besides touring cars. To that end, you could do any number of racing with any number of vehicles. You might find yourself racing high-performance sports cars then find yourself behind the wheel of a formula race car. So you never feel really stuck racing certain kinds of cars or only being able to race/drive a certain kind of vehicle more than others.


Making Vehicle Lists Interesting.

Without a decent list of vehicles to use, you will have a hard time trying to sell a game that features a diverse array of drivable and usable machines.

People have bitched (yes- I actually used that word) in constant Gran Turismo titles about the lack of Ferrari, Porsche, and Lamborghini. Almost as if these are the only car companies that matter. The primary problem has lied in there being a good assortment of cars... only missing those that most car enthusiasts care about. Gran Turismo HD debuted Ferrari, and Gran Turismo PSP debuted Lamborghini. Those who defected from GT4 to Forza Motorsport 1 were pleased seeing all three represented makes. When Gran Turismo 6 came along, one of the most unique vehicle experiences was offered with the inclusion of the lunar missions with that 1971 Lunar Rover.

One game that has an interesting array of vehicles is "ToCA Race Driver 3." Besides the different street cars and race cars, you even race monster trucks, dune buggies, and even ATVs! Various vehicles all feel different. Having all of these different experiences adds to the appeal of racing in this game.

Sometimes, the oddball sort of vehicle list can spark all kinds of interest. "Enthusia Professional Racing" is a great example. Enthusia had a number of Multipurpose vehicles (like vans and SUVs) as part of the in-game lineup of cars. Of course, the average or mainstream racing game fan probably would never want to race a van or an SUV on tarmac circuits. Just because you can not feature a certain kind of vehicle in certain racing games doesn't mean they lack any sort of fun factor in their inclusion. My only problem with Enthusia was that I wish there were more racing vehicles to choose from and a few other kinds of racing machines. Racing games that offer such unique experiences makes you wonder how you would be able to race/drive certain vehicles under a game's certain physics engine.


Authenticity.

Licensed vehicles always bring a level of authenticity to any list of vehicles in a game. If you are unable to secure any licenses to any real vehicles or real racing machines, does it hurt the authenticity? It depends on who you ask.

If the goal is to secure racing machines of a certain series but have to resort to non-licensed material, the authenticity is hurt to a certain extent. One example would be in "GRID Autosport" with the featuring of the Dallara race cars in the IndyCar Series, but with no licensed drivers or teams. In the case of racing series you're trying to mimic, authenticity can be key. But when you are unable to come up with an experience because of certain licensing issues (or maybe you want your own unique experience), some game developers resort to fictional cars and fictional series heavily based on certain real-world styles of racing. An example of this would be the Formula cars in Project C.A.R.S.- Formula C (Formula 3), Formula B (GP2 Series), and Formula A (Formula 1).

Some people feel there is no excuse to not have actually licensed vehicles and personalities. There have been racing games that feature fictional drivers and fictional manufacturers, but they have different names that seem similar to what they represent in real life. There may be cases in which going for actually licensed material is maybe TOO GOOD for a certain game. I can think of the first two Midnight Club games for this example. Both games featured cars based on or similar to certain real life machines. Another example is "Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero," one of a number of games featuring proper-looking replicas of real world cars, but without the proper licensing. That would all change in the series starting with "Tokyo Xtreme Racer 3." Also, every Grand Theft Auto and Burnout featured fictional cars closely resembling certain real world vehicles.

Some even would feel the same way about utilizing a certain license with quality content. One example of this would be the usage of NASCAR and the World Rally Championship in Gran Turismo 5. You aren't racing actually licensed races or events with either NASCAR or the WRC. In fact, NASCAR is referred to as the "NASCAR Series" in Gran Turismo 5, and you are only racing NASCAR Cup cars. A full-on NASCAR license would mean you get to race a majority of the tracks NASCAR runs including the various other top NASCAR series. A full-on WRC license would mean you get to race all of the World Rally Championship rally events and even compete with a number of real drivers from the series.

Authenticity only matters based on what you're trying to go for in terms of making a proper collection of vehicles for players to use in games.


When Is a Vehicle List Good Enough?

The vehicle list for a racing/driving game is only good enough as long as the game completely provides the needed machines to make a list work. What is the point of including certain automobiles or machines if they can't be utilized in any sort of way? There was one time when I saw someone say online that if a certain car is included in a Gran Turismo, that one DEMANDS damage, as if it is a vehicle's only purpose is to be destroyed. Such people forget the fact that there may be some people who actually like a vehicle someone else may entirely loathe. For example, I never cared about the DeLorean made famous in the "Back to the Future" movies, but I would NEVER demand it be in a game just to destroy it. In other words, it is like saying you only want a certain person in a game so that you can kill him/her over and over again. It's rather classless.

You also have the issue of if a vehicle list is sufficient enough for that game. Gran Turismo games are often heralded for having a vast array of cars to choose from; however, some feel the quantity is hurt by the quality of having too many of the same car. You have other cases such as the likes of games like "Project C.A.R.S." or a lot of Forza Motorsport titles that don't have as many cars as most Gran Turismo titles. The biggest faux pas would be to seemingly have so few vehicles to where it seems like you've used everything. What you want to have is as many different vehicles as possible to where it doesn't seem like you've raced/driven everything with nothing new to experience. If a game offers very little in being able to drive almost anything offered in the game, the game ends up getting repetitive and dull quick.

Some PC games have the best advantage in regards to various experiences. In games where people make their own custom content, people can basically MAKE new experiences by taking advantage of the game engine and come up with unique vehicles to use in a racing/driving game. Some games are good enough with their collection of included vehicles; some just want to add to it by all accounts. So you have that added bonus for already good racing/driving games as well as the added precedent of adding more material to make it better than stock, so to speak.


These are the majority of thoughts of mine in regards to vehicle lists.



--- Vehicle Lists: Final Thoughts ---

When it comes to making vehicle lists for racing/driving games, the best practice is to include as many vehicles as possible to deliver any number of experiences. It is a better practice to allow each of the vehicles to be utilized or customized to one's liking unless you're trying to make the different vehicles unique in their own way. The best racing/driving games allow you to enjoy multiple experiences with a vast collection of vehicles. A solid vehicle list is a start. What included vehicles and the extent of their usage can equal the difference between a solid racing/driving game and those racing/driving games that seem like missed opportunities. Make sure you get to use as many different vehicles as possible to enjoy the full experience offered by various racing/driving games.





I hate that I've taken so long to properly complete an "Elements of Racing Games" blog post for my racing/driving game blog. This is actually something I tried to complete many times before but never successfully completed. I kept putting it off and not knowing what to type up. Fear not, though- the series is live as of this post! Want to discuss this topic? Here is a question for you:

How important are vehicle lists to you? What racing/driving games make the most of the offered vehicles and offered experiences? What would you suggest in regards to vehicle lists?

I hope to continue this series and offer more content in this category. So make sure you're Subscribed and Followed if you enjoyed your time here. Thank you for reading! Take care and be well.

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