Next Car Game

PC

EDGE - - GAMES -

Ad­mit it: when­ever a new Colin McRae or TOCA re­lease pre­sented an­other nu­anced han­dling model to mas­ter, the first thing you did af­ter putting the disc in was to drive into a wall to test how far your car’s body­work would bend. In­evitably, and dis­ap­point­ingly, it would only ever buckle as far as the in­de­struc­tible box at the core of each ve­hi­cle. The same was true of the bangers in Bug­bear’s FlatOut se­ries, but its lat­est project al­lows you to re­duce your car to a sin­gle, shrap­nel-wrapped wheel.

Next Car Game, as its place­holder name sug­gests, only ex­ists as a tech demo right now, re­leased via Steam Early Ac­cess to play­ers will­ing to pay for prom­ise. This tech­nol­ogy sneak peek is a play­ground of ob­sta­cles, ramps and car-de­stroy­ing mech­a­nisms, all painted in an aus­tere colour scheme that brings to mind Mir­ror’s Edge. An un­du­lat­ing, Stunt Car Racer- style track sits next to a colos­sal wall of pins wait­ing to turn your car into a pachinko ball. Crates, tyres and por­ta­ble cab­ins are stacked for you to hur­tle into them, and a gi­ant ro­botic spi­der stamps its feet provoca­tively nearby. Car dam­age is re­mark­able. Bot­tom out af­ter a badly landed jump and you’ll buckle your wheels as well as the body­work. Clat­ter into a con­crete col­umn and it shat­ters as your bon­net and bumper bend around it. Drive into a spiked man­gle and you’ll emerge with con­sid­er­ably less car than you en­tered with. That it’s so easy to dam­age or wreck your car is in­tox­i­cat­ing, but such fragility may prove frus­trat­ing in the con­text of a full game, and Bug­bear knows there’s only so of­ten you’ll want to hit re­set af­ter hav­ing found yourself un­able to drive in any­thing but a cir­cle.

“Show­ing cars get­ting smashed up and torn apart in spec­tac­u­lar crashes is cool, of course,” game de­signer Janne Suur-Näkki tells us. “And to re­ally show the de­struc­tion in all its glory, you have to crank up the knobs to 11. But that then means the player will prob­a­bly end the race in the first crash, [which is] not cool any more. It’s been a chal­lenge to find a sweet spot to have both spec­tac­u­lar crashes and a fun gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with­out go­ing all ar­cade. And to be hon­est, that’s prob­a­bly some­thing we’re go­ing to be tweak­ing right un­til the end.”

Next Car Game’s en­vi­ron­men­tal ob­jects are, in a very pos­i­tive sense, equally flimsy at the mo­ment, shat­ter­ing or de­form­ing ac­cord­ing to the di­rec­tion and force of any given im­pact. There’s an im­mense sat­is­fac­tion to be gained from send­ing your car, roof first, into a collection of sheds po­si­tioned just be­yond a ramp. But, as en­joy­able as these el­e­ments are, they won’t nec­es­sar­ily fea­ture in the fi­nal game ei­ther.

“Ba­si­cally, ev­ery­thing that we thought would make any sense is de­struc­tible,” Su­urNäkki says. “That means stacks of tyres are com­posed of in­di­vid­ual tyres that fly through the air when crashed into, wooden fences shat­ter and break down, con­crete walls crum­ble, and track­side steel bar­ri­ers bend. We’ve also pro­to­typed de­struc­tible build­ings and other neat things. Stuff like that will be in­cluded only if we deem it mean­ing­ful in that con­text. Al­though we love the over-thetop ac­tion our game fea­tures, we still want to main­tain a cer­tain real­is­tic de­gree.”

Along­side re­fin­ing the UI and im­ple­ment­ing mul­ti­player, Bug­bear is also work­ing on a ca­reer mode that will place a great deal of fo­cus on spend­ing time in the garage to main­tain and up­grade your cars. You’ll have to pay to re­pair dam­age us­ing money earned from events, and the de­tailed car mod­els can be stripped right down and built back up in the way you want. The team has taken in­spi­ra­tion from 1989’s Cal­i­for­nia Dreams-pub­lished Street Rod. “[That game] did a won­der­ful job of mak­ing you feel the car you worked on in your garage was some­thing im­por­tant; your per­sonal cre­ation,” Suur-Näkki says. “We want to achieve some­thing sim­i­lar, but up to date.”

At the time of writ­ing, the game is clos­ing in on 100,000 pre­orders, netting the stu­dio $3 mil­lion – nearly three times the $350,000 Bug­bear asked for in its failed Next Car Game

“To show the de­struc­tion in all its glory, you have to crank up the knobs to 11”

Kick­starter cam­paign (see ‘Flat tyre’). Su­urNäkki ad­mits this far ex­ceeds Bug­bear’s fund­ing ex­pec­ta­tions, but stresses the stu­dio never lost con­fi­dence in the game’s worth.

“It takes a lot of faith, hope and love to cre­ate a great game, and of course ev­ery set­back – whether that’s a lack of pub­lisher in­ter­est or an un­suc­cess­ful Kick­starter cam­paign – makes it harder and harder to keep your faith,” he says. “When we ini­tially started pitch­ing Next Car Game, we kept hear­ing how there’s sup­pos­edly no mar­ket for a game like ours. Ap­par­ently, our type of rac­ing is ado­les­cent fun [and] that doesn’t make a con­vinc­ing busi­ness case. Even so, we be­lieved in the game and took it upon our­selves to show it can, and will, suc­ceed.

“We’ve al­ways loved the FlatOut games, and over the years, fans have been ask­ing us to carry on in the same spirit with a new game. With Next Car Game, we re­ally wanted to get back to our roots and cre­ate an­other high-oc­tane de­mo­li­tion rac­ing game – for us and for the fans.”

LEFT Nex­tCarGame’s weath­ered stock make more sense on the dusty tracks that will fea­ture in the fi­nal game than they do in the hy­per-stark stylings of the cur­rent tech demo

ABOVE CEN­TRE Nex­tCar

Game’s age­ing, rust-rid­den heaps are a great deal more charis­matic than the shinier ve­hi­cles found in most rac­ing games. And wors­en­ing their state is ir­re­sistible.

ABOVE De­spite the ap­par­ent sever­ity of this ac­ci­dent, we were still able to drive away from the scene, al­beit list­ing no­tice­ably. In the demo, you can quickly re­set your car’s po­si­tion and dam­age.

Car han­dling is rem­i­nis­cent of the weighty, soft-sprung wal­low that char­ac­terised the FlatOut games, which, while per­fectly ad­e­quate when try­ing to slide into a wall, makes pre­ci­sion ma­noeu­vres dif­fi­cult

Even rel­a­tively weak ob­jects dam­age your car if you hit them hard enough. The amount of de­bris on­screen at any one time is high, al­though it’s pos­si­ble to be ma­rooned if items get stuck un­der­neath you

Af­ter crash­ing our car a cou­ple of times, we headed straight for this Stun­tCar

Racer- style track, only to find that the car’s heavy han­dling makes it dif­fi­cult to main­tain any kind of speed with­out fall­ing off

Janne Suur-Näkki, game de­signer

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