Indiemas­ter

Drive, drive, drive, drive, drive to the ra­dio…

Games Master - - Contents - Chris Schilling

This month, Trans­mis­sion trans­ports us to a world of chilled-out car rides and 1980s nos­tal­gia.

Fresh per­spec­tives on ex­ist­ing gen­res are no bad thing as far as we’re con­cerned. But a driv­ing game be­ing made by some­one who can’t ac­tu­ally drive? That’s a new one. “One of the other guys worked on the first three Forza Hori­zon games and is help­ing me bal­ance all the cars,” Jon Dadley ex­plains. “So they’ll have a good feel to them, but I’m try­ing to avoid a dry sim­u­la­tion. It’s more about what feels nice and re­lax­ing.” The fo­cus of Trans­mis­sion, you see, is less on driv­ing, and more about en­gag­ing with the world around you. Dadley cites Euro Truck Sim­u­la­tor as an in­flu­ence, but is aim­ing to of­fer an ex­pe­ri­ence that feels less pas­sive. Tak­ing place in the 1980s, it casts you as a courier, mak­ing night-time de­liv­er­ies. The more you com­plete, the more money you’ll earn, giv­ing you the chance to up­grade your ve­hi­cle. At first you won’t be able to get very far, but you can un­lock ad­di­tional bases which let you stag­ger longer jour­neys over sev­eral nights. This in turn lets you see more of the world, as does buy­ing a faster or more ef­fi­cient ve­hi­cle with the pro­ceeds.

Set­ting the game in the ’80s has two main ben­e­fits. “We wanted peo­ple to feel more con­nected to it emo­tion­ally, so it wouldn’t be this dry, ‘Here’s a car, just drive down the mo­tor­way’ ex­pe­ri­ence,” Dadley says. “That’s why it’s got those or­ange sodium lights you used to get. I’ve got re­ally strong mem­o­ries of be­ing a kid, and my par­ents driv­ing us on hol­i­day to Wales. I re­mem­ber be­ing on the back seat at night and see­ing those or­ange lights flash­ing over me. It’s such a strong me­mory and I thought we could bring that feel­ing back for peo­ple.”

Courier moves

It also means you can’t rely on sat­nav to guide you to your des­ti­na­tion. You’re not sim­ply fol­low­ing an ar­row or a dot­ted line un­til you get there. In­stead, an LED read­out on the dash­board will let you know which lo­ca­tions you need to look for: it’s your job to keep an eye on the road signs to see where you should be headed. Then when you want a wider over­view of your en­vi­ron­ment, there’s a

“You can make your own anachro­nis­tic mix tapes via the in-car stereo”

diegetic roadmap you can bring up. “Did you play Far Cry 2 at all?” Dadley asks. “It’s the same kind of thing. It phys­i­cally comes up to your screen.”

It’s a way to in­volve the player more deeply, but Dadley recog­nises that the ap­peal of Jalopy and Euro Truck Sim­u­la­tor is that they aren’t too stress­ful. To which end you can ap­ply a cruise con­trol that keeps the car at its cur­rent speed while fol­low­ing the curve of the road, then when a cor­ner is com­ing up, you can dis­en­gage it and turn man­u­ally.

“It ac­tu­ally sprung from the AI,” Dadley ex­plains, “be­cause all the AI driv­ers are us­ing the same un­der­ly­ing sys­tem, and I won­dered if it could be in­ter­est­ing if the player could en­gage that for them­selves. Ba­si­cally, you can de­cide how much you want to be in con­trol.” It cer­tainly doesn’t bother Dadley that the tech­nol­ogy – from the dis­patch de­vice to the cruise con­trol – didn’t re­ally ex­ist at the time Trans­mis­sion is set. This is more about mak­ing an evoca­tive ex­pe­ri­ence than be­ing a slave to his­tor­i­cal ac­cu­racy. In fact, you can make your own anachro­nis­tic mix tapes by lis­ten­ing to your own mp3s via the in-car stereo. One thing Dadley is keen to avoid is pe­nal­is­ing the player, though this is ap­par­ently some­thing he and his team are still play­ing around with. “Penal­ties can be a bit frus­trat­ing and take you out of the ex­pe­ri­ence,” he says. “So we might limit speed­ing based on how fast the car can go rather than you be­ing fined for go­ing over the limit.” And it’s un­likely you’ll be told off for late de­liv­er­ies. Missed turns are bound to hap­pen, he con­cedes, so rather than let­ting the player fret about mis­takes, he’s keener to of­fer bet­ter re­wards for time­li­ness in­stead. “We don’t want to just cre­ate this hor­ri­ble feel­ing of ten­sion where you’re like, ‘I’ve got to get there as quickly as pos­si­ble.’ It should be more about ex­plor­ing the world and not feel­ing too much pres­sure.”

Fea­tures of the night

Trans­mis­sion is a lovely look­ing thing, all deep pur­ples and blues con­trast­ing with sat­u­rated oranges, reds, and yellows. So it’s great to hear that not only will there be a photo mode, but Dadley is look­ing for ways to make it more than a bonus fea­ture. “It feeds into that feel­ing of al­most be­ing a tourist,” he says. “Hav­ing the abil­ity to pho­to­graph dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions and record each en­vi­ron­ment as you go seems to con­nect re­ally ob­vi­ously to the ex­pe­ri­ence. And we’ve got some ideas of how we might blend that into game­play.”

Just one ques­tion re­mains, then. If our mys­te­ri­ous driver only comes out at night, is there go­ing to be a sur­prise twist where he’s re­vealed to be Drac­ula? Dadley laughs. “Fun­nily enough, I kind of sug­gested this to Trans­mis­sion’s writer – the idea of be­ing a ve­hic­u­lar vam­pire rather than an ac­tual one. He said, ‘Don’t tell that to any­one, that’ll give them the wrong idea!’”

You meet var­i­ous char­ac­ters on your de­liv­er­ies, en­gag­ing them in con­ver­sa­tion be­fore you head off. For­mat PC De­vel­oper Sea Green Games ETA Q1 2020 Web bit.ly/gm_­trans­mis­sion

The cars have a tan­gi­ble sense of weight, but their han­dling isn’t go­ing to be true to life, Dadley says. This game’s more about plea­sure than re­al­ism.

There won’t be any li­censed ve­hi­cles in the game, but some may have fa­mil­iar fea­tures: “The higher-end cars you un­lock might look a like a Delorean, for ex­am­ple," Dadley ex­plains. But will that give us ex­tra time to make de­liv­er­ies, eh?

The photo mode will come with an im­pres­sive range of set­tings and fil­ters. Tak­ing sou­venir snaps of the places you de­liver to is part of the game’s fan­tasy.

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