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Naltai

Fun racing game physics

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Hi, Recently I have been thinking about writing a relatively simple racing game with the emphasis on fun rather than realism. In the past all of my attempts at physics for car driving have been relatively simple affairs based on position/velocity/acceleration with a few fudge factors thrown in. However, this does not produce something that is either fun to drive, nor realistic in any way. I know there is an excellent (and very detailed) series of articles on realistic car physics, but this is a bit beyond what I am looking for in this game. Not that I mind putting the time in if it will make the game better, but it seems that it is overkill and will make the game more realistic rather than cartoonish which is what I am aiming for here. Does anyone know what kind of physics models classic cartoonish racing games such as mario kart and micro machines have used? Any guidance could save me a lot of trial and error. Thanks in advance, Naltai P.S. This question is largely theoretical for now, I am nowhere near ready to implement this, but am interested in starting to get a background.

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Well physics libraries like PhysX, Havok, Bullet, and many others would make it easy to incorperate vehicle physics into a game. They also come with examples of vehicles and they would work great probably, and to make it more fun, maybe have jumps for them to go flying off of and stuff. There are a lot of possabilites that you can do, and I'm sure you know that, so so save time I would suggest implimenting a good, pre-existing physics engine and customize the gravity/friction and all of that until you find what you want.

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Original post by Tenac
I would suggest implimenting a good, pre-existing physics engine and customize the gravity/friction and all of that until you find what you want.


I think this might be the key here.

I would imagine the cartoon physics feel can be achieved by fiddling with the mass (+ center of mass), gravity strength, restitution/friction coeffecients, suspension travel etc. You might want to (for example) exaggerate the amount of downforce and increase grip.

In some cartoony games, the car has little or no ability to roll and tumble in the air - unrealistic damping of rotational velocities here? On the other hand, maybe you want the cars doing backflips.

Often, a maneuver which can be performed with standard controls and skill alone in a realistic game exists in a cartoony game as s "special move" (e.g. "powerslide button" or a button combination to execute a backflip)

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Thanks guys, I will look into it. I think I will start with ODE as it has python bindings, and that is my preferred experimental language. I trust there is nothing wrong with ODE for this kind of work.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Thanks,
Naltai

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Ramps are good, but they aren't the only way to apply force vectors to a car. Fill the tracks up with objects that'll impact the car's course, and give the whole thing a slightly out-of-control feel. If it's effectively impossible to have a "perfect run", players will stop worrying about optimizing their turning and pay more attention to having fun. Mario Kart is a good example of this. If you go in there on a time trial, it's three laps of exactly the same turns, acceleration pads and perfectly-timed power-slide-boost maneuvers. Put 11 other karts out there, 3 of them controlled by your drunken friends, and you aren't worried about getting just the right heading on your wheelie, you're worried about the goddamn flying squid that just shot ink onto your quarter of the screen, and the flashing icon that means there's a huge bullet-man flying up behind you at ramming speed.

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Original post by WavyVirus
Often, a maneuver which can be performed with standard controls and skill alone in a realistic game exists in a cartoony game as s "special move" (e.g. "powerslide button" or a button combination to execute a backflip)

Wow, that is a very true statement, and one that I didn't think of. Now I understand why I dislike arcade racing games so much and love realistic ones.

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Original post by shurcool
Wow, that is a very true statement, and one that I didn't think of. Now I understand why I dislike arcade racing games so much and love realistic ones.


For me its much more satisfying to feel like you've had to fight to control the car around every turn than just getting round a track quickly

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Havok has the best vehicle physics I have seen, IMHO. PhysX comes second. Third is bullet, forth newton. Forget about ODE, its far too low level and does not come with a vehicle simulator AFAIK.

Why not download the Havok SDK and take a look at the vehicle examples in the demo app? you will be pleasently surprised at how good it is. It includes motorcycle support.

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Original post by speciesUnknown
Havok has the best vehicle physics I have seen, IMHO. PhysX comes second. Third is bullet, forth newton. Forget about ODE, its far too low level and does not come with a vehicle simulator AFAIK.


I haven't tried Havok but I can pretty much agree here. Something like PhysX does take a lot of the hassle out of things like suspension and tyre contact surfaces

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I'd probably stick with more explicit methods rather than trying to convince a general physics engine to do what I want. I love the physics in mario kart DS and I would guess that it's more or less a simple state machine with velocity and friction applied in specific ways depending on the state. I can think of on-ground, in air, powersliding, spinning out, and in pain from a shell or such. Not very many at all, but makes a fairly interesting system.

But the physics alone won't make a good game. There are a lot of factors that contribute to the overall fun, and mario kart does them all very well. First and foremost is the choice of primary mechanics to use. For mario kart, you have normal driving, off road, in air, powersliding, items, and environmental hazards.
Second you have the exact implementation and balance of those things to get the feel just right.
Third you have artwork, which makes a big difference to the feel, especially when big name characters are used.
Fourth you have music and sound. Not top priority in a racing game, but good music can make long periods of play much more enjoyable, and bad sound effects can make a game seem much less good than it actually is.

And of course, multiplayer multiplies the fun.

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