FUNDAMENTALS OF GAME DESIGN, SECOND EDITION

Vehicle Simulations

Vehicle simulations create the feeling of driving or flying a vehicle, real or imagi­nary. In simulations of real vehicles, one of the chief goals is verisimilitude, an (apparently!) close relationship to reality. You can expect your players to know a lot about these machines and to want an experience that is at least visually similar to that of really controlling one. The machine's gross performance characteristics (speed and maneuverability) should also be similar to reality, although its finer details probably can't be, for reasons you'll learn in this chapter.

If you're designing an imaginary vehicle, you're free to create any kind of driving experience that you like without being restricted by such things as gravity,

G-forces, fuel capacity, and so on. Your game really needs to just create the feeling of movement; you can place whatever limitations you like on that movement.

In this chapter, you'll learn the definition of vehicle simulations and then explore the core mechanics of various types of them. The chapter focuses primarily on driving and flying simulations, spending a lot of time discussing the creation of military simulations. We'll also review the game environment requirements, the look and camera angles best suited for these simulations, and the behaviors of arti­ficial opponents.

What Are Vehicle Simulations?

Vehicle simulations cover several environments and game mechanics. They can be in the air, on the ground, on water, or in space. They can include races against other players or artificially intelligent opponents, or they can involve exploration or simply the experience of using the vehicle. The most common element is the sense of verisimilitude: Players are looking for an experience that feels the way it would truly feel to drive, fly, or otherwise control a vehicle. Because most of us have driven cars, we have an expectation of how that feels. But most of us don't know what it feels like to drive a car at 200 miles per hour or to drive a car that has various weapons installed. Most of us have not experienced flying a plane our­selves, but we know what being in a plane feels like.

Simulations vary from realistically representing the way the vehicle handles on the road or in the air to adding game mechanics such as combat, racing, special chal­lenges like skids or slaloms, and so on. Although space and water vehicle simulations also exist, they tend to follow the same fundamental features as the flying and driving simulations. Not only do the same physics generally apply, but the addi­tional game mechanics and features are often the same.

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