Putting It Together
A good sports game design requires compromises. We do not yet have the computing power to simulate a real sport in all of its complexity and detail on a home computer or video game console ”and even if we did, we still don't have input and output devices that allow a player to feel as if he's really down on the field. Someday, when virtual reality is perfected and home computers are as powerful as today's supercomputers, we might be able to do this. In the meantime, it's the job of the sports game designer to fit the sport to the machine. Sports game design doesn't require nearly as much raw creativity as designing an adventure game or a role-playing game. It's a more subtle process that entails endless tuning and tweaking to find the right balance between
Chapter 13. Vehicle Simulations
Vehicle simulations try to 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 we'll discuss 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; what limitations you place on that movement are up to you. In this chapter, we concentrate, for the most part, on simulating real vehicles because that's the bigger challenge. Also, because the vast majority of vehicle simulators are flight simulators and driving (usually car-racing) simulators, we
The Common Elements of Vehicle Simulations
People play with flight simulators for one of two reasons. Either they want to experience the joy of flight in a variety of different aircraft, to see how the planes or helicopters look and perform, or they want to fight in
Just as flight simulators tend to fall into military or civilian categories, driving simulators tend to fall into
categories. Organized racing simulators try to reproduce the experience of driving a racing car or motorcycle in an existing racing class: Indycar, NASCAR, Formula 1, and so on. Like sports games, they require a license to use the official
The vehicle-simulation market is sharply divided between the purists and the casual players. The
Some vehicle simulations aren't games at all, in the sense of being a contest or a competition. Their only goal is to let the player experience controlling the vehicle, so they don't have any rules other than the laws of physics. Most vehicle simulations, however, are set in a competitive context, either a race or a battle of some kind.
One factor to consider is how you want to handle damage. Lightweight racing sims don't simulate any damage at all; if the car hits something, it simply
Accurate modeling of damage requires dividing the vehicle into areas, determining which area has been damaged by a collision (or, in a military simulator, by enemy fire), and deciding how that damage affects the performance of the vehicle. For instance, a race car with minor damage to the airfoils or body can continue, although with a performance penalty, but a blown tire will force it to halt. With airplanes, the consequences can be dramatically different depending on what has been hit. A plane is still flyable if its tail has been
In military flight simulators, the competition modes are similar to those of first-person shooters: solitaire against artificial opponents, multi-player death matches (every player for himself), and team-based play. Civilian flight simulators usually have only a solitaire mode, although they can also allow races and follow-my-lead competitions. Driving simulators are
Both military flight simulators and organized race-driving simulators often include a career mode, in which you create a pilot or driver and follow his career (trying not to get him
In military flight simulators, the campaign mode can work in various ways. In one approach, the game offers a series of missions one at a time in which the player must achieve a specified victory condition before going on to the
Gameplay and Victory Conditions
The primary challenge in any vehicle simulator is in controlling the vehicle: learning to speed it up, slow it down, and steer it to where you want it to go without crashing it into something. In the case of flight simulators, you can make this challenge simple, requiring the player to know almost nothing about aerodynamics, or extremely difficult, modeling the behavior of an airplane accurately. Unlike a car, airplanes respond rather slowly to their controls, often beginning to execute a maneuver several seconds after the player has first moved the yoke or joystick. Because players are more used to driving a car, they will tend to overcontrol the plane: Finding that it doesn't respond immediately, they'll push the stick farther and then wildly overcompensate in the
In driving simulators, the chief challenge is staying on the road without crashing. Without being able to feel the G-forces on his body, the player has to depend on other cues to determine how fast he is going and how hard he is braking.
Military Flight Sims
In military flight simulators, the player must not only fly the aircraft, but also achieve the mission's objectives, usually attacking enemy aircraft and ground installations. Modern air-to-air combat,
Figure 13.1. A pilot's view in Crimson Skies. Note the very simple instrument panel.
The gameplay in military flight simulators is defined by the role of the aircraft being simulated. Fighter planes are designed primarily to attack enemy aircraft and to protect friendly aircraft and ground units from air attacks. Attack planes are designed to attack moving ground targets; bombers are designed to attack stationary ones. Most military flight simulators offer a series of missions, often with primary and secondary objectives; achieving them constitutes victory. The objectives are usually to shoot down enemy fighters or to destroy ground targets, all without being shot down yourself, of course. Being killed or having your plane shot down constitutes a loss. You can also rate the success of a mission according to the number of objectives achieved, the length of time it took, and the amount of damage sustained by the aircraft, assigning extra points for a swift and safe return.
Civilian Flight Sims
Civilian flight simulators such as the venerable but
Figure 13.2. An instrument panel in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002. This is a game for serious pilots.
Organized racing simulations, like sports games, take their gameplay from the real thing. The challenge is primarily to win races without crashing. Some games also include an economic element: The player wins prize money for doing well in a race, and the prize money enables her to buy better equipment. This produces positive feedback that must be counteracted to balance the game; as the player
The settings of flight simulators consist of the plane itself and the ground that it flies above. With a few exceptions, such as
Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator
, most flight sims don't offer interesting terrain. If your flight simulator has a historical setting, you can do a lot on the ancillary screens to set the mood. Electronic Arts' World War II flight simulator,
Jane's World War II Fighters
, shows a hanger full of period aircraft and other gear, and it even plays Glenn Miller tunes in the background. Unfortunately, in the pursuit of historical accuracy, Electronic Arts set all its combat missions above the Ardennes
Driving simulators are set on either racetracks or roads, except for a few off-road simulators. Off-road driving offers the fun of bouncing all over interesting terrain without having to steer
Weather is a critical factor to consider in designing the settings of both flight and driving simulators. Can the player drive or fly at night? In rain? In fog? Rain plays an important strategic role in automobile racing because the drivers need to make a pit stop to switch to rain tires, which hold the road better. The pit stop takes time, but if they don't do it, they run an increased risk of crashing.
Because flight and driving simulators rarely show other people, their
The interaction model in a flight simulator is quite straightforward: The player's plane is his avatar. The plane's controls are mapped onto the computer's input devices, and the player's view is normally that of the pilot, forward through the cockpit
As with sports games, flight and driving simulations frequently offer a variety of camera perspectives. Although the game is not
Views Common to Driving and Flight Simulators
Both driving and flight simulators implement certain standard views:
Views Unique to Flight Simulators
The following views are found only in flight simulatorsand military ones, at that:
Views Unique to Driving Simulators
The following views occur only in driving simulators. Obviously, the