It’s Afterburner meets Wipeout all the way with the uber air racer dubbed N-Gen Racing. Instead of simply using the horizontal play field — as most racing titles do — N-Gen Racing pushes the envelope to its limits. Players will be able to utilize both the horizontal and vertical playing fields to full effect.
For the scoop on this promising racer, we sat down with Curly Monsters’ games designer Lee Carus and talked jets.
Daily Radar: First off, tell us where the idea for the game came from. Why planes?
Lee Carus: We wanted to do an ultrafast racing game, but we also wanted to do something a bit different to everything else that is already out there. We think that the potential of racing jets hadn’t been fully realized by other developers’ previous attempts.
DR: What will the game basically feature?
LC: There are two game modes — N-Gen and Arcade. Arcade mode is for those who just want a quick bit of racing fun, while N-Gen mode is for those who want something a bit more like Gran Turismo with all manner of race types. Expect to see Championships, Owner’s Club races, Time Trial and Free Flight — as well as the ultratough Majic-12 speed challenges.
There are two different handling modes: Arcade and Pro. Arcade is very simple and quick to pick up. Pro flies more like a real aircraft, and it’s tough to get the hang of. Once a player has it down, it’s the only way to play.
DR: How many tracks and vehicles do you hope to ship in the final product?
LC: There are 14 tracks, which are each playable both clockwise and anti-clockwise. At least one of the directions will take place during darkness. We hope to have over 40 planes — including a few hidden ones players will have to earn.
DR: What about multiplayer?
LC: We have two multiplayer game modes: Head-to-Head Racing and a game we call Powerball. This is more of a combat-oriented challenge rather than flat-out racing.
DR: Are the jets in the game based on real technology or have you exaggerated certain aspects of their design?
LC: The visual appearances of the standard jets are based on real aircraft — with differing aircraft being in scale to each other as well. However, the player is able to bolt on extras, and in the process, some of the planes can turn into things which look more like UFOs.
The handling of the aircraft has been modified. Rather than going for something which is simlike and hard to learn and harder to control, we’ve gone for a more fun feel. It still feels like you’re flying a plane — just with none of the frustration of a full flight sim.
DR: Can we expect to get hold of some crazy powerups as seen in Wipeout or Rollcage?
LC: They’re not that crazy — we tried to keep one foot in reality whilst designing the weapons. There are afterburner and health gates around the track which act as powerups — health restoring your airframe and afterburner allowing to charge up your afterburner meter. This is where it gets crazy, as the top end of the game allows players to exceed speeds of 3000 mph when using full afterburner.
DR: How will the vertical play field be used in the game, and what does this bring to the overall experience of N-Gen?
LC: This is one of the things that makes N-Gen stand out. Rather than just having to worry about left and right, up and down are real issues too. The general motto is the lower you go the faster you go — but sometimes gaining a bit of height to get an afterburner gate and then doing a quick roll to get round the next chicane can be much quicker.
DR: What has the game engine allowed you to do?
LC: This is Curly Monsters’ first game as an independent company, so we had to start from scratch. The graphics engine is very fast, very optimal and throws around an awful lot of polygons for a PlayStation.
It also uses some quite clever detail-swapping stuff to allow us to have double the draw distance of our early renderers. We’re squeezing every last drop of power out of Sony’s little gray box.
DR: What was the hardest challenge during the development of free diamonds app like this game?
LC: Making it feel like you are flying a plane without making it too hard and frustrating. We all enjoy flying under bridges in flight sims, but not the 50 keypresses to get you off the ground. Trying to balance the action of a high-powered racer with the elegance of an aircraft was tough, but we’re happy with the results.
DR: How will this push the envelope of the futuristic racing genre?
LC: Imitation is supposed to be the finest form of flattery — but I think we’d like to stay unique for a little while. However, N-Gen has answered many of the questions as to how to develop an airborne racer and keep it fun.
DR: Was there anything you couldn’t squeeze in due to time restrictions?
LC: Well … err… we’ll avoid that question. There may be a sequel, and we wouldn’t want to give away anything just yet. A sequel isn’t confirmed yet — but the idea that N-Gen could be the beginning of a really big franchise is definitely appealing.
DR: Any plans to port the game to Dreamcast or PC for some sweeter eye candy?
LC: There are no plans yet. We really haven’t looked into it. However, it’s likely that if there is another version, it will be on PlayStation2 and be a full sequel rather than a port.