I recently came to the conclusion that I won’t be making video games for a living. It’s sad but true (not really as what I do now is amazing). As a pup I dreamed up tons of games ideas. Some probably original, some probably not. I thought of the idea of a Nintendo Mascot fighter in 1992! Just like everyone else. But I’ve had other ideas I thought could be fun games or games that should be remade. Which led me to think “why not share here on this obscure blog no one reads!” I’ve also had the distinct pleasure to talk to a few game developers because of BLR and maybe – just maybe – one of them will read this. How cool would it be if they made the game? Or even better a rebuttal on why this idea would not work. That would be pretty damn cool to me. Not even having the game made but why my idea sucks! I’m strange that way.

Today’s idea isn’t original but an update to an obscure classic. The game was released for the PC in 1990 and is called Stunts (also known as 4D Racing in some areas). The game was an early 3D racing game. It had multiple cars and tracks and all of that. But it contained a few features far ahead of it’s time that should’ve become standards on all racing games – Track Making and Replays.

Admittedly those aren’t killer features nowadays. Lots of games have them but they tend to be tedious to use and cumbersome to a new player. No, what they are doing wrong nowadays is what Stunts did so right back then.

First let’s take a look at what the game was.

Special wasn’t it?

So imagine the following game with me. A new Stunts. We’ll call it something catchy and appy. Something like Stunts with Friends or Stunts Go!. Stunts Go! isn’t a big game, not even close. It’s a dollar game or ad supported for mobile devices. It uses the same basic premise of the original game. Multiple cars, multiple retro opponents. The design of the opponents avatars is reminiscent of the old VGA days. Their names should be just as cheesy – like Maxx or Lazerblast or Zero Cool. To get the player into the feel of the game there needs to be an Avatar editor. The player needs to be able to create a unique looking avatar (for reasons I’ll get to). Might be smart to supply a few options as well. Could even offer more avatars as a micro transaction as well, bolstering the bottom line.

To avoid licensing real cars you can give the cars names that writers of late 80’s science fiction would call them. Again, their name should be retro but futuristic at the same time (I’d love to see one named after the 6000 SUX but that’s me). A Sedan is a Sedan and an open wheel racer is an open wheel racer so who cares? You’re not selling Gran Turismo. I would avoid the temptation to sell more cars, as I’ll explain later. Add more cars but do it free.

Gameplay is pretty simple as there are three modes. World Tour, Multiplayer and Editor. World Tour is where you have to race against all of the stock AI opponents against stock courses. The courses are used to train you on how to handle each car and the different types of terrain you’ll be facing. There should be around 6 computer controlled opponents over 18 courses. Simple but effective.

Multiplayer and Editor is what this game is truly about. Editor mode players can create their own tracks. They have a stock range of things to choose from, roads, turns, bridges etc. Exactly how the original game did it. In fact the editor should be similar. A large grid where each piece takes up one square. Larger pieces can take multiple squares but it is all confined inside of the larger grid. It’s simple to use and even simpler to use on a touch device. Don’t limit how many tracks people can make either. That’s annoying and people hate that shit.

Multiplayer is both expansive and simple. Simply you get to race your friend. You don’t need 15 people on one track like it’s a Kart Racer, just you and your bud. If you can’t do it over 3G or WiFi you need to at least be able to do it over blue-tooth. Their created avatar is how they are seen in the game. Since different cars will have different driving mechanics this is why you can’t sell cars as DLC. It would break the game.

But what makes this a billion dollar game? Combining both the Editor with the Multiplayer and with a little social on top. There is a leader board inside the game where people can vote up or down (Reddit style) their favorite user created tracks. And anyone can race them! The same thing can be done for user made avatars though there should be a flagging system here for penises. There are always penises. Combined these leader boards with social media so people can share their favorite tracks and such as well.

Sadly I don’t quite think I have your attention. Nothing about this game is that great is it? It’s a simple racer with some social tweaks. But I believe the depth to the game comes with the user generated courses and avatars. Your job as developers isn’t to make new cars or new tracks but new terrain for the Editor. The developer acts a curator to the user generated content instead of being forced to constantly one up itself. You put your users to work. Imagine if Rovio did something like this. Instead of a handful of Angry Birds games and constantly having to sputter out new levels they could be focusing on new birds and obstacles and using 200,000,000 people to create new levels.

However, this only makes the game a million dollar game by my calculation. What puts it over the top? Bugs.

Yup. Buggy software. But with a purpose you see. Check out this video –

These types of crashes are why I remember the game 22 years later. The developer called them bugs and tried to patch them out. I disagree and say it’s an important feature.

Most people don’t like NASCAR. It isn’t that great of a sport. But everyone everywhere loves a good crash. The devs of Burnout figured this one out by rewarding the player for crashing.

Stunts with Friends is a typical racer and follows all the normal logic of racers. But when you crash at 220 mph (340 kmh for my northern friends) you have a decent chance of the car being launched into orbit for no reason. Remember the replay feature I listed at the beginning? This here is why you implement it today. You don’t say the point of the game is to make ridiculous courses only to have epic crashes but you subtly encourage it via replays and specific “bugs”. Plus you have a leader board for replays. People will want to share their best crash.

Lastly I don’t think this game needs to look all that great. A low polygon count gives it a fun retro feel while maintaining accessibility. If it looks too good you run the risk of people thinking it might be too much of a simulation type game. Keep it simple to encourage the use of the Editor and allow your user base to expand the game for you.

A game like this will target the type of gamer that plays both Angry Birds and Draw Something. This isn’t God of War or Call of Dut and isn’t trying to be. It’s a casual game that anyone with a mobile device can play.


PS – If you make this game all I want is it for free. Don’t make me buy it. And if it goes big time and you make 200 million off of it you better pay off my student loans and buy me a nice house. Other than that it’s the Internets to use!

Read more articles from Lance