What's weird about this one?

Here's a conversation I've had a lot the last few years

person: hey joon, what are you working on joon: racing game person: oh cool, I bet it's weird like your other games. joon: eh... 😅 person: what's weird about this one? joon: uhm... 😬

And then I go on an awkward rant about how TrackMania is great but doesn't have much worldbuilding, or how all racing games are just worse versions of Mario Kart, or how beating your own time is more fun than racing against AI's.

Confused, the other person asks me what the twist is on this game, and I say the twist is... the ship goes very fast... it's just very good.

\¯\(ツ)

Phantom Spark is much more of a traditional Videogame than NUTS is, or many of my older projects. The same goes for Torfi, if you look at his itch.io page.

So what is it that drew us both into it?

I've been trying to figure out how to answer that question beyond it's very good. I feel that if I can convey to you what pulled me into the game, what made me want to make it, that would be better than any marketing copy or store description...

Maybe I can find some sort of answer by talking about how we got started, and why we decided to spend 3 years making a (very good, trust me) racing game.

Near the end of NUTS development, Torfi started going down the rabbit hole on vehicle physics. He prototyped many different car controllers, on a wide spectrum between deep simulation, and simple arcade controls, but by the time I joined by far the most promising one was this amazing feeling lowpoly ship sliding through skate-ramp like parcours. (It wasn't meant to look like a penguin, but after an early tester mentioned it we couldn't unsee it)

For the longest time, there was barely any meta-game. There was just a racetrack with a start, a few checkpoints and a finish. You would race against the best available ghost, and if you beat it, your ghost would replace it.

We played this version for months, in the same room, passing the controller back and forth, and could easily spend 30 minutes on a track that only takes 30 seconds to complete. I would be giddy whenever there was a new track, and drop whatever I was doing to try it out. (photo by Art Bicnick for The Grapevine)

During the spring of 2021, a few months after releasing NUTS into the world, I asked Torfi if I could join him on the project, still called Glide Rush at the time, and focused on developing the business case as well as co-developing some of the non-physics tech. Like the TrackBuilderPro editor window:

As Torfi made more tracks, they would get wider, as that increased variance, and cutting deep into a corner is more fun than having to slam the brakes or bonk on the sides. And we found that even though the controller is simple and intuitive (just accelerate, brake and steering), it has so much depth.

(early 2022 screenshot)

You can always find a millisecond here or there, and the earlier in the race you can shave off some time, the more it compounds. The instant resets, immediate feedback of being ahead of the other player, or behind but carrying more speed, pulls you forward to do better.

I've said before that making local multiplayer games is kind of cheating. Anything is fun with another person. But this felt very different. It's been 3 years, hundreds of hours racing on 30 second tracks, and we still play like this.

Fast forward to 2024, and well, a lot changed, but also a lot stayed the same. Courses are still short, controls are still simple and intuitive, still feels great but now also looks great! I hope some of you will find the same joy and excitement in it that led us on the journey to making it.

Some day soon I will dig more into the development, and the amazing people who joined the team, as this thread is already way too long. For now, please enjoy the demo and consider sharing it with someone.

Thanks for reading as always. Find me on the leaderboards. https://s.team/a/1924180/

_ joon