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Racecraft

is an innovative sandbox driving game based on procedural technology, where you can create an endless number of realistic racetracks and craft your car to achieve the... read more

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Racecraft Technical Demo - Preview

Author: dunhila
06-Jan-2016

Category: Preview

Procedural generation is making headlines yet again, because of how underdeveloped it is in Racecraft.


Procedural Generation at its lowest.

The mechanic has actually been used in video games for quite a while now. This technique is a true game-changer when it comes to making huge environments into compact data. Racecraft's Camilla engine in the techdemo provided to me, was nowhere near what other games had accomplished with this marvellous technology. Here I have to bring up as an example Kkrieger's 96 kilobytes of pure gameplay. It does take the initial loading to put the player in a rather small starting point yet when the character proceeds to a door in order to continue playing, there is no loading screen. The game generates levels so quick that there is no waiting. The results are also stunning. While I would think that for the small size it has, Kkrieger would generate corridors only shaped in different ways, it appears that other objects are introduced as well after the starting district. 

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Despite this advancement in procedural generation being introduced in 2004, Racecraft's implementation seems like a poorly constructed child's toy in comparison to the highly advanced AI that can run an entire house, or so I would describe Kkrieger's use of the system. The racetrack creation is nothing short of sluggish. The amount of time you sit in front of the screen waiting to start the game reminded me of the loading screen after dying in Bloodborne. It is almost painful to endure. As I am not very familiar with what is going on behind the scenes when something is procedurally created, I can't claim that having a powerhouse PC would help in any way (it is a fair assumption though because raw CPU/GPU power should help construct the environment faster). In terms of perfomance, things come together admirably. The race tracks have no holes that might plunge the car into oblivion. I did find a weird bug on one generated track where in high speed it would cause a collision with the ground for some reason. The tracks are complete and working as intended and that shouldn't surprise anyone because they are almost identical. I was able to generate a couple of different race courses but in the end they had very little noticeable changes. It felt like two or three turns were shifted and the track remained the same for the rest of the way. As this is just a techdemo that isn't even an alpha, I can't be too harsh on the developers. 

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From my point of view, the demo should have made clear what procedural generation is capable of achieving. I feel more was done on the physical part of the game rather than on the advanced mechanics that bring the world together. My expectations were immensely high at first. Isn't it possible for sections of the map to be created while driving? And can't they be longer and less repetitive? With Racecrat, it would appear no. Distance, which is a similar title has taken procedural generation quite far, placing even moving objects in the scene when generating a track. This is the point of the mechanic. When you are racing, the feel of an actual F1 simulator is there. I have been acquainted with a lot of previous Formula 1 titles from Codemasters to speak about the handling of the vehicles in a true simulator. The car feels heavy during cornering, reacts well when outside of the racetrack like in grass or gravel (I do believe that it should be a lot more bumpy though), steering is responsive and breaking makes a world of difference. There is a lack of a racing lane. I have grown accustomed to having one in most realistic racing games and this not being included, did cause me some initial stress. Most players wouldn't be bothered by this but newcomers to racing and those who aren't hardcore gamers, would be appreciative of it. 

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Visuals aren't up to date, physics are superb.

The technical demo allows for only one car and it isn't fully there. The best way to feast on the visuals is by looking at the tires. They are represented almost realistically. You can even see even bits of tire wear here and there although that is simply included in the model and not produced because of tedious racing. The connection between the chassis and tires is a sight to behold, a terrible sight. Things look a little plastic instead of metal as they should be. Yes, I am aware that there will be a lot more work done before the final version and graphics will be improved but at this moment the ingame visuals are grotesque. This isn't true just about the 3D model of the vehicle, it incorporates the trees in the background along with stands for the spectators. The last time I glanced at a tree that looked like a paper cut-out was in World of Warcraft back in 2004. To even consider using such a model in the techdemo wouldn't be unacceptable if it was a compromise because of the power of procedural generation. However as I have made it abundantly clear that this isn't the case, I can simply question the decisions. The trees don't even stack up visually to something like the standard tree assets in Unity for example and since there isn't anything else to bring the background to life, Vae Victis Games should have created at least of a couple of different 3D tree models. 

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The sky is also static for that matter. It's a simple picture placed at the top to bring the package together. A feature that is very early on in the game is the gearbox changing. There is full manual, automatic and semi-automatic to make the driving experience seem even more realistic. Also I had to take a serious look at the tire tracks there were left on the ground. I noticed that on the starting racing position there are tire tracks even though I wasn't playing with any other vehicles because there was only one bot and he was restarted every time I crossed the finish line (I was never able to catch up with him even at the highest speed and his restarting made the AI opponent pointless). This is one more ugliness that has been sawed just to keep things intact. The techdemo does sound off on everything I have said so far from the beginning because there are clear percentages on how much of the game has been complete, with graphics being at 40% and physics at 80%.

Of course when more developed version will be released I will check the game again and let you know how it improves.



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