Fuel is an open-world racing game from French developer Asobo. Weather-based cataclysm has made the land uninhabitable. Most people fled to somewhere safer off the gameworld map, but some people remained and live in this Mad Max-ish wasteland. Inhabitants spend their time racing for fuel and vehicles. That’s not a summary of the plot. That is the plot, in its entirety. It’s just a premise to justify the whole “racing in a vast wasteland” thing.
Now to the point: I really don’t like racing games. I find them to be pretty much the antithesis of what I want from a game. They’re boring and frustrating in equal measure, and they don’t generally have the gameplay elements I enjoy: Characters, story, exploration, and experimentation.
|These red flags mark roads as being part of a particular race. Sometimes I encounter them in free ride mode and realize, “Gosh, this is someplace I’ll end up if I ever get around to playing the racing part of the game.|
I enjoy learning general-purpose skills, and I can’t stand learning one-task skills. Learning to drive like an expert is fun. Becoming an expert on course #19 is, for me, not fun at all. When I’m running a race I don’t experience the “thrill”, I experience intense stress. One bad turn might cause me to clip a bit of scenery and crash, and the entire run will be ruined. The better I’m doing, the worse I feel because the closer I get to the finish line the more I have to lose. When I finally beat the race I don’t feel elation, but a sense of grudging relief. “Geeze. I hope I never have to do that again.” Racing games are built around failure, and you fail until you master the hurdle. You’ll spend far more time running races where you lose than having races where you win, and negative feedback far outweighs positive feedback.
This is not to say that racing games are bad or an invalid game type. Some people really enjoy this iterative learning, and I certainly wouldn’t want all games to suit my tastes at their expense. (And I can’t imagine how a racing game could be made to suit my play style anyway.) It’s just that racing games have nothing to offer me from an entertainment perspective. I don’t enjoy it when I lose, and I don’t enjoy it when I win. A victory is just a short window wherein I stop being miserable for a minute or two. This is why I hate Grand Theft Auto games. They’re built around this same practice / punish mechanic, and I always feel like the designer is deliberately wasting my time.
“Then why”, you ask in a shrill, indignant voice, “are you reviewing a racing game, Shamus?!?”
Well, I’m not going to review the gameplay in FUEL except to say that’s it’s a racing game and if you like that then it does that and it might be a game which could appeal to you. There’s no point in me reviewing the gameplay itself, since I don’t even know enough about racing to know if this game does it particularly well. We’re not here for the racing, we’re here for the technology.
|The world of Fuel is BIG: ~114hkm on a side. Varied, too.|
No, we’re here for the technology this time around, and the technology in Fuel is amazing. I went over the details at The Escapist, but the short version is that this game wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t procedurally generated. I want to look at what it does, how it works, and where I’d like to see these ideas go from here.
Around the time I started this blog, I had a programming project where I tried to make some procedural roads. (Sadly, I’ve lost the source. I went looking for it a few months ago and couldn’t find it. I can’t imagine what I did with it. It’s not on any of the backups I’ve done in the past couple of years. I don’t know. It’s just… gone.) The source is gone, but I remember the project and the lessons I took away from it, and it was interesting comparing the techniques I used with the ones in Fuel. (This is not to imply that my project looked like Fuel or did anything even in the same ballpark, but I was playing with the same ideas on a much humbler scale.)
I divide the procedural systems of Fuel into three broad categories: One generates the terrain, another generates the roads, and the other populates the world with objects. I want to look at each of these systems, see what makes them tick, and maybe compare them to work I’ve done in the past. I’ll look at each of these three systems in a later post.
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