Finding a Point of View
by Chris Jorgensen on August 14, 2014


When I refreshed Cascadia Games website and logo (with the help of Fully Illustrated) I saw it as a first step toward establishing a brand. After a year with the new look, I started to remove my older games from the App Store with the hope that what remained would set a baseline quality level that could be associated with that brand. Recently, I began this blog with the goal that it would bring focus to my disorganized opinions about gaming. Honestly, I only had a vague motivations for doing these things.

With the release of 2-bit Cowboy and the development of Wacky Wheels, I realized that what I've been searching for is a point of view. I can't say I've honed it down just yet, but I know this: the game genres from the late 80s and early 90s interest me the most. Specifically:

2-bit Cowboy

Era:

  • 2D
  • Embryonic 3D: mode 7, low poly
  • DOS, early Windows games
  • SNES, Genesis, NES, Gameboy

Genres:
  • Sidescrollers / platformers / mascot games
  • Kart racing
  • Shmups
  • 4X
  • RTS

Themes:
  • Cute-but-dangerous
  • Brighter colors

Wacky Wheels

With that said, a reboot of a 1994 DOS kart racing game makes sense for Cascadia Games. In many ways, my goals for it have brought focus to my broader thoughts on the company POV. With Wacky Wheels, there is a great foundation with which to build upon and adjust. Above all else, there are three things I want to get right: engagement, intensity, and proximity.

Engagement: There should never be a dull moment while racing. There should always be an obstacle to avoid, a power-up to grab, and a kart to fend off. There should never be a dull stretch of track or the feeling of repetition.

Intensity: The game should require focus. Every time something happens, there needs to be a visual impact and an emotional impact. Momentum needs to be felt, especially when it's lost. These are wild animals racing go-karts; it should feel like it!

Proximity: There should always be another racer nearby, either just in front or just behind you. The tracks should feel cramped -- after all, they're hazard-filled racetracks. It needs to be less arcade racer and more bumper cars.

There are hints of these ideas in our early Wacky Wheels builds right now. But, to be frank, I'm still building up my mental model for how to achieve these goals. To help address this, I recently setup a kart racing comparison station. At it sits my old SNES with Super Mario Kart. It also has a PC with DOSBOX for Wacky Wheels and a GBA emulator for Konami Krazy Racers. Soon a Windows build of the new Wacky Wheels reboot will be on there as well. The PC has a Retrolink SNES clone gamepad attached. It is my best attempt to do apples-to-apples comparisons of various kart racers.

My goal is to build a vocabulary for comparing these kinds of games, building metrics from those terms, and truly diving into how each game's values makes it distinct. In this way, I can build off of the design decisions from other kart racers without cloning them. (Ultimately, I'd like to be able to do this with whatever genre I'm setting out to tackle.)

Outside of the get-it-right list, there are a few other areas of focus. First, we've taken four of the original game's track themes (and two inspired by Skunny Kart, believe it or not) and played them up. For example, the city theme has become "Metro Rally", complete with a bigger city, more city themed obstacles (light posts, traffic cones, et al), and a remastered song from the original set to a more techno / urban theme. Similarly, we've done this for the swamp, desert, and sunset themes.

Video Time!

With that said, here is some very early footage from our new Wacky Wheels. Please note that the sound effects are almost entirely temporary. Many details are missing. Most everything will be adjusted again (and again and again). Also, apologies for the audio sync issue. I'll get it right before the next video goes up. Right now we are transitioning out of building features and into building an experience. There is still much work ahead!