Matica Karts was inspired by a few different sources. Firstly an arcade game I played as a youth (1986) called 'Super Sprint'. I put most of my hard earned cash from selling newspapers into that arcade machine. It was a top down racing game you played using a steering wheel. It had 3 of these wheels so you could play against other people. I was 13 years old and remember vividly how badly I wished I had that arcade machine in my bedroom at home!
Years later I played 'Micro Machines' on the NES (1991) and on the Game boy (1995). This was a similar top down racing game, but no steering wheel, and the track scrolled around the screen unlike 'Super Sprint'. I remember playing the NES version for hours with my friend Brian, and remember playing the Game boy version while I waited in the car to pick up my girlfriend at the time.
In addition to these games, I'd completed a charity 'Go Karting' event when I lived in London. I love the way the Go Karts slide around the corners, and I never missed an opportunity to go Karting whenever possible. All of the above prompted me to develop a top down Karting game, which you can now find here on Matica.com as a Free Flash game, and is also available on some Mobile Phones (Nokia S40).
There are programmers who can just code up games and slide the graphics in at a later date. Personally I don't like to start programming with a blank rectangle moving around the screen instead of a Kart. I prefer to start with a good image of a Kart, to visualize how it should move, and how the game is going to feel.
Some artists could imagine a Kart and draw it from any angle, and imagine how it should move. I don't have that natural gift, so we built a model.
This way I could hold it in my hands, get a feel for it, and live with it on my desk for a while.
We often make models of objects and characters for our games, so much of what you see in our finished games started out as pencil drawings or clay models. The model pictured is made our of plasticine, but we now use Newplast.
I put my motorbike helmet on, and sat on the floor in the position I'd like to drive a Matica Kart if it were real. We wanted to make the Kart bigger than a traditional Go Kart, but smaller than a Formula 1 car.
I put books where the wheels should be, and took a few pictures of myself and the books. I used these pictures as a reference when I started modeling the Kart.
Go Karts have quite small wheels, and there isn't much difference between the front and back wheels. We wanted bigger back wheels than real life for our Karts. In Karting or F1 the driver is almost sitting on the floor, so we were not concerned about building a frame to raise the driver up.
Our little driver had no hands or feet, but was looking close to the reference picture I'd taken of myself sitting on the floor. We used a small splinter of wood from a joss stick to connect the head to the body. This allowed us to easily pose the drivers head at any angle.
We added side pods, rear wing, front wing, and the cockpit cover. Actual Go Karts don't have any rear wing, but we were going for a Formula 1/Go Kart hybrid.
The engine or motor would go behind the driver. We hadn't decided if the Kart would be powered by a combustion engine or an electric motor at this point, hence the the engine/motor is missing from the model and not visible in the final game.
We liked the idea of a single geared electric motor, which is what we had in mind for the handling/dynamics when the game was eventually completed.
We were not making a Claymation Movie here (our model was much smaller than you would use for Claymation), or a toy. The model wasn't going to be used for anything other than a tool to aid our imagination, so we didn't feel the need to take it too much further at this point.
Once we were happy with the model we could get a vector drawing of it in Flash. Using the model you could see how the driver may look when leaning into a corner.
The Karts would be pretty small on screen so we didn't want to go overboard on the graphics. They needed to look good when shrunk down to size, and we wanted a few other Karts to race against so it needed to perform well. The images shown are way bigger than the Karts would be in the final game.
With the model sitting on the desk in front of me, and having a vector image of the Kart and driver to work with, the programming could begin. In part 2 of the Making Of Matica Karts we will bring the game to life and start the Kart moving.