How We Developed "Glide"
From very early in its concept phase, Algernon had a need for a unique "glide" mechanic that would allow the player to move effortlessly through the world of its protagonist's mind.
Choosing the Right Vehicle
Without real-world limitations, we defaulted to a wooden sled for the purposes of prototyping, and used a vehicle controller whose handling functions operate separately from its visual components. This meant we can eventually accommodate everything from bicycles & cars to surfboards & hoverboards.
Working with the car controller involved some humble beginnings. Tuning the movement for sliding and gliding as opposed to driving took some experimentation. The utility and feel of acceleration, turning, traction, and collisions demanded constant iteration. We were happy to exploit the example scene from the Tiny Car Controller to facilitate our experiments, even though it meant testing from an isometric view.
Before long, we had graduated to testing with a proper third-person camera in a much larger world thanks to a collection of low poly assets. With car capabilities limited to only turn, throttle, and boost, we incorporated inclines, ramps, and big drops to see what felt "fun." We also added rudimentary collectibles to enhance player engagement. And we ultimately incorporated cinemachine into the project to improve the look and feel through dynamic cameras.
Admittedly, gliding "felt" good, but we knew we were still shy of our vision. It wasn't until we added proper air control and the ability to jump that the mechanic began to show tangible signs of its true potential.
In the meantime, we'd already begun experiments using Curved World and Move Set shaders to achieve visual distinction for various locations.
With Move Set, we could create the illusion of objects in the world moving into position as you approached--and even staying in place, which gave the act of exploration a sort of world-building feel.
Utilizing Curved World shaders was partly motivated by early gameplay concerns. Bending the world ahead of the player resulted in more time for them to react to obstacles. This allowed for higher top-speeds and bigger thrills without impeding the execution of smart pathing and creative stunting.
To achieve our goal of integrating story moments without removing player agency, we tested another key piece of tech: a projector simulator.
This gave us the ability to blanket the landscape in video or still images tracked to the player's movements. And these powerful images were then reinforced through epic music tracks and thoughtful narration / VO.
Building The Full Experience
With so many dependable tools at our disposal, work turned towards refinement of the vehicle itself. We continued to tune each parameter in hopes of improving control and accentuating the fun. This, in conjunction with some very thorough level design, set the foundation for custom objectives like chasing your companion through a stunt-laden small town.
A lot of work went into pathing, micro population, music visualization, and visual effects to create an experience that motivated players to not only explore the space, but also experiment with the incredible capabilities of their unique vehicle. And, in order to be true to the larger game vision, to do so without the stress of timers, other competitors, or being constrained to a road.
if you’d like more information on some of the tech used to achieve these results, check out this post listing a few of our favorite assets.