Permutation Racer Is A Free Game By My Boss’s Friend

What Wipeout sees when it dreams.

I like to think of full disclosure as a kind of challenge. Did you know that I never learned how to ride a bike? The trousers I’m wearing right now have a hole right on the bum. I have a cut on my thumb and I don’t know where it came from. Permutation Racer is made by a graphical wizard called Tom Betts who works for Big Robot, the company founded by Jim to make games like Sir, You Are Being Hunted. It’s a free, procedurally generated racing prototype, and there’s a video and a download link below. I haven’t brushed my teeth yet today.

The game jams together chunks of geometry to form an infinite canyon which stretches out in front of you. You steer a floating vehicle between pillars, through caves and around ravines, while jumping to dodge obstacles and collect stars to fill your boost meter. There’s a little bit of pressure, in that you’re constantly trying to hit the next checkpoint to extend your time limit, but the ambient music and polygonal world whirling past makes it a meditative experience. There’s this fluttering feeling in my right eardrum at the moment, and I looked up what causes that once but I’ve forgotten.

It’s probably unfair to call Tom Betts “my boss’s friend”, joke or not. Tom is the gentleman programmer responsible for a whole bunch of very cool procedural experiments, amongst other programming and graphics projects I probably don’t understand. I saw him give a talk once. My headphones are yellow.

This also seems an appropriate time to link to things Jim has written about racing games. Here he is on futuristic racers like Wipeout for The Escapist in 2007. And here’s him talking about his projected future for the genre on RPS:

The future of racing games is, therefore, a non-linear race across an entire planet, with some scripted on-foot action sequences, which tell the story of a heart-breaking existential romance between a car and its driver, produced with user-generated terrain, where you manage a party full of racing experts, a team assembled via careful negotiation, some of whom are aliens you can have sex with in your trailer. I call this game NEED FOR THE SKID-MARKED ONE: THE ULTIMATE ORIGIN OF RACECRAFT, or perhaps we might throw in enemy Nazi drivers and call it THE MASTER RACE. Either way it will be out Q1 2017. I can’t wait.

You can download Permutation Racer over at the Big Robot site. I fried some mushrooms for lunch today.


  1. Themadcow says:

    3D Deathchase 2014?

  2. Jams O'Donnell says:

    Once upon a time I suggested somewhere (likely here) that I’d like to make a procedurally-generated infinite rallying game. Rossignol replied with “make it so.”

    When I first saw the name “Permutation racer” I thought the rotter had stolen my idea for Big Robot! It’s the kind of thing he would do.

    edit: Actually, it’s right here. Thanks Graham for doing the work of finding it for me. link to

    • Greggh says:

      I preferred this idea (from that thread):

      N’Al says:

      Needs more guns.


      20/10/2011 at 13:13 N’Al says:

      By which I mean: remake Quarantine.

  3. Ross Angus says:

    I quite liked the video. But I had a suspicious pain in my ankle today.

  4. Tusque D'Ivoire says:

    I have that fluttering feeling in my eardrum sometimes, too. Never looked anything up. Also, I regularly use q-tips to clean my ear. Thoroughly. It hurts in a good way.

  5. RedViv says:

    Had a go at it yesterday, and it’s quite fun. I woke up far too early this morning because I forgot to check whether I had even been scheduled for work today.

  6. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    This scratches the Race the Sun itch, not the Wipeout itch. Wipeout is all about memorizing the track and relying largely on muscle memory (something impossible in a procedurally generated tracks).

    As for what Wipeout dreams of… well, dead things don’t dream.

    And remember: real racing games don’t need motion blur to achieve a sense of speed.

    • Urthman says:

      I agree that the motion blur is a mistake.

    • LTK says:

      I was struggling to see how this is not like Race The Sun. The only notable difference is the lack of shattering your craft into a million pieces in the event of a head-on collision. I hope it’ll be more of its own game in the future.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Accelerator (newgrounds) gives a really nail-biting sense of speed—partly through speed and partly through excellent sound. I found it compelling from my first go, and Permutation Racer hasn’t done that for me. But Permutation Racer is very pretty!

  7. mukuste says:

    This reminds me a lot of the old DOS game SkyRoads. It’s very pretty, too. What is it about that orange/blue contrast that always seems to look great?

    • Ich Will says:

      It’s all to do with their respective positions on the colour wheel – and hollywoods noticed too:

      link to

      • LionsPhil says:

        Hah, I like his recolour of the Mona Lisa to make the point.

      • mukuste says:

        Oh well. Now I’m suitably embarrassed for my plebian taste in complementary colors. But I learned something about cinematography in the process, so that’s good!

    • Baines says:

      It has been so overdone by Hollywood and others that it doesn’t look great to me anymore. It actually looks kind of bad. More so when you’ve got a processed film (where people are radioactive orange and the environment is is either impossible bright blue for day or 16 shades of dark blue for night) or awful game box cover

      • mukuste says:

        I read that link above, so I realized that some people are oversaturated with the look. I don’t watch that many blockbuster movies, so it doesn’t bother me at this point. In fact I’m not sure if I would have consciously noticed the effect in many of the example screenshots at that movie blog before someone pointed it out to me.

  8. Shadowcat says:

    It’s neat, but do let your boss’s friend know that it really sucks having to hold down a “go forwards” key in a game in which you want to move continuously forwards for at least the vast majority of the time, if not the entire game.

    Make it move forwards by default (and press or hold a key to change that) and I’d play it again.

    • Urthman says:

      I don’t know. The sense that I’m holding down the throttle seems like an important part of feeling like I’m driving rather than just moving left and right as things come at me.

      But then the lack of it in Race the Sun doesn’t bother me, so maybe you’re right.

  9. DanMan says:

    And let’s be honest – the chances that you ARE going to brush your teeth yet are slim to none. Amirite?

  10. Dances to Podcasts says:

    “a heart-breaking existential romance between a car and its driver”

    Soundtracked by Kavinksi.

  11. womp says:

    Hey, this article made me laugh a lot

  12. Urthman says:

    Something about the art style, sound, and music reminds me of a Kenta Cho shump. Which is a good thing.

  13. Rei Onryou says:

    it’s not nepotism but only because we’re not related

    This would actually be considered Cronyism. Keep up the good Cronyism!

  14. anmarmansur says:

    I hope your boss’s friend doesn’t mind. You see, I don’t like timers, so I fixed it:

    link to

    Now, I can relax and enjoy the amazing procedural landscape.

  15. filsd says:

    No Linux version makes me very sad. :(

  16. Jason Moyer says:

    That boost sound is damn near identical to something in a specific Atari 2600 game, and for the life of me I can’t remember what.

    • Hastur says:

      It also activated my long-dormant Atari receptors. I think, but am not 100% sure, that it was Yars’ Revenge: