A few months ago, I wrote about a game that I thought might be the first horror and driving mash-up. Driving Survival [dev blog] (it’s a working title) takes that collision of genres to another level entirely though. The development blog is host to videos and gifs that suggest a game of vehicular pursuit that takes as many cues from S.T.A.L.K.E.R. as from Interstate ’76 and FlatOut. You’re trying to make your way across a ruined landscape, chased by almost-humans who try to run your car off the road, and then pour out of their own vehicles to surround and slaughter.
This is one of those cases where some animated pictures really are going to be worth a thousand words, so take a look at all of these and I’ll join you after the clips, when you’ve had your fill.
Watch the rear-view mirror when the baddies are up close behind. Horrid. Reminds me of Jacob’s Ladder.
Developer Ondřej Švadlena posts regularly on the TIGSource forums, where he has discussed the game’s world with reference to his own animated short films. Here’s a teaser for the most recent, Time Rodent, on which Driving Survival is based.
When I was watching the videos of the actual game, Inside came to mind. The world is similarly bleak, and the relentless pursuit reminded me particularly of the early scenes of that game, during which you run through cornfields and seemingly abandoned places that remind me of the settlements in the videos above. The clip from Time Rodent is even more reminiscent of Inside, bringing one particular scene to mind immediately. It’s an odd game to think of in relation to a driving game, but this does look like a very different kind of driving game.
We’re seeing more of this kind of thing, with Jalopy and My Summer Car both aiming to emulate aspects of roadtrip rather than racing, and while Driving Survival is clearly a different kind of thing entirely, pursuit is an underused verb in games, I reckon. Particularly racing games. Being chased requires AI that can hunt believably and ruthlessly (but not too ruthlessly as to make the end result abrupt/inevitable) and a good portion of the development blogs focus on creating the right kind of driver behaviour, as well as ensuring car handling is loose enough to make for panic and tension.
“I would like to take a moment to talk about the game’s driving AI system. One of my priorities was to achieve a believable, human-like behavior of the NPC drivers. For me and other gamers with whom I’ve discussed this, one thing that is disappointing and immersion-braking in open-world driving games is bad AI. It’s either too dumb or strongly cheating on the physics, or both. Take Driver:SF or the GTA series for example. You can drive like a god but the cop cars chasing you will have extraterrestrial acceleration capabilities, coupled with a car mass of a locomotive and tires covered with suction cups. It just feels too unfair, and although a subjective notion: not fun.
“Many popular games also tend to hide the flaws of their driving AI with a quantity over quality approach, by either spawning numerous vehicles coming from all directions or/and by introducing a gun-shooting response. Here, on the contrary, there is a strong emphasis on programming the NPC cars to be as skilled as possible and building favorable conditions to allow for a gradual building-up of the tension.”
Audio needs some work, if it’s to match the mood and quality of the rest of the presentation, and then something needs to be done about that working title. Until then, I’ll stick to calling it Driving Survival and look forward to the hunt, whenever it begins.