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Hey everybody, I’m back with another TCPD devlog - sooner than expected! I was initially planning to wait until after the upcoming Steam Next Fest to write this devlog, but after reviewing the state of the game I decided to withdraw from the event. As much as I want to get the game into more people’s hands to get more feedback, I just don’t feel that the game’s current state & the state of the marketing materials (including the name) are ready for a bigger marketing push.
In this devlog I’ll dive more into the reasons behind waiting for the next Steam festival, what changes I’ve made to the game since the last update (there’s a new stunt taxi mode!), what I’m working on now, plus revisit the dev ‘roadmap’ and talk about what’s next!
Grab an early pre-alpha preview build of Tristan Cole's Pro Driver here on itch.io! Try the new passenger delivery & multiplayer modes (via the itch app)!
Follow me on Twitter for more regular updates on #TCPDgame and all my other projects!
#ThrowbackThursday to just over a year ago when I pivoted direction on #UntitledDrivingGame & created the base for what is now #TCPDgame!— Tristan Cole (@elocnat) August 26, 2021
🙏 Thanks to everybody who has followed along for the ride; still got a lot further to go!#indiedev #indiegame #gamedev #IndieGameDev #UE4 https://t.co/xG4UKPES6h
There’s been a bunch of new changes since the last update, so buckle up! The most visual of changes include a new map and two new vehicles to drive around. The new map is a completely reworked version of the old tutorial map nicknamed ‘Downtown’. It features a sprawling cityscape with towering skyscrapers and some crazy angled split level streets! The map is tailored towards the new taxi gameplay mode that I’ll talk about a little further down.
I’ve always imagined including at least three large differently styled maps for the game, so when I started redesigning ‘Downtown’, I went overboard instead of just designing it for a better structured tutorial. When I’m doing level design, so far I’ve found it’s easier for me to work with real meshes, even if they’re not permanent. Instead of using mostly blockout geometry like I did for LATC, I started making the level more interesting from the start using real building meshes for the ‘blockout’ which allowed me to get the city together pretty quickly. It also features a much more “city like” layout which of course made things easier.
I tried to vary up the areas of ‘Downtown’ a little bit, so there’s a huge center section surrounded by skyscrapers and then outlying areas with smaller buildings and curvier roads. I also added some names to storefronts for the delivery mode, which something that LATC lacked. Since Downtown was so detailed in comparison, I decided to revisit LATC in order to make improvements & add detail.
WIP gameplay footage of Downtown!
More WIP footage of Downtown!
LATC has always been a little larger than I wanted, especially with the rooftop access, so I’ve been trying to cut out unnecessary or uninteresting areas of the map. There are some long straight stretches of road that need breaking up and a lot of corner areas that just aren’t really needed, so I’ve been working on trying to pull the map together a bit. I’ve also been adding building details and storefronts for the delivery mode so that there’s a variety of places to deliver passengers. One of the things about LATC is that it was setup without passenger delivery in mind, so I’ve been tinkering with the flow of the level and trying to find the best way to keep the intended spirit of the map while still having it viable for the taxi mode.
There’s two new vehicles to drive and stunt around in - a teal old car a and an orange muscle car! I’ve had both of those models downloaded for a while since they have separate body parts and nice details, but they needed to be chopped and caged, wheels separated, and the body part pivot points needed fixing. I finally got a chance to do all that and added them both in! They drive the same as the blue sedan for now, but I plan to make a couple vehicle ‘classes’ that have different stats for different driving styles. In addition to the suspension changes I’ll go into detail about, I also made some smaller changes like lowering the top speed, removing the ‘max boost’ mechanic, reverting the ‘jump force’ mechanic, and tweaking gravity settings.
I’m still not 100% happy with the base vehicle controller (and probably never will be), but I’ve made some good progress on it recently and it feels better than ever. I went back and studied some articles and YouTube videos like the Skylanders and Rocket League GDC talks to try and get a better understanding of how to steady the suspension especially during landings. After a bunch of cursing and berating myself for not paying attention & failing physics in high school, I finally got the code to a point where the vehicle wasn’t completely overdamped and didn’t freak out over every small bump.
Testing out the new teal old car!
Had some trouble at first with the orange car...
My goal for the vehicle controller has always primarily been to feel really fast and like momentum never stops (if you stick your landings!) even from huge drops. To accomplish this before, I just overdamped the suspension and made it extremely stiff. This worked to stabilize landings, but made it so the vehicle basically clamped down to the ground at all times so going over small jumps wasn’t possible and little bumps would launch the car into the air. The new suspension model instead uses some tips from the Skylanders video to predict how much the spring needs to be extended based on the substep time, gravity, and last frame’s suspension value. This results in a much stabler suspension than I had previously where the vehicle doesn’t seem to bottom out at all.
I’ve changed the raycasts to sphere casts (I’ve switched back and forth a few times) which has helped stabilization too. The damping is lower in general driving, meaning the vehicle can easily jump curbs and get air on ramps without extra jump force. For keeping speed during landings, I raise the damping value for a short period before the vehicle is fully grounded so that it stabilizes really quickly with little noticeable difference to momentum or vehicle handling. I’m not sure this is the best way to handle it, but overall the vehicle feels much more stable and fun to drive around! Landings aren’t as harsh now and the vehicle doesn’t bounce nearly as much (assuming you land somewhat level!) if you land a little weird. Plenty more tweaking to be done, but I’m also going to start improving other systems around the vehicle (like the camera) to make the driving experience even better.
Hey hey hey, come on over it’s time to have some fun with
Crazy Stunt Taxi! That’s right, the game now has a singleplayer passenger delivery mode. The goal is to get your passengers from point A to point B in the quickest time possible while also impressing them by pulling off crazy stunts. The more stunts you do, the more tips you get and the higher your rating goes. Passengers have varying delivery distances (close, medium, far) and give or subtract ratings depending on the speed of delivery. The mode needs a lot of polish and improvements, but it’s fully playable right now and it’s a fun base.
Testing out the new traffic system!
Gameplay of the new stunt taxi mode!
I’ve also added a new traffic system to the game with some placeholder vehicles from the marketplace. The new system is a lot more stable with heavier traffic & also contains interactions like horns blaring and flashing lights when driving or in contact with other cars. It’s not perfect and is still resource intensive when too many cars are spawned, but it’s much better than the old half-implemented traffic system I was using. The majority of roads in all maps now have working traffic splines and the vehicle is set to spawn somewhere around 50 vehicles -- but I’ll probably tweak that & add a setting for turning it down until I can make it perform better. The traffic is also not replicated currently - in the future I’d like for that to be possible.
Speaking of Steam, go wishlist TCPD on Steam now!
Since the last devlog I’ve been steadily working towards building a more polished demo of TCPD for the upcoming Steam festival. The goals I outlined in the last devlog for the demo were: at least a working tutorial, singleplayer free roam, and a couple multiplayer modes available. Technically I could’ve had all of this ready if I just reworked the tutorial a little and added another multiplayer PvP mode, but I wasn’t happy with having no real singleplayer gameplay plus only a single map and vehicle.
I started by ripping out the tutorial and then reworking the tutorial level. While it was playable as a “second map”, previously the tutorial was just a cramped parking lot with an uninteresting parking garage. I started by unfencing the parking lot and opening up the streets around it. Then I started adding more buildings, drawing roadways, adding ramps, and all of a sudden the tutorial level transformed into a much larger map comparable in size to LATC. Currently nicknamed ‘Downtown’, the city is setup decently for passenger delivery, so I added that mode and then added some more vehicles along with it. Basically, I started making a lot more changes than I initially planned for this demo.
Passenger delivery gameplay in LATC.
Testing out vehicle stability changes.
I stepped back and took a good look at the game after adding a lot of those new features and I still wasn’t happy. Besides still not having a working tutorial, which I feel is very necessary for my game, I basically doubled my work by adding a new singleplayer mode & map. They’re great additions but it made me realize a few things. The first being that Downtown looks a lot more detailed than LATC since I used mostly real building meshes - and it still feels very unpolished and empty, which says a lot about the state of LATC. That means I now have two large maps I have to work on and detail by myself!
Secondly, even though I knew from the start the game would have a mix of gameplay available, I’ve never really defined any core modes, which means I was just designing for general fun & flow. That’s fine, but now that the first gameplay mode is a taxi mode, LATC needs more attention to detail and some rework of the road system. Both maps have different styles of gameplay so I need some time to really balance out everything to fit together. And just talking about gameplay and flow, the vehicle controller still has some issues I want to work out, although it is closer than ever to the overall feel I was going for.
Improving the speed of traffic with new vehicles!
Reworking for more flow in LATC.
Lastly, the marketing materials I currently have for the game are subpar at best. The Steam trailer and screenshots need to be updated & heavily improved, I need professional capsule art done, the description & tags need revising, and I still am not sure if I’m even keeping the game’s current name. I don’t want to spend money on professional art or a logo until I have a permanent name for the game, and that’s another reason I really don’t want to do a marketing push yet. While it’s better than #UntitledDrivingGame, I was never sure “Tristan Cole’s Pro Driver” was going to be a permanent title. I wanted a “real” name to get the game on Steam and that one was the easiest at the time.
I’d like to change the game’s name to something more representative of the game before I enter any events and put more effort into marketing, but honestly I’ve had no luck at coming up with something good. I’ve had a few ideas, some funny puns and riffs of other names, but nothing that I think really captures what the game is. It’s not a skating game, so while the TCPD name kind of fits I can see people being disappointed if they’re expecting THPS with cars. I’m trying to frame the theme of the game as “stunt driver for hire”, where you do anything from completing contracted ‘odd jobs’/goals around the city to delivering passengers and impressing them with stunts. If you have any ideas, please shout them at me!
I’ve been carrying around this half-assed development roadmap and ‘revisiting’ it every devlog, but it’s not really changed much or even outlined what I’m currently going for. Let’s change that. Since I didn’t make this Steam Next Fest, there’s still an opportunity to participate in the next one which will be in February 2022.
I’m going to outline my goals for the game to get it ready for the next festival. Let’s say the end date for this updated roadmap is Jan 31st 2022, which should give me time to work out any last minute bugs/issues should I complete a more polished playable demo by then. Aside from general polish & improvements, here’s the high level plan:
(Next) Steam Next Fest Roadmap:
I’d like to accomplish all that and more, but I think that’s a pretty solid list. It can always be added to, but the reason I put (Maybe) beside a few is that I don’t want to stretch myself too thin. Since I’ve started this project, everything has taken longer than I’ve expected (who could’ve seen that coming...), so I’m trying to be a bit more realistic with my expectations.
I’ve outlined my goals for the game over the next few months, but there is one big factor that stands in the way of completing them (in a timely manner): I’ve got to get a new job! I’ve been technically working full-time on game development for a bit while taking a break from my career in devops, but due to some unexpected circumstances I need to go back to work earlier than I planned in order to continue paying my bills. The one upside is that I'll finally have some extra money to spend on the game!
There’s no way to get around it though: this will no doubt slow down the development on TCPD. I plan to continue working on the game outside of any future day job, but that’s very dependent on how said job goes and my work load. I’ve never been really good at juggling (programming related) side projects while balancing a day job, but I’ve also never tried it with game development, something I actually enjoy doing. That’s one reason I’m hesitant to add too much to the above roadmap: I don’t want to burn myself out.
With that being said, I’m still excited to see where I can take the game. It’s been a little over a year now that I’ve been working on the game, and it’s amazing to me how much it’s changed since I started the project. That’s one reason I like doing these devlogs, it really puts into perspective the work I’ve done even on those days when I think I’ve still got a steaming pile of nothing on my hands.
Well if you made it this far, that's it for this one! Since I’m no longer doing video devlogs to accompany these, I should probably release a couple smaller devlogs a month instead of a huge wall of text. I’ll be back before the end of next month for another update!
As always, thanks for reading and following the development of TCPD!
Do you an idea for a new name for the game? Have you tried the new passenger mode? Let me know!
Wishlist TCPD on Steam & try the latest build on itch.io!
Follow me on Twitter for the latest news on Tristan Cole’s Pro Driver!