Few racing games are as therapeutic as Funselektor’s Art of rally, a minimalist, top-down arcade rally racer with an emphasis on driving feel and pleasant vibes. It’s a unique experience – the kind of racing game that has rightly received a lot of attention and praise from beginners and experts alike. An interview posted today with the game’s lead developer, Dune Casu, teases into what makes it so special.
Unlike many other modern racing games, Art of rally is played from a pseudo-top-down perspective, as was common in the days before polygons and scaling sprite† Personally, as much as I’m enamored with the game’s visual style and its zen-like approach to driving, that’s always been a sticking point for me; I have never got along with top down racers† However, a fan-made mod for the PC version was created to address that, by bringing the camera close to the ground, directly behind the car, like a chase camera in a more traditional racing game.
As a YouTuber Dustin Eden says, it completely transforms the experience. It also causes some graphical and logistical problems, such as: Art of rally was never meant to be played from such a vantage point. Those flat, minimalist trumps that previously coalesced to paint a rich landscape from a distance now seem a little too simple, a little too undercooked this up close. The sense of speed is also heightened and DustinEden reports a compulsion to brake and lift more often for fear of losing control.
But the bigger problems actually involve tempo notes; or rather, the lack of it. In rallies, your co-driver’s warnings of bends and dangers ahead are essential for successful racing on a track you’ve never seen before. These notes must also be passed on at just the right time, in the right cadence, and of course in different languages for each territory in which the game is released.
However, Funselektor is a small team that lacks the resources to record tempo notes with the care they need. Pulling the camera up and back allows the player to get a better idea of what’s ahead without relying on verbal warnings. Casu explains this in a little more detail in his interview with DustinEden, which is a must-see if you’re interested in this sort of thing, or a fan of the game.
The interview starts at approx 9:15 mark† Casu first explains how the idea for the top-down camera came from an earlier project:
originally with absolute drift it was a bit of an accident. It had to be a third-person camera, like Need for speed or the classic racing games. I was trying to make a main menu, like an interactive 3D main menu, so we pulled out this camera and brought it to this video game meeting, and somebody said, “oh this is much better, I like it better.” That’s the whole reason we did that.
The camera quickly became the glue that held the whole experience together; Casu recalls constantly tweaking it “almost until launch.” Still, he appreciates the chase cam mod that presents another option to the players who want it:
Some people seem to like it! It’s definitely an interesting mod that’s come out, it’s pretty cool to watch. People would ask to be in the game, such a chase camera. But since it’s a rally game, you need pace notes, and the original purpose of this game was to have a more minimal rally experience. By having this camera, you can get rid of the tempo notes. Because tempo notes can [require] a lot of skill for a game, especially for localization – we have 12 languages in the game – and get that for all voice actors for everything, and also tuning so that it’s good… I’ve played rally games where the tempo was a bit off and it forces you to crash. So having everything zoomed out, being able to see everything, that’s the core of the game.
There are certainly pros and cons to both camera positions, and Funselektor decided this would be the best option for the kind of game they wanted to make – a love letter to rallying presented as a diorama, with a stunning degree of physical depth. Art of rally is still getting new, free content almost two years later and Indonesian stages will be added in the coming weeks. It’s also available on just about every modern platform right now, so if you haven’t had a chance to settle in yet, now could be the best time.
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