In this article I will try explaining how we’re applying “sandbox” game concepts to a racing game and how this will give you endless possibilities in Racecraft.
What does sandbox means in electronic entertainment? Let’s see some definitions:
A Sandbox game is a game that the player has the ability to alter their environment in some substantial matter, hence the term sandbox. The term sandbox is in reference to a child’s sandbox in which you can alter the landscape and build shapes.
Not to be confused with the term open-world, where the player may roam openly through the world, without artificial gimmicks to direct a set path. The story driven aspect has no effect on whether a game is sandbox or not, but can sway if a game is open-world.
Many sandbox games are open world, as they usually go hand in hand and compliment each other well, examples would be Minecraft, or Trove. Examples of games that are sandbox but not open world would be along the lines of Robocraft. Example of games that are open-world but not a sandbox would be, Cubeworld, or Ultima 1: The First Age of Darkness.
Another typical definition:
A sandbox is a style of game in which minimal character limitations are placed on the gamer, allowing the gamer to roam and change a virtual world at will. In contrast to a progression-style game, a sandbox game emphasizes roaming and allows a gamer to select tasks. Instead of featuring segmented areas or numbered levels, a sandbox game usually occurs in a “world” to which the gamer has full access from start to finish. A sandbox game is also known as an open-world or free-roaming game.
I think the first definition is the most correct. We don’t want to confuse the sandbox games with open world games. For instance, the game “The Sandbox” is a pure sandbox game without being an open world game.
A definition of SandBox alternative that I love (more general) is:
A sandbox game is an environment where strict rules (physical, logical), simple and consistent with each other, are coupled with the ability for the user to use mechanisms, crafts objects with a degree of freedom (near infinite possibility) that he can build unpredictable situations also by designers of the game.
The two concepts characterizing this definition of Sandbox are:
- Strict and consistent global rules, easier to understand.
- Endless variability regarding environment and/or crafting/features player-side.
When the designer creates a pure sandbox, the player often has the ability to activate the so-called emergent gameplay. This way, the player creates gameplay, objectives and strategies envisioned by the creators of the game.
A classic example of emergent gameplay is when in Star Wars Galaxies many roles beyond the official ones, defined from game designers, were born. In the example above, the emergent roles consist in paid PR shops for crafters! That’s really crazy.
How can we apply the concept and the logic of a sandbox in a racing game?
Mainly in 2 ways:
1) Endless variability of the environment
We’re talking about the track and its conditions. Racecraft brings up a new brand procedural engine to generate an endless number of tracks. This way, the driver will always face different situations. This feature is also really important for other two reasons:
- E-sports (racing-related), where you needs E-tracks to be fair and evolve your own identity, avoiding the limits of real categories and real-world tracks
- The endless number of tracks creates a synergy with managerial/stategic gameplay that Racecraft will show in one of its first evolutions after the Early Access initial release.
Various track-maps created by our Camilla engine:
The “final” result:
2) The pre-race or pre-session crafting.
Endless combinations to create your car, depending on track’s characteristics.
In the game, before entering a session (single or multiplayer), the driver or his track engineer will choose the car configuration which best fits the following track-weather pairing.
Selectable car parts
- Wheelbases and tracks: this is a really important choice because this part manages the transfer load of the car and therefore the car behaviour.
- Turbocharger: choose between various sizes of turbines that will affect fuel consumption, power, reliability, torque curve….
- Combustion engine: architecture, efficiency, specific fuel consumption, weight, reliability.
- Fuel tank: Choose from various capacities and weights to increase or decrease the autonomy of the car. This choice will influence your strategies.
- Brakes: Choose from various thickness, radius and materials. This choice will affect reliability, max torque, consumption and temps of brakes during sessions.
- Tires. Choose the compound to balance grip and duration. This choice is really important for the race.
- Aerodynamic configuration (low downforce, medium..): Choose between different configurations that change efficiency, CX, lift, pressure center,….
- Gearbox: number of gears, gear-change time, weight, reliability. Choose between different configurations.
- Sidepods: choose from different configurations that change dimension, drag, cooling factor, weight….
As other games, Racecraft allows changing car setup during a session, but if you will use the same aero configuration you would use in Monza with a tortuous track, you will probably have some issues.
An important thing to remember is that the above parts have different properties: each one has pros and cons. The parts crafted by users will expand this enormous inventory.
It’s like having lots of LEGO pieces to make and craft the car.
We want players to have fun experimenting with cars exactly like they have fun in Minecraft refining farms or factories.
The infinite specialised crafting
The second step towards a pure sandbox game is allowing drivers (now called crafters) to build their own parts customizing each feat of a single part. For instance, looking at brakes, we have these main properties:
- Friction coefficient
- Map consumption-efficiency
- Map temp–efficiency
- Ideal Temp range
- Consumption coefficient
- Reliability coefficient
The designers/crafters will create a new “recipe” for brakes starting with default properties. For instance, the reliability will be very low and other properties not really at the best level.
He can experiment tuning/improving some properties: more creation means more refinement and the limit will never be reached. Each property can infinitely be optimised using the asymptote technique:
This way, each part can be really different from any other part crafted by other users. We want crafters to automatically add pieces to stock parts and this will allow users also to make contents for other players extending the initial situation for car creation parts.
Imagine this mechanic for all parts present in the car configuration.
Will players only craft car parts to challenge their rivals?
No, we’ll have a very defined roadmap about crafting and its degree of freedom:
- Car paint. Craft your livery using a powerful paint.
- Craft your category/formula. You can change anything: power, aero, mass, brakes, dimensions, driving assistances….. We are working to allow upload of dedicated meshes by designers. A high level “toybox” tool.
- Track Editor. Using Camilla layers, phases and features, drivers will be able to build tracks easily.
- Event Editor. Create an event or a multi race event, choose the session type, choose/invite your friends, share calendar and ranks on SNs, visually change event properties and rules in a logic similar to “Unreal mutator”.
These are the sandbox concepts that will be applied to the game to raise the level of racing customisation to new standards.