The Forge #2 — ExoGP Designer Notes with Richard Ng
The Spirit of Competition
As I mentioned in the last dev blog, fandom is at the core of Team Atmos. Coming in a close second is a love of competition.
For example, during internal game testing, our lap times are posted, reference videos shared, and as you can imagine, we begin our attempts to beat each other’s lap times.
Over time, reputations have developed, rivalries formed, and friendly trash talk exchanged. Stories about the latest results are told among the team and now references to our performance in ExoGP percolate daily discussion in the company. Flight styles have evolved during playtesting. For example, Kevin’s style has a lot of flair, Dariusz’s is chaotic, and mine has been described as clinical. Our times are not all that different, however, I am proud to say that I’m currently the fastest Exo Racer on the team.
All of this is an expression of our spirit of competition and represents a foundational pillar of the Atmos ethos as we develop our first future sport.
A Vision for Future Sports
The overarching goal of ExoGP is to deliver a new standard for what people should expect from the next generation of racing games. This means offering exciting gameplay, evolved spectator experiences, and a robust competitive scene that are all tied together with rich lore.
Surrounding these factors is a focus on developing a game that is a conduit for telling compelling stories of competition. While we’re designing a game that is fun to play, we are also developing one that is fun and exciting to watch. This means that as we develop and hone gameplay dynamics, we are also ensuring that the gameplay can be filmed, broadcast, and shared with enough nuance to bring the drama of competition to life.
The mantra we’ve rallied around is “When is a game more than a game?”
To answer this question, we’ve interrogated elements of our own fandom to identify the factors that drive deep emotional responses when we watch sports. The history and rivalry among competitors, in-game action, affinity or disdain for a player or team, great broadcast and highlight videos, and daily fantasy are among the elements we’ve identified as emotionally driving touchpoints that help us and others socialize competitive stories to friends, family, and beyond.
Our goal is to provide a great hands-on gameplay experience with various emotional touchpoints that bring these stories to life with audiences everywhere. ExoGP will combine the best of traditional sports, broadcast, and fandom culture with compelling experiences that bridge digital and IRL fan engagement.
What Influences Have Gone Into ExoGP?
The primary influences that have gone into the game come from three primary categories:
- Motorsports and other traditional sports
- Racing games
We have fairly broad inspirations when it comes to race culture. Our team is made up of a lot of gearheads with a variety of interests. Competitions we watch include: Formula 1, WRC, MotoGP, and Supercross. In addition to that, we even have team members who put in wrench time on their own rides so there’s an underlying affinity to tuning culture as well.
Outside of motorsports, we have fans of traditional sports as well including the NHL, NBA, MLB, and NFL.
These influences help define our goals for experience in ExoGP. Defining and understanding the impact of how these competitions engage us across live events, broadcast and narrative media, community engagement, and virtual experiences are all part of our research and planning as we hone the ExoGP fan experience.
From a gameplay perspective, there are numerous games that inspire the team across factors such as accessibility, depth of competition, and customization. We’re big fans of arcade racers like Mario Kart, Initial D, and Wangan Midnight. Gran Turismo, Forza, WRC Generations, and Rocket League are on the list of games we play too. Lastly, we have a soft spot for sci-fi themed anti-grav racers like Wipeout and Redout 2.
From esports, we find inspiration for gameplay design, broadcast techniques, and engagement opportunities. League of Legends, COD, Valorant, Dota, Rocket League, and Overwatch are at the top of our list of games we watch and learn from.
Crafting the Gameplay Experience
Creating a new sport poses a number of challenges to designers. Two notable factors we are addressing are intuitiveness of gameplay and controller design.
Intuitiveness of gameplay is a key consideration of our design approach. Making the rules of a game intuitive enables players and viewers to more easily follow the action and allows spectators to better understand and communicate stories from the game.
Intuitive rules of play also promote dynamic commentary and engaging analysis by fans and broadcasters as they can focus on strategies and tactics rather than having to focus on explaining mechanics and rules of the game.
This is one reason we chose to develop a racing game as our first future sport. As a game, racing is simple to understand. Your goal is to do something faster than everyone else. While there can be obstacles to overcome, opponents to outsmart, and equipment to be managed, in the end the game is quick to learn and it is easy to understand what is going on.
Controller design is another factor we’re heavily focused on. The intuitiveness and accessibility of game controls drive a significant impact on player experience. A good control system should allow a player to perform basic actions with minimal effort which reduces general frustration.
Being a flight racing game, we know that the three-dimensional nature of the control system can be potentially confusing for new players. So we’re tuning elements of the controls to be more straightforward for first time players while retaining nuance in the system to allow for more experienced players to use advanced techniques to get more speed out of their Exos.
Specific attributes we tweak on a daily basis include:
- Boost levels
- Pitch, yaw, and roll sensitivity
In early tests, we had to ask ourselves “how fast is too fast?” While as players we want to go as fast as possible, we also recognize that it is possible to go so fast that it would create a barrier to entry for new players. They could very well spend their time playing ExoGP continuously smashing into barricades and crashing into walls. Not a very fun play experience.
Blistering speeds are attainable in ExoGP but only after a player has mastered the control system and is able to utilize it across various tracks consistently. Like any great game, ExoGP will be easy to learn and difficult to master.
We want to make sure the game is accessible so new and casual players can have a great time while also ensuring that the core game design has enough skill headroom to power a competitive pro scene.
Racing For Glory
As I mentioned earlier, the team at Atmos is very competitive and sharing race highlights has become a daily occurrence. What’s amazing is that all of this is happening with our team only playing an internal test build of the game.
We’re confident that this spirit of competition can only grow as we head further down the path of development and we’re looking forward to seeing your stories of competition come to life.
See you on the leaderboard,
VP of Marketing
Atmos Labs, Inc.