First, LOVE the game. I think GRIP is really on to something great here. If done right, it could become huge. But there have been other games before it that I think Grip could learn from. And I look forward to having a blast playing it.
Right now, the races don’t feel competitive enough. There is not enough skill in jostling for position & pickups, and too much desperate dodging to avoid the track geometry, disabled cars, and flying uncontrollably through the air which brings the fun to a screeching halt. The game suffers from an excess of ’artificial difficulty’. It is made difficult not by the player unsuccessfully executing, but because the game presents obstacles (both physical and meta-physical) to the player which often result in extreme, unfair, or unintended penalties. However, I understand most of this is physics based, and the engine is constantly being reviewed and improved. Below, I will attempt to summarize and categorize all the current suggestions I have and explain why/how I think these changes could improve the game. I may reference game play elements from other games as well.
My FIRST suggestion, before reading any further, is to go play a game called ‘Blur’ (for 360 & PS3). It was the last game developed by Bizarre Creations before they were sadly acquired and shutdown by Activision. Blur…is by far one of the best combat-racing games ever created. Everything about it was amazing. The multiplayer servers may have been shut-down but if you have access to play the single player, do it. If not, at least go watch gameplay videos of it on youtube and admire everything about the game. Winning & losing races in Blur was never the result of chance or luck or some fluke layout of power-ups or track geometry. It didn’t suffer from the rubber band effect seen in racers like Mario-Kart (where players are kept together by slowing players who are in leading positions & boosting players who are in last place). You won by tactically shuffling your (3)power-ups, and successfully acquiring the correct ones to counter your opponents attacks and prevent them from passing you (all while taking good race-lines in the corners). In addition to the race gameplay…the game also had a very cool level-up system, where you unlocked access additional abilities and powers as you progressed through the game and then equipped your car with a set of abilities from a collection that you've unlocked before each race. EX: An ability that gave you an extra weapon slot, or more accurate missiles, or more powerful boosts, or higher defense, or an ability that allowed you to pickup mines as opposed to being susceptible to them, or an ability that allowed the shield (when activated) to swallow incoming missiles into an available item slot. I’ll stop singing the games praises. Just go watch gameplay of it, and play it if you can. I, by no means think the creators of Grip should replicate Blur in every way..I’m just saying there are elements of gameplay that made Blur successful and fun, and these are elements Grip could take note of to make a more fun and cohesive gameplay experience.
/ / / HUD / / /
In reference to Blur: The first think you might notice is the way power-ups are utilized. You had slots which were displayed behind the car (as opposed to in the corner). this made your inventory easier to see, while making it feel like a part of the car itself. (Much like Issac’s health bar in Dead Space)
Secondly, you rotated the active item slot before deploying them. Doing this combined with the need to control your car took skill. In GRIP, you have 2 separate buttons for each weapon slot. I think this is unnecessary and hampers the players ability to skillfully shuffle items and makes the act of deploying items & weapons rather boring.
having 2 seperate buttons for each weapon slot is unintuitive. Especially if you were to implement a level-system with abilities to expand a cars utility slots. Right now you’re limiting the game to having 2 and ONLY 2 items all the time every time at all stages of the game for all vehicle styles and levels. I would have one button to rotate the currently active slot, and the other button to deploy the active item.
/ / / WEAPONS / / /
Color Coordinate Pickups:
In GRIP’s current state, all items are presented identically on the course as green orbs, and the player acquires a random item when making contact with an orb. I think this is a rather boring implementation...especially since both track boosts and item orbs are the same color. I think a better way to implement the pick-up system (like in Blur) is to color coordinate the weapon pickups on the race-course and even give each pickup a graphic instead of a nondescript orb. ex: Red: missiles, Green: boost, Blue: shield, White: repair, etc. By doing this, you create an incentive for the player to try and acquire certain pickups over another. If they are in first place, they might prefer to pick up a shield or a boost over a missile/projectile and hence change their course to go out of the way and pick those items up (making a proper racing line harder to achieve). Additionally, if you’re in the middle pack approaching a row of pickups, you have the option to acquire a pickup that suits your strategy. You might want a missile to takeout the driver in front of you. OR, perhaps you already have a missile occupying one of your weapon slots, so maybe you would instead opt go for the boost or shield depending on what pickups are available in the approaching row (knowing that if you successfully land a hit on the player in front of you, you could then deploy your boost or shield and race ahead of him to gain extra distance or prevent him from countering). But this is all dependent on the player knowing what which approaching pickups are available. In addition to adding the layer of pick-up strategy, a race also become more intense because you’ll find that other racers might be trying to acquire the same pick-ups that you are going for. This creates a gambit where you might have to go for a secondary item because a player just in front of you already grabbed it.
I like the current array of weapons in GRIP, but I have some changes/suggestions. Note: I've only managed to play the game for less than a week, so I might be overlooking some things)
MACHINE GUN - The best part about this item is it’s almost automatic. It is basically a spread shot that affects any racer in front of the player. That being said..Nerf this power-up slightly. The automaticity of it, and the fact that it almost always hits makes it powerful. (which, could in turn make it an item that players would opt to acquire).
[BLUR REFERENCE: Blur had an item similar to Grip’s machine-gun. The purple item, was a 3-shot rifle (like the triple green-turtle in Mario Kart). It was a highly accurate and effective item, but required skill to effectively aim and drive. Split Grip's auto-cannon into 1. A shotgun type weapon: Spread shot. easy to hit (if not automatic). short/very short range. highly effective. 2. A 3 or 2-shot rifle weapon. accurate, but requires aim. long range. highly effective if it registers a hit.
/ / / PHYSICS / / /
I know the physics engine is under constant revision and improvement. But currently my main take-aways are:
Car Air Control:
Give the player more control of the car in the air. Right now going airborne is dangerous and un-fun (so much that players might even avoid it at times), even though it’s obvious that (semi)airborne gameplay is a mechanic native to GRIP by dint of the fact you’re supposed to have the ability to control the roll of your vehicle in the air. Give the player more control of a cars roll & pitch. I’m not looking for complete control…but if I go off a jump straight only to discover that I’m suddenly sideways, it would be nice to have far more control (or at least the capacity to correct a mistimed jumped). a VERY INTERESTING way to implement car-air-control, would be to have a car slow down whenever a player changes/affects orientation while airborne. You could have air-brakes on some cars that give a player extreme control while in the air, but at the cost of velocity when changing orientation. Additionally, other cars could have wings or rudders that allow a player to glide a car but only slightly change it’s trajectory (though you would still maintain speed more speed with a wing-system as opposed to an air brake/flap system). Additionally, you could have some cars that have external propulsion boosters (like on the space shuttle) that give a player more control of a cars trajectory and less control of it’s orientation (allowing a car to strafe in the air, or effectively have a 'double' jump. With all of this you could have secret routes or other incentives that a player can only get to by boosting, or gliding, or strafing while airborne…but which would also require them to have a vehicle equipped with the correct air control system.
CAR ORIENTATION SYSTEM OVERHAUL!!! [+Jump Button]
One of the most interesting mechanics of GRIP, is sadly one that isn’t utilized at all. The vehicle’s driving orientation. It’s currently only an accidental aspect of the game that a car can be neither right-side-up, or up-side-down. All it currently does it make going off jumps fun because you can land upside down. TAKE ADVANTAGE of this! Allow the player to utilize each side of a car differently. When the car is on one side, perhaps it could be more aerodynamic, or have more GRIP, or less grip, or could be more resistant to incoming power-ups, or have stronger power-ups, or it could be tank-like and be able to knock other cars around more (but slower), or be more susceptible to collision. The differences don’t have to be extreme. But, it could add a dimension to the game and give the player the option of equipping different "Orientation Loadouts" before each race. They can unlock different abilities or armor or weapon slots for each side of the car that can be equipped before a race, or even CHANGED mid-race (in a pit-stop or something? I saw a suggestion about healing a cars health by slowing to a certain speed. Perhaps this can be combined with certain orientation loadouts). If a player needs to be on the offensive, they could opt to have a fast loadout with stronger weapons at the cost of acceleration or turning or armor. Depending on their loadout and race situation, a player could opt to go off a jump and rotate their car (Especially if better control of the car is implemented as I noted above) to change which orientation is being utilized…or they might have just successfully gone into first place, and no longer need to be on the offensive, and have equipped the other side of their car with a defensive loadout…now they need to find a jump or a way to change their orientation. Taking that gambit makes the game exciting.
In addition to an Vehicle Orientation System like this, you could also implement a jump system. Instead of requiring a player to go off a jump to change their orientation perhaps give them a jump themselves. It could be a jump button that makes a car go slightly airborne so they can do a barrel roll (Not unlike the Mach 5 in SpeedRacer, or the cars in Rocket League). Or perhaps they'd need item that would allow them to jump? A jump ability would ALSO allow a player to tactfully avoid pile-ups and obstacles which the game is currently plagued with, but they would need to skillfully execute a jump to do so.
TRACK EDGE COLLISIONS:
Right now, the game suffers from sticky walls and intrusive geometry. The worst culprit are the tunnels on Liddo. I don’t mind all the obstacles and pillars….but please for the love of god make them easier to see. Give intentionally intrusive geometry & obstacles a red light or give them an environmental flourish that makes them easier to see.
Make the track edges more smooth, or at least make collision effects less powerful. Nothing is worse than boosting into 1st place in the tunnels on Liddo while inverted, only to come to a grinding halt at the exit because of some tiny collision with an unnoticeable piece of track geometry.
JUMP GEOMETRY (see attached image)
Also, change the geometry of the jumps…for the love of god. A jump should require accuracy, and precision…yes. But, not so much accuracy that you come to a grinding halt or go flying uncontrollably (because you can;t control the pitch & roll of your car) if you don’t hit it right. The jumps aren’t fun right now. And are the worst offender in making the game artificially difficult.