Developed by Finnish petrolheads Bugbear Entertainment, mental stock car pile-up FlatOut is not for the faint-hearted Sunday driver. Thanks to completely destructible cars and worlds and persistent, dangerous debris, each and every lap is more fraught than the last.
In the first of a series of exclusive developer diaries, Bugbear's Ilari Lehtinen - the game's 3D artist - talks us through flattening cars and driving them into telegraph poles...
I'm a 3D artist in the car team - smack in the middle of things. We've just finished the base work for all the cars in FlatOut and we're now polishing them to their final features. In other words, we have long bug lists and to-do lists in front of us just next to the deadline date.
Looking over the older models done way-back-whenever, we've noticed lots of little things such as a lack of detail in front masks, round bits that are too angular, or just not-quite-right-looking bits here and there. It's mainly due to the inevitable changes during the development, such as engine optimisations which suddenly gave us a whopping amount of polygons to play with, which in turn meant that cars from the number five or six onwards were far more detailed than the previous ones. Sometimes, looking at the car models, I wonder when did the term low-poly modelling say, "OK, I'll get my coat," and quietly excuse itself out of this industry?
Modelling cars for FlatOut is a breeze, to a point. We just design and model the bodyworks and then include a pre-made chassis and engine. After texturing comes the first in-game tests to check how the whole thing behaves and, if they are OK, then comes detail work such as crash modelling.
Remember when you were kid and had a Matchbox toy car which you hammered flat just for the fun of it? Making crash models isn't any different, really. It's just different set of tools for the same task. We've made field trips to an insurance company's warehouse where all the wrecked cars are taken, to observe how metal has deformed in the real-world crashes and how to mimic it in FlatOut. In addition, there are also all the shadow objects, collision stuff and other little things to add to the cars but covering that would just depress everyone.
It's been interesting to follow the discussions about FlatOut in various forums, now that the racing fans have seen videos of the game. In almost every thread there has been someone expressing their dismay over how the cars come apart so easily. Cars come apart in the current build easily because it makes things easier for us and emphasizes the wrecking aspect, which we feel is miles above others. So of course we love to show it off.
We're the proud parents of the coolest kid on the block. Misty-eyed egotism aside, the final game will have sturdier bodyworks. Right now we can test our crash models on the first telephone pole we come across, instead of throwing the car around the forest like a madman hoping for hefty impacts. Next time something else - maybe about the tracks...
FlatOut is released for PS2, Xbox and PC in November. Keep an eye out for further developer diaries over the coming weeks