This Dev Story touches upon one of the pillars of racing games and, more often than not, one of the most controversial topics in user and media reviews—physics. There is no arguing that a racer’s physics engine is what defines its very gameplay experience, it actually defines the sub-genre the game belongs to—be it simulation, arcade or simcade—and it is inevitably what makes it a hit or a miss, at the end of the day.
Our Physics Programmer Matteo Manganelli handles anything relating to physics in the new SBK Official Mobile Game: firstly the motorcycle riding simulator, and secondly the riders’ falls and the collisions between objects on the track. If you are curious to know more about his job and the wonderful world of physics, just read on!
THE PHYSICS CONUNDRUM: SIMULATION OR GAME?
The very first question we generally ask our team members is about their toolbox: “My main tools are obviously physics and maths. Simulations are largely unrelated to the development environment and the programming language in use. In the early stage of production, all the required calculations are usually made on paper and, once all the mechanics are 100% (or almost) clear, they are transferred to the development environment most suitable to the game being created”.
Now that you know how a Physics Programmer works, you may be wondering what kind of challenges he tackles on a daily basis: “Whenever you work on a driving or riding simulator, you have two aspects to balance: on one side you have the actual simulation, following all the rules of physics and trying to get as close as possible to the behaviour of a real-life vehicle; on the other side you have playability, which calls for a few tricks in order to make the driving experience fun. Balancing those two aspects for motorbike riding is particularly hard, as in real life you frequently use your body weight to steer a bike and that is still impossible to reproduce in a game. If we used an excessively realistic simulation, controlling the bike would be unthinkable. In order to solve this issue, we have to add some forces simulating the rider’s weight displacement and helping you keep the bike under control. Yet such help shall not be too invasive, so as to take control away from the player. That’s a delicate balancing act and a real challenge”!
REAL LIFE MEETS GAMING
When asked about the biggest technical improvements achieved with the new SBK physics engine, he ponders a moment before answering: “This is the third or fourth racing simulator I’ve worked on, and every time I strive to improve quality, also based on players’ feedback. We’re working on so many fronts, that it’s difficult for us to realise what has improved most. I guess it’s more about the sum of all parts, all the small enhanced details coming together to offer a riding experience that is both more realistic and more fun”.
It goes without saying that a big part of Matteo’s work is to make sure that our game’s physics are true to the real-world experience of riding a bike, but how does he do that?
“The best way to understand if a simulator gets close enough to the real thing is to talk to bikers and ask about their experiences and behaviours while riding. The second best is to have bikers play your game and provide feedback—although I usually skip this phase as the guys are a hard lot to please”!
For more behind-the-scenes posts on SBK Official Mobile Game’s development, check out our Dev Stories and meet the team! Should you have any questions about the game’s production or game development across the board, do not hesitate to reach out to us in the comments section below or through our Contact Form: any suggestions for new blog posts or game features are welcome!