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  • Developing Speed Limit: 0-60 In Two Years

    [04.01.21]
    - Igor Kolar

  • Where it all Began

    The VERY EARLY Speed Limit character in 3D (made in year 2000)

    The VERY EARLY Speed Limit character in 3D (made in year 2000)

    The concept of Speed Limit is an amalgamation of thinking about games which were available to me in the mid to late nineties, some early 3D titles, and some pixel art experience collected along the way. It probably has its roots, pun certainly intended, to discussing games while climbing trees with my friends as a kid.

    As a kid, before we could buy a computer in 1997, the only gaming that was available to me, was through my friends' Sega Master System and what was already at the time a beat up 386 with CGA graphics (think pink and cyan). Consequentially, the kinds of games we could play on those, and their limitations, shaped a lot of what would later go into Speed Limit as "imagine if we could have done x, back then".

    For example, imagine if you could do a game where you can walk around, top down around town, but then if you get into a car, it becomes a sim like the early Test Drives. If you get into a jet, it becomes a flight sim like F-15 (II at the time, I think) and so on. This was years before GTA San Andreas would, roughly accomplish that, but it wouldn't have been long before something like Earthworm Jim was out. The absurd humour, the very appealing visuals and varied gameplay were very compelling to me as a kid, and I still think it's one of the most creative platformers out there.

    Fast forward to 2012, and my student organisation, BEST, needs to promote a programming competition at a faculty where posters and fliers have utterly oversaturated the landscape. Alex, co-founder of Gamechuck, leads the project, I do the design, and we get a programmer on board. In a weekend, we build an arcade cabinet out of donated building materials and an old computer, and create a one button (a big, red, industrial, smash-resistant button) runner game (inspired by Canabalt) by Monday.

    This ends up being so much fun, that still 5 years later, I think: "what could we do if we had more than a weekend". Whatever it is, due to current experience, it was clearly going to be pixel art, and it was going to be something that moves fast.

    There is a particular thrill I think one gets from, let's say things in motion.

    The trope of the train heist has been around for a long time, and I've always had this fondness for game levels which somehow emphasized motion. Super Mario and Sonic The Hedgehog (specifically for the Master System of course), would have nerve wrecking levels which would push you along at their pace instead of yours.

    Metal Slug had you board a train, giving you a sensation of a high speed pursuit while you focus on the enemies on screen. Soldier of Fortune had a whole level on a moving train where you jump carriages to find a bomb. Final Fantasy 8 would have you run on a train roof while pre rendered background whizzed by. Earthworm Jim would have you fight a boss while in free-fall (and another on a bungee rope). Dark Forces 2 had you running around a spaceship that was falling, making the entire level tilt as you hurtle to meet the ground.

    For all the notoriety Lion King deservedly got (and the developers didn't deserve), the Stampede was certainly an exciting level to me as a kid. These were my favourite kinds of levels growing up, and because I never learned programming, I never got to make a game that was just those kinds of thrill rides.

    Setting the Stage

    At around 2018 when Alex and I were wrapping up our first game, All You Can Eat, making Speed Limit the next easy, short project, seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea. The multi genre concept made a comeback, as did the idea of a game with ever faster vehicles. Looking back to where the ideas came from, it was clear this was going to be a 90s action movie.

    I didn't want Speed Limit to be a reference vehicle for actual 90s movies however, I've played and enjoyed some games that did that too, and they were fine. No, this was going to be its own thing.

    And one of these things was going to be playing with the aspect ratio. Even though we all now use 16:9 screens, there is still something that screams ‘movie' when you have black bars on top and bottom. So, we used those black bars to both create this cinematic feeling and to give the illusion of depth by placing certain foreground items in front of those black bars, like the ramps in the train stage and bullet casings in the motorcycle stage.

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