That perfect balance of smooth vehicle control and weapon mastery was always our most difficult and most important task. It's so easy to do them separately: Here's your car control – drive wherever you want; here's your weapon control – fire at will. However, putting them together is a bit of a puzzle.
At the beginning, our weapons were at a fixed crux to always shoot forward as the car moves. As a result, you could either shoot while at a standstill, or shoot in every direction, when rotating the car or chasing someone. Everything became a merry-go-round where ‘A’ chased ‘B’ and shot at him, while ‘B’ was chasing ‘C’ who in turn was chasing ‘A’.
We knew we needed another approach. The tried-and-true approach is the have the left stick control the vehicle and the right stick control the camera and the direction of weapon fire.
This immediately resulted in lower game speed. It's rather difficult to drive somewhere while watching from the side, or backwards. You’re driving into a wall within seconds. Ultimately, everyone ends up standing in their own corner, shooting at everyone. After you kill an enemy, you get a chance to move somewhere else, until you meet some other opponent.
So I asked our development team to implement some non-standard controls I came up with. From the second our mechanic was being drafted, we knew it’d find that sweet spot we were looking for. The triggers handle the gas and brakes, and the left stick controls the aiming and steering. The cars can only turn so fast, but the gun will track along with the camera and snap onto enemies with aim assist. To help influence the handling, players must drift, jump and boost.
This mechanic is fresh and takes some getting used to, but we fully expect the gamers to get the hang out of it. In the office, it took us only about 20 minutes for it to feel as natural as such genres as twin stick shooters and FPS games feel to us now. It became intrinsic to the experience.
In all our game trailers, all the cars are controlled by real players; there is no extra animation there. Check the Scout at 0:35 in the trailer above -- the blue Scout rushes ahead and follows the enemy with his machine gun, firing all the time. There is no auto-aim; it's a player who drives by intuition with a control scheme that fits the needs of those in a crush-or-be-crushed deathmatch. That's your typical Wheels of Destruction encounter.