6. hardware novelties

22 February 2018

looking at design in terms of hardware: arcade edition

The arcade is the original destination for specialised video game attractions. Instead of a standardised controller, we have... whatever we want.

lets first talk about driving games

Since you’re driving a car, we need a car’s interface obviously. Steering wheel and pedals for starters. We can add a gearbox to increase the challenge and realism. Battle gear 4 actually adds a clutch for the manual gear shifts and a parking brake.

Surprisingly, even though you’re not in a car as it swings around corners, there’s satisfaction to be had without feeling the G-forces of a turn.

Like in blog post 3 about the Luge, most of the design is about the need for turning.

Although for a real life vehicle you always have the feedback of the real world.

In the arcade you are limited to sound, visuals, and resistance in the steering wheel.

So why are they important? We should talk in terms of immersion.


Each type of feedback incredibly important.

Loud speakers at an arcade cabinet lets you hear engines roar when you hit the gas, and the sound of tires skidding, collisions, and potentially a quiet undertone of rain makes the difference, even if people don’t consciously notice.

The visuals are obvious. Have multiple camera settings, weather types and times of day for a level. What decides the rest of the visual appeal is your physics engine.

When you see yourself going through a turn, even if you’re using an analog stick, players can appreciate the turn because they set it up, it was all under their control.

Initial D arcade stage (IDAS) 3 had balanced speed conservation when going around a corner. IDAS 4 had much more… swinging the wheel involved. Then IDAS 5 introduces tyre wear, and more restrained drifting became the target gameplay.

If you compare the 3 games they do look quite different in terms of how the players take corners.

Anyway, for steering wheel resistance I want to talk about Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune (WMMT). I only played a bunch of WMMT 3/3DX/3DX+, but what definetly stood out was the steering wheel.

You can adjust the resistance (if the resistance is too high, those with weaker arms can’t steer), but once you’ve found the right setting, it’s just really satisfying.

The wheel resistance is physical, so there’s lots of potential. It resists when you slowly turn away from directly forward. It can rumble if you car hits the ground after being airborne. There can be a jolt of resistance when against nearby vehicles.

In IDAS 5 I recall the wheel resistance actually drops when you lose control. It’s a scary feeling. But remarkably it means the wheel resistance makes you work harder for precise steering, and yet makes you feel that you have MORE control over the car.

That’s really cool. If you just think “oh its just a wheel instead of an analog stick that’s all”, you’ll never understand the target audience keeps coming back for more.

Seriously some people end up spending lots of real-world money to play.

Lets end with another interesting note: Typically in a VS match with local machines, the winner gets to play again for free. If you’re good, and people want to keep racing, you get to keep racing them without needing more credits.

So I suppose you could become very good at the game (which requires you to have already invested some time and money).

Since these games often have saved progress on specialised cards, and upgradable vehicles if you use these cards, is this game pay to win?

Sometimes yes and sometimes no: if you have more money, you get to play more.

if you race others and you all have fully tuned vehicles: there is no advantage no matter how much more money you sink into the game (except you have more time to improve your personal ability)

but if you race someone who doesn’t even have a savedata card and you’re full levelled up they definetly won’t win. these games with savedata progression have their content designed for the players who commit to playing the game multiple times.


If you are more casual, there’s nothing wrong with playing Daytona if the arcade still has some old cabinets. Being an old game, its usually cheaper to play a game, and there’s still a hilarious crashing mechanic if you shove somebody into a wall.

However upgradable cars and story modes actually add depth to the modern racers. Daytona simply has 3 tracks to race on, while modern racers have around 10 or more. Upgrading the car also has a sense of progression as you play longer. These are all aspects of console games!

Adding depth to your arcade games is a good step towards providing value to customers who otherwise “could just stay at home and play on pc/consoles”.

Most designers won’t say no to repeat customers too. There’s no false promise of winning your money back like a slot machine, it’s just that if players enjoy the game and have something to do, they’ll keep playing. You simply are charging them for development. You can make these games with a clear conscience.

I’d talk about arcade laser guns but, that’s enough for now.


Have fun out there, won't you?

[6. hardware novelties part 1]