Version 6.0, which shipped in late May, became one of the most dramatic updates to the game in its history.
While some of the changes are rather obvious, others will play a bigger role in the future.
This post details the thinking behind the updates and how they fit into the long-term plan.
The most obvious change in the new version is the graphics engine.
Nitro Nation was always a good-looking game, so our decision to give it a complete visual upgrade might look like fixing something that wasn’t broken.
However, we believe that aesthetics are a big part of car culture, and we will continue to improve whenever new technology enables us to.
The graphics update consists of multiple elements that were developed in parallel and then fine-tuned to work together.
We started testing the new lighting system as early as October 2017, trying to see how much we could improve without compromising on performance. We also decided to upgrade the environments, starting with the tracks that were lagging behind the rest of the game in terms of quality.
When deciding on new locations, we wanted to find the most natural settings for each major category of the cars represented in the game.
Certain locations, such as the Drag Strip and the Salt Lake, were obvious “must-haves” for a drag racing game, but we also wanted a place where European sports cars and luxury vehicles would feel at home.
This lead us to choose a central European aesthetic for the first of the new city-based tracks.
NN6” prototype in October 2017
After the initial tests showed that the new lighting system delivered much better results with similar frame rates, we fully committed to it and began the tedious work of adjusting each of the 100+ cars to the new setup. In parallel, the new tracks were being built and optimized piece by piece. We also implemented a post-processing effects layer, which gave the cars a slightly more dramatic look.
At this stage we also made the decision to use multiple quality/performance settings that the players can override. This is a traditional element of PC games that is rarely seen on mobile. Although the game tries to guess the perfect setting for each hardware combination, some players prefer the highest possible framerate at all times. With over 14000 devices supported, we felt that providing choice was the best solution.
Please, fix the camera!
While building the new tracks, we decided to try a new camera system that included behind-the-car angles and a more cinematic behavior. The previous camera got the job done and had the benefit of familiarity, but its behavior dated back to the original Drag Racing game we made in 2011, and we really wanted to try something new. The result became the most controversial feature of the update, with some players praising the cinematic angles, and others lamenting worse ergonomics and lesser “feel” of the car compared to a fixed camera.
This feedback was addressed in version 6.0.1, which provided a wider field of view and a more conservative behavior, while retaining some of the cinematic effect.
A bone of contention – new HUD
The final two elements of the graphics overhaul included the new race HUD and the weather effects. When it comes to HUD, we felt that an update was long overdue, and went for a cleaner, clearer look that is more consistent with the rest of the game, and matches every car and environment. Still, some players soon pointed out that white-on-white doesn’t work too well on the Salt Lake during the day, and this is something we will address soon.
The weather, though, is a more interesting addition. Besides the visual hints, rain brings reduced friction and increased rolling resistance. In practice, this means that AWD cars get a major advantage at launch, while more powerful cars do better at higher speeds. We hope that this will bring more balance to the car pool and make races more tactical, requiring drivers to adjust their launch and nitro timing.
For now, the percentage of races taking place in the rain is kept low, as we study the impact and listen to feedback. If everything goes well, we will introduce more variations of the weather conditions that will require even more skill and judgement.
New online mode for 10 players
Speaking about skill, the new Random Rumble mode is all about judgement and quick thinking. For now, it’s a relatively high-stakes mode, but we are working on a variant with much lower entry fees and much higher participant numbers – see our upcoming roadmap post for more details.
We will soon follow up with a new post that presents the roadmap for the next major update. While some points will carry on from where 6.0 left off, there will be completely new elements and a few surprises. In the meantime, feel free to send us your feedback and let us know what you’d like to see in the future!
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