Until now I have focused on telling you little secrets about the game for you to know what to expect from Formula Wincars. Today, I'm going to leave Formula Wincars a bit aside in order to deal with a question that may be interesting for those of you game designers reading us. Specially those walking your first steps into the game industry.
I don't know if you had realized yet, but the sizes of things in a game never match the dimensions found in the real world. After developing a few games, this changing dimensions subject is something I thought I had already mastered, but Formula Wincars has forced me to learn more about it on the fly. An important part of a game designer job is to wonder about “why things happen”. Philosophical questions such as size perception, for instance. And I've had to put all my effort on understanding how the human brain works when it comes to driving a car. If you ever have to develop a driving game, I hope this post will be useful.
The first thing you need to know is, when driving a car, our perception becomes altered. We end up thinking the whole car belongs to our body, and take what we see as a reference to set sizes proportions in our head.
The car window bottom line sets the height of what we do see and what we don't. Finally, we end up taking the window height as our own height. What we don't realize is the fact that, when we are driving, we do it seated, far below from our real height when we are standing up. Thus, our mind establishes a wrong equivalence between our height and the car window bottom line.
Hugo Boost thinks both the dinosaur and the fence are higher than him. Indeed, only the dinosaur is.
The second issue to consider is what I have called the “leaning out the fence" phenomenon. When you look at things after a fence, you can only see those things higher than the own fence. The same happens with the car window. Our brain assumes those things that can be seen are higher than the fence, which in this case means, the car window. If we add to that the equivalence our brain builds between the car window height and ours, the conclussion for our brain is perfectly clear: If I can see the highway guardrail, it's because it is higher than me”.
Of course, this is absolutely false. A regular highway guardrail hardly reaches the waist of a person when standing next to it. But that's what our brain is expecting to see. So, as game designers, we must give our brain what it is waiting for. Or, as we already learnt on The Simpsons TV show: "Cows don't look like cows on TV. Use horses."