Jesús Fabre from Aquiris Game Studio shared some insights on the creation of the amazing 80s-themed arcade racer Horizon Chase. It’s a wonderful mobile game with low poly artwork and exciting gameplay.
Aquiris Game Studio is a company based in Porto Alegre, Brazil. With 8 years of history and a team of 50 people, we have been creating games for a broad range of platforms, from browser to PC and mobile. Our big focus since the very beginning has been on delivering the best artistic, technical and gameplay quality to our players, in partnership with our publishing partners. We started doing advergames, then we focused only on commercial games entertainment partnering with international publishers.
Our most acclaimed titles until the launch of Horizon Chase have been “Copa Toon 2014”, “Regular Show – The Great Prank War” both mobile and browser-based titles published and co-developed in partnership with Cartoon Network and “Ballistic” a browser-based PVP FPS published by Rumble Entertainment. With Horizon Chase, the studio is took a step further into the wild world of self-publishing, with a game that really translates our passion for classic racers.
The creation of Horizon Chase
We wanted to develop an authoral project for many years, turns out we are big fans of 80s and 90s racing games. In the case of Horizon Chase, Top Gear is our number one reference, after that one comes Out Run and the Lotus Turbo Challenge series. So our intention was to create a retroracer in the context of 2016, something we, as old-school gamers, would be wanting to play and have at least the same amount of pure fun we experienced with the classics, but revisited for modern devices and aesthetics.
So we followed our passion and departed to really challenging six months development journey. Can’t forget to mention the name of Barry Leitch, we were privileged enough to get him on board, we found an irreplaceable companion on him along this trip. Barry is the man behind the original Top Gear and Lotus TC soundtracks. He did true magic with his electric guitar and retro synths arpeggios, totally managed to teleport us back in time to the golden era of arcade racers.
The gameplay in Horizon Chase is quite simple, you race against other 19 cars along a set of closed circuits inspired in the most diverse environments from the real world. With a limited amount of gasoline and the possibility of using nitros to speed up, you need to collect gallons and drive well enough to win every race saving as much gas as you can. Then you unlock different cars, power-ups and circuits as you progress.
The Technology behind the game
In terms of production, Horizon Chase is done in a 3D engine (Unity). As our Technical Art Director Amilton Diesel told me once:
That doesn’t mean it is a 3D game, because if we want so bad to make a love letter to 16-bits games, we cannot simply throw a bunch of cars in a 3D engine and move them forward, right? Right, that’s not what we did. The game is essentially 2D. That was the most challenging and rewarding aspect of the project. It may look like a 3D game, but if we try to rotate the camera a few degrees everything breaks, sky, tracks, cars…All was done to look and feel the exact way it was 23 years ago, without a 3D space.
Once we understood that our tracks would be simulated in this weird way, the following pieces were just adapted to fit the concept and bring the sense of speed, scrolling backgrounds and everything else to the game. In the end, the results were very convincing, mostly because the core of the simulation was already 23 years old.
Triangles and illusionism put together in computer graphics form are my real motivation. And I’m not a big fan of pixels either. I think modern devices and their super condensed PPI claim for something better than stretched pixels. Like polygons with pure and vibrant colors. I just love polygons. They have the power to create the perfect “computer world” immersive environment.
The Style Fits the Game or The Game fits The Style
I believe it depends on the style of the game and the gameplay, some titles are easier and better expressed through pixel art. In our case we didn’t want to create a retrogame using pixel-art, using pixel art was like copying what was already invented back in the 80-90s. Low poly gave us more realism and the graphic complexity of the game wasn’t very high, so there weren’t big hurdles to play it on low and medium-tier devices.
Music Means a Lot
We specifically wanted to have Barry Leitch on board, since our game is a clear homage to Top Gear one of his best known works. Once we agreed to work together, the only indications we gave him for the soundtrack was to create a spiritual successor to the Top Gear soundtrack that improved it to the maximum.
Publishing Horizon Chase
We decided to self-publish Horizon Chase without any help of external companies. Our previous experience working with mobile publishers as Cartoon Network helped out, so we were familiar with the process.
We knew it is important to attend events and to get feedback from Apple representatives, journalists and players as soon as possible. Is very important to be active on social media, find and interact with your audience, healthy press relations management is also something we think is crucial.
Nobody knew the global market would welcome Horizon Chase so well until we released and saw it was an Editor’s Choice in the US, this was a huge recognition to our work. After all, we believe the key to the success is to do your best in all aspects of the development, from the conception, to the presentation/social media/press communications, and of course, the product.
And, of course, you need to have a game with enough content and polished in every aspect, gameplay, graphics and sound/music.
At the moment we are working in future versions of Horizon Chase (at the moment, PC and PS4) and, in parallel, we are developing Ballistic Overkill, a premium, more complete and competitive version of Ballistic that’s now in Steam Early Access. We aim to release the PC and PS4 versions of Horizon Chase in the upcoming months and Ballistic Overkill during the second half of 2016.