What sort of person spends days away from developing their game to do serious, studious research, taking pages of notes, sketching diagrams, and doing physical in-game demos and testing to mimic headlight regulations around the world…? This sort of person, that’s who!
Did you know that there are strict guidelines in all countries surrounding headlight brightness, positions, angles, materials, and a zillion other details? That the reason you aren’t completely blinded by an oncoming car’s lights is because someone’s lookin’ out for you? That the driver’s side headlight points significantly down and toward the other side of the car, while the passenger side points ahead, higher, is brighter, and designed to light the side of the road and signs? That the pattern of light on the road is asymmetrical because of this? I sure never noticed all that before, but I know it excruciatingly well now.
Sure it may sound silly, but this is a game about driving at night, and visibility is an absolutely critical aspect of the game. One of the most critical aspects in fact. My headlights just didn’t “seem” right, so I set about trying to discover why. I didn’t know anything about headlights except you should turn them on around the time you would take off your sunglasses, that you should turn off your brights if another car is in front of you, and that the switch is on the left. So I started digging (for way longer and deeper than I’d like to admit) and found the reason was: my headlights were unrealistic.
Many standalone assets and other games just slapped two very bright cones of light straight out from the “eye holes” of the car, so that’s what I started with. This might be passable (or at least forgivable) in games where night driving is rare or not important. Maybe this is even a conscious design decision or outright necessary for games where unrealistic visibility is important in order to not distract from a particular sort of gameplay. But in Nightvision, that is the gameplay. You aren’t supposed to be able to see in the dark, because that’s not how it is.
As approachable as this seat-of-your-pants driving game is, the goal was and has always been at heart to make a simulation of that particular sense of dread/excitement you can only get from out-driving your headlights… yes, the very thing you learned in driver’s ed NOT to do. It’s dangerous, pure and simple, and no you should not do it in real life! But every driver has been guilty of it; either for the thrill of it or just out of impatience. The game’s genesis literally stems from the realization that a simulation of this exhilarating phenomenon could be extremely fun — in a videogame — without risking yours and others’ lives. And it is!
But it had to be right. Although they hurt your eyes staring at them when everything else is dark, headlights really aren’t very bright, and against pure dead of night, they just don’t stand much of a chance of showing you the details you need to take that mountain pass up ahead at serious speed. They also don’t have much range, and although you can pick up hints of your headlights reflecting off a sign a mile or more away, you definitely cannot SEE that far in that kind of light. So I spent a LOT of time tweaking and testing them until they were. It’s all in the little details, and I think this little details add up to a great experience. Tell me what you think 🙂
Diagram credit: Ruizo