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The game would be a race from A to B through several checkpoints. I think there are two approaches for the concept of time.

  1. The game starts with some time and player has to make it to the finish before it runs out. Extra time is granted at the checkpoints. Time left at the finish is counted as a score.

  2. The time at the start is 00:00 and the stopwatch is halted at the finish. Player still has to go through checkpoints.

Opinions about these? I think the option 1 is more common but I find it frustrating for beginners.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

The first option is more common because of racing games' origins in arcades, where you want play length to grow as a function of skill and credits. Since you're not trying to get quarters out of players (I assume), just recording times at each checkpoint is less frustrating for players, and gives the same numerical results.

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Exactly, when I read the first example, I thought, "that is not a racing game, that is an arcade racing game." – AttackingHobo Oct 29 '10 at 15:24
maybe I used to play too much games like Out Run :-) – Petteri Hietavirta Oct 29 '10 at 15:28
It's still a reasonable design if you want to gate some of the game's content on the player's skill. But usually today content is gated via unlocks ("Beat track 7 in under 1:03 to unlock track 8!"), which is kind of sad, because that creates more filler playtime and is very removed from the in-game world. – user744 Oct 29 '10 at 15:31

I'd say option 1 is actually far better for beginners.

With option 2, if you're supposed to finish in 2 minutes and you finish in 3:00 instead, you may not know where you did wrong.

With individual checkpoints the game tells you at which part of the course you're doing below average. That allows learning and improving play specifically in these parts, and encourages trying alternate approaches such as breaking before a hairpin.

With individual checkpoints you also only fail a little if you fail, say you miss the deadline by 2 seconds, or because of one avoidable crash. That way you improve on each try and as a gamer you notice visible progress as you manage to clear more and more checkpoints - getting from 3 out of 15 checkpoints to 4 out of 15 checkpoints is way more encouraging than driving 2 whole laps and improving your time from 3:00 to 2:55 if the target is 2:00.

Once the player manages to finish the course in reasonable time, i.e. clears all checkpoints, and the beginner has learned how to drive the course, then is the time to take actual time into account. At that point you'll start handing out more stars for better times, or have a best time that compares online with your friends.

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For a particular game, option 1 might be best, for another game, option 2 might be best. I like option 1 in games because of the stress it gives me when I'm down to the wire wondering if I'm going to make it to the checkpoint in time and it adds to the exhilaration of the game when I do. I believe it adds value to the game. It's fun to get that rush of accomplishment and then have to suppress it because you are still racing and have to concentrate to not screw up the next segment. But, of course, it would not be appropriate for a real world sim games like PGR or Forza.

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