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I have a spaceship and I've created a "boost" functionality that speeds up my spaceship, what effects should I implement to create the impression of high speed?

I was thinking of making everything except my spaceship blurry but I think there would be something missing. Any ideas?

Btw. I am working in XNA C# but if you aren't familiar to XNA describing some effects is still useful.

The Game is 3d and i've attached some printscreens of the game

This is in normal mode ( none boosted ) in normal, non-boosted mode

and here is the boosted mode ( the craft speeds up forward while the camera speeds in its normal speed , the non boosted speed ) enter image description here

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A screenshot or two might help give suggestions.. – Jari Komppa Feb 14 '11 at 10:30
is this 3d or 2d? – Steve H Feb 14 '11 at 12:56
player perspective would be very helpful – Simurr Feb 14 '11 at 20:12
i've edited my post , including details and images – Alex Feb 15 '11 at 13:08

10 Answers 10

up vote 34 down vote accepted

Here are some suggestions:

  • If your spaceship has a "propulsion-flame", change its size and color. Eg. if it normally burns with a yellow color, make it blue and double the size of it.
  • Apply some jitter to your spaceship. The jitter occurs due to the heavy forces caused by the boost. Maybe you could apply random roll (rotation around the spaceship forward axis).
  • Add some particle-effects to the wings of the spaceship.
  • Add some wind-like effects to the tip of the rocket/spaceship.

Update: If the look of your game allows it, you could also consider adding some speed-lines. Either at the back of your ship or as an overlay (maybe white lines) to your background-scene.

Follow-up: When writing my initial answer I was thinking about a side-scrolling game, but most of the effects can still be applied to the "follower-perspective" you chose. As mentioned by others, motion-blur is a good idea. Use a radial motion-blur, as in this example image. Instead of keeping your camera at the "normal" speed and increasing the speed of your spaceship, you could increase the camera FOV which will result in a better speed-impression. Use a trail or radial speed lines to further enhance your effect.

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+1 for speed lines – Heiko Rupp Feb 14 '11 at 13:17
+1 for jitter. I am seeing the spaceship shake and shudder from the sheer power being created. – Tim Holt Feb 14 '11 at 20:13
Could you be more specific on the "particle-effects to the wings" ? I was thinking that on boost there should be a white skeleton-like( only on the borders of the ship) of the aircraft that looks like it and is left behind and appears for only 1-1,5 seconds and then fades .. btw i've edited my post, i added some pics.. it's a rough draft, i know – Alex Feb 15 '11 at 14:48

I'll just add one thing which wasn't said here: motion blur

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easily implemented and very effective – Dave O. Feb 14 '11 at 14:39
but make it optional, some games really overdo it – Tobias Kienzler Feb 15 '11 at 9:23
by motion blur you mean making the other objects blurry while my aircraft is not blury ? – Alex Feb 15 '11 at 13:10
I would write exactly the same as bummzack: Radial blur. And i was going to recommend same thing with fov that will be cool ;). – Notabene Feb 15 '11 at 23:13

My 2 cents, some of it has already been said but I'd like to make my answer coherent as I believe many of these points together would create a nice effect but just alone they don't do much to create the immersion:

  • Random camera shaking, I used Perlin noise to make this nice. There's a C# script available over at the unifywiki.
  • Some blurryness spherically around the camera edges, like in the later need for speed games when travelling very fast.
  • Make the exhaust flame bigger and more intensive
  • Pull the camera back and widen the FOV, also make the colors around the edges of the camera more pale, as if the pilot is focusing really hard on what's ahead.
  • have some distortion effects following the ship (if the game supports render to texture shaders)
  • Of course, a sound to give feedback (more intensive engine sound, some kind of "moving fast through air sound" if your game allows it style wise.
  • Something like what happens with space ships entering the atmosphere would be cool as well, some kind of fire at the bow of the ship.

Hope this helps.

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+1 for camera shake. That's really easy to implement and has a huge impact. – munificent Feb 15 '11 at 7:45

I kind of assume that you're talking about a 3rd person view here of the spaceship because of how you described your idea.

Just in case you have a first person view: Try the "pilot pushed back in his seat due to accelleration" look. ie. pulling the camera a bit away from the cockpit when the boost is triggered.

It might even be useful in a 3rd person setting too as you often need a bigger FOV when your speeds are higher (Like the camera in the top down GTA games).

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You could render the view distorted as given in actual reality by the theory of Special Relativity (you are moving fast then, right? Just remember you need to define an upper speed limit in your game then), see e.g. here. from that site

I can't give you a good source reference atm however...

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I think relativistic distortion is a bad idea. The linked page was really fun to read however. – deft_code Feb 16 '11 at 3:05
@deft_code: why not? I mean, up to ~.7c it doesn't look so extreme, and the idea "fly faster to look behind you" sound funny to me... – Tobias Kienzler Feb 16 '11 at 11:33
because relativity is generally unintuitive. because a similar effect can be achieved with camera frustum adjustment, and it is a well used technique in both movies and games to denote rapid movement. – deft_code Feb 16 '11 at 17:15

To add on to Phil's suggestion about sound, take multiple approaches to it. You would combine multiple visual effects to achieve the sensation of speed, so do the same with sound.

Have a slight increase in volume to your thrusting sound, or crossfade to one that is more intense and "whooshy". If your collision is split into broad and narrow phase, raise an event when another object gets checked in narrow phase but doesn't actually hit. When this happens, play back a "whipping by"/Doppler effect sort of sound. You can vary it by shifting the pitch variance range upward as the difference between the velocity of the player and the velocity of the object increases.

Also kick your music up a notch, fade in a supplemental rhythm track (layered on top of your main music track). This isn't directly related to perceived speed of the player, but will help increase the emotional intensity, which is what you're after at the end of the day.

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Make everything else except your ship, act like it's in slow-motion. Even if everything moves at the same speed, but just animates slower. This will give the feeling that you have an increased rate, like adrenaline or something.

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  • If it normally leaves an exhaust trail, leave a longer exhaust trail.
  • If it doesn't normally leave an exhaust trail, leave an exhaust trail.
  • Have the ship shake slightly, for example by rendering it off its actual position by +/- 1 or 2 pixels randomly.
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Some suggestions

  • background sliding quickly in the opposite direction
  • objects/asteroids around the ship quickly moving in the opposite direction
  • after-images
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Take a look at how Infinity Universe does it.

They have a big problem in that everything is to scale. That make any sense of speed to be almost non-existent right up to the moment when you arrive at the star/planet/moon/.

They have the best implementation of environmental speed lines I've seen.

They denote speed by making the ship look like its flying through a thin dust cloud. As the particles stream by the leave slight speed lines. When the ship is at rest the cloud is completely transparent.

Here is a video link demonstrating ship movement.

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