Is there a way to deter players from colliding with obstacles in a top-down casual racer which keeping the game fun and lighthearted and yet make player's skill matter?

Should collisions affect car engine performance in a casual racing game? If so, in what way could it be done that keeps it fun?

Please use references (to other games) and examples in your answers.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If it's top-down, casual as you say I think the penalty of having to get back up to speed would be good enough. Just my opinion though, you should playtest. :) \$\endgroup\$ Oct 5, 2012 at 13:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think there's a correct answer here. This is really just polling for ideas and should be asked in chat. It's really just a preference for how you want to make your game. \$\endgroup\$
    – House
    Oct 5, 2012 at 14:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ -1 for being lengthy, rambling, and polling for opinions, as though this was a discussion forum. "What is the way it is done in your favorite racing game?" is not a useful question in this format. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 5, 2012 at 22:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ You are basically asking people how your design should be. If you have an idea. Try it out and "debug" your gameplay. There really is no point in asking others. You should consider asking yourself "Does it fit with my current design?", "Who is my target audience?". Stuff like this. Ultimately it's your responsibility as a gamedeveloper. Your current question is not so different before your edit. Iterate your gamedesign and do play testing! \$\endgroup\$
    – Sidar
    Oct 6, 2012 at 6:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Sidar Please use the meta for this discussion: meta.gamedev.stackexchange.com/questions/939/… Or read the faq, it clears up the issue: What kind of questions can I ask here? game design (level design, gameplay, mechanics, etc) \$\endgroup\$
    – AturSams
    Oct 6, 2012 at 7:51

4 Answers 4


The "slow-down from the collision" has always been enough to discourage me from driving carelessly in racing games. If you hit a wall head-on, you're immediately at a dead stop. You'll be passed by any cars that were within 10-20 sec of you, depending how many seconds it takes your car to get back up to speed once you're positioned back onto the track.

Also, if you introduce a health bar and the car can become totaled or no longer driveable, it may make the game less playable for children (who crash a lot).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Seem reasonable, after all if you collide directly you loose 100% speed and then it is a matter of how fast you accelerate back to top speed, these leaves ample room for your enemies to pass you by and get ahead in the race. \$\endgroup\$
    – AturSams
    Oct 5, 2012 at 15:22

First of all, i'm sorry for any gramar erros. English is not my first language. feel free to edit my answer if you find it necessary.

In my oppinion, you have to consider the type of game you are trying to create.

If you are making a game more similar to reality, slowing the speed of the car and and screw it up a bit would make the gameplay more fun and realistic.

But, if you are making a casual game, using a funnier type of penallity, like blowing the car, or making the car spin around, would fit better in the game.

It's worth Remembering Mario kart, when a car sliding off the track, he was brought back by a koopa in a cloud. This kind of penality was great with the language of the game, and no matter if you stay several positions behind, because you could always get some itens and get back to first position.

But this same kind of penality would not work in need for speed, because you would lost too much time, and could not go back to first position.

Always consider the kind of game you are making and try to find a penality that causes the player some problem, but that is not impossible to get over.


I will take part in your survey :)

What is the way it is done in your favorite racing game?

I prefer when the car is slowed down or stopped and damage is applied to the car. After enough damage, the car's handling or top speed is reduced.

How is it done in other successful racing games?

I don't play a lot of racing games, but the ones I'm familiar with will cause a slow down + damage. Unless the accident is really bad, then the car will be destroyed on impact.

Do you think temporarily disabling the engine for a second is too severe?

For a full second? Not if the car can maintain existing momentum. If the car had to stop for a second, then get back up to speed it may be a problem. You'd have to play test it and see what felt right.

If I do go that route, how would I convey the 'engine is disabled' to the player in a subtle and easily understood way?

You could flash an engine icon at the top of the screen and/or play sounds of a sputtering engine. Or sounds of an engine revving up out of gear.

Is this 'too much' of a penalty?

You can change the time of the delay based on the severity of the impact. So players will know that a severe penalty was their own fault.

Would the slow-down from the collision be sufficient to discourage the player from driving too carelessly?

I guess that depends on the player. If the slowdown was significant enough, they wouldn't drive carelessly any more. But if it's too much, they might not play anymore.

Which one is more fun?

Blowing up the car when it takes too much damage is typically rated 3 funs above just slowing the car down.

Should I consider a health-bar and affect engine performance for 'low health' status?

Since you don't mention if the racing game is realistic or cartoony, I'll assume cartoony. Yes, have a health bar. The engine should slow down and make coughing noises when it's very damaged.

Could you offer examples of games that handle this well and one that do it poorly?

I don't remember the specific names of the games, but I know there was one racing game where when you hit something and slowed down, the AI racers were always right behind you to overtake you. No matter how much of a lead you had on them. Don't do it that way.

Please share your experience with racing games obstacles and reference games you feel perform well in this aspect.

Again, I don't remember the specific names. But there was one that would just slow you down and have realistic body damage to the vehicle when the car was hit.

I would also like to hear how you feel we should penalize or reward for colliding with other vehicles?

Same deal, cars should be damaged based on the severity of the crash. For example a head on collision would be devastating, but a side swipe would be barely anything.

Should enemy vehicles be destroyable? Should they slow down severely when they hit the back of your car or would that make the gameplay imbalanced?

Yes! Take them out of the race. Enemy vehicles should have all the same penalties as your car. You should be able to side swipe them to make the crash into other cars or trees.

  • \$\begingroup\$ lol survey. I was going to say not really an answer, but you answered all the questions :) \$\endgroup\$
    – GameDev-er
    Oct 5, 2012 at 22:09

Slow down is important for physics simulation. Especially if there are more then 2 colliding objects.

At high speed most racing games handle collision in non-physics way otherwise car angular velocity was too high. They ignore


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