Positron - VFX Preview Trailer - In More Detail

February 6th 2012

Yesterday we released a VFX Preview Trailer for Positron and we thought we'd take the time to cover some of the design choices we've made with Positron and explain a few of the visual elements from the trailer:

Click the preview image below to view the video:
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The game has been developed using Microsoft XNA, a cross platform C# framework which can cross-compile from a single codebase with support for Xbox 360, Windows PC and Windows Phone 7. When designing this game we wanted to ensure we created a game that would have eye catching graphics and also run at a decent framerate on Windows Phone hardware.

We have our own in-house deferred rendering engine written in XNA/C# which we're using for other (future) games but for Positron we decided to write a new renderer from scratch with a much simpler pipeline which would look as good on the phone as it does on Xbox 360 and PC. This meant simplifying the entire rendering process, we effectively render with no lighting and no shadows. We also have drawn on influences from both Tron and Tron Legacy in designing the game's visual style since those movies are the inspiration behind Positron.

While there have also been a large number of lightcycle games developed for every platform imaginable in the past, with Positron we wanted to design a new experience. We want the game to feel familiar but offer new and interesting challenges and game modes to challenge the player. One of the first design decisions we made was to stay away from the boring open arena gameplay. While that is still included as a mode in the game, we also have much more complex layouts and even include a level editor so the player can design their own levels which are dynamically built from a simple 2D pixel-map (a video of the editor in action will be posted this week).

The visual style of the blocks in the game world was designed to be simple, cover a large portion of the screen and use as few polygons to render as possible. We also wanted to show reflections of the world geometry, bikes and trails too. In early builds we would render two copies of everything, one translated beneath the ground plane and one above providing realistic looking reflections. As development continued we wanted to optimize this as much as possible and we now use a number of tricks to render the world in a much more efficient manner which even the Windows Phone 7 devices can handle with full reflections.

The bikes themselves have been designed to look fast, with minimal texturing. The game will launch with three bikes included and we intend to add more content as time progresses. The trail effect is relatively simple, nothing too special there but we did add in a few particle effects for sparks under the bike's wheels while driving. This made the bikes feel grounded and provided a consistent visual effect to help make the scene more lively.

The chase camera went through quite a number of iterations before we reached the current version. During testing we accidentally changed some settings of the camera and thought it looked cool when turning that we got a side-shot of the bike. We kept this in the current camera with an elastic snap-back to the bike's tail. This gives a unique cornering animation which looks cool as you go swerving around the corners on the map.

Overall we're now very happy with the way Positron looks and feels. While this video was only intended as a VFX Preview there is so much more to the game than you're seeing here and we will be showing that in a few upcoming gameplay videos later this week. We hope you like the video and please do comment or leave feedback.

If you'd like to be sent a free review code for Positron (on Xbox 360 or Windows Phone) or would like to write a pre-release piece on the game, please contact Martin Caine (press@retroburngames.com).
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