Interview: Cubed3 Interviews Lead Designer for Pacer, Carlton Gaunt

By Neil Flynn 27.06.2019

Pacer (previously known as Formula Fusion), developed by R8 Games, is an anti-gravity combat racer that not only utilises racing skills, but combat skills as well to fight towards the top. The garage feature allows craft customization for performance, weapon load-outs, and skins to be able to zip around tracks in different and dynamic ways. The tracks are beautifully crafted for high speed intensity with on track speed pads and boosting to further intensify the speed. Speed freaks will definitely rejoice once Pacer is out, but in the meantime Cubed3 recently had the opportunity to play the demo at MCM Comic Con London, and the chance to speak with Carlton Gaunt, the lead designer about the upcoming title.

Image for Interview: Cubed3 Interviews Lead Designer for Pacer, Carlton Gaunt


Cubed3: What was the first game that you played that had a long-lasting effect on you?

Carlton Gaunt: I got a GameBoy, the original big grey brick one, as a birthday present when I was five, and Tetris came with it. Tetris is still my favourite game to play to this day - I don't own a Nintendo Switch yet but when I do Tetris99 will be the first thing I play.

Cubed3: Did any elements from Tetris make their way into Pacer or have you had any other unusual inspiration?

Carlton Gaunt: Other than the obvious (Wipeout, F-Zero), the most outlandish inspiration comes from Super Smash Bros. I am still a huge Melee player, and I have played competitively for over 10 years. Something that has really struck with me was the idea of defence options that occur in fighting games, things that you just don't see in combat racing. In traditional racers players have ships and weapons and if using them to hit another racer often slows them down and that is the end of the interaction, and that is always how it has been.

Pacer doesn't do this, instead it has Impulse on its weapons so instead of slowing other racers down, it changes their position on the track. E.g. hitting on the left it knocks the enemy to the right or alternatively use a defensive weapon to absorb an oncoming attack or even try to counter steer. This type of attack is disruptive and there's much more of a counter play element and being skilled in this can help mitigate the hit.

Cubed3: How long has Pacer been in development for? Have you had a longer than normal development cycle?

Carlton Gaunt:  Both Formula Fusion and Pacer have been going for about four to four-and-a-half years now. It has a long history - I joined three years ago, and one year after I joined we released Formula Fusion, but since then we have rebuilt the game from the ground up, including redoing the physics, the multiplayer modes, adding six new tracks, new garage, toughening up the A.I, and expanded upon everything that made the original so good.

Image for Interview: Cubed3 Interviews Lead Designer for Pacer, Carlton Gaunt

Cubed3: What drives you to create a high speed racer?

Carlton Gaunt: My first experience with high speed racers came around the mid-late '90s with the original Wipeout trilogy which struck a chord with me, including the F-Zero series, both F-ZeroX and F-Zero GX, as well as Star Wars Episode 1 Racer, and having that really high speed intense play that demanded skill to control the ships was something that I enjoyed getting to grips with. I have been wanting to try to recreate that feeling in a more modern game which is what we have done with Pacer.

Cubed3: Have you done some field research into the course design and have many real-world elements made their way into the game as a result? 

Carlton Gaunt: A lot of our concepting is being done in-house, so we have looked at a number of elements for tracks. We will look at what makes a specific turn difficult or easy or how to adjust this for difficulty. The thing about analysing and taking inspiration from real world tracks is that they wind up feeling like real tracks. One of the biggest things the team wanted to do is to build tracks that otherwise wouldn't be achievable in regular vehicles. With the anti gravity we wanted to push that as much as possible so we wanted something so unreal that the team could create unusual elements, such as being able to flip sideways, or the ability to go upside down. If anything, more inspiration has been taken from aerobatic manoeuvres than anything else, which lends closer to the spaceship racing feel that Pacer is aiming for.

Cubed3: What type of music do you listen to on a Sunday afternoon?

Carlton Gaunt: I have been listening to Machine Heart a lot, but on the whole I enjoy rock, classical, orchestral music and love drum and base, with that said I have been getting into more mellow music as of late.

Image for Interview: Cubed3 Interviews Lead Designer for Pacer, Carlton Gaunt


Cubed3: Futuristic racers always have had a high upbeat techno soundtrack? Is this the type of music that you listen to in your spare time and why do you think it suits the genre so well?

Carlton Gaunt: This type of music helps set the tone. It is the type of music that is expected when booting up the game, but ultimately it is the genre that fits the gameplay best.

When we were originally trying to create a soundtrack to get the ideal feel for it, we would play through (or take a video) of a race, and we'd play that video back on a loop while, having Spotify or YouTube in the background with a bunch of music genres, and we would play that music over the top of the video to see if it alters the sensation of the game. Music and sound design is a huge part of the gaming experience. So you could have something that is closely aligned with that high intense focus with both dance music and drum and base tending to do really well. We also tried a few things that contrasts with this experience such as classical for example, but other styles of music tend to throw drivers out of the intended experience - it creates an odd clash that doesn't feel as good with the upbeat music. We sat down and we did the research and we tried to figure out which would be the best from a huge list. We found that drum and base and dance works best as it has that high intense energetic vibe that we are going for. 

Cubed3: Is there an option for content creators to send their music to you?

Carlton Gaunt: Absolutely, we have done a community music pack that was available in the demo that has been on tour and we tried to work closely with our community where we can. So if there are aspiring musicians that feels they have something that really fits with us then they are encouraged to promote is within our channels and grab our attention. We are absolutely open to work with talented creators.

Image for Interview: Cubed3 Interviews Lead Designer for Pacer, Carlton Gaunt


Cubed3: Are you surprised that Nintendo have not iterated on a console-based F-Zero since 2003?

Carlton Gaunt: I am a long time F-Zero fan - whilst I'd love to see a new F-Zero title I understand why there hasn't been one. Nintendo's ethos is to have an idea and then apply that to a suitable IP. This is why I think that F-Zero hasn't had a true console-based successor since GX mainly because there hasn't been that knock out idea that would really push it forward. They had craft customisation in F-Zero GX, they had an arcade console link in it with F-zero AX, so I can understand them waiting for the right concept before they release a sequel, and when there is a new F-Zero, which I hope there will be, it will be amazing, I don't doubt that.

Cubed3: What do you think is the biggest change in the industry over your life time?

Carlton Gaunt: Over my lifetime the single biggest change has probably been the shift over to mobile gaming. It is an absolute revolution; everybody now has a device capable of playing videogames with them at all times and in many ways phones replace the handheld market while also reaching a new audience that would never go out of their way to buy a dedicated handheld or console.

However, since working in the industry there haven't been gigantic changes, but VR is probably one of the biggest things to look out for in the next few years. At university my final year team project was to work with VR and to see how it has expanded and adapted since then has been unprecedented, VR as a whole is a lot larger than I thought it would be.

Cubed3: What are your thoughts on VR racing games?

Carlton Gaunt: It can be quite nauseating effect with high speed anti-gravity racers, there is a lot of work to get a VR racing game to make sure it is of good quality. Racing tends to work quite well as VR lends itself to working better in short bursts, despite this there haven't been an abundance of games that have tried to get into that space so I am excited to see where that goes in the future.

Cubed3: So what other news do you have coming up for Pacer?

Carlton Gaunt: There are still plenty of details to be announced for Pacer and we always have more to share, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Be sure to stick to Cubed3 for the full review of Pacer later in 2019 which is heading to Xbox One, PS4, and Steam, with full 4K 60Fps on Xbox One X and PS4 Pro. Also, be sure to check out Pacer's website for more information on its release.
Box art for Pacer
Developer

R8 Games

Publisher

R8 Games

Genre

Driving

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  n/a

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   

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