Rubber banding is "not fair and not fun" - Black Rock
Disney's Pure studio to use 'Race Script' management system in new racing game under development
The team behind Pure, Disney Black Rock's all-terrain racing game that was released towards the end of last year, went to great lengths to avoid the use of 'rubber banding' - the technique which ensures AI controlled opponents never stray too far from the player - because it "breaks the illusion of fairness" in the game, and is "not fair" and "not fun."
That's according to Iain Gilfeather, lead gameplay programmer, who explained the team's solution for a new type of AI control - called Race Scripting - which was first implemented in Pure and will also be used in the studio's next, as-yet-unannounced, racing title.
"Players want to feel like they're playing with the same rules as their opponents, and if they see the opponents adjusting what they're doing based on the player, they'll feel like they're only along for the ride," he explained in a session at GDC Europe. "It's not fair, and it's not fun.
"On a previous game we worked on, the ATV series, we used rubber banding as a good way of getting fun, close, not lonely races. But in that we did have to resort to giving the AI extra abilities.
"While the game was reasonably successful and didn't get too heavily criticised for it, internally we weren't very happy with [rubber banding], and some of the designers wanted to get away from using it... we wanted there to be no easily spotted race management."
Gilfeather went on to explain that the new system involved the game's designers writing a script about how they wanted the races to evolve, and looked at the player's ideal progression through a race.
"[In the ideal scenario] there are three groups of AI opponents - a head, middle and back group," he explained. "At the beginning of the race the front two groups would manage to get away and leave the player battling with the group at the back.
"Then as the race progresses the player manages to go from group to group, working their way through the field, leaving the last group behind and getting to the middle group. Also while they're making those jumps between groups some AI players also make that jump.
"Then, by the middle of the last lap the player makes it to the head group, and the AI becomes forgiving of some errors - that was important, because if you'd gotten to the that front group and managed to be leading the race, you weren't punished for small errors right at the end."
Ultimately, he said, the technique resulted in a form of race management that was subtle, and wasn't obvious to the player, but which felt as if you were being rewarded for your driving.
Pure was a new IP for Disney last year, despite Black Rock's previous ATV titles, and while it was released in an extremely crowded point on the calendar, it received critical praise - including an 8 out of 10 rating from Eurogamer.net.