IMG_0005Last month, we previewed an upcoming iPhone game from True Axis called Jet Car Stunts.

Jet Car Stunts was described as "a fun, over the top, 3D driving game, with massive jumps, mid-air hoops, floating platforms, spiral roadways, outlandish maneuvers and impossible environments." Controls are accelerometer based along with mid-air flight controls to nudge the angle of flight or adjust speed with air braking.

We loved the look of the game video, but had some questions about the game's playability from that video alone. We've since had a chance to interview Luke Ryan and Andy Coates of True Axis about their upcoming racer. They also provided this exclusive hands-on video showing their game and controls in action:

TouchArcade: We understand Jet Car Stunts is based on the True Axis Physics SDK. Can you give us a little bit of history on this game engine and the company?

lukeLuke Ryan: The True Axis Physics SDK was a bit of an accidental development. It started back in 2002 as part of a game demo I was developing. The physics engines back then were not good enough, and I already had a few years experience involving lots of physics programming, so I made a much better one. I started getting a few requests to make it commercial. In-between doing contract work for mobile and handheld games, I did all the extra work necessary to commercialise it, which was the reason for the formation of the company, True Axis.

Since then, the physics engine scene has changed unrecognisably. I'd always kept in touch with the mobile gaming scene here in Melbourne and I started to fall back into that. I met my co-owner at True Axis, Andy Coates, while I was helping out at Firemint. In 2008, I decided to take True Axis into independent game development which has always been my dream.

Back at Firemint, Andy was motivated to get into iPhone development after working closely with James Hui. James went on to form Epicforce and released the excellent iFighter. In turn, Andy approached me and convinced me to move into iPhone development together. Andy joined me as co-owner as True Axis moved from physics engines to mobile games.

We have a few projects in the works, but Jet Car Stunts came from thinking about a good use for the physics engine, a gap in the market Andy noticed on the App Store, and many years experience developing driving games. Jet Car Stunts borrows ideas from many places, but the core of it goes back 10 years to when I was coding a rocket power-up for a sand box driving game. I learnt that fast cars, massive jumps, plus rocket power is even more fun than it sounds.

IMG_0008

Q: In our first preview of the game, we questioned how good the controls were for the game. So, how are the controls?

Luke Ryan:: Accelerometer controls were a concern when we were deciding to make this game. I put a lot of effort into early prototyping, borrowing from many years experience working on mobile and handheld driving games. To my surprise, the controls actually worked much better than I had hoped for. The game was immediately fun to play, and has improved a lot during development. Making this game has really been a lot of fun and we've been having a lot of fun playing it too.

Q: How does the game perform on last generation devices (iPhone 3G, 2G iPod touch) vs. current generation units (iPhone 3GS, 3G iPod touch)?

Luke Ryan: Obviously the announcement video was not recorded on iPhone hardware. However due to precision driving nature, we were very keen to make the game as responsive and as smooth as possible. We currently have the game running at a perfectly smooth 30 FPS on a 1G iPod and 60 FPS on the 3GS/3G iPod. The 2G iPod can do 60 FPS most of the time, but we found that locking to 30 FPS gives smoother overall performance and is very hard to differentiate from the 3GS.

Andy Coates: A lot of research has been put into building the iPhone game shell to be as efficient as possible, plus a good understanding of the underlying OS, using our own custom sound mixer, and a lot of years experience in optimising the GPU side of things has made Jet Car Stunts run very well on the lowest denominator hardware (1G iPod). I don't think many developers really push the older hardware to the limits. We believe that if you can get the older hardware closer to the newer hardware, in terms of performance, then the end user will have a better game experience. What I mean is that you can spec the game design to have more eye candy content that will work on all devices really well.

andyQ: The game seems to be flat-shaded vs. texture mapped. Is that key to the game's performance?

Luke Ryan: We are really happy how the nostalgic graphics style of the game turned out. Part of the choice was for performance, but we also wanted to just focus on making a game that played really well, that was really high quality, but at a really affordable price. The 'flat shaded' style let us concentrate on what is important, that is, making a fun game.

I should point out, as any computer graphics buffs will be quick to guess, there is more going on than simple flat shading. The game uses pre-calculated lightmaps generated with a custom radiosity renderer. Radiosity can give really natural lighting and shadows. The light maps aren't as fast to render as flat shading, but they are still quite efficient.

Andy Coates: Also, to point out we are using 32bit colour and the game looks absolutely gorgeous.

IMG_0005Q: As far as we can see, the game is single-player only. Any plans for multiplayer or online leaderboards?

Luke Ryan: No multiiplayer, but an online leaderboard and achievement system are very important to us. It is the last task we have before we can complete the game, and we are working on that now.

I'm not sure how suited multi-play is to this style of game, but obviously it would be cool to figure something out. Unfortunately, multiplayer is also a lot of extra work and we don't want to do something tacked on. Our goal is to make the highest quality best value for money game we can. Having said that, future updates are always a possibility, you never know.

Andy Coates: We may consider a type of challenge mode for future updates but we have to see how the game is received.

Q: At certain times in the preview video the camera angle rotates about
the travelling vehicle. Are these scenes playback moments?

Luke Ryan: Shh, don't tell anybody. Much of the video was done from the games replay mode, and these camera angles where actually created purely for the promo video. I'll tell you what, I'll give [your readers] an opportunity to influence the game. Do you think we should waste a bit of extra time to put a button to change cameras during the replay? Think carefully about your answer, if you answer yes, I will blame you for any release delays.

IMG_0015

Q: What is TrueAxis' view of the iPhone platform in general? What lies ahead for your studio?

Luke Ryan: We have lots of experience working on mobile games back to around 2002. The people I was working on projects with back then now seem all run very respected mobile game companies. Anyway, after fighting with so many devices with horrible controls and crippled operating systems, for so many years, working with the iPhone is a dream full of endless possibilities. As a platform, it feels more like console development. However, I've always been hesitant to do an iPhone project. I've been afraid of the day when the market becomes saturated. But, I was talked into it, and the shift to centralised distribution is really exciting. We are also excited about other platforms, and the move of the DS and PSP to digital distribution.

We are very excited about the possibilities for the future. We are overflowing with ideas, but you can probably expect to see some more driving titles somewhere. We also have to finish off the port of Pompom Games arcade space shooter, Space Tripper, that is long delayed, but fingers crossed, will be released not too long after Jet Car Stunts.

Andy Coates: There's a lot of excitement for independent game developers at the moment, with all those new App Stores springing up all over the place - if you have quality product then it will sell. When I lived in the UK I was involved with a mobile game studio sometime around 2002. At that time it was very hard to get phone product accepted by the Telcos, it was a closed shop... thank God those days have ended now.

I've spent a lot of time and research building an optimal graphics engine on the iPhone. It's really a nice piece of hardware to program for but things have to be done the correct way to get good performance, if you don't then you will end up with a jerky pile of rubbish.

The plan after Jet Car Stunts comes out is to get Space Tripper finished off, then port everything to every other digital distribution channel. Once that is all out of the way we can start working on newer content.

  • LOLCATZ

    Is it just me, or do those maps have a similar look to the Mirrors Edge DLC Time Trials pack?

    • MidianGTX

      Definitely. Works well though.

  • LOLCATZ

    Is it just me, or do those maps have a similar look to the Mirrors Edge DLC Time Trials pack?

    • MidianGTX

      Definitely. Works well though.

  • Rob

    No! Dont bother wasting time on that, release game now! Maybe patch it in later if enough people want it.

  • Rob

    No! Dont bother wasting time on that, release game now! Maybe patch it in later if enough people want it.

  • Igor

    It's just like Trackmania Nations.

  • Igor

    It's just like Trackmania Nations.

  • Davidovich

    Yes. Release it sooner rather than later. As long as it's bug free. That's what I'm most concerned about.

  • Davidovich

    Yes. Release it sooner rather than later. As long as it's bug free. That's what I'm most concerned about.

  • Kevin

    This brings back fond memories of Geoff Crammond's Stunt Car Racer!

    • http://www.yourpersonalrobot.com your personal robot

      Haha, same thoughts at the same moment :)

  • Kevin

    This brings back fond memories of Geoff Crammond's Stunt Car Racer!

    • http://www.yourpersonalrobot.com your personal robot

      Haha, same thoughts at the same moment :)

  • http://www.yourpersonalrobot.com your personal robot

    Wow, the style of the game is pure art to me! Looks really fantastic.
    Why always real buildings and stuff as background, this is beautiful!
    And the gameplay (one car, just bring it around) reminds me a bit of
    one of my fav classic games - Stunt Car Racer. So, it really can be a
    lot of fun to play.
    The video is awesome! Can't wait!

  • http://www.yourpersonalrobot.com your personal robot

    Wow, the style of the game is pure art to me! Looks really fantastic.
    Why always real buildings and stuff as background, this is beautiful!
    And the gameplay (one car, just bring it around) reminds me a bit of
    one of my fav classic games - Stunt Car Racer. So, it really can be a
    lot of fun to play.
    The video is awesome! Can't wait!

  • Bob

    This game looks a lot of fun, can't wait to try it out.

    I love the in-game graphics but the UI looks awful!
    Those button icons need to be updated/replaced. They have a cartoon look (all round, soft and blurry) which doesn't fit with the game (clean sharp lines etc).

    And why have they drawn a car (on the buttons) which doesn't even match the in-game car...? Use icons not small drawings... there is a difference.

  • Bob

    This game looks a lot of fun, can't wait to try it out.

    I love the in-game graphics but the UI looks awful!
    Those button icons need to be updated/replaced. They have a cartoon look (all round, soft and blurry) which doesn't fit with the game (clean sharp lines etc).

    And why have they drawn a car (on the buttons) which doesn't even match the in-game car...? Use icons not small drawings... there is a difference.

  • TKO

    This looks cool! Retro stylish visuals, high frame rate, and sophisticated physics? I'm there already! Brilliant.

  • TKO

    This looks cool! Retro stylish visuals, high frame rate, and sophisticated physics? I'm there already! Brilliant.

  • http://www.tototoolco.com tool

    Like Trackmania for the iPhone. I love it!

  • http://www.tototoolco.com tool

    Like Trackmania for the iPhone. I love it!

  • Rudi

    The graphic style reminds me on Virtua Racing.Come on Sega, thats what we need!

  • Rudi

    The graphic style reminds me on Virtua Racing.Come on Sega, thats what we need!

  • araczynski

    very nice, makes me wish i was into car games.

  • araczynski

    very nice, makes me wish i was into car games.

  • 2kitties1cup

    snore.

    Sorry, just looks boring and uninspired.

    • JimB

      What makes you say that? Just curious...

      If the game is half as good as track mania it will be a compelling game... Getting to the final platform at the quickest time is fun; couple that with the leaderboards and it will be a winner.

      I love the retro gfx - they look refreshing and stylized.

      • 2kitties1cup

        I just dont feel the iphone's motion sensor makes a good input device for driving games. Its just too odd, and does not work well.

        To be fair, the game's concept is sound, but its presentation seems bland and uninspiring. Its just another point and rotate your phone game. Will this developer pull it off better than the others? I doubt it mainly due to the awkwardness that is the iphone. The PR hype in the "article" (advertisement) makes it sound as if "this one will be the one with good control." Its not likely.

        I'm all for indy developers. Thats how the industry started, and they've been shut out of the industry for so long. It is nice to see indy devs making a comeback thanks to the iphone but this looks too underdeveloped. I do not mean to crap on this developer's hard work, or in any way say i'm correct....

        But i'm just not interested, nothing grabs me and the hype regarding control, turns me off.

        I hope i'm completely wrong. I really do. Best of luck Dev, if you're reading this.

      • luketrueaxis

        Sometimes these things just come down to personal taste in the end.

        Some people have been really happy with the controls on games like Real Racing and others on the iphone. I think the controls we have done feel better then any other driving game as of yet. My hands are in the video, you can see I don't have any trouble pulling out of a power drift, then perfectly lining up the next jump to fly through the center of a hoop, while at the same time, having my arms tangled around a camera and trying very carefully to keep everything centered.

        But, in the end, it is up to the people who by the game to judge it. I hope people enjoy it as much as us.

    • http://www.squarezerostudio.com squarezero

      What, Meteor Blitz, then Rally Master, now Jet Stunt Car. Is it trolling day for you, 2kitties1cup? Please give it rest.

      • 2kitties1cup

        I wasnt trolling. As you can see I just replied in more detail.

        As for the rally game, I mentioned I love rally, but that the iphones motion sensor just doesnt seem to be up to the task of driving games. I said the same thing here. I'm not trolling. I own Need for Speed, and Real Racing, both i think pulled off the driving thing fairly well, but neither good enough to ever feel like i was in control of a vehicle.

        As for the stardust clone... I'm tired of clones. Super Stardust on the PS3 was a killer game, and no clone is going to live up to the original. Gameloft really ruined the whole "cloned games" thing.

        Its one thing to make a space shooter, but... its another to simply copy something, rather than borrow from it and go beyond the source material you're copying. That is the real trick isnt it?

        I jsut dont feel that stardust clone does that at all.

      • 2kitties1cup

        BTW... I bought Super KO Boxing 2, which is an obvious clone of Mike Tyson's Punch out, but I feel it is an improvement to that original game. Certainly in artwork, and interface. This is an example of how a clone can be good. It can be borrow from its source material but go beyond it, improving on it... thus making it a new experience. The best games do this.

        I just didnt feel that stardust game looked to be doing that.

      • http://www.squarezerostudio.com squarezero

        Three nasty one line comments like that will make anybody come across like a troll. Glad you took the time to expand on your opinions. I happen to thing that races play particularly well on the iDevice, better than any other handheld/portable platform (I hate using a little nob in the PSP for driving -- feels totally unnatural). I'm not sure what I think Jet Stunt Cars, but I'm definitely curious. As far at the clone thing is concerned, I don't have a a PS3, don't plan on getting one any time soon. Meter Blitz is one of the fastest, most fun shooters on the platform, with spotless controls, great music, and beautiful graphics. Don't frankly care that it looks like another game in a platform I don't have access to.

      • 2kitties1cup

        Yeah i was a bit nasty at first. We all do that from time to time. I was just being short and to the point.

        I've only played ridge racer on my PSP and it was pretty good considering the awkward nub on the psp. I havent played any other driving games on the psp tho. Mario Cart on the DS was pretty good tho.

  • 2kitties1cup

    snore.

    Sorry, just looks boring and uninspired.

    • JimB

      What makes you say that? Just curious...

      If the game is half as good as track mania it will be a compelling game... Getting to the final platform at the quickest time is fun; couple that with the leaderboards and it will be a winner.

      I love the retro gfx - they look refreshing and stylized.

      • 2kitties1cup

        I just dont feel the iphone's motion sensor makes a good input device for driving games. Its just too odd, and does not work well.

        To be fair, the game's concept is sound, but its presentation seems bland and uninspiring. Its just another point and rotate your phone game. Will this developer pull it off better than the others? I doubt it mainly due to the awkwardness that is the iphone. The PR hype in the "article" (advertisement) makes it sound as if "this one will be the one with good control." Its not likely.

        I'm all for indy developers. Thats how the industry started, and they've been shut out of the industry for so long. It is nice to see indy devs making a comeback thanks to the iphone but this looks too underdeveloped. I do not mean to crap on this developer's hard work, or in any way say i'm correct....

        But i'm just not interested, nothing grabs me and the hype regarding control, turns me off.

        I hope i'm completely wrong. I really do. Best of luck Dev, if you're reading this.

      • luketrueaxis

        Sometimes these things just come down to personal taste in the end.

        Some people have been really happy with the controls on games like Real Racing and others on the iphone. I think the controls we have done feel better then any other driving game as of yet. My hands are in the video, you can see I don't have any trouble pulling out of a power drift, then perfectly lining up the next jump to fly through the center of a hoop, while at the same time, having my arms tangled around a camera and trying very carefully to keep everything centered.

        But, in the end, it is up to the people who by the game to judge it. I hope people enjoy it as much as us.

    • http://www.squarezerostudio.com squarezero

      What, Meteor Blitz, then Rally Master, now Jet Stunt Car. Is it trolling day for you, 2kitties1cup? Please give it rest.

      • 2kitties1cup

        I wasnt trolling. As you can see I just replied in more detail.

        As for the rally game, I mentioned I love rally, but that the iphones motion sensor just doesnt seem to be up to the task of driving games. I said the same thing here. I'm not trolling. I own Need for Speed, and Real Racing, both i think pulled off the driving thing fairly well, but neither good enough to ever feel like i was in control of a vehicle.

        As for the stardust clone... I'm tired of clones. Super Stardust on the PS3 was a killer game, and no clone is going to live up to the original. Gameloft really ruined the whole "cloned games" thing.

        Its one thing to make a space shooter, but... its another to simply copy something, rather than borrow from it and go beyond the source material you're copying. That is the real trick isnt it?

        I jsut dont feel that stardust clone does that at all.

      • 2kitties1cup

        BTW... I bought Super KO Boxing 2, which is an obvious clone of Mike Tyson's Punch out, but I feel it is an improvement to that original game. Certainly in artwork, and interface. This is an example of how a clone can be good. It can be borrow from its source material but go beyond it, improving on it... thus making it a new experience. The best games do this.

        I just didnt feel that stardust game looked to be doing that.

      • http://www.squarezerostudio.com squarezero

        Three nasty one line comments like that will make anybody come across like a troll. Glad you took the time to expand on your opinions. I happen to thing that races play particularly well on the iDevice, better than any other handheld/portable platform (I hate using a little nob in the PSP for driving -- feels totally unnatural). I'm not sure what I think Jet Stunt Cars, but I'm definitely curious. As far at the clone thing is concerned, I don't have a a PS3, don't plan on getting one any time soon. Meter Blitz is one of the fastest, most fun shooters on the platform, with spotless controls, great music, and beautiful graphics. Don't frankly care that it looks like another game in a platform I don't have access to.

      • 2kitties1cup

        Yeah i was a bit nasty at first. We all do that from time to time. I was just being short and to the point.

        I've only played ridge racer on my PSP and it was pretty good considering the awkward nub on the psp. I havent played any other driving games on the psp tho. Mario Cart on the DS was pretty good tho.

  • http://www.yourpersonalrobot.com your personal robot

    The only style thing I don't understand:
    There don't have to be childish versions of the car on all buttons. You always need just one try to learn what an action is caused by a button, then they would even work without any picture on it. That is also, why you can even make them invisible (Minigore), once you know them.

    So, wouldn't it be way better, to just use the green and red arrows, the rocket fire and the air brakes without the cars? Much cleaner….

  • http://www.yourpersonalrobot.com your personal robot

    The only style thing I don't understand:
    There don't have to be childish versions of the car on all buttons. You always need just one try to learn what an action is caused by a button, then they would even work without any picture on it. That is also, why you can even make them invisible (Minigore), once you know them.

    So, wouldn't it be way better, to just use the green and red arrows, the rocket fire and the air brakes without the cars? Much cleaner….

  • beetle004

    Looks promising but does it involve on one car or are there more like trackmania ???? i don't see any other car in the video? if that's the case i am not interested!

    • Kamazar

      Because there isn't more than one car? You can't compare an iPhone game to Trackmania. Besides, TM only has a different car for each environment. All the cars racing in the stadium are the same. All the car in the island environment are the same. You're pointing out a flaw that isn't even there.

      • http://www.twitchfactor.com Twitchfactor

        I think he's referring to one car in the sense that there's no other cars to race.

  • beetle004

    Looks promising but does it involve on one car or are there more like trackmania ???? i don't see any other car in the video? if that's the case i am not interested!

    • Kamazar

      Because there isn't more than one car? You can't compare an iPhone game to Trackmania. Besides, TM only has a different car for each environment. All the cars racing in the stadium are the same. All the car in the island environment are the same. You're pointing out a flaw that isn't even there.

      • http://www.twitchfactor.com Twitchfactor

        I think he's referring to one car in the sense that there's no other cars to race.

  • tony

    reminds me the magic Stunt Car Racer, hope it will be opponents like in microprose classic!!

  • tony

    reminds me the magic Stunt Car Racer, hope it will be opponents like in microprose classic!!

  • Deluxe

    Neat.
    In-game graphics are superb and the game seems very fun to play.

    But please change those ugly controls. They're childish and don't fit with the graphics at all.
    IMO, they could (should?) be slicker, more abstract (two stylised arrows for throttle and break? some circle for boost? You get the picture).

    Apart from those controls, this game is totally appealing. Please change them and it'll be a must-buy for me.

    Note in general: I personally hope that there'll be no micro-transactions. I hate this crappy system. Just set the full right (i.e. not cheap for the game) price from the start.

  • Deluxe

    Neat.
    In-game graphics are superb and the game seems very fun to play.

    But please change those ugly controls. They're childish and don't fit with the graphics at all.
    IMO, they could (should?) be slicker, more abstract (two stylised arrows for throttle and break? some circle for boost? You get the picture).

    Apart from those controls, this game is totally appealing. Please change them and it'll be a must-buy for me.

    Note in general: I personally hope that there'll be no micro-transactions. I hate this crappy system. Just set the full right (i.e. not cheap for the game) price from the start.

  • concrete_d

    I agree with other commenters on the UI design. They seem like they're from another game. The clean flat graphics really work, so the buttons really stick out since they look so overdone. The game itself looks great, hopefully the devs can clean up the interface a bit.

  • concrete_d

    I agree with other commenters on the UI design. They seem like they're from another game. The clean flat graphics really work, so the buttons really stick out since they look so overdone. The game itself looks great, hopefully the devs can clean up the interface a bit.

  • jmhinrfmd

    This game looks great but I have to agree with the comments on the button art. It looks kiddie and does not agree with the overall style of the game. Something slicker and simpler would be nice. Just simple arrows might be better than the picture of the toy car. Overall thought this looks like a day one buy!

    • luketrueaxis

      In response to some of the UI button art critisizm, we thought that simple toy like style matched the simple block like graphics of the game. Abstract style can look nice, we wanted to make things as obvious as possible for any less experienced gamers to give it a try. It was thought that 4 abstract looking buttons might be a little confusing for some.

      I'm sorry that not everybody agrees with the direction taken. All I can say is, atlesast your fingures will be convering the buttons most of the time when you are playing;)

      Anywa, I've posted an alternative button style on the forums if anybody wants to check that out and comment there.

  • jmhinrfmd

    This game looks great but I have to agree with the comments on the button art. It looks kiddie and does not agree with the overall style of the game. Something slicker and simpler would be nice. Just simple arrows might be better than the picture of the toy car. Overall thought this looks like a day one buy!

    • luketrueaxis

      In response to some of the UI button art critisizm, we thought that simple toy like style matched the simple block like graphics of the game. Abstract style can look nice, we wanted to make things as obvious as possible for any less experienced gamers to give it a try. It was thought that 4 abstract looking buttons might be a little confusing for some.

      I'm sorry that not everybody agrees with the direction taken. All I can say is, atlesast your fingures will be convering the buttons most of the time when you are playing;)

      Anywa, I've posted an alternative button style on the forums if anybody wants to check that out and comment there.

  • Fuze911

    This game looks like a LOT of fun. I'd say some background music to match the game and a slight redesign of those inflight control buttons, and this game is going to be a big hit. Ill keep my eye out for this one!

  • Fuze911

    This game looks like a LOT of fun. I'd say some background music to match the game and a slight redesign of those inflight control buttons, and this game is going to be a big hit. Ill keep my eye out for this one!