Drift Stage is quite obviously a game about cars, but it is also a story about the passage of time. You can trace the evolution of car—and car game—culture in its influences: from 1960s Hot Wheels fantasies, to iconic cars of the 1980s, to 1990s arcade racers like Initial D, to the 21st century funding mechanism that is Kickstarter. To watch preview footage of Drift Stage, then, is to think about how our relationship with automotive entertainment has evolved. One part of that evolution, of course, is that Kickstarter delivery dates are purely notional. So it is with Drift Stage, which was initially slated to come out in the spring but is now promising a release in late 2015. In the meanwhile, expectant fans and backers will have to make do with Super Systems Softworks’ latest batch of screenshots and preview gifs.
Super Systems Softworks claims the delay has given them time to improve the handling of the cars in their game. I’m no car mechanic (or expert in videogame mechanics, for that matter), but the results look pretty damn neat:
As you can see, cars glide along neon highways that come to resemble magic carpets. This effect makes sense insofar as Drift Stage is not really interested in the automobile as a form of conveyance. Drifting is not about efficiency and neither is this game, which prioritizes aesthetic concerns over more pragmatic impulses.
This relationship between artistic expressionism and gameworld physics is at the heart of the latest Drift Stage update. On the one hand, the post is full of details about the game’s physics and finer points. The game, however, is not being made to satisfy car wonks. ““We’re trying to make a throwback to arcade racers that were just about fun cars going fast—not having to build a cockpit in your living room, having this obsessive level of simulation that a lot of games strive for these days,” developer Chase Petit recently told Autoweek. It takes a lot of work to create an abstract car game—more work than Drift Stage’s developers initially anticipated—but much of that work is necessary to ensure that the nuts and bolts won’t always be visible. Slide into the orange night and forget about physics.