Games have improved in quality over the years, whether that’s graphics, glitches, or the overall story. But one thing that has been consistently improving over the years is the physics. Older games can sometimes have some very questionable physics, with bodies and characters doing things that they’re not supposed to be able to do. And one thing fans wanted the physics to improve on more than anything was the driving mechanics, as this used to be atrocious. But how does driving physics work now?
What did it used to be like?
The way driving physics used to work was very similar to walking mechanics in games. Steering was extremely difficult and took a lot of effort, and half the screen would be taken up by what the inside of the car looked like, or you’d only get an external view. Drifting wasn’t really a thing, and if you crashed you would just come to a sudden complete stop. Game companies have worked hard to rectify this and to make the driving experience more similar to that of real life. A good franchise to see this in is Grand Theft Auto, or GTA. They have had games since PS2, and the gaming experience has just increased since then.
What is it like now?
Driving physics now has improved a lot, such as the steering being much easier to control and takes less to get the car to turn, and if you crash the car will flip over depending on the speed you were going at it. The car is no longer treated like a body that is glued to the map, it is able to do jumps, drift, and be an extension of the character once they’re inside it. Different cars have different abilities also, as there is now also a difference between 4 wheel drive and front or rear wheel steering. Developers changed the car to reflect real life situations, and be as close to the experience of driving a real car as possible. In games like Death Stranding you are even able to get your vehicle stuck on rocks or cliffs as it adapts to the environment you’re driving it on.
How does it work?
The way it works is very similar to real physics. When a car is driving along, it will experience friction, both from the air and from the ground it is driving on, and different speeds as well as different textures will affect both of these values. When you drive on the road in GTA, it is a very smooth and easy drive, meanwhile if you go offroad and go into the hills or the ocean, you will experience these types of drag on the vehicle that will slow it down. Developers use these real life equations to translate it into a game, which is why the car will steer strangely if you have half of it on one terrain and half on another, as there are two different equations happening to create that effect.
If you haven’t already, go and test it out. Try out the old and new GTA games, or racing games like Need for Speed to see how it differs, And if you can’t quite get the hang of the physics, or are simply finding it boring, you could always check sale on GTA 5 modded accounts as they are some available with easier driving and steering, and also some where they have modded the physics so you can get the car to fly after going over a bump or in a crash.