Gone in 60 seconds - Game Concept
Updated: Dec 10, 2019
We all get ideas in strange places. Last night I watched the original 'Gone in 60 seconds'. This movie is an American classic, made in 1974. Despite being pretty bad by today's standards, it still has a lot of charm. Every now and again I thought to myself how cool it would be if it were a game. What stood out was the car chase which lasted more than 30 minutes. It was almost as extreme as the chase scene from the Blues Brothers. It felt like half the movie was a car chase. The main character was basically a car: a yellow 70s Mustang Mach 1 named 'Eleanor'. This car took a real beating and by the end it was nearly written off.
Story and Setting
This movie was set in the year it was filmed (1974). The film begins by following an insurance investigator, but we soon find out that he doubles as a professional car thief. He is offered a huge reward if he and his team steal 48 cars in five days, a perfect gripping set up for any action film, or game!
In the first ten minutes we learn how they normally get paid. First, they buy a wrecked car. Then they remove all the seal and engine numbers. Next, they go and steal the same model car from the street. Finally, they replace the seal numbers, engine numbers etc and sell it on! However, for the big score, they only replace the license plates.
The board in the picture was used to track which cars had been stolen. They used code names for each car, which is where the name Eleanor came from. They stored all these cars in a garage ready to be delivered. It was at this point the film started to feel like a GTA heist in the world of Mafia III, the difference being the lack of guns!
The beginning of the film is strange, as if the editors were trying to get the viewer up to speed as fast as they could. There were lots of 'cut scenes' with the dialogue simply pasted over the top to give exposition and to explain what is going on. Because of this, I couldn't help feel it was already the perfect fit to become a game.
What makes this movie different is a lack of physical violence despite being an action movie. The focus was cars and so they are everywhere. It seems as though the movie was one big car advert. Being set in the 70s, there was a complete lack of technology. The most advanced gadget was the police radios! This meant the movie wasn't as far-fetched as what we see today (even if they had to steal 48 cars in 5 days). For me, this kept the movie down to earth as even the huge chase scene was kept to the roads and the cars never defied gravity as we would probably see today.
One aspect of this movie I haven't really seen in a game is breaking and entering cars. In both GTA and Mafia, you press a button and watch the character quickly unlock the door or break the window, swing the door open, hop in, maybe wait a second before you can drive away.
In this movie, each character dresses as if they were a businessman, carrying a briefcase full of items to help them enter and start a car. Often, working as a team, they sometimes just take the cars while the keys are in the ignition. Already knowing which car they want to steal completely changes the dynamic of how they approach stealing.
Planning and disguising adds an extra layer which other games tend to completely ignore. The complete lack of guns and violence mean strategy is more prominent. It also means that when something goes wrong, they can't just shoot their way out either. Being the 70s makes it a little easier to steal cars, but we haven't really seen a game use modern techniques to solve modern problems. Watchdogs is as close as it gets but that feels as though it is placed somewhere in the near future.
Throughout the scene, the chased car gets battered realistically. Comparing this to GTA, the cars here feel less rigid. A games design plays a big role in determining how a damage model should work in a certain game (eg: in GTA players don't want to break down after every crash). A game about being stealthy and stealing cars with value would likely ask for a more realistic damage system. Considering this factor, Wreckfest comes to mind. Its 'realistic' damage mode ups the stakes for driving too dangerously or aggressively, as hitting something might mean the end of the car, and definitely the end of the reward.
The aim of being strategic is to avoid the police and keep your car intact. But just like in the movie, this isn't always possible - sometimes this would lead to the same kind of car chases we see in the movie. With soft-body physics on the police as well as the player, I can image the carnage already.
Mixing these themes in with the story ends up feeling like a GTA clone focusing on stealth rather than violence. Heists in GTA V are a comparable part of what this concept might look like. The player would purchase a crashed car at an auction, search the streets for a clone, plan a way to steal it, take apart the bought car, work as a team using tools to enter and start the car, get it back while avoiding the cops, replace part numbers on it and then sell it on.
Ultimately, this game would the damage physics from Wreckfest and put them into an open-world, while tasking the player to strategize and plan which cars to buy and steal. The game could also explore the inner working of cars, such as engines, interiors and add-on packages, to help make cars unique and have special features making different cars rarer and more expensive. Overcoming security systems like steering locks and alarms would also make stealing cars potentially different each time, and more expensive cars a more risky venture. Selling the parts of the cars could also become it's own side hustle, all while avoiding the cops.
It would make sense for this game to look realistic since it it based on a movie, but that doesn't need to be the case. Games like Jalopy or Pako show that car games don't need to be realistic to create an atmosphere or mood and actually benefit from focusing on style. Using colour and shape minimally while mimicking the 70s aesthetic would be a beautiful homage to the film.
It isn't very likely that manufacturers would want their cars to be portrayed as easy to steal and damage. The fact this game wouldn't be advertising any new cars, would also mean that brands probably wouldn't be interested. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Just as GTA, Wreckfest and Mafia uses off-brand vehicles, so would this. Taking design cues from real world counterparts would give the game more style and flavour as things can be emphasized and exaggerated to really hit home with the 70s style.
As for camera-angle, there are reasons that it should be first person, third person and also top-down. Ultimately, it would be great if it could be changeable but I'd like to discuss the benefits of all three.
First person would let the player better interact with vehicles to break into them and also take them apart. Driving in first person would also make it more personal, trying not to bump other cars and looking in the mirrors for cops. This means this view would be best suited for creating an emotional response and giving the player more control of their immediate surroundings.
Third person is the default camera view for most driving games, the camera is placed behind the car. Just like in a movie, it lets the player see the car and have full spacial awareness (this is especially important when viewing on a 2D screen). It also means the player has a better idea of the beating the car is taking. Third person is best for letting the average player have a predictable and engaging experience.
Top down is the extreme version of this. Players can see around corners and are aware of what is happening 360 degrees around them. This camera simulates a helicopter of the head of the player just like in action movies. A dynamic top-down camera would exaggerate this feeling. However, this also means the player is more disconnected from the character in the car. Without a changing viewpoint, the player won't be able to properly interact with the process of breaking into and entering a vehicle. Overall, top down lets the player strategize easier by taking away the details and broadening their view, both literally and metaphorically.
Personally, I think each of them change the game completely so it wouldn't make sense to be able to switch between all three. First and third could be combined as we have seen it before. Third to top down is also logical as they both stay outside the car. First person to top down is a powerful and interesting juxtaposition we rarely see. The intimacy of first person conjoined with a dynamic movie style top down camera could create a balanced yet fresh player experience, echoing the original movie.
Overall, I loved this movie because it was crazy, retro and completely different from most of the other movies in its genre. If you want to watch it, its on Youtube and has been remastered! It won't be the best film you've seen, but you won't want to miss the longest uninterrupted car chase in movie history. I feel as though whoever holds the license to this film and many others of the same period (Duel, Two-Lane Blacktop, even Herbie) should examine what makes their IP unique and considering translating it into game form.
What are your favorite movie tie-in games? What movies do you think would make great games? Let me know on twitter @RobertLDoman.