We’ve had this discussion before. The ultimate game would be some kind of social network/MMO Sim where you could recreate your own town and interact with others by walking, driving or flying. I’ve been thinking about something a little more do-able by today’s standards and I like to call it Hometown.
You see, all these street racing games are either based in a handful of real towns or they’re made up to look like the same metropoli we’ve been racing through for years. Los Angeles, New York City, Detroit, London, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo, Las Vegas. In looking at the latest Midnight Club: Los Angeles media I couldn’t help but wonder where Midnight Club: Pittsburgh or Midnight Club: Cheyenne are. Surely L.A. isn’t the only town with lots of loopy highways, ritzy suburbs, and a little bit of nature.
So my proposal is a new racing game that comes on a disc, be it Midnight Club or Need for Speed or Rush or Burnout. It would feature a rarely-seen U.S. town with all the criteria listed above. Pack it full of a hundred or more cars and set it up like Burnout Paradise; a big world with lots of checkpoint races of various styles (Time Attack, One-on-One, etc.). It may be panned as a mediocre racing game with no story to back it up or a hip hop soundtrack, but here’s the secret…
Using the assets on the disc — the generic buildings and roads and obstacles found in every town — you take some Google Maps data and build a reasonable facsimile of every major town in the country. Pack the new map with 3D models of recognizable landmarks and building textures, whip up a few pre-defined races and release it online. Just like Burnout Paradise, users could then plot their own checkpoint races or create impromptu challenges with other players.
I’ll even throw in a marketing gimmick since I’ve thought this over so much. Release the new city to residents of that specific city (or state) ahead of everyone else. Give gamers in every town a chance to feel a little exclusive. Or, flip it the other way. Restrict residents of Sheboygan from downloading the Sheboygan map for a few days. Give the rest of the country a chance to learn the lay of the land and see if Sheboyganites know how to race through their own town.
I imagine the game wouldn’t look all that fantastic but if the terrain and streets are recognizable it’d give everyone at least one reason to buy your downloadable content. And just think how long you could keep it running. There are 50 capital cities, hundreds of sizable towns, and even more smaller municipalities. With topographical data and high resolution maps as ubiquitous as they are nowadays it couldn’t be that hard, right?
For now, there’s always 2D Driving Simulator… please, someone hurry.