Skip to content


THE INSIDE TRACK – chapter 2

pillars of the terrains

Howdy, HotWheelers!

It’s me again: your tireless, irreplaceable, infallible voice from “The Inside Track”. I know, it has been only three weeks or so since the first scoop, but hear me out: I was, you know, enjoying the beautiful weather a few days ago and absolutely not slacking off when I saw them. To everyone, they could have been any citizen but not to me, oh no – I’ve got a very keen eye for this. They were developers.

Can you believe it? Normally, they don’t wander around and if they do, they tend to keep a low profile. They’re like VIPs here in the city. They know things; things I bet you wanna know too, huh?

Anyway, I saw them and thought to myself: this is your chance, last time they almost sued you because clearly, they don’t understand that the end justifies the means, and you had to gather them in one way or another. But this time they’re the ones who went out in the open, ergo no complaints.

So I followed them, as any good reporter should, and this you can’t even imagine: they were scouting! Yes, you heard me right. They stopped in front of a house, then circled around to look at the backyard, all of it while taking notes and muttering to themselves. Intriguing indeed. Then, they went into our museum – where we proudly exhibit a giant T-Rex, and yes, yes, I know T-Rexes are giant but this one is really big – and stood there for a while. They’re into something, it can’t be otherwise. That’s why I’m here today. Hidden. Quiet. Hoping no golf ball hits me. I just have… to… wait…

Gotcha! I knew you were up to something and that sooner or later you had to come here.

You again? Unbelievable. Can’t you give us a break?

Domenico Celenza (Game Producer)

Yes but actually no. I have a job to do, for our faithful readers. Plus, bills don’t pay themselves.

But you don’t even… Ah, fine. Guess it’s on us, we’ve been careless. What do you wanna know?

Francesco Riggi (Lead Designer)

Everything! Oooor, if you’re not willing to share that much, at least what you were doing nosing around the neighborhoods and the museum. And now here. These sites are oddly specific.

Well, we were observing. Don’t give me that look, you need information firsthand if you want to recreate things right. You’re in no position to lecture anyone, you know, much less us.

Paolo Giannico (Lead Artist)

It’s… fair. So, our city is your muse if I’m getting this right. And since we already talked about vehicles, now you need places to let them race. Not tracks, those are obvious. New environments and maybe something more? To increase the challenge and give purpose to all those categories?

Pretty accurate for a guess, but… you’re right. This time we want to offer not only a fresh set of environments but also add terrains to the pack. Starting from the latter, and from an artistic point of view, we wanted to enrich our environments by giving them more purpose and a better sense of challenge. That’s why we decided to add grass, wood, dirt, and carpet as new terrains: players will learn that each of them has its own rules and not every vehicle is suitable for every terrain. Moreover, it would have been too easy if we added only one terrain per environment, that’s why it’s possible that you will deal with more than one terrain in a single environment.

Paolo Giannico (Lead Artist)

I just want to add that for the sake of the gameplay, the situations you can find yourself in are mixed and not always coherent. Meaning there are no environments ascribable to a single terrain. You’ll never find yourself in a situation like “Oh, here there will surely be grass!”. There can be grass, of course, but you can also find wood and/or dirt. That’s because we wanted the gameplay to be fun, unpredictable, and always challenging. A single car can’t handle all the terrains, which is why you have to choose the one you think is right for the job and then add your own rider skills – plus, the Skill System itself will come in handy.

Francesco Riggi (Lead Designer)

Backyard whiteboxing da Hot Wheels Unleashed™ 2 - Turbocharged
Backyard whiteboxing

I see, I see. It has indeed a lot of potential. Can you give us an example?

The museum is the perfect embodiment. It’s almost entirely floored, of course, and yet we managed to add terrains thanks to the dino stands while maintaining as much coherence as possible: they’re made of ground and grass, and while they’re not a core feature of the museum as environment, they fit well. By doing so, we can give a sense of diversity to almost every environment.

Another example could be the Backyard: grass is the main terrain here, and yet there’s also the inside of the house where the surface is completely different. The same goes for Mini Golf, where we’re standing in, and don’t forget the Arcade, which plays differently from the Backyard or the Museum due to the carpet sections: while the grass is more slippery, the carpet has more grip and forces you to handle the curves in a unique manner. Different environments call for different, and not always predictable, measures.

Francesco Riggi (Lead Designer)

So much to learn! Let’s put this aside for now and focus a bit on our readers – meaning, the players: I get that your tracks are carefully made so you can use as many terrains as you want. But when it comes to the so-called, let me check my notes… ah, yes, UGC? How do these new terrains improve the players’ experience in terms of their own creations?

First, it needs to be clear that these terrains are not parts that you can add or remove as you please. They are intrinsic to our environments, but this doesn’t mean you can’t experiment. Quite the contrary: players can choose where to build their tracks, so if I don’t like grass at all I’ll avoid that part and build my track elsewhere in the environment (e.g., inside the house in the Backyard, or by using modules to cover the grass). If I prefer the track to be only on the grass instead, well, I can do that by choosing the best area to build it and use the modules accordingly. Finally, if I want to offer other players a real challenge by mixing various terrains, it’s up to me to build the proper track by using everything the environment and the track editor itself can offer.

See this as our challenge to the players. It would have been much easier to offer them every piece (terrains included) and tell them to build. What we wanted, instead, was to see how they’ll manage to build something crazy and creative starting from preset terrains: it’s like saying “Here’s the base, impress us”. So, I’m talking to our fanbase now. Do it. Impress us more than you did with the first game.

Paolo Giannico (Lead Artist)

Mini Golf Concept + Whiteboxing da Hot Wheels Unleashed™ 2 - Turbocharged
Mini Golf Concept + Whiteboxing

Getting cheeky, are we now? Well, you heard them, HotWheelers: when the time comes, give them your best shots! Now, back on track. So far, we have four environments: Backyard, Mini Golf, Museum, and Arcade. And even though I have the feeling you’re hiding something, I have to play along. What led you to choose these environments? One of them feels particularly nostalgic.

The Backyard, yes. Well, it’s as you said: the Backyard it’s not only the epitome of nostalgia but also something our players asked many times. We did our research and discovered that lots, if not every, Hot Wheels fans who happened to have a house with a backyard built their own real, crazy track there. It couldn’t have been a better environment to start.

The Backyard evokes a sense of family but also reminds us of childhood. This is why it’s characterized by a cheerful, carefree mood. In keeping with the Hot Wheels pillars, it was important for us that this level gave off the vibe of being distinctly American, using the surrounding vista and props. It needed to be a place that every person could relate to and feel nostalgic for. It’s big but with a rustic edge.

Again from an artistic perspective, by using both indoors and outdoors in the same environment, we also had the chance to play with dynamic lighting, which was both satisfying and challenging.

Generally speaking, our main keywords when choosing these environments have been fun, nostalgia, and entertainment: if we were given the chance to build a Hot Wheels track without limits, where could we, or rather should we have done that? The answer lies in these environments.

The Mini Golf is a very crowded open environment, characterized by a messy yet warm mood. The setting is late afternoon, after closure. By looking around, it’s clear that, until mere moments before, the place was crowded with families and golf enthusiasts. The level represents a small, Wild West themed area, of a much bigger Mini Golf. Wild West is a widely established imaginary in everyone’s mind, so it was an obvious choice from the start.

The Arcade kinda speaks for itself: I think it’s the most throwback environment of all because even if we still have arcades today, this “culture” is mostly related to the 80s and early 90s. It’s a closed environment with large open spaces alternated by niches and cavities. The level theme recalls, as I said, an 80s-style Arcade. The setting is the middle of the night, after closure. By looking around, it’s clear that, until mere moments before, the place was crowded with gaming enthusiasts. Moreover, this is by far the environment that lets us play with verticality: it has three floors and two escalators.

Then we have the Museum. While being less retro, compared to the others, it is still linked to childhood. I mean, what child wouldn’t want to have a museum as their personal playground? Especially one that is full of dinosaurs?

Last, something you didn’t know about: The Gas Station. It’s a mixed environment featuring an outdoor Gas Station area and an indoor Diner. It has classic American diner theming, with the twist of being desolate and neglected in tone.

Paolo Giannico (Lead Artist)

Arcade: from start to finish

I knew it! They’re all very accurate, now I get why you spent so much time in these spots – not that I tailed you, of course. Now the million-dollar question: what came first, the terrains or the environments?

The environments. What kind of mood do we want to establish? What are the core gameplay mechanics? These and other questions have guided us in choosing the environments. Then, we set the terrains, which have been a challenge precisely because we had to figure out how to introduce them without making them seem excessively out of place. The environments are like the pillars of these new terrains – foundations over which we built the overall experience.

Francesco Riggi (Lead Designer)

You’ll be glad to know that I can finally let you go BUT not before answering this last question. What was the greatest challenge in developing terrains and environments, and what was the greatest satisfaction?

The outdoors was the greatest challenge, no doubt. Having dynamic lighting meant carefully managing the shadows and other effects. In Hot Wheels Unleashed™ 2 – Turbocharged we added new terrains, new VFX (especially for Jump and Lateral Dash), the ruts left by the vehicles, lots of materials with their own physics… all of this needed to be optimized, and given that our game is multiplatform, it required much effort and time. This led us to set specific measures for every environment which couldn’t be overcome.

As for the greatest satisfaction, it’s the brainstorming: we work alongside other teams to come up with a whiteboxing of the environments and test it out. When an environment is on the right track, you can tell even if it’s still bare: you can feel that it’s shaping up as it’s meant to be. It’s almost like the environment itself is telling you that. I think it’s the greatest part of the job because it highlights our teamwork: seeing something born from all the teams’ synergy is the best feeling because together you managed to do something that works the way you wanted to.

Oh, yes: we also had a lot of fun adding easter eggs here and there. I wonder if our players will find them all.

Paolo Giannico (Lead Artist)

This concludes our second scoop, dear readers. And let me say, what a scoop! Tons of information to be processed, waiting for our next chat with the devs – which, for the record, disappeared as soon as I let them go. How rude. Anyway, it’s time for me to head to the Arcade and relax by playing some good old games. See you on the next scoop from your ever-trusty “The Inside Track”!