The brainchild of former EA, Rockstar and Sony London staffer Trevor Ley, Racing Apex was an attempt to capture the brilliance of '90s arcade racing games, specifically those crafted by Sega, such as Daytona USA, Virtua Racing and Scud Race.
Speaking to Eurogamer, Ley explains why he started a project which has taken up almost a decade of his life:
I wanted to do something that brought back the feeling of the arcade games back in the 90s, because I used to skip school and go to Trocadero to play games like Virtua Racing, Hard Drivin', Daytona USA, Sega Rally. Driving games were basically the ones for me.
Originally envisaged as a mobile game because, as Lay puts it, "that was a time when iPhones had become quite popular," Racing Apex eventually shifted its focus to PC and consoles (including the Wii U!) and onto the crowdfunding circuit in 2016; sadly, the campaign was unsuccessful, but that didn't stop Lucky Mountain from continuing to work on the title – which was about to undergo a pretty dramatic transformation, as Lay explains:
It evolved quite a lot. I think with the amount of time that it's taken, it's sort of been honed down, a little bit like grains of sand going through an hourglass. It's been filtered down to what it is now; a supersonic racing game first and foremost, with the kind of handling that you would expect from something that was inspired by Daytona or Out Run.
The weapons-based focus of Racing Apex has now been removed, and, as we all know, the game has a new title: Hotshot Racing. It also has an additional developer involved in the form of the racing experts at Sumo Digital, most recently responsible for Team Sonic Racing.
Tom Turner, development director at Sumo, explains how it got involved:
When we first saw the build of the game that Trevor presented to us, I think for a lot of the guys here because we've got that racing heritage and, and the driving experience, we just fell in love with it. You could see the potential there, and what this could become. We just thought that this could be a really, really cool project that we could apply our expertise to.
Sumo coming on board has resulted in pretty sizeable changes under the hood, too. The game is no longer running in Unity, but in Sumo's own in-house game engine, and is being rebuilt at the company's Nottingham studio. That means it will run at 60FPS on all systems – including Switch. Sumo has also had a hand in thinking up new modes for the game, including a Chase HQ-style 'cops and robbers' mode. Oh, and there's going to be four-player split-screen multiplayer, too.
When Racing Apex's crowdfunding drive failed and the game faded from view, many of us feared the worst, but it seems that the end result is actually going to be better than we could possibly have imagined.