It's been almost two decades since we got a new F-Zero game, which really should be a crime, or something. Still, if Nintendo isn't going to make a new F-Zero, then perhaps we should be looking elsewhere – for example, solo developer Aaron McDevitt is currently putting together an F-Zero-style racer by the name of Aero GPX, and it certainly looks like it could build on the good work seen in the franchise's N64 iteration, F-Zero X.
Keen to learn a little more about the game, we sat down with McDevitt for a quick chat.
Nintendo Life: What do you love about F-Zero?
Aaron McDevitt: Well, basically everything! If I were to choose a particular aspect that F-Zero nails, it's the pure responsiveness of the controls. F-Zero X and GX respond almost instantly to player input; even the most basic act of turning the machine feels instantaneous when the player has finesse with the analogue stick. I've tried my best to push that even further in Aero GPX; to make it feel like instead of "driving" the vehicle, you're actually "controlling" it as if it were a character. I hope that makes sense!
What inspired you to create the Aero GPX?
I was bouncing around multiple project files and I had the thought, "Hey, I'm going to try and reproduce the anti-gravity physics of the F-Zero games." I started working on it and eventually, there was a "eureka!" moment where things clicked. I began seeing potential in it; the prototype started feeling nice and technologically it was working smoothly. Of course, my love for anti-gravity racers helped get the ball rolling too.
You've noted that the game will have a focus on flight and deep mechanics - could you elaborate?
An essential part of Aero GPX’s track design are the aerial wind tunnels called “Slipstreams.” Slipstreams can be flown through in all directions and add a significant airborne element to the gameplay of Aero GPX. I wanted to add to the anti-gravity racing sandbox with my own spin, and slipstreams have been an absolute blast to design around. Pilots can also dive in and out of them to gain momentum using a new advanced mechanic called the "Drill Dive" where they commit to a downward angle and dive to build speed. That's the "deep mechanics" part of my design goals; putting in mechanics for players to learn that allow them to express themselves and push the envelope. I'm trying my absolute best to make the game fun for players of all skill levels, but I want to build in special mechanics to reward players that want to optimize and push the game to its limits as well.
What aspect of the game are you most proud of?
So far I'm most proud of the shader that I wrote for the machines. It's honestly just an application of a couple of simple mathematical and modelling techniques that have been around for decades. I found a pretty unique way of presenting them that gives Aero GPX's machines a pretty unique aesthetic. I worked on that shader for basically an entire month making sure it represented that elusive picture in my mind of how I wanted the machines to look!
Is anyone else involved with Aero GPX's development?
Not yet! So far it has just been myself.
You've also said that your intention is to flesh out the game so it's not so close to F-Zero. How do you propose to do this?
Most of this will come about once I start working on the final tracks of the game in the design phase. I'm using both a health and boost resource for Aero GPX; where in F-Zero that all happens under one resource. I keep the risk-reward component by having separate refill zones that are always parallel, forcing the player to choose between refilling health or boost. I also have a ton of track design mechanics and techniques planned out that will definitely make Aero GPX feel like its own thing; especially when you mix in Slipstreams and a few other significant twists on the anti-gravity racing sandbox that I have planned!
What's the timeline for release? Do you think there's any chance this could eventually find its way to Switch?
I don't really have a timeline yet. I've got basically all of the development tools and back-end of the game done now. From here on out it's mostly track design, art, and content work. That could either take longer or be shorter than the progress up until this point; it's the first game that I've made. However, I'm working on it every day and I definitely am going to release Aero GPX eventually. I would also love for Aero GPX to exist on consoles one day starting with the Switch!