- Initiating Telemetry Link...
Experimental Vehicle Testbed...
Desert Test Facility...
Data Acquisition Confirmed...
XCar: Experimental Racing is a semi-simulation Racing Game developed by Bad Dog and released by Bethesda Softworks in 1997. It is described by its developers as a racing game that features close-wheel, closed-cockpit Super Prototype racecars, as well as its own blend of motor-racing rules. Central to the game is its heavy emphasis on Design-It-Yourself Equipment—the performance of the car you use to race can be adjusted in many ways, ranging from engine to aerodynamics. There is no progression system—you can switch between all the available cars in the game and modify them as you wish. The only thing that matters is how your car performs on the track.
XCar: Experimental Racing features examples of these tropes:
- All There in the Manual: The game's manual was touted as a feature of the game, providing supplementary information on the tracks, as well as an entire section on actual racing techniques.
- Anti-Frustration Features: XCar has a handful of these. Besides being able to set the game's realism to "Action", there is a setting, as well as a keypress, to point your car in the correct direction of the track if you come to a complete stop after spinning out. Wet weather races, which reduce speeds and make cars more prone to skidding out, can also be disabled with a toggle.
- Author Avatar:
- A few of the drivers' names are references to members of the development team, such as B.Rydalch (Bart Rydalch, a 3D modeller and level/scenario designer), G.Craver (Guy Carver, a programmer), K.Reigns (Kelly Rains, a 3D modeller), and D.Chris (Chris Doll, a playtester).
- The game manual shows B.Erickson (Brent Erickson, the producer) being entered as the name for the Monroe.
- Competitive Balance: While all of the cars have their own quirks and traits, their default setup gives them similar levels of performance and competitiveness during a race. Part of the game in XCar revolves around modifying the car you choose so that it fits your own driving style while having the edge over other cars.
- Cool Car: Each of the cars are essentially cool-looking Super Prototypes right from the get-go, but this trope gets exaggerated when the game's realism mode is set to "Action", which disables fuel consumption and tire wear, as well as making all cars immune to being disabled by collisions.
- Covers Always Lie: Subverted; the silver-blue racecar depicted on the cover does not appear in final releases of the game. However, it does appear in some preview versions of the game, and the Yokohama gets a racecar-ish shape in the final release of the game.
- Design-It-Yourself Equipment: You can modify almost every aspect of a car, such as its engine, gear ratios, tire pressure, fuel, aerodynamics, and even its paintjob. In fact, the only things you cannot alter are the car's in-game name and shape.
- Diegetic Interface: In addition to the HUD, playing the game from cockpit view lets you see the in-car speedometer and tachometer update in real-time.
- Discard and Draw: A meta-example in the form of the software and 3dfx versions of the game. The software version allows resolution scaling and editing of the cars' paintjobs, while the 3dfx version disables these features in exchange for the cars being rendered in full 3D with realistic lighting. For comparison, here are screenshots of the Motor Trend in software and 3dfx rendering.
- Fauxrrari: Most of the cars borrow design elements from real-world cars, but often with some elements moved around or resized to make them difficult to identify. For example, the Mac Tools is a Bugatti EB110 with its headlamps moved forwards.
- Hello, [Insert Name Here]: The game will prompt you for a name once you choose a car, although it automatically inputs the default driver's name for that car.
- Heads-Up Display: The main HUD element is a little green meter to the left of the screen (by default), which shows the speed of your car and can be toggled to display supplementary information, such as your grid position, lap time, or telemetry readouts. Additional HUD elements include a yellow arrow that indicates the direction and curvature of the next turn or pit lane entry, as well as a resizeable track layout display that shows the position of every car in the race. All HUD elements can also be switched off if you find them too distracting or want a Self-Imposed Challenge.
- Nintendo Hard:
- Even at the lowest difficulty setting, the AI can and will speed past you when they get the slightest chance to do so, especially if steer and brake assists are set to auto. With the difficulty slider set to 100%, the AI will take corners at speeds that are borderline impossible to do with any default car setup, making it akin to a Perfect Play A.I..
- Setting the game's realism mode to "Realistic" enables the full physics model in all its ball-busting glory. Weather and wind conditions will affect how your car steers, full steering lock will cause your car to spin, even at low speeds, fuel consumption becomes a factor to consider when deciding what sort of engine and fuel you want to use, and you can take enough damage from collisions to retire from races.
- Product Placement:
- With the exception of the titular XCar, the remaining cars are named after the company that is featured prominently in their default paint scheme. Most of these companies are involved in the automobile business in some way.
- Many of the racetracks are Truth in Television, such as Mid-Ohio, Grattan Raceway, Lime Rock Park, Putnam Park, and Thunderhill Park.
- Shows Damage: Regardless of the damage setting, collisions will always cause particle spew (in the form of little jagged plates showing the car's featured sponsor) as well as model deformation, with the latter being more drastic if the collision is car-to-car. Disabled cars also emit smoke from their bonnet.
- Spell My Name with an S: The game is sometimes known as X Car and X-Car.
- Subsystem Damage: If the game's realism mode is set to "Realistic" and the damage setting is set to either "Realistic" or "Minimize", sufficient collisions will disable the car, resulting in an early retirement if the car is unable to make it back to the pits. If tire wear is enabled, your car's tires will also lose traction over time.
- Super Prototype: The cars in the game are known as "sports prototypes", drawing huge inspiration from the Truth in Television principles of concept vehicles and demonstrator units. This ties in with the game's heavy emphasis on Design-It-Yourself Equipment, as each car's internal systems can be modified to essentially unlimited configurations.
- Timed Mission:
- If your car is disabled, you can still resume the race if you are able to make it back to your pit stop using whatever speed your car has left. This can be harder than it sounds depending on which part of the track you are at and since your car will eventually bleed off all the speed it has and come to a complete stop, resulting in a retirement if you cannot reach the pit stop.
- If you get black-flagged for speeding in the pit lane, speeding while the course is under a yellow flag, or overtaking another racer while the course is under a yellow flag, you must pit within 5 laps, otherwise you will be disqualified.
- V8 Engine Noises: When you consider that some preview versions of the game have different sounds for each engine, it is funny that, in the final release of the game, every engine, except the V12, has the exact same engine sound.
- Wide-Open Sandbox: In a different vein from other, more popular, sandbox games of the time, such as Carmageddon and Grand Theft Auto, which feature open world design, XCar's sandbox comes from its gameplay. There is nothing to buy or unlock—every single car and track is available right at the start for you to tinker with and race on respectively.
- Voice with an Internet Connection: Your pit technician, who alerts you to any cars coming up behind you during a race, informs you of your race position whenever you complete a lap, and warns you to slow down if there is a yellow flag.
- "X" Makes Anything Cool: The title, which may be justified since "ExCar" could be interpreted as something else.