Updated: Jul 18
Shenmue, released in 1999 on DC, marked a generation of gamers, those who experienced the era of the Dreamcast and the fall of SEGA. It was a game ahead of its time offering a controller-in-hand life experience.
Speaking of Shenmue, we should no longer speak of a game but a true piece of videogame art. Who knows, maybe Yu Suzuki's project has inspired players to work in the industry and to make it their profession. Does, Lemon Haze (quoted in italics from this article), one of the founding members of the passionate collective Team Wulinshu was one of them?
«We started working on the project in April 2023 and since then the team has grown to around 6 people today. Initially, the team consisted of two people who were responsible for prototyping the game, then it expanded with the addition of localization support, testers, etc.»
For some months now, the independent developers of the Team Wulinshu were preparing a racing game inspired by Shenmue, a so-called Forklift Racer. This game is nothing less than a brilliant tribute to the work that young Ryo Hazuki, the player-controlled hero in Shenmue 1, has to do every day aboard his forklift.
«This project was developed over a year ago, but it only started in April 2023. It is initially an idea to create a mini-game interesting and fun that could work as an arcade machine, be it today or even 30 years ago, even in a video game.»
Over the years, Shenmue has built up a solid reputation, despite a resounding commercial failure when it was first launched. Ryo at the wheel of his clark has become so emblematic of the Saga that, in 2010, he appeared as a full-fledged driver in Sonic and Sega All- Stars Racing Stars.
The first trailers for Forklift Racer showed forklift races in familiar, faithfully reproduced locations such as the port of Yokosuka. This time there were no NPCs blocking Ryo's path, as the roads were closed to the public! Who doesn't remember the non-player characters who were always in the wrong place, in the middle of the road, bringing crates from point A to point B in the port of Amihama?
«As we were already considering forklifts, we started thinking about concepts and the choice quickly fell on an arcade racing game. From there, we developed the idea and realized we could make it a standalone game, which players could play ahead of time.»
Forklift Racer offers a relatively complete racing experience with single player and online multiplayer modes for up to 8 players, modernized and improved physics compared to that of the original work, replays, customization of forklifts, bonuses or penalties (acceleration boost, speed bump and mines) to be picked up in toy capsules along the tracks and carefully modeled warehouse interiors.
«Forklift Racer is a multiplayer arcade racing game in which players can compete against opponents AI online or offline in races, or Work Races, where they must stack as many crates as possible, one-on-one with online opponents.»
If you want to relive or experience the forklift racing experience that Shenmue on Dreamcast offered in 1999 but this time with friends and less punishing collisions , Forklift Racer is the game for you, it's quite funny. You can download and buy it at his steam page for $0, the game is free. It is available for Windows, Linux/SteamOS.
The game is currently in Early Access. More content and features are planned. The creators of Forklift Racer will use this opportunity to develop the game with the community. Some issues are still being resolved. More updates to come soon!
You can share your feedback on the Team Wulinshu Discord (Feedback section).
Now what are they working on? A real remake of Shenmue 1 and 2, Shenmue: Dragon & Phoenix Collection?
The artificial intelligence of Forklift Racer
A common approach in racing games, especially older ones, is to use a "racing line" so that AI drivers always stay on the track. While this is a good approach, it can often feel stiff and lacking in any dynamic movement, as the AI generally tries to stay as close to the running line as possible. There are plenty of implementations that don't suffer from this problem, but most of them usually try to account for it by using multiple racing lines at once and switching drivers between them. , calling them lanes, or mixing the trajectory-finding algorithms and blending together where necessary.
In the first two screenshots above, we can see the colors green and red on the ground mesh. Green areas indicate areas the AI is able to navigate, while red areas represent areas it should try to avoid. Areas of these screenshots that have no color are completely inaccessible to AI.
«We approached the question a little differently. This approach allows us to have the engine generate areas through which we would prefer the AI to navigate, but without getting confused. stop completely, which is called a "navigation mesh".»
Instead of asking the AI to follow a racing line, independent developers at Team Wulinshu used waypoints that the AI must try to reach to go around the track (seen as red domes in screenshots). This allows the AI to dynamically find paths to relevant parts of the track, without being constrained to follow a racing line.