In 2011 a group of students at the DigiPen Institute of Technology released an experimental racing game called Nitronic Rush, which went on to win a number of awards. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the team at Refract Studios — made up of a number of students from the original project — are now hard at work on the spiritual successor, Distance. It will feature many of the same elements that made Nitronic Rush so popular, including fast paced arcade-style racing and a neon-lit sci-fi world to explore. But it also includes a much darker tone and vehicles that are more grounded in reality, despite their futuristic appearances. “We wanted the vehicles in Distance to seem quite a bit more realistic, like something you could almost imagine on a real road,” says Refract's Jordan Hemenway. “So there’s a lot more detail being put into each area of the vehicle.”

The fact that the team has already made a game in the genre means that they’ve learned some of the dos and don’ts when it comes to designing these vehicles. Hemenway says that the biggest thing Nitronic Rush taught them was the importance of balancing the size and speed of the cars with the world around them. “It basically looked like a Hot Wheels car moving through a huge world at insane speeds and you could barely keep track of it,” he says of watching zoomed-out replays in the first game. To fix this, the world and the vehicles are being designed to complement one another, so that they feel like they’re part of the same universe. “We want the vehicles to look like they were designed by similar architects behind the world design, so going forward that synchronization between the two is something we’re really aiming to nail.”