Mario Kart 8's antigravity tracks — sections of the race where players hover over the track with the help of magnets — are more than just eye candy, according to the game's director Kosuke Yabuki and producer Hideki Kono. They're designed to be used strategically to boost a player's standing or to throw an opponent off the course.
Speaking during a roundtable discussion about the latest installment in the Mario Kart racing series for Wii U, which will launch on May 30, Kono said the developers' main priority was creating interesting courses that encourage new and different ways of playing. When players enter antigravity sections, the wheels on their kart will turn up and to the sides, and they will race up walls, upside down and go through waterfalls without ever touching the ground. Some courses will force players onto the antigravity sections for parts of the race, while others will give players the option to choose which path they want to take.
"...we may see some new strategies come out of this..."
"One of the things you'll see with the later courses is antigravity being given to the player as an option, so you'll be driving on the course, and now the course branches off and you can either continue driving on the ground, or maybe go into the antigravity area to avoid an enemy or pick up an extra block," Kono said. "You might decide you want to take a different route that has a boost that allows you to take off and use your glider. So with the addition of the antigravity feature, we've been able to add more variety to the course design, and it fundamentally changes the player's strategy."
When players collide with each other while in an antigravity zone, instead of spinning out and slowing down, they will receive a speed boost. Yabuki anticipates that many players will use this feature strategically. Where players were previously cautious about hitting each other, now they might actively seek to collide.
Yabuki believes players will find ways to use collisions to their advantage.
"One thing that's always happened in previous Mario Karts is if you're racing a light character and you bump into a big character like Bowser, you were at a disadvantage," Yabuki said. "However, with the antigravity section, and again the ability to give a speed boost from actually running into someone, even the lighter characters are able to strategize around using the antigravity sections to either keep the playing field even or to give them an advantage. So it does alter the strategy."
Yabuki said looking back on earlier Mario Kart titles, colliding with other characters was never something that players wanted to do because the risks always outweighed the benefits. Even characters like Bowser lost some speed after collisions, so players generally tried to avoid each other. With the antigravity sections of Mario Kart 8, Yabuki believes players will find ways to use collisions to their advantage. For example, a group of players trailing behind may decide to all drive into each other repeatedly to give them all speed boosts so they can catch up to and overtake the person in first place. Or perhaps they might choose to collide with someone who is going around a hairpin turn so they can force that person to speed boost off the side of a cliff.
"The speed boost you get from colliding with a character while you're in the antigravity portion of this course alters the paradigm [of risk outweighing benefit], Yabuki said. "So we may see some new strategies come out of this — some that maybe even we're not aware of."