PAX AUS 2022 Indie Showcase – DRiFT

PAX AUS 2022 Indie Showcase - DRiFT

The PAX AUS Indie Showcase is a chance to see some of the best new and upcoming titles from the ANZ development scene with past winners including celebrated games such as Unpacking, Hollow Knight, The Gardens Between, Hacknet, Wayward Strand and many more. The 2022 Indie Showcase is bursting at the seams, with 2021 winners invited back for the in-person experience they missed out on. Furthermore, the inclusion of Tabletop gaming means there is an even larger variety of experiences on offer on the show floor. Player2 encourages anyone visiting PAX AUS to make their way to the PAX Rising area and check out the following title as well as the many other excellent indies on display.

For most people, tabletop games don’t immediately conjure images of fast cars, hairpin turns and the smell of burning rubber. DRiFT developer James Allen isn’t most people, his love of motorsport manifesting in a design which seeks to mimic the feeling of realistic racing with a few elements of inspiration from videogames along the way. Having been selected as a PAXAUS Indie Showcase winner in 2021, James has been invited back in 2022 to showcase DRiFT in person.

Player2: Thanks for speaking to Player2 James! What helped push you from a game player to game developer? Was it a gradual process or a ‘lightning bolt’ moment?

James Allen: I think I may have always been a game developer. From a very early age, I was constantly getting in trouble for pulling apart games like Sorry, Monopoly and Clue, and putting them together in different combinations to make new ones. I even recall turning Clue into a sort of Dungeon Crawler, long before I would have known what that term meant!

P2: Where did the idea for DRiFT spring from? Had you played other racing themed boardgames and found them wanting, or simply had a mechanical idea that seemed perfect for that theme?

JA: I have a love of automotive racing that I inherited from my dad though, of course, my passions tend more towards video and tabletop games of the racing genre. My goal for DRiFT was to recreate some of the experience of a racing video game in tabletop form. Really, I set out to make the game I wanted to play. Not that there aren’t great racing tabletop games out there already, but I really think DRiFT offers a completely new take on the genre. Whereas most games are an abstraction of driving a car, DRiFT really gives players the feel of actually driving a car and learning how to realistically handle it around a track, with a few nods to video games like Nitro Boosts and Bullet Time of course.

P2: Obviously pandemic related issues made it bittersweet to have been announced an Indie Showcase 2021 winner when marketing a physical product which demos best in person. How did it feel to be told you’d be coming back for 2022?

JA: Winning the Indie Showcase for 2021 was pretty special as, traditionally, the showcase has been reserved for video games and that was the first year they opened it up to tabletop submissions. With DRiFT’s roots in the realm of racing video games, I was pretty stoked and, of course, it was a bit of a bummer that PAX had to shift to online.

But, as awful as the pandemic has been for everyone, it wasn’t without its silver linings. One thing that came out of it is that I was forced to create an online implementation of DRiFT, in the form of a mod for Tabletop Simulator, a tool that allows users to play boardgames in an online 3D environment, so that I could continue playtesting while we were all forced to isolate. This meant that I could run online demos for people at the PAX online last year which, though not quite as good as in-person demos, still meant I could present something. 

Of course, I was thrilled to be invited to participate physically this year and it’s very generous of the organizers to include myself and everyone else who won the Indie Showcase last year, alongside this year’s amazing winners too. It should be a great time and I’m really looking forward to it!

P2: What’s your elevator pitch for DRiFT?

JA: Feel the thrill of racing like never before with DRIFT, the next level in tabletop racing games for 2-4 players, featuring the exciting world of drift racing!

Unlike most other racing games, DRIFT simulates the feeling of driving a car using a completely innovative movement mechanic called the TrajecTile system.

On a player’s turn, they use a uniquely shaped set of tiles, TrajecTiles, to plot their car’s movement. The tiles represent the gears of a car. The lower the gear tile played, the shorter the tile but the further it can pivot in the previous tile. So, in first gear, although the car is not moving very far, it has the most manoeuvrability, while in 5th gear, the car is moving quite far but has the least manoeuvrability.

Special tiles allow the players to drift their car through turns, earning Edge Points they can then spend to break certain rules of the game and get even further ahead in an all-out battle to the finish line!

P2: Is it possible for players to bring their own customised car models to DRiFT, a la Gaslands?

JA: Well, certainly players will be able to physically customize their miniatures however they like, and there’s even some talk of including some stickers or decals in the game for players to do just that. As for gameplay, there’s no rules included for car customisation just yet but, if the game does well enough to warrant an expansion, and I believe it will, car customisation is at the top of my list for things I would like to include. As for what form that will take, I can’t say, but I have lots of fun ideas!

P2: Your BGG Profile details your extensive gaming history – what are some of your favourite games to play at this moment?

JA: Outside of racing games, I have pretty eclectic tastes and enjoy everything from Loopin’ Louie to Twilight Imperium. Honestly, when it comes to games, I’m just happy to be playing them and will give anything a shot.

However, if we’re talking about racing games, one of my all-time favourites is a game called Race! Formula 90. It’s this perfect little simulation of managing a Formula 1 racing team over the course of a single race that was clearly designed by a true fan of the sport and it’s absolutely brilliant! It was released back in 2013 and can be a bit hard to find but I understand there’s a new edition coming out soon so keep your eyes open!

P2: What can PAX AUS attendees look forward to seeing at the DRiFT booth?

JA: DRiFT is no stranger to PAX, having been a part of the PAX Aus Collaboratory in 2018 and being featured as part of the Collaboratorium: Reanimated event in 2019, so I’m hoping to see a lot of familiar faces. But, even for them, there’s quite a few new things to see! Chief among them will be the very first sample miniature for the game…which bears a striking resemblance to a beloved car that’s named after a certain breed of American horse. Also on display will be the latest artwork design for the TrajecTiles and a new point scoring mechanism designed to encourage players to leave even more rubber on the track than ever before!

PAX AUS Attendees can check out DRiFT in the Tabletop Indie Showcase area of the MCEC on October 7-9. Those unable to attend may want to try the Tabletop Simulator implementation of DRiFT which can be accessed by joining the official Discord.

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