"A very daring attempt": Interview with Karting Superstars Creators Original Fire Games

Karting Superstars Maple Ridge Screenshot Logo.jpg
After their 2021 debut with Circuit Superstars, Vancouver-based studio Original Fire Games is hard at work for the top-down racer’s sequel: Karting Superstars is set to launch this September, aiming to combine the world of karting with OFG’s signature style. We had the opportunity to sit down with siblings Carolina, Alberto and Carlos Mastretta for an in-depth chat about their project.

Image credit: Original Fire Games

Circuit Superstars oozes with charm and a love for racing, which is hardly surprising considering the trio’s background of racing and video games, as our Karting Superstars interview with Studio Lead Carolina, Creator and Programmer Alberto and Designer carlos shows.

Karting Superstars is scheduled for release this September. You can already wishlist the game on Steam if you want to support its creators, and with the relese of the demo, you can get a first taste of the game, too. If you want to find out more about the upcoming Karting Superstars, you will likely find some answers in our interview below!

RaceDepartment: Your first game was praised by both arcade and sim racers. Did you expect the positive reception Circuit Superstars enjoyed?


Alberto Mastretta: What we were quite pleased with was that the goals we had for the game were the talking points that we got. The fact that it was stylized with a very inviting look but depth that made you feel the motorsport soul in it were frequent talking points, and that was the principle we were trying to pursue from the beginning.

Of course we had high hopes for the game to do well, so when it was well received, we were happy for sure. Not necessarily surprised, because we didn’t expect it to go wrong, it was just matching with what we hoped people would appreciate.


RaceDepartment: What was your original inspiration for making racing games?


Carlos Mastretta: We grew up going to a bunch of RC races, because our father used to compete in high-level RC races in the 80s and the 90s, so I started racing RC cars when I was 10. When we got our first console, an NES, the first thing I started to look for was racing games, and it was the same with the Super Nintendo, the N64, then the PC later. We played everything, from the most arcade-style games to the most serious racing games on PC, and we liked them all. We could see value and fun in every type of game.

Over time, my siblings developed an interest in game development. When we started to think about making our first game, it was very natural for us to think of a racing game. The basic ideas came together quite quickly after we started talking about the project seriously.

In terms of racing experience, we played a lot of games, and I raced karts for three years, then cars for four years, then my brother raced karts as well at a high level, so combined, we have a lot of experience in racing. That naturally, with our passion for games, forms all of our game design decisions.


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Image credit: Original Fire Games

RaceDepartment: So it was this combination that made you choose an approach that was easy to learn, but hard to master for Circuit Superstars?


Alberto Mastretta: We have always felt that simulators are very difficult. When you are in a real car, it’s a little easier, so we wanted to try and capture some of that. You get so much feedback in the car through your body, it just becomes a lot more natural to keep control. Keeping it under controle bcomes second nature and you’re thinking about the track and solving the puzzle of how to go fast more.

For the game, we tried and approached it in that way as well where controlling the car could become second nature relatively quick, but to go fast, you still have to solve the puzzle of how to put together a lap. We love simulators, but we also love Mario Kart, Wave Race, F-Zero, all kinds of arcade racing games. Mixing these worlds a little bit has been quite fun for us, and a genuine interest to pursue.


RaceDepartment: When did the idea for Karting Superstars first come up?


Carolina Mastretta: We’ve been on a bit of a journey. Karting Superstars is a very daring attempt for our company to stay afloat and keep making racing games. We have been in a position where we have been fundraising for Circuit Superstars 2 – it’s been a very difficult year for fundraising in the games industry.

Due to a variety of circumstances, it has taken us longer than anticipated to fundraise for Circuit 2, which is a game that we definitely want to make. There is a ton of things we wanted to do with Circuit 1 but didn’t get to, and that could benefit from being realized in an evolution of the game. So around the beginning of summer, we came together as a team to talk about the possible creation of a karting game.

Everything we built for Circuit Superstars has been done with what we internally call a „racing game toolkit“. With it, we have the ability to make any kind of racing game, whether it be simcade-style like Circuit and Karting Superstars, we could also make a waterbike or a hamster racing game if we wanted to (laughs). We wanted to challenge ourselves to do something as fast as we could with the resources we had available to us in terms of money to sustain our team of five.

We had been talking about the possibility of a karting game for a while because we love karting. We also wanted to explore what it would be like to race with a different camera and tune our physics to feel good with that kind of camera, so we decided to take a leap of faith and said „let’s make a karting game that leverages a lot of what we’ve built but brings a completely different experience to people who play it, taps into a different audience, potentially some Circuit players, but also new people”.

A lot of people don’t like top-down racing. Chase cam is a very different experience, and we wanted to ship the game in September to basically help us stay afloat without having to do anything else. We’ve been doing that for the past month and a half, although a lot of the things that this game is leveraging are also work that we did over the past six months that hasn’t made it to Circuit Superstars for reasons outside of our control.


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Image credit: Original Fire Games

RaceDepartment: It sounds like Karting Superstars' heritage will be impossible to overlook. What is going to set the new game apart from Circuit Superstars?


Alberto Mastretta: The approach we are taking is to transfer the world of karting into an arcade experience that you can play with a gamepad or a keyboard, so not a simulator. For example, for the starting format, the karts are running very close together and have this run to the line, which is very exciting. The perspective that we’re using also changes how you perceive the game quite a bit, the sense of speed is very different, and the interactions you have are quite distinct.

We are trying to explore how to bring strategy into it as well, because there are no pit stops in karting, so we need to think about a way for players to do something more than just drive. Those are some of the ideas we are explporing, but we haven’t shown them yet. We don’t want to promise anything yet. We are trying to implement „human DRS“, as we call it [editor’s note: putting your head down or ducking behind the steering wheel to decrease drag] and make that part of the experience, like an element of resource management.

Trying to maximize the world of karting for new game mechanics and new ways to experience racing that would have been out of scope for Circuit Superstars, these are things that we can do here. A lot of the work we have been doing for Circuit 2 is making it into Karting Superstars. We made some advancements to prototype the game and pitch it, some of that work is not in Circuit 1, but it is here. There are overall improvements and advancements to our technology.


RaceDepartment: Can you share any of these new elements already, or do players require some more patience to find out?


Alberto Mastretta: Rain could be a track option instead of dynamic, as karts don’t usually pit – well, they won’t pit at launch. It could be fun to explore pit stops in karts. We do have them in a prototype where you can pit just like you do in Circuit Superstars, and it looks very goofy (laughs). But it’s actually a lot of fun, so we may consider adding pit stops just for the fun, even if it is not matching the real world.

Adding things like rain or more cars are things that we can’t do on Circuit Superstars – there’s a limitation of what you can put on a
Switch. There are fun ideas for this type of game that we can’t just keep adding to Circuit 1 forever, so it makes sense to at some point branch off and create something fresh.


RaceDepartment: One track shown in the teaser is also present in Circuit Superstars. What is the roster of tracks going to look like in Karting Superstars?​


Carlos Mastretta: We are coming out with six tracks, and four will be based on Circuit Superstars tracks. The great thing about it is that they all turned out to be fantastic fun in the karting game with the new camera and the physics that we developed. Every time a new Gran Turismo comes out, I get a bit angry whenever they don’t carry over some of the tracks that they built in the past. They are great tracks, but they’ve stopped using them. If something’s working, it makes sense to keep using it.

In this case, we are bringing over just the tracks that we feel meet the format that makes them feel like kart tracks. From there, we will build tracks just for the game to bring it up to a nice amount of content, which will be done over time.

We want to release the game early. One of the lessons from Circuit Superstars is to test early and test often, which is what we are doing with this one. Hopefully, we get the chance to grow it as much as players want it to grow.


Alberto Mastretta: We are hoping for the game to be well-received so we can keep developing it, because we love working on it. Karting is such a passion, my brother and I watch karting races every now and then, the FIA tournaments in Europe are really fun. You get to see some names pop up and sometimes you see them in F3 a couple of years later. It’s fun to try and follow that.

The whole approach to Circuit Superstars was based on the feeling of being in a go-kart, the way they feel, the pacing, the track size and even the speeds – they are all in the scale of karting already, so it just made sense to pursue it as the most natural fit for this type of game, at least in our eyes. We would love to keep adding to it, so hopefully, its successful enough to keep us going.


RaceDepartment: Will Karting Superstars see an Early Access release first?


Carolina Mastretta: That’s what we did for Circuit Superstars. In this case, we want to do a full release at a price that makes sense for the content offering that we have and that also allows us to create a roadmap for what we can bring to the game if it hits moderate success in its first month. We are going to put out a game that we have built over the past month and a half, working as hard as we can. If people receive it well and we get funding from it, we will add more content to it.

Our reasoning behind not doing Early Access is that we have had experience with promising a roadmap of updates and not having the ability to actually fulfill these updates. We are a five-person team with a small budget, and we didn’t want to put ourselves in a position where we promise something that we can’t deliver. We really are relying on the game’s initial reception and success to be able to grow it, and we want to be sincere about that.

We have fantastic track building tools that allow us to be fast, but not as fast to have as many as we want at launch. It is the same with kart customization, people want to customize the different parts of the kart to look a bit different, so that is the kind of content we hope to be able to expand to regularly.


RaceDepartment: Circuit Superstars is not quite two years old when Karting Superstars launches in September and has the v1.6.0 update waiting in the wings. What are your plans regarding support for both titles?


Alberto Mastretta: We do have an update in the backlog for Circuit Superstars, and it also has DLC. We don’t know yet when it will be released – but we can’t wait for it to come out!

We want to keep going with Circuit Superstars, too. We have always wanted to build a game that we could create content for and make it almost like a little toy collectible. We love slot cars, and when you get your slot car track, you always want another car to add to your collection, so we think it makes sense to sell stuff that you really enjoy and want to play with. We want to provide value.


Carolina Mastretta: We also strongly believe that modding could give the original Circuit Superstars quite a long life that isn’t dependent on us. Modding brings in a community that then might come to our other games, and we want to invest into that. But it’s a matter of being able to update the game and support these kinds of systems. We hope the future brings us the freedom to do things like this, because we love Circuit Superstars.

There have been moments where the community may have interpreted our lack of updates as „okay, we are done with that game“, but that is not at all the case. It’s what brought us together as a team initially, it has such a personal story for us as the culmination of our love for video games and racing, so we absolutely adore we’ve built. But as game developers, we are also hungry to build more and different experiences.


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Image credit: Original Fire Games

RaceDepartment: What kinds of mods could you imagine to be in Circuit Superstars some day?


Alberto Mastretta: Adding the capability to have mods is not trivial, but would open a ton of possibilities. There are many layers to modding: You could start with names and textures, and then go all the way to cars and physics. We don’t know where we’ll start and stop, but there are exciting possibilities in every layer of modding.

RaceDepartment: Has anything like this made its way into Karting Superstars?


Alberto Mastretta: We are going to ship the game with the ability to mod the field. So if you want to have the F1 roster on Karting Superstars, or your friends on the grid, that is going to be possible.

RaceDepartment: Is Karting Superstars going to be available on consoles at launch as well?


Carolina Mastretta: No, it is just going to be on PC on Steam.

Alberto Mastretta: This is actually quite interesting for us, because we can basically patch the game every day if we wanted to.

Carlos Mastretta: The moment we have a new piece of content, a new track, an alteration to a game mode or a whole new game mode, we can release it whenever we want. That is fantastic for us.

Alberto Mastretta: We can be as fast as we actually are, which is very fast. Having Circuit on consoles, the last patch took about a year to come out. With Karting Superstars, if it’s a small bug, we can fix it in a day. But we’ll be responsible and not do it daily, we’ll test and make sure it’s stable (laughs). It’s going to be completely different for us, and it could feel very exciting for players to come back every week to find small improvements or perhaps a piece of content every now and then.

On consoles, there is always a bit of a backlog between submission and approval. It just takes longer. However, we would love to put Karting Superstars on consoles at some point, as it is a very console-friendly approach to racing. It’s meant for gamepads. We would even love to put it on mobile devices if possible. We don’t know if it’s good business-wise, but it’s an exciting idea to be able to take it anywhere on your phone or your iPad.


What are your impressions of Karting Superstars? Are you looking forward to the game? Let us know in the comments below!
About author
Yannik Haustein
Lifelong motorsport enthusiast and sim racing aficionado, walking racing history encyclopedia.

Sim racing editor, streamer and one half of the SimRacing Buddies podcast (warning, German!).

Heel & Toe Gang 4 life :D

Comments

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Just played the demo :) It's really cool and like they said, it's easy to get it to, but hard to master. Every lap you race, you get more confident with the grip and handling and you'll start looking for every millimeter advantage to improve your lap times.
 
This game looks nice, and I will give it a try. I would love to see that Circuit Superstars (or its successor) is getting a chasecam option as well.
 

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