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We had a lot of fun making this game, with a clear scope and framework to start from, and a lot of room for iteration both mechanically and in adding secrets and surprises.

Jan Willem Nijman

February 22, 2024

5 Min Read

It has been three years since Minit Fun Racer was released, time sure flies! 🎉

Back in November 2020, almost a year into the pandemic, Kitty Calis mentioned wanting to do a little something for charity and the idea came up of making a fundraising (fun racing, get it?) Minit spinoff. Dom & Jukio were also game, so the next couple of weeks were spent jamming out Minit Fun Racer.

If you haven’t played the game yet, it’s available on Steamitch.io and Nintendo Switch.

The Flash Game Loop

You race through the city, short on money and time. The shopkeeper gets richer as you spend your fortune trying to get ahead in the rat race, rinse and repeat. What’s at the end? Some well deserved peace.

Minit Fun Racer’s core loop has strong Flash Game roots, fitting right into the genre of short arcade games with permanent upgrades that was popular back in the day. (R.I.P. to that amazing era of freeware experimentation and creativity, it is a crime that most of these games are no longer playable.)

Radical Fishing and Ridiculous Fishing are similar games, and this whole structure was later partly co-opted when roguelikes transformed into roguelites which then transformed into any game with some sort of starting over being considered a roguelike again.

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Difficulty Ramps

What we liked a lot about this structure is that it lets players manage their own progression and difficulty. To get further in Minit Fun Racer, you want to go faster, but this also makes things more challenging.

As players buy more upgrades they take their own training wheels off, suddenly moving at breakneck speeds. What was first to be dodged, is now to be hit, and with this upgrade those trash cans suddenly give a massive turbo boost! Every bit of progress not only makes the game more exciting, it also makes the game DIFFERENT. A simple trip to the shop changes the very nature of bits of content, subverting the mental “how to play” framework players built up.

A lot of mechanics like that were iterative things we discovered while testing. It felt really good to try and hit the trash cans instead of dodging them, so we added an upgrade that speeds you up when you hit a trash can. Then it became fun to try and hit a couple in a row, so why not make that a mechanic too, give you a mega boost when you hit three in a row? 

Playtesting is so important! It showed us many ideas that made the game instantly better, deeper and more fun.

Here’s the other thing: because players buy these upgrades themselves, they are literally invested in learning how to deal with them. This is great news, because it means their learning is not forced by the game (which can be discouraging), but self-motivated. Those Flash games sure were onto something!

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Structural Ramps

Every few screens in Minit Fun Racer there’s a ramp you can jump from, collecting 3 coins in the air. One of my favorite little tricks is that we put one ramp in the game that has 8 coins instead, and every time you jump that ramp it moves further on the next run. 

By reaching this ramp again (and probably getting further than you have before), you are rewarded with more coins, but next time you’ll no longer have this early coin boost to help you along. Since money literally increases your timer it gives a really nice varied rhythm to the repeated runs, which would have otherwise felt more linear and less progressive.

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Deeper Goals

On top of dodging traffic and trying to get to the end, Minit Fun Racer has 30 little bonus goals hidden in plain sight. (Not actually hidden, it’s just a menu.)

We tried to make sure these weren’t just boring achievements that checkmarked certain milestones, but more things that guide the player towards little secrets and storylines hidden within the game.

In a way, the goals also foreshadow what the rest of the game might bring. “Crush 5 skulls” or “Deliver a pizza” are just 3 words each, but they really hint that there might be more to this game than appears at the surface.

While some of these goals can be discovered naturally, the rest are really just waiting to guide curious players in the right direction. Once players start paying attention to the pizza, they might become more mindful of other little details too, even the ones not signposted by goals, like that weird ICE COLD HOTDOGS billboard. If anything that’s the hidden message of the Minit games: slow down and smell the flowers, enjoy the little things.

Fun stat break: 57% of players completed the game, 53% delivered the pizza and 10% completed all the goals!

Even though it’s a small game, Minit Fun Racer was designed with different play styles in mind. It has a couple of different spots to get off the bus depending on whether you just want to see the sun set, set some high scores, discover all the goals, or just casually experience this cute little world. There are quite expansive difficulty settings to make things more accessible or even let you play as a horse.

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Just In Time For The Sunset

We had a lot of fun making this game, with a clear scope and framework to start from, and a lot of room for iteration both mechanically and in adding secrets and surprises. Minit Fun Racer is filled with little things most players might not notice, but when they do, it’s there waiting for them.

A big thanks to everyone who made this game possible and a shoutout to all the players who’ve helped raise money for charity by bumping their little bike into 1-bit limousines!

See you on the next newsletter,

JW

If you want entertainment and good company, you’re very welcome in the jwaaaap discord.

This blog was originally published on Substack and has been republished here with permission from the author.

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About the Author(s)

Jan Willem Nijman

Jan Willem Nijman is an independent game designer and co-founder of Vlambeer. His works include Dustbiters, Disc Room, Minit, Nuclear Throne, Ridiculous Fishing, Luftrausers, Super Crate Box, and many more.

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