NOTE: It's not yet a game — just a graphical demo!


Version: 0.15
Size: 297 KB
Created: Aug 13, 2005

Required: 1GHz+ PC Win98/2K/XP (or Wine)


Or as a screensaver:

The demo consists of a single executable with no installation required. You just run it. And it probably won't kill your computer. It will start fullscreen in 'auto' mode, which means it will just drive itself around and around. If you want to tinker a bit press F1 to see available key controls.


DISCLAIMER: I do not warrant that this piece of software will bring you happiness or peace of mind, or even run on your computer.

known issues

  • Doesn't play well with multiple monitors
  • For a very small number of people the car may tend to veer off in a tight circle... still trying to work out what the problem is with that.
  • If you run it and nothing happens, or you get a "Drivey013.exe is not a valid Win32 application", it's possible your download was not complete. Version 0.13 should be exactly 333,230 bytes in size, and 0.15 should be 304,885 bytes.

earlier versions

For posterity?

0.13*, 0.12, 0.11, 0.10, 0.02

* requires DirectX9 for sound, and is less graphically nice than the new one.


Drivey is an NPR [Non Photo Realistic] driving simulator, which exists mostly in my mind right now. In a nutshell, it is [to be] an attempt to re-capture the essence of old-time video games in the context of fast, ubiquitous computers.

It is very much a personal pet project. Whether or not it will ever develop beyond some basic tests and demos is unsure...

Drivey is not supposed to be "better than" other driving simulators — Just different and hopefully interesting and/or fun.

It was conceived as a driving simulator for old farts like myself, who are kind of nostalgic for the "old days" [ca. 1985] but are not so thick as to believe that the games from the 80s were actually in any way superior to the games we play today. They weren't. Their greatness was all in our imagination. Try playing them now and if you're anything like me you'll be surprised and mildly disappointed that what once seemed so amazing can now appear so boring and ordinary. And I'm talking about gameplay as well as graphics and sound here.

That is not to say that I think modern games are so great. In fact I consider most of them overly complicated, expensive and demanding. So what Drivey is supposed to help me explore is that zen point between realistic and symbolic representation, some concept which might engage your brain in the same way that perhaps a graphic novel might, giving the reader only the visual essence of a world, and letting imagination do the rest, leading [hopefully] to a more engaging experience.

There is also a much more pragmatic reason for exploring such a style: Photorealistic driving sims require LARGE TEAMS OF SKILLED PEOPLE AND LOTS OF MONEY to develop. These are things I don't have, and so it would be really stupid of me to undertake such a project on my own [unless it was to become my sole pursuit, at the expense of everything else].

prior art

At this point you may be thinking, "hey yeah, these images remind me of cool simple driving games from 20 years ago. They were great!"... Well, those games you're thinking of were Night Driver and Speed Freak, and here's what they looked like...

Night Driver

© 1976 Atari

In my mind I remember this game as being mind blowingly cool, because it was the first game I ever saw that gave the impression of depth, with white blobs coming toward you at a smooth frame rate.

It really seemed amazingly realistic to me! But that was then... Now it looks and plays like rubbish. Although the frame rate is great, the blobs are all jumpy and going around corners feel utterly fake.

I guess Drivey is kind of about creating something that matches the distorted and unrealistic memory I have of Night Driver.

Speed Freak

© 1979 Vectorbeam

Apart from the strangely touchy steering, this one holds up remarkably well!

The outline of the road is actually projected correctly [unlike Night Driver's bodgy post placement] with the only dodginess being that as the edge of the road exits at the bottom of the screen it gets a little jumpy [ this is due to a half-assed clipping algorithm, similar to that used on early PS1 racing games where the track seemed to bunch up as you drive over it ]

Speed Freak was one of the first vector graphics game, and back then vector graphics were the only way to achieve decent 3D. Vector graphics reached their pinnacle some years later with the release of the the original Star Wars arcade machine.


© 1981 IBM

Even though probably no one much ever played this primitive bit of DOS/BASIC demo software [purportedly the last piece of professional software ever written by Bill Gates!], in my mind it does have at least one thing going for it: it uses a very simplistic interface for "steering" the car, in that all you have to do is choose when to switch lanes. IMHO this is actually a very good idea...


Screen shots are taken at various stages of development, which means that what you see here may differ from what you see when you run the demo.

This is a screen shot from new demo 0.13— There's a sky gradient, and ermmmmm not much else I guess.

Cars are lights instead of bodies— I think there's a lot of potential for this— and the dashboard is no longer neon. Dig the lo-tech headlight reflections a la Driver.

Blobby clouds with chilly colors. Perhaps the fakeness of the new [optional] dashboard can make up for the growing "realism" of the landscape.

Brown, with lights... and cables and extended overpass-y bits.

Tinted monochrome... fast and kinda neat looking.

All this junk looks great when it's moving, although I need to get the frame rate back up.

Shot from the Graphic Test version with added signage.

A kind of poster style graphics, sort of toon-like but trying to lean more towards a screen-printed look.

Whilst pretty cute, this style is getting away from my original idea somewhat, and approaching something closer to what mainstream developers are currently playing with. ie use a standard 3D engine but with special lighting/shaders to produce 2D styles. At this time I don't want to use a 3D engine, because I am a stubborn bugger, and am kind of sick of triangle meshes, texture mapping etc.

Well, ok, 3D rendering is great, but it's just nice to experiment with alternative techniques sometimes, and if you assume that everything must be representable as 3d meshes then you are locking yourself into certain ways-of-doing-things right there.

This shot is probably the closest I want to get to realism. Perhaps it is too real already, what with the pylons and light poles. Always adding more realism is a trap that is hard to avoid in graphics programming.

There are no triangulated polygons here, everything on screen is drawn using 2D bezier paths, just like TrueType fonts. Like a tight-rope walker without a net, Drivey is re-exploring graphics without texture mapping or a Z-Buffer...

Same as above, different colors.

Interesting thing here is the big black blob in the top left, which is the bottom end of a light pole. Why is it floating in the air? Because extruded objects can't currently be drawn correctly unless one end is visible to the observer. The reason for this is remarkably interesting, specific to the weird 2-and-a-half-D rendering system, and pretty much impossible to explain to anyone without a strong background in both 2D and 3D graphics.


oh well, I find it interesting anyway.

Cityscape... you get the idea. Silhouettes for all non-essential scenery, creating a distinctive visual style as well as saving me the trouble of creating textures and geometry for a city. This way each building is just an extrude rectoangle or circle [heights vary], and they even physically overlap is some cases, but that doesn't matter because they're all just black.

Too complex this one, with both cityscape and overpass in view. Even on my 2.8GHz machine, the frame rate drops with this much detail [24 FPS]. After all, it is 1280x1024 and the rendering is software only.

How real should the colors be? Since realism is not the goal, then perhaps bright primaries could be used. But the red in this shot doesn't look so great to me...

This shot looks annoyingly nice to me, very moody, very noir. Unfortunately lighting effects are not part of the plan, and complicate the graphics engine to the point that it makes more sense to just use a stylized 3D engine. I may go down that path or I may not, but at this point I don't want to commit.

This is supposed to be a tunnel. Does it look like a tunnel? I don't know. It's quite pleasing for the sense of motion it gives anyhow. Notice that the lights are a bit chunky, unlike the flat ones pictured in other shots.

Before there were CARs, there were pucks.

Tunnel with fish-eye lens, very neat. No extrusion on the overhead lights on this one.

Reflections, just to try out different styles. This one is like driving on a surreal glass coffee table.

The signs are actually a single character from a road sign TrueType font. I was very excited about them but they are quite hard to read as you whiz by.

Is it only sad old gits who say Hello World these days? I hope not...

Yeah! Classic Night Driver style. This is what I had in my head when I started on Drivey... of course then the whole thing starts mutating and God knows where it'll end up.

Ouch, my eyeballs! Testing road markings at different heights, as well as mockup signs

Clean and simple, except for the ginormous yellow sign hovering ominously above the road.

source code

You can download the source + the interpreter to run it as a zip file.


Q: Why don't you finish the damn thing? Or have you abandoned it?

A: It's just not that simple. Drivey is more an idea than reality right now, and sometimes when you make an idea reality you kill it, because it doesn't come out like you imagined. Even though I've spent less time coding on Drivey than just about any project I've ever worked on, I've spent more time thinking about it— it's still my pet project.


Q: Why is there no collision detection?

A: There is but it's off by default and is pretty damn awful. If you manage to switch it on and find yourself on the wrong side of the fence [only happens if you are going very very fast] just press <home> to return to the track.


Q: What plans for future versions?

A: There are no fixed plans— To date Drivey has evolved through tinkering and experimentation, and this pattern will likely continue...


Q: Isn't it tilting the wrong way around corners?

A: Nope :) But many people believe it is, so there's an illusion which is worth investigating further... (the car tilts out on the corner, just like it is on gushy suspension)


You can contact me using this form.

the author

Mark Pursey is a programmer [among other things] with a history of dabbling in computer graphics and never finishing anything.

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