Retroware Sit-Downs: Buck Up And Drive, A Car Game with a Fighting Mode!?

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By Chris Penwell on July 15th, 2021

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Buck Up And Drive is bringing back the cool vibes of Outrun and other drifting games of its era, but in a total flip, the developer of the game Fábio Fontes is delivering an optional fighting game mode. The concept looks super neat, and many others agree as a clip of the game has reached over 20,000 likes on Twitter, so we wanted to talk to Fontes to find out more about Buck Up And Drive.

RetroWare: Hello Fábio, thanks for doing this interview. What is your preferred pronoun and role on the project? Is this a solo effort? Also, what is your development history before Buck Up And Drive?

Fábio Fontes: Pronouns are he/him, and this being a solo project I’m pretty much “The guy doing it”. I’ve been a freelance illustrator for a little over a decade, mostly for tabletop games, and I’m now having a crack at game dev!

RW: Can you give us your elevator pitch on Buck Up And Drive?

FF: [It’s an] endless driving game where you can grind on guard rails and see PINK. BACK-FLIPPING. TRUCKS. ON THE FUCKING MOON! [It’s] also fight[ing] game.

RW: This game is an endless driving game like the games of old? Which games have influenced the development of Buck Up And Drive and do you have any fond memories attached to them?

FF: So, about a year ago I saw a series of YouTube videos on the history of Super Scaler games and went “I think I could do one of those”, using the classic OutRun as the starting point. So it wasn’t any specific games that got the ball rolling, as much as a graphical technique… which I’m kind of undermining by using actual 3D, but the inspiration’s still there!

From there I just started tackling whatever random element I thought would look cool, from Mario Kart‘s drift boosts, to Burnout‘s aggressive feel, and a visual style inspired by the recent Guilty Gear entries. If it’s not obvious enough by now, this is a mish-mash of random elements that somehow hasn’t caused my zip code to blow up yet.

RW: Another game of this genre of racing titles, Outrun, has amazing synthwave music. What style of music will be in Buck Up And Drive?

FF: At release, you can expect some rock, and through updates, I may branch off a bit more. Bit more time to experiment, and whatnot.

RW: How is the game procedurally generated? Will every run play differently?

FF: The core gameplay itself is pretty much an obstacle course that gets more intense as you progress. You have randomly placed traffic that becomes gradually harder to maneuver through, rivals can step in to challenge you every once in a while, and police that come in to try and halt your progress. To keep runs visually diverse, the scenery will change after each checkpoint, with a potentially weirder landscape the further you progress.

RW: What environments will we be peddling to the metal in?

FF: At release, you’ll already have a fair selection of places from the African savanna, to the beach, the moon, the depths of Hell, the obligatory vaporwave realm, etc. Much like cars, since environments are merely a visual change I can go hog wild with them and easily expand their number through updates.

RW: Buck Up And Drive from what it seems is coming to itch.io first. Do you think it’s a viable platform for indie developers to make a living?

FF: It’s at the very least a great place to start off. Make a page, upload a ZIP, and that’s that. It’s also possible to later distribute Steam keys to those that buy your game on Itch, giving people little reason to wait for a proper Steam release.

RW: I think with Buck Up And Drive, you’ve done a first in gaming, which is hard to pull off: a mode that has a 1v1 fighting game with cars. How nuanced are the move sets for these cars? How does it work?

FF: It’s… weird. In some aspects, it’s a lot like a traditional fighting game, with your footsies (wheelsies?) and whatnot, but [the] most ways to damage the opponent [is by utilizing] the drift-boost mechanic from the driving mode. I literally came up with this while in the shower, and it’s mostly meant as a goof, but people are hyped so let them have it!

The game overall only uses 8 directions and one action button, so don’t expect a kilometric command list. Also, since I intend to add a bunch of cars over time, it’s wiser that I treat them as skins, so they’ll all have the same move set at release. Of the two currently available modes, this is the one with more room for mechanical expansion, but for now, it’ll do as something to get a laugh out of. If I get that much outta people, it’s already a win in my eyes.

RW: Do you have any other modes planned for Buck Up And Drive in the future like a visual novel, a turn-based strategy RPG, or a platformer?

FF: I do, though details will have to wait. Wanna flesh out what’s already there a bit more, ya know.

RW: You’ve outlined there will be a Steam release. Could we see Buck Up And Drive on the Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X, or PS5?

FF: Anything other than PC is on a “we’ll see” status. Not gonna make any promises, but it’s possible.

RW: In Buck Up And Drive, there is a lot of customization. Can you detail what you can do with your car to make it your own?

FF: Customization comes in the form of car skins you unlock by beating rivals in runs, a bunch of base colors, and a decal system that’s kinda crude but surprisingly flexible. Instead of an in-game editor, you’re instead handed plain PNG textures that you can edit in whatever program you feel like. Wanna cover your car with pictures of your dog? Sure, go nuts!

RW: Will there be any kind of leaderboards in the game?

FF: Afraid not. Saves your personal best and that’s about it. Show it off on the tweet machine!

RW: In your Q&A, you say you don’t need a publisher. Is there a reason why you want to avoid that?

FF: Mostly creative freedom, along with a preference to hold myself accountable to those that actually wanna play my stuff, rather than having a suit in-between. I get that they can be convenient for some things, but it’s not for me.

RW: What are your favorite games and how have they influenced your design, if at all?

FF: Oof, I like too many for different reasons to be able to pinpoint just a few as favorites. From classic side-scrollers like Sonic and Megaman to RPGs like The Elder Scrolls, Chrono Trigger, and the Zelda series (yes, I see Zelda as RPGs, deal with it)… and in recent years I’ve finally been getting into boomer shooters. Blame Doom (2016) for that one. I used to like fighting games a fair bit like Street Fighter and Guilty Gear but got a bit tired of how gate-keepy that genre can be. [It’s] ironic, since I’m working on two games with a 1v1 mode.

RW: At the same time, you’re developing the action platformer Dunkehr. Is it tough to work on two projects at the same time?

FF: Not gonna lie, it’s tricky at times to juggle between them, especially while you also work as a freelance illustrator. Development on Dunkehr has slowed down a bit so I can get Buck Up And Drive out, and from there it’s mostly back to Dunkehr, with the occasional update to Buck Up And Drive.

RW: What would be your advice to fellow indie developers out there?

FF: Don’t be afraid to experiment. That idea you’ve been having bouncing inside your skull that you’ve been too afraid to do because it might not work? There’s only one way to find out!

RW: Is there anything I missed?

FF: Buck Up And Drive’s coming out this August on Itch.io, so y’all got that to look forward to!

The British “Canadian” Chris Penwell has been a video game journalist since 2013 and now has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from MacEwan University. He loves to play JRPGs and games with a narrative. You can check out his podcasts Active Quest every Tuesday and Go Beyond: A My Hero Academia Podcast on Wednesdays.

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