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The Slacker's Guide - VDrift: Open Source Racing on the Mac

by Chris Barylick
July 25th, 2006

I mentioned it last week and it continues to hold true: I've never cared that much about NASCAR. Not that the fans themselves were anything else than friendly or honest, but their heroes turn left all day long and I'm not sure where idolization comes into play.

Still, that doesn't mean a good racing game for the Mac should be overlooked.

VDrift is an open source drift racing game currently in development, and recently released as a Mac OS X build in addition to Windows and Linux. On par and as fun as any racing title out there, the game allows players to drive 19 different cars on a dozen tracks both in practice mode and head to head over the Internet and local networks.

Not the most original idea in the world, but the game pulls itself off well. The development team has done its homework and included great graphics, outstanding sounds and realistic physics that actually begin to rival marquee efforts for the console. Here, realism is the key factor. Nothing is completely automated (a la the standard arcade "pick-up-and-go" style) and the learning curve, while a little steep, actually adds to the enjoyment of the game.

With realistic gameplay comes a fairly realistic effort that has to go into each session. The cars themselves are typically European builds, each possessing unique strengths and weaknesses. Without automatic transmissions, the player must listen to the engine and climb the ladder via the keyboard, downshifting for sharp corners to avoid going off the road and following a realistic set of physics to play by. Nice touches like a fuel gauge, a limited supply of gas and gas stations to use for refills during long races help round the title out.

Drift it like..Lucas Black?

It's this challenge and realism that makes the game as fun as 4x4 Evo used to be. Drift racing itself (the mysteries of which can only be explained by a single, solitary astoundingly stupid movie), remains difficult, as it should be. The trick is almost impossible to pull off in real life and there's no simple means of execution in the game. To the winner go the spoils and there's a certain intrinsic joy in finally mastering this, especially after dozens of failed attempts that have you flinging the car off the road and into gravelly patches.

Although the current Mac version of the game still feels under development and a way off from finalized (clicking the icon in the Dock launches a Terminal-like interface that loads the rest of the graphical user interface - it still feels like the coders are hacking away at it prior to it becoming an elegant thing), there are some nice features. Keys can be easily mapped and a practice mode allows players to take a test run before either joining a server or creating their own. Each car has its own distinctive feel and this is one of the best open source efforts I've seen in a while with the lion's share of the more challenging code out of the way. Include a more elegant interface and finish up the Career Mode code and you've got yourself a great game.

Tach and Speed controls

Either way, VDrift is off to a great start and I'd like to see where this goes. The game currently requires Mac OS X 10.3.x or later to run (the Mac OS X 10.3 crowd will have to download and install the OpenAL libraries. The minimal version of the game weighs in at a 31 megabyte download via the mighty, while the full version stands at a 155 megabyte download. Full information and comments can be found at and the game, like almost all open source efforts, is completely free to everyone who wishes to play or contribute to the project.

That wraps it up for this week. As always, if you see anything new, cool or useful in the Mac universe,


Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.

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