The Origin of Turbo Sliders Unlimited

By Antti Mannisto, the main developer, in March 2022 before the Early Access

Early influences

Multiplayer racing has always had a special place in my heart. I enjoyed many early racing games, but especially notable for their multiplayer capabilities were games like Pitstop II and Super Offroad, and later Super Cars II.

However, the most influential game was a Finnish shareware top-down racing game Slicks ‘n’ Slide by Timo Kauppinen. It allowed four players to play together sharing the same keyboard, resulting in hectic races between friends sitting next to each other - and often arguing about whose finger it was that pressed the brake…

Pitstop II

Super Cars II

Super Off Road

Slicks 'n' Slide

The original Turbo Sliders

Years later, I wanted to relive my old top-down multiplayer experiences. I tried to find an online multiplayer game that would be like Slick ‘n’ Slide but couldn’t find any. I had graduated with a degree in computer science and had always had game making as a hobby ever since I got my first computer. So, what else could I have done than to start making that game myself?

As a result, Turbo Sliders 1.00 was released in 2004 with the help of Jani Penttinen and and his Jollygood Games. The original design principle was simply to replicate the vehicle physics of Slick ‘n’ Slide but with 20 player online multiplayer. But, the game also allowed players to make all kinds of modifications to it. Thanks to that, there were various player-created mods, including car soccer called Punaball (before Rocket league), car sumo (X-Bumpz), speedway and even a tank battle. Players also created lots of new cars and tracks and had F1 leagues and other community driven events.

Turbo Sliders never became huge but it still has devoted fans from all around the world. They still play it and regularly ask for updates. I kept making new updates to the game, the latest in 2016. But every time it became more tedious since even though the code itself was robust, it got older every year. As any programmer can tell, living with tech and design decisions made well over 10 years ago usually isn’t that much fun anymore.

Battle mod

My game industry career

While making Turbo Sliders as a hobby project, I also started to work in the games industry “for real”. I first worked at RedLynx for Nokia N-Gage projects like Pathway to Glory and its sequel Ikusa Islands. Then, I switched to Remedy Entertainment where I implemented the AI system for Alan Wake and its live arcade sequel American Nightmare, also taking part in Quantum Break pre-production. Then, I moved back to RedLynx, which by then had become a Ubisoft studio, working in various projects and roles especially in the Trials series. Later, as a Studio Technical Director, I was somewhat involved in all other RedLynx projects, too, mobile side included.

I really loved working at Remedy, RedLynx and Ubisoft and learned what it takes to release big games. But, while my role became more directorial, and also because games became bigger and bigger, I started to miss the old indie days and getting my hands dirty. That, combined with still getting bombarded by old Turbo Sliders players asking for updates, made me start thinking what it would take to bring Turbo Sliders to the 2020s with modern online features - taking learnings from the big games I had worked on, but still with the unadulterated original spirit.

Alan Wake

Trials Fusion

The Beginning

Turbo Sliders Unlimited development started as a hobby while still working at RedLynx. I started to experiment how the old Turbo Sliders gameplay would work in 3D with Unity. Turbo Sliders Unlimited YouTube channel has videos of those early experiments, too.

It was promising and fun enough so that I kept making various other tech prototypes. I made prototypes about things like paint jobs, in-game editor road building and in-game vehicle editor. At some point, I realized I had gone too far to stop anymore.

The game deserved to exist and had to be finished.

Rapid development

I have worked with many great designers, but still, as the main development was made as a hobby, I enjoyed the freedom of not being chained by any "real" designers and their commercial needs. In the true indie rebel spirit, I could go crazy and add whatever features I wanted - and sometimes skip certain things I know sensible designers would have requested. Because of that, progress was fast and the game became quite unique compared to most other games. More about that and the general philosophy in What is Turbo Sliders Unlimited.

The main design principle of Turbo Sliders Unlimited is that there should be as few limitations as possible. Whenever feasible, players should be able to modify all aspects of the game. Like with the old Turbo Sliders, the idea is to support all kinds of modding, creating and sharing levels and vehicles, running one's own servers, and possibly even letting players build their own metagame on top of that. The game is more like a platform than just a simple game.

But, of course, since the game is to be released for real, I couldn’t just go completely mental, and I needed help from others, too. The most notable person has been my ex-colleague Aki Raula. Together, we have been smoothing rough edges to make the game and its numerous unique features more accessible to a bigger audience. That work is still going on since it is hard to combine unlimited possibilities and easy UI.

The Future

Because of its open design and community driven approach, the future of Turbo Sliders Unlimited will ultimately be decided by its players.

The old Turbo Sliders development lasted for over 10 years and the new incarnation is built to last, too. The main motivation to develop the game is that it is both fun to make and play. As long as that holds true, it doesn’t matter how many players might buy the game - the development will continue as there is complete freedom with no financial obligations.

Right now, I am eagerly waiting to see what the future brings. All I know is that there are going to be lots of exciting races, fierce battles, and mayhem - and the best mods are most probably still to be found!

This is just the start of a long and epic journey!