Top Drives Development Roadmap | February 2024

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Hello Drivers, and welcome to the February 2024 edition of the Top Drives Development Roadmap!

It's been a while since our last update, mainly due to the restructuring of the Community and Marketing team at Hutch, and we left you somewhat in the dark about our plans for the future. However, development roadmaps will continue regularly from now on.

It's quite hard to believe, but Top Drives is now nearly seven years old, which is a solid age for a mobile game. Our development team expanded significantly over the years, which is reflected in the car updates the game is getting, as well as its general appearance and content. We went from a "measly" 700 to over 4,000 licensed cars by now, more than any other game by far.

So it only makes sense to ask what's next for Top Drives? What are the main challenges to preserving and continuing growth, what development features should we prioritise to keep the momentum going for the next seven years?

In 2024, we are doing all the same things as before: adding new cars, correcting existing ones, and adding new racing environments. Later in the year, we're looking at rebalancing car carities as we did nearly 2 years ago. But in addition to that, we are developing and improving core gameplay,focusing on small changes that enrich your experience and make the gameplay smooth and seamless, focusing on addressing long-requested issues.

Find out more below.

About the Development Roadmap

This Development Roadmap is broken into three main sections that reflect our expected release timelines.

  • Braking Distance - near end of development

  • On the Horizon - in development

  • A Long Road Trip - mainly pre-production, very early on.

Braking Distance 

  • New Car Update

    • It’s been 3 months since our latest big car release, and we’ve been working hard to license the next set of exciting assets to expand on our already large collection. You can look forward to the big reveal in the next few months! As you may have worked out, there aren’t too many big brands left for us to add. Our main strategy, as you will have seen over the past year or so, is revisiting some of the bigger brands already featured in Top Drives, and working with the manufacturer to ensure a thorough representation of them, usually 80-120 models.

  • New York City

    • We’ll visit the city that never sleeps in this new city environment! 

  • Updated car images

    • 260 existing car cards will be updated as part of the next update. The majority will be simple improvements like cropping, but some cards will be fully replaced.

  • Speedbump indicator on track preview

    • This small quality-of-life feature will help you to know which tracks contain speedbumps before starting the race.

  • Challenge Function improvements

    • We are introducing the idea that challenges can unlock based on progression through other challenges, without the need for items to transition you between challenges, as you will have seen in the Collection Series. The UI for locked challenges can direct you to the required challenges.

  • Server Stability

    • Before all new features comes server stability. We recognise this as a vital part of your experience and we're keen to make improvements to how our servers operate to ensure they are more robust than they have been. Some challenges like filling leaderboard brackets unevenly are a result of scaling servers during periods of peak activity. So, we are now designing scaling prize tiers, so that smaller leaderboards award fewer, and larger leaderboards award more, prizes.

On the Horizon

  • Performance Improvements

    • Continuing to make changes to decrease loading times and improve the seamlessness of gameplay. This work is spread across several updates rather than one large patch.

  • Global Item Leaderboards

    • Player Item Score will be displayed in a special Leaderboard menu accessible from the home screen. The score was previously revealed on social media, and we’re formalising it by building it into the game so it is updated automatically.

  • Achievements

    • Small and big goals for you to unlock and earn rewards along the way. These will range from logging into the game and completing a match to longer seasonal objectives such as collecting 30 unique Collection Series cars.

  • Narrative Returning to Challenges 

    • If you’re a seasoned Top Drives player, you will remember that Challenges used to come with some custom narratives featuring our in-game characters. We’re hoping to bring these back and use them to enhance Challenge mode like Daily Rival from January of this year

A Long Road Trip

  • Improvements to the Match Results screen

    • Investigation is taking place on how to better explain match results to players so you can better understand why you lost or won the race.

  • Quality of Life changes

    • Throughout the year, we’ll be focusing on how things are explained in the game. Among these are features such as additional track information, and other highly requested improvements (think adding speedbump indicators, increasing the wishlist car limit, allowing editing of saved hands).

  • New Campaign

    • We are looking to add a new 150-round campaign similar to the original one which launched in 2017.

  • Car Rarity Update

    • We are going to enable cars change rarity for one of the upcoming updates and allow players to reassign those fusions to other cars.

Development Roadmap Q&A

We've put together this Q&A in response to the questions you submitted to us on Discord. Please find the full log below, or watch the video here:

Q: Why have some of the Long Road Trip items from the previous (July 2023) not been completed and are no longer mentioned in the February 2024 roadmap? Are those items (updated physics & ground clearance and aftermarket performance tuners) no longer feasible? (kcray)
A: Attentive players noticed that several features present on the previous Roadmap were missing in our latest piece. Particular interest is about the physics update and tuner cars. With regards to tuner cars in particular, it's important to understand that the team's hands are tied here as the progress on this depends on licensing. This is similar to adding new brands to the game - if we can't license the brand, we can't have it in the game. As for the physics update, this is certainly still very imporant for the team. However, it comes with a large number of implications and therefore we'd rather not move it from one Roadmap to another, and give a proper update when we have more to share. All in all, there are currently 16 items on the current Roadmap. We could keep adding to it, but we'd rather give a roadmap of the things most likely to be developed. Features like tuners are reliant on making progress with licensing, so are not in the team's hands, so we think this is less likely than features already in development. We're sticking with the least risky things to ship. We expect we'll get to physics in time, and tuners if licensing works out, but we're focused on discussing features that come before those. Thus, you shouldn't be expecting a physics update before the items on the Roadmap are cleared.

Q: What about a change for event ending times? this would improve my game<> life balance extremly you still work on it? will that come someday? (absinthFTW)
A: Absolutely, the work on this feature continues. This was implemented on a few occasions already but due to a bug, we had to pause it. As soon as we're happy the feature works as intended, we'll move all events towards their mid-evening end times (for most players) across our three servers.

Q: Will car rarity changes be a more common occurrence, or is it something that is only done as little as possible? (The Ronettes)
A: We appreciate how imporant car rarity changes are for players given the sheer amount of cars that we have in Top Drives. Previous rarity update was done nearly two years ago and we think soon is a good time to do it again. We left it somewhat ambiguous on the Roadmap, but hopefully you won't have to wait too long until we roll out this change. It's hard to predict when the next time one (the one after upcoming one) will be necessary. If cars are correctly rated, and have fewer corrections than in the past, RQ is more likely to be stable over time. It can be done again, but the focus is just thinking about the next one.

Q: Why is there no planned development with clubs on the road map, has that not been recognised by players as one of the areas most needing change (such as from the recent surveys conducted)? (AffableElf)
A: We appreciate how important the Clubs Events are for players to earn in-game cash. There are currently 16 items on the Roadmap that we're focusing on this year, and we believe those 16 items are worth doing before changes to Club Events. As we have limited resources and can't work on everything, we must prioritise. Our feature backlog includes hundreds of items, big and small, and we regularly evaluate them in terms of value vs. work required, to decide what to develop next. At the moment, unfortunately, Club Events are not a high priority for us.

Q: The hill climb icons on rounds are a step in the right direction. Will we eventually see a percentage breakdown on surfaces. i.e. Rallycross Medium. Dirt 40%, Asphalt 60%. (Taz)
A: This part of the feature has been designed, but its size (in terms of work required) is large enough where it isn't in the top value features we've identified, so it's not in development. Eventually it might be, if we do not identify better value features than that.

Q: Are you going to further expand rq limits? In legendaries, you clearly see the advantages when you go up or down one point in rq, while it's fuzzy in commons, u commons and rares. (DrPepperidge)
A: Last time (and the only time) we expanded RQ limits was nearly four years ago. Whilst we are open to it, there are no current plans to increase RQ limits, though we appreciate the concern you've expressed in your question.

Q: Is there any possibility of returning to some sort of schedule of alternation between new, rerun, and GT (or at the very least tri and GT) that the players can rely on? There are hundreds of cars that have yet to see their second or third release in years and a consistent schedule would give them their chance to shine again. (roflwaffles)
A: We appreciate there are many prize cars that you'd like to get your hands on. It is true that we used to have a fixed release schedule for new and old cars previously. Here it is imporant to note that there are far more prize cars in the game than there are opportunites to award them in any year. To tackle that, perhaps it would be sensible to move towards a more permanent prize car exchange. That's what we'd like to do, but it's not scheduled to happen in the next week (at time of writing, 5th March).

Q: Some interesting way to earn cash except for grinding of clubs? (-Ocelote-)
A: There are currently four ways to earn in-game cash: Daily Reward, Event prize boards, Club Events, and we also award cash in some Challenges. We're not expecting to change this any time soon.

Q: Did licencing cars get easier since you've partnered up with Forza (turn10 and Microsoft?)? (gvereb1)
A: Interesting question. The answer is no. Us working with turn10 on a different game brings no benefit when it comes to licensing cars. Cars are independently licensed with manufacturers themselves. However, we've expanded the licensing team in the past 2 years, which allows us to process far more licensing, but this does not only involve Top Drives. All cars in all other games by Hutch require licensing just as they do in Top Drives. Licensing is also required for any visual assets, i.e. starting screen art, or any cars that are used on our patch notes images.

Q: Collector's challenges were fun and rewarding to players that were trying to keep all the cars in their garage or at least all cars form one brand. Why did u get rid of that? (panagiotis2814)
A: We put out all the content we can in challenges. We have different ways of looking at what challenges are working and have the most interest. We often think about new formats and changes. Right now, we have Year of the Dragon and World Series, so you shouldn't be too short on content, but we're always looking for ways to add more different feeling challenges.

Q: Is the new campaign in the last part going to be another yellowbird/skyline series type campaign (where you have to finish the ones before it)? (NobodyPlayzYT)
A: You're confusing Campaign with Championships. We have one of the former, and two of the latter. The new campaign will be much like the old one, except it will probably have an RQ unlock. This is in development, so you can expect news soon.

Server improvements

We also wanted to briefly touch upon thee server improvements made recently - sorry we couldn't do it in the video as the language here is fairly complex, so here's a breakdown of the steps we've taken in recent weeks to improve this:

  • We recently migrated our server infrastructure to a newer AKS (Azure Kubernetes Service) cluster, and resolved compatibility issues between our auto-scaler and the new cluster.

    • Auto-scaler is a tool that adjusts the number of servers during high demand. The migration to the new cluster improves performance, security, and feature enhancements.

  • We made changes to our scaling-up schedule to allow the service to load caches in stages rather than all at once.

    • Instead of loading caches for services all at once during scaling up, we modified the process to load them gradually in stages. This helps in managing resource utilisation more efficiently and reduces potential performance bottlenecks.

  • We introduced a new server non-bucketing (bucket = bracket) period to resolve the conflicts between scaling up our services and buckets over/underfilling, this will mitigate buckets underfilling caused by background events that request server scaling up. This means forcing the server to use existing buckets rather than creating new ones.

  • We implemented a single-layer cache service to improve services data caching and speed up services boot time, ultimately improving overall performance.

Ultimately, we're trying to ensure that we always scale to the appropriate number of servers, and that we deal with the fallout of brackets that never get filled. Our Roadmap mentions the potential implementation of percentage-based buckets (and prizes). We do not believe this is the final step, and we will need to iterate on this and take it one step at a time.

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