Designing The Perfect Cone Wars Truck

Final visual with all customisation options on show.

By Max Scott-Slade, Game Design Director

How has our vision for truck design developed throughout prototyping Cone Wars? In this edition of the dev diary I’ll share our journey on how we designed the trucks to fit our ice cream-crazed mindset and where we want to head post-Greenlight.

Initial concept design

When creating a menacing ice cream truck, you’d think that the soft sell of a truck covered in rip-off childhood heroes playing a nostalgic jingle would be enough unchanged. But of course… we wanted to go further.

Commonalities of modern turf wars include loud jingles, overt signage, tricked out trucks and aggressive driving. Cone Wars is all about this peak hustle and a glaring sun beating down on a sweaty bundle of ice-cream obsessed human foot traffic.

These were our thoughts going into our first sketches.

Cone Wars Serving Concept Design
Cone Wars Serving Concept Design

The first concept sketches revolved around serving ice cream from inside the truck. Our focus was drive to locations then zoom into the truck to serve mode. When we tested this it was really confusing and the pace shift was extreme. Eventually we ditched it and just focused on serving outside the truck.

The original Glaswegian turf wars that inspired the Cone Wars concept were fuelled by genuine anger over turf, enacted with flailing fists and whipping crowbars. When it came to weapons, the idea of firing from inside the truck using the giant cone on the roof seemed comical in comparison — a much more accessible version of this sentiment. These weapons were really fun in experiments and gave the trucks a lot of personality.

American Ice Cream Truck References
American Ice Cream Truck References
Initial Cone Wars Truck Sketch
Initial Cone Wars Truck Sketch

All of the American films we watched as kids were a big influence, feeding into our initial sketches of a classic Chevy box American ice-cream truck.

Concept Van Selection Sketch
Concept Van Selection Sketch

The idea of an early van selection screen opened up the possibility of developing several trucks with different roof weapons. Our minds suddenly went into overdrive after looking at a million pictures of different ice cream trucks. We also wanted to start exploring rival trucks in our concepts: something classic American (like the Chevy) versus something classic British (like a Bedford). Beyond this we stumbled into the fantastical, all the time sticking with the idea of simple truck shapes paired with iconic ice cream varieties as roof weapons.

Blueprint Sketches for Truck Lineup
Blueprint Sketches for Truck Lineup

Bringing the designs to life

Initial renders of some of the truck concept sketches above that I threw together in Cinema4d show a huge range of personalities. Lots of sizes and shapes for all player types. Each truck had its own weapon and they were all designed to behave differently.

Full Truck Lineup rendered with Cinema4D
Full Lineup rendered with Cinema4D

The weapon details were inspired by their truck shapes. Every weapon had one foot in reality, while the bullets it fired were nestled in fiction (shooting ice-cream instead of bullets). It was never meant to be as gritty as something like Twisted Metal, but the cream was still meant to have a big impact on collision: it could move trucks around and eventually deplete player health. We envisioned piles of cream remaining after a heavy battle.

Prototype Game Screenshot
Prototype Game Screenshot (serving a customer)
Softy Brothers Truck Design in Unity Engine
Softy Brothers Truck Design in Unity Engine

Several things happened in the prototype that really helped us shape the next steps of how the trucks looked. We’ve discussed our process of moving from birds eye view to 3rd person in our previous post Driving In Cone Wars, so I won’t repeat it here, but it’s worth reading to understand the shift in perspective and the motives behind it.

Tricking Out Trucks: Customisation

Customisation is a huge part of the ice-cream vendor scene, if you look at any vendor they have their own decals and ice-creams for sale. The colour schemes as well as the name of seller played a big part in their personality. All the ideas we had for customisation options were limited by the top down view of the prototype, you couldn’t see much of the truck! When Cone Wars shifted to 3rd person, so much more of the truck was visible really opening up what was possible to make them unique.

The move to a 3rd person camera perspective meant that the shape of the truck was evidently very angular. We added flares and curves to the default Softy Brothers to make body work more characterful.

Classic Truck
The Classic Truck

The visual of the more curved truck was really great and became the basis of the super high-resolution truck created for the gameplay trailer.

High-production Truck Based on Classic Shape
High-production visual based on classic shape

When the Cone Wars reveal trailer was in production, massive in-roads were made to the customisation options, working on Sea Hero Quest gave us a really clear insight into what we could do with 3d customisation options. What players actually saw as valuable and what would take a lot of work that nobody would care about.

It was clear that we had to refine our customisation options and revisit the truck design based on this. Modularity was key to making the truck infinitely customisable but was beyond the scope of what we could achieve in the timeframe for Cone Wars alpha. We decided to initially focus on a single truck body shape and get it right, rather than introducing so many variables.

The Final Design

We rebuilt the truck for the 4th time from the ground up with the following customisation options in mind:

  • Weapon (visual)
  • Colour scheme (visual)
  • Decals (visual)
  • Wheels (visual)
  • Illuminated name badge (visual)
  • Flag (visual)
  • Jingle (sound)

By applying a toy-like, approachable and full of humorous fun style to the trucks, we reached the perfect balance of what we set out to do with a single truck body shape.

Designing from the top
Designing from the top
Creating mixed personalities across a single body shape
Creating mixed personalities across a single body shape
Final visual with all customisation options on show.
Final visual with all customisation options on show.

We’re really happy with how the trucks look from all angles and their customisation options feel like a great starting point to iterate across an alpha release of Cone Wars on Steam Greenlight. The level of personalisation will be expanded as well as the considered addition of multiple truck bodies after the initial launch of the game.

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