Inspired by my toddler’s fascination with trains and Thomas the Tank Engine, I created a concept and prototype for a steam train racing game. Toot toot!


I imagine it as a two-dimensional game with unique controls and a several-meter-long LED strip as the display. The game would run on an Arduino. The concept is inspired by arcade machines as well as the Line Wobbler (an awesome one-dimensional LED/Arduino-based game). There’s also a bit of synthwave aesthetic thrown in.

(image refs: arcade, synthwave, Line Wobbler)

Game Concept

The game takes place on a railway track, between two train stations.

  • The stations are located on either side of a mountain range.
  • Standing at the controls, the player stands ‘in the train’ as they race it down the track.
  • Players ‘shovel coal’ to build up the steam pressure that pushes their train up the mountain. Shovel too much too quickly, however, and steam pressure will rise and potentially blow up your train!
  • The ‘train’ is represented by an animated coloured-LED that moves along an LED strip.

(Left: Overview of game concept, showing 2-players. Right: Controller, side view.)

Player Controls and Feedback

Concept sketch - Steamin Steamies - Controls1
Game-controller concept (2-player version)
Concept sketch - Steamin Steamies - Controls2
Close up of Feedback Panel (both players have one).



The game would eventually be programmed for Arduino, allowing the use of various sensors to capture player input. To test and develop the game mechanics I decided to make a rough prototype in Unity, which I can then translate to C++ and Arduino once the gameplay design is refined.

Here’s a video showing the first rough prototype in play. In testing this version with friends it was clear that a more visual UI was needed. And the relationship between shovelling coal and steam and movement needs to be clearer perhaps.


Game Balance

Game balance - Steamin Steamies ptype.jpg

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