Codemasters’ classic racing series is back – check out the first interview and images right here.
After a smash hit in the form of last year’s DiRT Rally, Codemasters have unleashed the announcement of DiRT 4 today, a direct sequel to the more arcade-esque DiRT 3. This time there’s something for everybody, with Codemasters keeping the more technical sim side of DiRT Rally, but also making it a whole lot easier for those of us who simply want to dive in and show the world’s best rally drivers how it’s done.
Codemasters have learned a lot from DiRT Rally and as a consequence you can expect DiRT 4 to deliver a stonking driving experience, more tracks, cars and features, the ability to share more stuff with friends and, most importantly, more fun.
We spoke to Paul Coleman, chief game designer at Codemasters, to find out what DiRT 4 is all about and why petrolheads should be excited, so check out the exclusive images and scroll down for the juicy details.
Why the long wait to resurrect the franchise, and what made now the right time?
It’s been a while since we’ve released a numbered DiRT game, but we see all of the DiRT games as part of the franchise. DiRT Showdown and DiRT Rally can be seen as offshoots, but they are still firmly part of the DiRT family and have definitely kept us busy over the last six years. We've done a lot to develop the technology over that time and I believe the time is right for a full numbered edition of the series to happen. DiRT, DiRT 2 and DiRT 3 were all big games, with lots of diverse content and big production values, and that is exactly what we are setting out to bring to our fans with DiRT 4.
Has DiRT Rally changed people’s perceptions about the series? What tone between full-on sim and arcade racer are you hoping to strike with DiRT 4?
I think it has. We surprised a lot of people with DiRT Rally. There was an assumption that Codemasters couldn’t make a rally game that was that focused, but the team did an incredible job. We proved that we could make a title that really delivered an off-road racing experience that was right up there with the best there has ever been. With DiRT Rally, we were able to be unashamedly sim. Many of the design decisions we made revolved around representing the sport as closely as possible, and that meant those without first-hand experience of rallying felt this wasn’t a game for them.
With DiRT 4 we are taking everything we learned with DiRT Rally and using that as our foundation. That means we are taking our simulation engine, improving it and building everything else on top of that. We are then taking everything we loved about all the other games in the franchise and bringing it all together into a much more coherent package.
DiRT 4 will resonate with all players regardless of whether they consider themselves an arcade or sim racer. The beauty is that you can choose exactly what type of experience you want to have, and then play the game on your terms. If you want something fun that doesn’t require in-depth knowledge of automotive engineering and vehicle dynamics, then you can just dive into the game and have a great time. If you loved the challenge of DiRT Rally, then you can switch to the Sim Handling mode and have an experience that is even closer to the real deal than we managed to achieve with DiRT Rally.
What did you want to do differently this time? Was VR in consideration at any point?
We’ve taken a look at everything and made improvements across the board. The lighting has seen big improvements to ensure our environments really come alive. We’ve improved our animations so the driver now does arm-over-arm steering, and our crowds and marshals are much more reactive to the events in race.
We’ve put a big focus on crashes to make sure you really get a sense of the weight and impact when you have a collision. They are all really important areas that have helped bring things to the next level, but one of the biggest differences is the introduction of a proper career mode, where you start out as a new driver and work your way from the DiRT Academy all the way through to becoming world champion. This more structured path through the game is something that we know our fans have been asking for, so it was a really important part of what we are doing with DiRT 4.
With regards to VR, it’s something that we will be looking at once we’ve seen people’s reaction to DiRT Rally on PSVR.
How many people have been working on the game, and since when?
I guess some of the first thoughts about DiRT 4 happened back in 2011 when we were finishing off DiRT 3. We’ve come a long way since then, but some of those ideas still survive in DiRT 4 because they were really strong. So yeah, the designs and concepts for DiRT 4 have been around for a while. We then brought those ideas together with everything we learned with DiRT Rally and all the other games Codemasters have been making over the past few years.
In terms of full production, we really started in earnest when DiRT Rally was released last year. That was when the full team jumped onto the project and we’ve been full steam ahead since then with a core team of 75, but in total, with externals, we are approximately 120 people strong.
Are you going to be introducing more manufacturers and cars, and which ones if so?
We have been speaking with some new manufacturers to get them involved in DiRT 4 and we’ve got some awesome new cars lined up. It’s a bit early for us to be talking about specific vehicles as we are still working through the contracts with them but there are some really cool cars in the mix.
One of the key areas we've focused on is getting a much more contemporary group of cars in the game so that when players are working their way through the game they are able to compete in rally and rallycross cars that are actually being used in championships around the world. We’ve also got buggies and trucks that are going to race in our Landrush races. These are awesome, purpose-built short-course vehicles that can have up to 900 horsepower, and with our improved simulation engine they are totally wild to drive.
Have you learned anything from DiRT Rally that can help to make the franchise more fun to play?
Absolutely, I think one of the key things we learned from DiRT Rally was that people wanted a more gradual introduction into the game. People who had the patience and the time to get to grips with DiRT Rally were incredibly complimentary of it, but there was definitely a steep learning curve.
With DiRT 4 we are doing everything we can to ensure that all players can get to grips with the game and develop as a driver as they work their way through their career. This doesn’t mean dumbing things down for those who loved DiRT Rally; those players can still get that experience from DiRT 4. This is all about taking new players by the hand and leading them into the experience.
We want people to feel they can learn and improve as they play so that everyone can eventually reach the skill levels required to attack our most challenging stages if they want to. DiRT 4 is all about player choice, letting you determine what type of experience and challenge you want and letting you find your feet at your own pace through the game.
Outside regular rally stages, what new features can we expect to see, and why did you include them?
The biggest and most exciting innovation for DiRT 4 is the introduction of Your Stage. This new technology allows players to generate an almost infinite variety of stages at all of the rally locations we have in DiRT 4. It really is the coolest thing and it is a concept we have been working on since we finished work on DiRT 3. You choose your location, how long and how complex you want a stage to be and then hit generate. We then give you a stage that cuts through the landscape to those specifications.
On the surface it really is that simple but the results are incredible. Under the hood we have an extraordinarily complex series of rules and algorithms that put these stages together and we are getting some incredible results. We are seeing stages that we’d probably never have thought of crafting, but they are amazing to drive through.
We made this new technology because rally driving is all about tackling stages that you have never seen before and working with your co-driver to drive as fast as you can through those unfamiliar stretches of road. You get that buzz when you play all rally games for the first time but they quickly become familiar and lose that feeling once you’ve seen the same stage a couple of times.
For our players it means that they get that thrill of driving a new stage whenever they want it but for us as developers it means we can save out the best tracks and use them to curate a more diverse set of events and championships than we have ever done before in career mode.
It means that as a designer, I can much more gradually introduce the more challenging stages into the career as the player works their way through the championships. This really is the most exciting technology I have ever been involved with in my career and I can’t wait for players to get their hands on it.
The most recent games in the series put some emphasis on rallycross – will this again be a part of the latest iteration?
Rallycross is an incredibly exciting sport and we are delighted to be continuing our relationship with the FIA World Rallycross Championship and we will be bringing new circuits and cars into the mix. We have worked really closely with the championship organisers, as well as all of the teams and drivers in WRX, to ensure that we are representing their sport as accurately as possible.
We’ve made some adjustments to the race formats so that we're even closer to how things are done in the real events. In fact, one of the nicest features we’ve added is the random time between the ready to race board and the green light. It’s something they do in the real championship so that the driver’s reaction is integral to race starts and so it’s something that we have captured in game. It's such an exciting form of motorsport and I am delighted that we are able to represent it in game as closely as we do.
Will we see a return of the more party-mode esque game modes in DiRT 4? Will you be improving on them in any way?
We are definitely going to have some skill-based Joyride challenges that take their cues from that aspect of DiRT 3. They'll take place at the DiRT Academy and will allow you to test yourself against your friends and the best in the world. They are a really great way to improve your car control away from the intensity of the race track and they're already proving to be really fun. We're a competitive bunch in the studio so we're always sending out challenges for the rest of the team to beat.