The DiRT racing series has always been an excellent simulation of rally racing. The games have always offered enough of an experience to attract street racers to the game while having the excellent visuals to back it up. Codemasters, the same company behind the excellent F1 video game series, are the ones responsible for DiRT 4, so they have an excellent track record. At a recent Deep Silver event, we were able to try the game out and sit down with Senior Producer Clive Moody of Codemasters. He broke down some things to expect from DiRT 4 and how the game will be more approachable. The last game, DiRT Rally, aimed more towards hardcore fans. Moody promises the same experience can be had for hardcore fans in the newest game, while it will try to attract new fans to the series.
[Hardcore Gamer] The DiRT series has always been a different and fun racing series. DiRT 4 will have some new aspects off the track. Can you discuss these new features?
[Clive Moody] The team aspect. We wanted to expand the career and extend it beyond just doing a race, doing a race, and doing a race. You know, the kind of things a lot of racing games suffer from. We’ve come up with this system where you want to get higher but your goal is ultimately to start your own race team. So fairly quickly in the game, you earn enough cash to buy your first car. So that’s really the start to your team. We have some, what you call, Branding Facilities. It’s basically a livery editor but it’s a “light” livery editor so we can make it super accessible and very quick to get a cool looking result without players having to spend a huge lot of time getting there. And your team really works around the staff. Right from the get-go, you get a Chief Engineer, the guy that’s running the show and keeping the car on the road and tuned. You’ll hire engineers that will come with various skills in terms of how quickly and effectively repair the car. It’s an attrition game. You’re doing multiple races and events for a championship. Parts are wearing down, crashing the car, bending panels, breaking parts, so the engineers are crucial for doing those repairs. With their different skills, some can fix quicker than others while others do it more effectively that will last longer. The other aspect of the team are based around facilities. They will give you a whole manner of benefits. Simple stuff like garage improvements and elements there to keep the team happy. So there are all these elements and layers that we are building that will give players something to think about and manage in between races.
DiRT 4 will feature a track generator. What are the technical aspects to how this works?
So we are not really talking about the deep technical aspects because we don’t want to destroy the magic behind it. Fundamentally, as much as I can say, we have a map in an area of the world with five environments in the game. When you generate a track, you have a starting point where the garage is and then a bunch of algorithms that then go on and effectively find that route and generate a stage. It also takes into effect the elements that can involve the complexity like high elevation changes, how technical corners are, how tight they are, will you go on sections of the track with cliffs on one side? Those things are informing where that track gets laid. So it’s actually simplifying a piece of the map to make it feel natural and organic. It would be very easy to just carve a strip of road into something but it wouldn’t feel correct, geographically.
During the demo we played, we were able to drive fairly far off the track. Is the map completely open?
It’s not completely open, we do have boundaries. There is a point where we just don’t want the players to go too far away from where they are supposed to be driving. What we have done is make those areas a lot wider away from the track unlike we have in any game before. One of the benefits of the real stage and track generator is we can let the player just explore a little bit further out. There’s a second part to it. It gets frustrating when you get hard reset going off track. We are trying to encourage the player to stay on the track and have fun trying to get back on it rather than just resetting and providing a penalty. It’s very deliberate what we’ve done.
With having an algorithm to generate tracks, can we potentially see in the future the player having the ability to design and share tracks?
So you can share generated tracks already. You can upload it. We certainly have thoughts on how to expand it out in the future by putting the tools in the hands of gamers to let them fine tune those tracks like ‘I don’t like that corner, I want to change it.’ We have those tools internally, we use them. It’s a topic of conversation as to should we roll it out. I definitely think it’s something we could see in the future.
What kind of enhancements can we see from previous versions of DiRT on the track?
The car handling has taken another step forward. We had a really, really good simulation model with DiRT Rally. We’ve made a number of improvements. We looked again at aerodynamics, suspension, and tyre wear. One of the areas of weakness for DiRT Rally was tarmac. We didn’t quite have the fidelity of the simulation. We worked really hard on improving that and making it more consistent. We’ve also tried to get the game not as hard. DiRT Rally was not quite the compromising simulation experience. We’ve introduced a new handling mode called Gamer. We’ve built in assists so it won’t be quite as difficult. The way the weight shifts around the car when going into corners we’ve improved. People’s ability to pick up and play the game and get around the track is better. The final part to the assists go straight to the heart as people who play racing games don’t let off the gas and don’t hit the brake. We have a little bit of auto brake by letting off the gas to make it more accessible. What we think we have is a handling system that appeals to a broader audience, some of those gamers that lapsed from DiRT 2 and DiRT 3.