After reading Dave's review of DiRT 3
we reached out to Codemasters to see if we could talk to someone about how they created such a solid game. We lucked out and they were able to get Paul Jeal, the senior producer on the project to dish on the creation of the game.
DiRT 3 has done very well with the critics, are you surprised at how well it’s doing or not? Was there anything that surprised you in the reviews that you didn’t expect?
We are delighted with the great reviews the game has been getting. It is really nice to see the game that you have been working hard on be met well by the critics. There are always going to be things that you are not happy with that creep into the game so I guess the most surprising thing was that hardly any of these small issues were not picked up by the reviewers.
Looking back at the game what are two things that you’re most proud of in the development of the game? Is there one thing you wish you could have gotten just a little bit better?
I think the car list is phenomenal. While it may not have as many vehicles in it as some other racing games I believe it is one of the most definitive collections of Rally and Off Road vehicles in any game.
Given the all-inclusive ‘more, more, more’ nature of DiRT 3’s content, the additional realism added with the introduction of more diverse weather elements, and the inclusion of Gymkhana, where can the series go from here? Is there a new plateau available for a DiRT 4, and if so, what would it be?
There are plenty of places we can take the series to keep it relevant. It is too early for me to start talking in detail about some of the things we have planned but I am already working on some ideas that will offer more than a further boost in content.
One of the more interesting features of DiRT 3 is the ability to record videos of your performance and upload them to YouTube, could you talk about how that feature was created and what the response has been so far to it?
The feature was created because we saw the impact that Ken Block’s Gymkhana videos were having on YouTube and we wanted players to have an opportunity to show their own skills off in an easy and manageable way. I’d say the response has been pretty positive so far however a recurring theme is that people want to be able to upload longer videos. This may be possible in future titles if we incorporate background uploads but for now the limit that we have placed on the system is to make sure that people don’t have to spend too long uploading and more time playing.
You’ve now finished your second game with Ken Block, could you talk about how the working relationship evolved between Ken and the studio? How involved is Ken in the development of the game? How many developers have gotten to ride shotgun with him as he goes through a track?
When we first started talking to Ken we had finished off DiRT and we were looking at ways to move the series forward. Ken, Travis Pastrana and Dave Mirra were all competing in Rally America and it very much looked like this was where Rally would start to find new popularity so that is the direction we took the series in for DiRT 2. Towards the end of DiRT 2 it was actually Ken’s Gymkhana videos that pushed us to strengthen the relationship with Ken. We wanted Gymkhana to be a feature of DiRT 3. When you introduce a new style of gameplay into a racing game it is very important to get as much real world input as possible to help understand what makes that style of driving work. Ken was vital in that process and he helped us a great deal with getting the car handling and the feel of Gymkhana just right. In terms of riding shotgun, there are a few lucky guys that have had the chance to get a ride with Ken but it is safe to say that his input inside the studio has had more of an impact on the game.
There’s always one big hill to climb in the game (i.e. something tough to design/code, get perfect), what was that hill for DiRT 3?
I think one of the toughest things to crack was the new driving assists. We knew that we wanted to make the game easier for novice players but it took a lot of experimentation and multiple focus tests before we found a selection of assists that played and felt right. It is really rewarding to hear fans of the series tell us that their relatives, who would never have been able to play a DiRT Game in the past, are now able to race and have fun.
How hard was it to “gamify” Gymkhana? How many design iterations did it take before you finally got something you really liked?
Gymkhana started off as a car in a carpark and that is pretty much how we developed it in the studio. Our vehicle handling designers took the Subaru Impreza that Ken drove in DiRT 2 and modified it so that it was putting out similar performance figures to Ken’s Crawford performance Gymkhana 2 car. Our physics engine is very in depth so it didn’t take long for them to have a working prototype in place. They were essentially driving the car around in a big open area with a few basic objects placed around. Ken Block then came in and tried the handling out, gave the guys some advice and let them go to work on the handling again. Within about two months we had a handling model that would form the foundation of the Gymkhana game modes. From there it was really a case of coming up with a simple score mechanic, colour coding the tricks in the sanctioned events and coming up with cool challenges, missions and party modes that could take advantage of that core handling. All in all I think it turned out pretty well.
Now that the game has launched could you talk about how much of the studio is now working on post release DLC and how much is working on your next game? What kinds of DLC can we expect to see in the coming months?
We have the most comprehensive DLC that we have ever offered for any Codemasters game so we obviously need people to continue to support that within the studio but it is also fair to say that we are slowly but surely shifting the team across to work on other titles. We have some great content lined up over the coming months and I am really looking forward to seeing the reaction to the Monte Carlo DLC pack which is being released on the 28th of June.
For those who have picked up the game already or who are just now picking up the game, what are a few things they should try to do that they may not know about?
One of my favourite little secrets in the game is the fact that the crowd hoot their klaxons back at you when you beep your horn. It is a simple little thing but it always puts a smile on my face.
What’s next for the development team? Is DiRT 4 a safe bet or are there other project you’re working on?
You’ll have to wait and see what the future holds but from a personal perspective I know there is so much more we can offer fans of off-road racing so be sure to watch this space.
We'd like to thank Paul for answering our questions as well as Rangebar for helping to setup the interview.