Codemasters has been in the racing game game for long enough to have encountered and overcome a mud-clogged gear or two. But even for such a seasoned studio, launching Dirt 5 across multiple console generations in the middle of a pandemic was no easy ride. To understand what was involved in bringing the game’s glistening car chassis to the muddy tracks of next and current-gen machines, we strapped in next to Game Director Robert Karp to discuss the rally race of Dirt 5’s development.
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How on earth did you guys manage to ship 6 different SKUs for Dirt 5 within a week of each other?
With difficulty! Many SKUs are hard, but when two of those are launch titles for new hardware, it’s even more challenging. Add the global pandemic where everyone is working from home, and things become rather tricky! I can only say how proud I am of the team to manage to achieve this and how much credit they are due to working hard and working smart!
What was the toughest part about working on so many versions at once?
The hardest part was the ability to review all the SKUs. With launch hardware development kits at a premium, and having limited space at home, it made reviewing builds of different SKUs tough. Even more challenging was 4K, 120hz and HDR compatible monitors/TVs which were hard to find, and only some of the team had access to them. One of the things we did well was ensure we had robust and stable build systems. Without this, it would have been really difficult to ship so many SKUs in such a short amount of time. I also have to give a massive shout out to our QA team as without them, we could never have shipped the game!
How much of an impact did the pandemic have on development?
It’s a tough one to measure but it had an impact. As much as we did well via Teams meetings, nothing beats everyone getting together so communication would have been one element. Also, working from home meant getting the latest updates took much longer, as did delivering builds to QA. It’s only when working from home that you realize you take the work broadband for granted. I’d hate to think about how many hours were lost waiting for a build to be sent/received.
Just how big of a difference is there between last-gen and next-gen versions?
For me, underpinning both versions is the same game. However if you want the best visuals, resolution, frame rate and feedback then the next gen versions are miles ahead of the previous generation. The power and speed of these machines gives a much better user experience. Now I’ve moved to next gen at home, I could never go back…
Did the PS5 and Xbox Series X allow for things not previously possible in Dirt games?
We have only scratched the surface of what these new consoles are capable of. But 120hz modes weren’t possible on consoles before, and the immersion we can offer users through the haptic feedback and impulsive triggers really is next level.
Where do you think the next-gen versions really shine?
Personally the biggest thing for me is the speed and immediacy of getting into games. The fast loading, faster updates, all means that I can think “oh I have 10 minutes spare I’ll jump in for a couple of races.” It sounds minor but the immediate access with no waiting is a game changer.
Did you come across any major hurdles in working with new hardware?
I’m lucky enough to have worked on a few launch games and we didn’t have anything unexpected happen. The hardest parts are always getting familiar with the new pieces of hardware and getting the code base working on the new hardware. Lastly, the changing/development of the system software while developing the game, can mean extra time is spent on figuring out if there is an issue with the game or a bug in the SDK.
Many were surprised to learn that both Nolan North and Troy Baker were involved in voice work for Dirt 5. How did that come about, and how involved is the game’s story?
Between the development and marketing teams we talked for many hours and meetings about who would be the right fit for the game. We discussed movie stars, TV personalities, podcasters, real world racing drivers and more. I can’t remember how it came about, but someone suggested Troy Baker and the very next comment was, “we’d have to get Nolan North to play Bruno too!” The room went quiet and we all agreed that they would be a perfect fit! At which point it was left to the Creative team to pitch the concept and get agreements in place. We wanted to make a story that didn’t get in the way of the gameplay, but added an extra layer for those who wanted the incentive to find out how the Career all unfolds.
Can we look forward to DLC for Dirt 5? If so, what’s in the works?
YES! We have lots of exciting plans for DLC for DIRT 5. We release the Energy Content Pack on February 22nd. Players will receive new cars, career events and sponsors. Accompanying this is the ‘Free’ Junkyard Playgrounds content update with over 20 new items including a huge scrap-built dinosaur sculpture. We’ll also be adding lots of new features to the game alongside great car packs with new career events and much more.
Our thanks to Codemasters for taking the time to answer our questions. To read part two of our interview with the team and learn about how they captured the sounds of each and every car, click here.
A true gearhead can identify the make and model of a car without even having to see it. It’s vital, then, that a game like Dirt 5 nails the roar of each and every engine. Capturing those distinctive car sounds is no small feat, however.
Kevin Cassidy has been covering all things Nintendo for over 15 years now and has been leading the weekly GoNintendo Podcast for just as long. Kevin is also quite passionate about pro wrestling, anime, comic books, and more! Follow Kevin on Twitter via @GoNintendoTweet.