DiRT 5 Q&A – Dishing the DiRT with the Codemasters Folks

Jun 22
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It's hardly a secret from my preview of DiRT 5, published earlier today, that I'm enthusiastic about the game. It was impossible not to appreciate just how good the game looks and plays even at this early stage. All of this, and more, can be read in the preview. As for the summary, here's what I wrote:

Maybe that is excessive praise from an early first-impressions. Maybe it's building up the anticipation a little too much. I genuinely can't think of a game to have made a better first impression on me than this. Keeping it simple: DiRT 5 looks like it will be the next-generation of racing even three and a half months before it's scheduled to be released on the 9th of October.

Just playing the game isn't the only thing I was able to do, though. Before getting my hands on the game, I was invited to a presentation and a Q&A session with Codemasters. Attending the Q&A from Codemasters was Robert Karp (RK), the development director, Mike Moreton (MM), lead designer, James Bralant, social and communications manager and Chris Groves (CG), community manager.

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We spoke about several aspects. Due to the nature of the Q&A, I'll arrange the questions as well as give a few of my opinions where I feel necessary. First, we'll start with questions about the platforms, the online multiplayer and aspects of cross-play. Sadly, it was revealed that cross-play won't be available at launch, with hopes of it being included post-launch.

A question on the development side and how it's impacted on you. Considering the current situation with the COVID pandemic and that you're developing for six platforms. Have any changes had to be made and did it have an impact on the development of DiRT 5? Particularly as here in the UK it's been all been working from home.

MM: We're really lucky. Codemasters have been really supportive of us and working from home. It's actually not been too difficult of an adjustment, speaking from a design perspective. We've been given all the hardware we need, all the software. We've been allowed to take chairs from the office if that's what we need to kit out our home office. It's been as smooth of a process as you could expect.

I think the only bugbear is, when developing a game, there's massive file downloads and uploads that need to be done. I think that's the only area we've slowed down because instead of relying on a superfast internet connection, you're relying on whatever your home broadband can handle.

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RC: I probably have a different perception than Mike. I agree, I think the company has been great and really supportive. We've worked hard on trying to make sure we don't lose as much time as possible, but it's definitely had an impact.

Straight away we pivoted to working from home. You're not there in a meeting with the people, getting a feel for the room. Quickly we were like 'not everybody has headsets' because a lot of the team didn't need them before this. There were minor things like that and other things that were harder to get or organise.

Some people have struggled and found themselves being a bit lonely, others have embraced it and want to talk about it as a potential future option. The team has done an incredible job to make sure we've stayed on track, we haven't had to make any cuts to DiRT 5. Rallying around and doing a specific demo like this, however, provides a slightly different challenge working from home.

Is there any chance of crossplay for DiRT 5? If not, what's the reason behind not allowing it?

RK: We have cross-generational play in DiRT 5, so Xbox Series X will be able to play against Xbox One. The same is true for PlayStation, so PlayStation 4 vs PlayStation 5. As for PlayStation vs Xbox, it's not so much a case of not allowing it - it's the extra work needed to make it happen and make it work. It's something we'd like to do but it's not going to be in for launch.

You've mentioned the PS4 vs PS5 and the Xbox One vs Xbox Series X but no mention of the PC. Will the PC be standalone or will it be able to link to another or both consoles?

RK: So the Steam players will play with Steam players in their ecosystem. It made sense for us to have the Xbox Live accounts to play together, PSN accounts to play together and Steam accounts to play together.

With you releasing for Stadia and you mentioning the separate ecosystems, including Steam being kept separate, how will Stadia fit into this considering the smaller player base as this could drastically impact the online mode for players?

RK: One of the ways we've designed our multiplayer mode is to make sure that, even at low concurrency, the player experience isn't massively impacted.  We're not quite in the situation where players will find issues, they'll find the wait times for multiplayer events to be really short and easy to get on with. It shouldn't be an issue.

How was it, designing a game for the next-generation of consoles, compared to the current generation?

RK: So when we get knowledge, hardware, and details, about next-gen, there's always a lot of excitement in the studio. This leads to a lot of creative juices flowing, a lot of discussion as to how we can best take advantage of different features.

What we've done is to make a game that's quality on the current generation of consoles. Then we look at where we can take advantage of the next generation of consoles. The power allows for the 120 framerate option. We want to take advantage of fast loading. On the PS5, for example, you have the adaptive triggers that could have some really interesting implementations - particularly for racing. There's a lot of excitement and buzz about it.

MM: For us, it's always exciting designing for consoles. When you get your hands on what the consoles can do, you sit back and think "What can I do now with next-gen? How can I improve this and make it better?"

I think we're doing a really good job of creating a fantastic game for PS4 and Xbox One. I think with next-gen you'll see a cool advancement on that concept.

Are there going to be any differences, content-wise, between the current and next-gen platforms?

RK: The aim is to keep content the same. Certain features, like framerate, will not be the same on current-gen as they are on next-gen. For example, we've already announced a 120 framerate on the Xbox Series X.

Will the PlayStation 5 have the 120 framerate mode and will it upgrade if you own the PS4 version of DiRT 5?

RK: It's really important for us to work closely with first-party platform holders and have a good relationship with them. We don't want to talk about anything until they're ready to talk about things. As the campaign goes on, both for the PS5 and DiRT 5, you'll hear more updates from both of us on those things.

Where does the Stadia version fall amongst the six platforms when it comes to getting the best experience or the highest quality of DiRT 5?

RK: So the Stadia version is due out a little bit later. We're currently not going into detailed specification on the Stadia version, so visual fidelity, features like 120 framerate, things like that will be discussed later in the campaign.

One big challenge when developing across so many different platforms, however, is testing. When you do multiplayer racing, you need to test it on all of the platforms and from the development side, it's making sure we develop our art that scales well across all of the platforms and the power those platforms have.

Personally, thinking about those who may buy the game on Stadia, I do hope that cross-play will be coming down the line. Even if it's just to link Stadia with the PC and Codemasters have thought about the smaller player base, giving the players more to compete with is only a good thing.

It will also be very interesting to look at what Codemasters have to announce about the PlayStation 5 version down the line. It will be interesting to see if they utilise the adaptive triggers, as they mentioned, too. Moving on, there was a fair bit of discussion about the features of the game across all platforms as well as what the game will support when it comes to the PC.

What do you think, specifically, will be the major selling point of DiRT 5?

RK: I think the visual fidelity is something the players will love. The 120 framerate option on the Xbox Series X and the smart delivery option too. I think what we'll be announcing in August is going to be one of the biggest, most exciting things that people will be talking about when they talk about DiRT 5 next-gen.

CG: I think the dynamic extreme weather, something you'll get a glimpse of in the demo, is something that I've not seen at that level for a racing game. Particularly so when you put it with the level of visual fidelity that Rob has mentioned.

It's the kind of things that friends will say "you need to see this". Extreme weather conditions can drastically change through the course of a race. Lightning strikes, snowstorms and how that rapidly changes the surface and your driving style. There are other factors that we'll go into over the next few months, but you'll get the first taste of it and I think it will be huge.

How has the handling changed from DiRT 4?

RK: The handling model in DiRT 5 is a completely new and fresh handling model for the franchise. I'd say it's more akin to DiRT 2 and 3, as opposed to DiRT 4.

Since there are various locations with different surfaces, will we see some haptic feedback from controllers and, if yes, will we feel different types of feedback based on different surfaces?

RK: You will get different feedback based on different surfaces, we have a lot of different surface types. The haptic feedback gives us the opportunity to do something new and different, help to increase the immersion and feeling.

What accessibility options will there be in DiRT 5?

MM: Accessibility is very important to us, so we're trying to put as big of a suite as possible in the game. We've built the handling in a system where we can turn off and on a lot of aids to make driving easier, more difficult, or more accessible in some cases. We're allowing remapping of controls. We'll be putting localised subtitles in for all the voiceovers and we've put aside time and service, so there is scope to add more in.

You've mentioned that DiRT 5 is "Optimised for Series X", is the game also optimised for the PC?

RK: The PC version is really important to us. There's a big and vocal player base on the PC that are keen. We'll be doing everything we can to support as wide of a variety of processors and GPU', making the best use of them. Later in the campaign, we're going to be talking a bit more about some of the things that are coming to PC that are exciting

Will you be using ray tracing on PC and next-gen consoles?

RK: Everybody's excited about ray tracing. Visually, it's a real impactful thing but we haven't got anything to say about ray tracing at this time.

Can you go into any specifics at this time regarding multi-monitor and wheel support?

RK: We will be supporting wheels. You'll also be able to play the full game on super-wide monitors but we'll have to wait until July to talk about multi-monitor support.

Are there any plans to bring VR support to DiRT 5 as you did post-launch for DiRT Rally 2.0?

RK: Features is going to be one of the things we delve into in July. Stay tuned and you'll be able to find out more then.

CG: At the moment there are no plans to implement VR support for DiRT 5. Of course, never say never, plans change and things change over time but DiRT 5 is launching on six different platforms so we're fully focused on getting those nailed down, so there's nothing in the pipeline at this moment on VR support.

It's a shame that there's no VR support for DiRT 5 in the pipeline. However, it's not a blanket no so there's always the chance of it coming further down the line. A lot of information is still being held back, that much is certain. There's a lot of talk about future features being discussed in July and a major announcement in August - no hints at all given as to what they could be.

As should be clear due to the nature of a roundtable Q&A session, not all of the questions above were directly asked by me.

DiRT 5 will be releasing on the 9th of October for the PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X versions dates are unknown as of right now. It will also launch on Google Stadia in 2021.

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