Game developers on DIRT 5: “Almost like mobile gaming”

Game developers on DIRT 5: “Almost like mobile gaming”

Two leading developers of DIRT 5 on how the off-road racer goes into a completely new direction.

Photo credit: Koch Media / Codemasters

It is almost time for new off-road racing action! Codemasters is set to release DIRT 5 on November 3. As more and more details have been revealed over the last weeks, we wanted to dive even deeper into details about the game.

That is why we sat down with Lead Game Designer, Michael Moreton, and Development Director, Robert Karp, to get some exclusive information on DIRT 5 from the dev team themselves!

OverTake: Hey Michael and Robert, thank you for joining! Trailers for DIRT 5 do not look too dirty but rather really colorful. The game goes very much into an arcade direction. Why did you choose to go more into that direction?

Robert: When we looked back at the history of the franchise, we played all the games as a team and discussed them. DIRT 2 and DIRT 3 stood out very strongly to us in terms of their vibe, feel and tone. They were serious racing games but with a fun nature. That is what we wanted to try and recreate and bring to 2020 with DIRT 5.

Michael: Exactly right. We’ve gone for a much wider selection of car classes and moved away from just rally cars to a lot more forms of racing which we think added to the playful attitude that we try to bring across in the game.

Michael Moreton and Robert Karp
Lead Game Designer Michael Moreton (left) and Development Director Robert Karp (right) | Background Source: Koch Media / Codemasters

OverTake: What realistic aspects will DIRT 5 still have?

Robert: When you look at the weather and the changing time of day in DIRT 5, to me that is super realistic. It’s not static.

If you are a hardcore racing player and you turn off all your driving aids, you are going to get a challenging experience. I think that with the assists on, the game is quite accessible. It’s easy to pick up and play. But there is a lot of depth to it.

Michael: We tried to keep a lighter take. For everyone who picks up the game we want to have a really good experience. We’ve made everything really scalable.

OverTake: DIRT 5 promises to have a story-driven “deepest ever Career mode”. What makes it so outstanding compared to the previous ones?

Michael: We built in a lot of player choice over the events. We really want them to race what they want to race. So, we’ve created a branching career structure with different types of events, different car classes available. The player treads their own path through the career.

Robert: One of the things I like about the Career mode is the sponsor system. There are real world brands you can sign up to race for them and they pay you. They give you events and chapter objectives. There are things you have to do over your career and things you have to do just in one event.

As you progress with them you unlock bonuses and rewards. You might have a real-world brand like AMD or Beats and then you get to a certain level and unlock the livery that they made.

new sponsor system
DIRT 5’s career offers a brand-new sponsor system | Source: Koch Media / Codemasters

OverTake: Which (new) features in the game can experienced Dirt players look forward to?

Robert: We focused a lot on customization for DIRT 5. There is a livery editor where you can use some of the things that you unlock to make your own liveries. It is quite powerful, and you can change all kinds of different stuff like the color of the alloy wheels and the type of paint. Whether it’s a gloss, a matt finish, so on and so forth.

OverTake: Speaking of customization, in the new Playgrounds mode people can create their own tracks with a huge array of different objects…

Robert: …and then once they have created these, they can share them with the rest of the DIRT 5 community!

What that means is, even if you’re not into creation, if you are a hardcore DIRT player, every time you boot up your game and you go to the Playgrounds mode, there will always be new things that other people have made. So you do not have to wait for the developer team to give you new tracks and other things like that, which we are going to do anyway in our service.

Michael: We had a small Playgrounds demo at the end of the month which some media and influencers got their hands on, and they made great things that we never expected. I think once we get that in the hands of our community, they take it to the next level, and I am really excited for that.

OverTake: You really seem to love the game mode. Is DIRT 5 maybe becoming the better Trackmania?

Robert: When we started making Playgrounds, we looked at a variety of different games that had user-generated content features, including Trackmania. I think you could draw some comparisons between Trackmania and DIRT 5, but they’re quite different games.

We’ve really gone big on cars and details on cars. I was on Twitter and someone who had the demo had gone into photo mode and captured some images of the cars that were just unbelievable. Even us in the studio, I think we probably haven’t made anything that looked quite as good as what they did. And they had it for like ten minutes!

Michael: Yeah, that’s the thing that always amazes me. The creativity and just the difference of use that you get as soon as you release something into the demo public. It is one of the reasons to become a game developer. Just to see what people do with the things you created, it’s amazing.

OverTake: Which aspect of the game are you personally most excited about?

Michael: For me it is the opportunity that Playgrounds has to offer. I look forward to what the players bring to the table. People will always have different ideas and different ways of playing than we anticipate. But also, I am a massive petrolhead, so I really love some of the cars that are in the game.

Robert: I am probably similar to Mike with the cars. I really like the handling. And it’s really fun, just doing laps and setting better times. It’s a bit boring to say that for a racing game with so many cool features, but yeah.

many obstacles to overcome
There are many obstacles to overcome in Playgrounds | Source: Koch Media / Codemasters

OverTake: DIRT 5 is a launch title for the new consoles Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. Which next gen features make the game outstanding compared to predecessors?

Michael: For us, one of the most important things was the smart delivery [free upgrade from Xbox One version to Xbox Series X version, editor’s note] and the PlayStation equivalent. We think it is really important that players get the version of the game they want when they are ready to upgrade.

But also the split-screen! It is not necessarily a next-gen feature, but we think that it is really important as well.

OverTake: From your perspective as Development Director, Robert?

Robert: More powerful consoles mean more frame rate, more resolution. But I also think the fast loading is something that personally I am a big fan of. Next gen makes that a bit almost like mobile gaming. You open your phone, you flick, you can have a couple of quick games in a few minutes and move on. I think next gen offers you that deep immersion you get from AAA console games, but you can also do it in a bite sized format because you can get in super-fast.

Michael: This is something we leaned towards quite heavily because with the arcade mode, you can literally just set up an event and go. We created a way to have sort of bite sized nuggets of gameplay.

OverTake: What were the biggest challenges of developing DIRT 5?

Michael: Developing for the next gen is challenging but also the most exciting thing. We do not get much advance notice of the hardware, so developing on any sort of evolving hardware is challenging. But that’s one of the reasons why you go into developing games. It is being at the cutting edge of technology and hardware as it moves forward.

Robert: I think for me, it is finding the right balance between something fresh, new and innovative while also remaining true to the Dirt franchise. Most of the team have experience in working on games like Motorstorm or DriveClub, GRID or DiRT Rally. Being able to take that and put our own twist on it is the biggest challenge.

things get dirty in DIRT 5
As the title suggests, things get dirty in DIRT 5 | Source: Koch Media / Codemasters

OverTake: You recently pushed the release date of DIRT 5 from October 9 to November 3. What were the reasons behind the decision?

Robert: I think it was purely a business decision. As you may have seen, the Xbox Series X is out not too long after our release. I think that having those close together made a lot of sense.

OverTake: DIRT 5 is set to hit the market in November 2020. I assume the release day must be very exciting for you and your team, to see how people react to your game. What is the best feedback a developer can get?

Michael: For us, the community feedback is really important, because as we were servicing the game, we already sought a lot of time towards features, tweaks, changes that the community might want. We are really open to any feedback the community have to make our game better, and we really want to implement as much of that as we can.

Robert: Obviously, people liking the game is awesome. For individual developers – the world artist that made the China track for example – when someone is like “Oh I love this track, it’s my favorite!” I think that’s great for them. Because it really reinforces how good a job they did.

OverTake: Thank you very much for the interview, guys!

Which feature of DIRT 5 are you most excited about? Tweet us your opinion @overtake_gg!

Born and raised close to the Nürburgring.