204 stages spread across 18 rallies in 18 different countries, 82 cars, a game mode where we get to design our own rally car and the career mode that Dirt Rally and Dirt Rally 2.0 always lacked. This bodes well for the November release of Codemasters’ first officially licensed rally title, and we here at Gamereactor visited the WRC woods with Creative Director Ross Gowing and Game Designer (and pro rally driver) John Armstrong to learn more about EA Sports WRC.
Gamereactor: We heard about Dirt Rally 3.0 and the shift from the single game engine Ego to Unreal Engine long before we got word that you grabbed the official WRC license and changed the name internally. Is this actually Dirt Rally 3.0 with licensed cars and rallies?
Jon Armstrong (Game Designer): I don’t know if I’m really allowed to talk about this, but yes, it’s the game that started out as Dirt Rally 3.0 but then changed tracks, if you will. We worked on it for a while before we decided to change the game engine and it’s obviously been an arduous and challenging but also rewarding process.
Why did you decide to switch from your own game engine to Unreal Engine?
Armstrong: It’s mostly about the limitations of our own technology which has gotten a little old in contrast to the capabilities of the Unreal Engine which has allowed us to do more things, better things and especially over longer distances. Route length was one of the main aspects we wanted to improve and change from the previous game and Epic’s game engine has allowed us to do that.
Unreal 4 Engine or Unreal Engine 5?
Ross Gowing (Creative Director): We are working today on the latest version of Unreal Engine 4 and I can tell you that if we had tried to make this game in our old Ego Engine, it would never have been finished this fall. Not even close. The features and editor that Unreal provides have given us completely different options to speed up and streamline our work, and Epic has been brilliant in helping us with certain details and features to make it easier. When we were working with the Ego Engine, our programmers had to spend weeks and sometimes months rewriting parts of the technology to meet the needs of our design team, so this has not been necessary today and so the pace of work has been faster.
How long is the longest stage in EA Sports WRC?
Armstrong: I probably can’t say exactly how long it is in miles, but I know we have a section that takes about 20 minutes to complete. It’s more than twice as long as the longest stage in Dirt Rally 2.0.
Tell us more about the tracks in the game?
Grolls: We have 18 rallies in 18 different countries in the game and a total of 204 stages, some of which are significantly longer than the stages in Dirt Rally 2.0. This means that we offer 65 miles of unique roads in this game, while Dirt Rally 2.0 contained 19 miles. The stages are all based on real rally roads that we have captured through footage, film footage and aerial photography and drone videos, but the roads are not quite the roads that will be driven within the 2023 WRC season because they are so changeable.
Will some stages from Dirt Rally 2.0 be included in EA Sports WRC?
Grolls: No, nothing. All 204 routes through all 18 countries are completely new.
In addition to the 13 official rallies/countries of this year’s WRC calendar, the game includes five additional rallies that are not mentioned like the countries they take place in, why is that?
Groll: We built most of these rallies before we got the WRC license and at that time this project was still Dirt Rally 3.0 and when we bought the license and realized that we would not be able to use these additional countries unless we renamed them, the choice for us was easy. Everything in this world is based on licensing and when these rallies are not included in this year’s WRC calendar, we have to negotiate and buy the rights to use the names, which we just skipped and chose names like “Mediterranean” or Pacific “.
Our readers want to know if there will be VR support at launch?
Grolls: No, there won’t be, but we plan to roll out VR support at a later date, so it will come.
Will there be true support for three screens, with three separate graphics rendered separately, allowing tripartite FOV and lineup between screens in a larger rig?
Groll: Of course, it is possible to work with three screens, just like in Dirt Rally and Dirt Rally 2.0, but it is a wide Ultra Wide image on all three screens instead of what you are referring to.
One of the most criticized parts of Dirt Rally 2.0 is the driving experience on asphalt. Has it been reworked for this game?
Grolls: Absolutely, that was one of the first things we reworked after listening to feedback from players of Dirt Rally 2.0. The asphalt physics in EA Sports WRC are much tighter and you as a driver have much more mechanical downforce in your car, gluing it to the asphalt.
Another aspect is Force feedback, from what I’ve tested of EA Sports WRC it also feels tighter with a more vivid, detailed core. How do you see that?
Armstrong: Our new force feedback is, as you say, much better in our opinion and it’s easier than ever to feel where you move the center of gravity of the car and which tire(s) have the most grip on the ground. It was great to be able to move our entire physics engine from Dirt Rally 2.0 to Unreal Engine and then keep tweaking and improving it. The team did a brilliant job of creating more realism and the force feedback clearly includes more details that make it easier to control the car.
EA Sports WRC may have even felt a bit more challenging than Dirt Rally 2.0, am I right or wrong about this?
Grolls: It’s hard for me to say, but what I do know is that we didn’t try to compromise on realism, but, especially with John’s help, tried to get as close as possible to the real feel of a real rally car without putting off the casual player. We’ve added some useful tools for those who don’t want simulated car behavior, but perhaps want to play with a handheld controller and enjoy a less uncompromising game without compromising on realism, as I mentioned.
In the Rally Build game mode, what can we build and choose in our car build?
Grolls: Chassis layout, mechanical parts in the chassis, brakes, dampers, bodywork, external styling, interior and paint. You can jump onto a track directly from the editor to test your creation.
You’re not releasing EA Sports WRC for the old consoles, which we think is absolutely correct. Tell us a little bit about how you think about that?
Groll: It’s very simple, we don’t want to compromise on our graphics quality and therefore focus only on PC and “current gen”.
The game will cost £44.99 when released, despite the fact that you say it contains more than three times as much content as Dirt Rally 2.0, while other EA titles such as FC 24 or NHL 24 cost almost twice as much at release. How does this happen?
Groll: EA was absolutely fantastic to work with and we made it clear pretty early on that we wanted to use this first WRC game as a gateway into the series, which we’re doing in part with the low price. We also hope that new players will invest in EA Sports WRC for the simple reason that it is the most complete rally game we have ever made.
The notes Phil Mills wrote and used in Dirt Rally 2.0 are pretty bad, especially in New Zealand and Scotland, how did you work on improving the pace reading for this game?
Armstrong: Phil is a fantastic co-driver and has had an incredible career in WRC, but as you say, there were too many mistakes and outright errors in the notes in Dirt Rally 2.0 that I hope we haven’t done now for EA Sports WRC. I spent months writing the notes myself and it is Jonathan Jackson who read my notes. If you opt for a female co-driver then it is Kirstie Riddick who reads them aloud.
EA Sports WRC will be released for PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X/S on November 3, 2023.