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Hi, my name is Paul Coleman and I’m the Chief Games Designer on DiRT Rally. My role on this project is to ensure that you get the authentic rally experience you’ve have been asking for. I look after many of the key aspects of the game including the Vehicle Handling, Environment Designs and many of the aspects that hold the game experience together.
Since DiRT 3 came out in 2011, I’ve been out and done some co-driving for real, teaming up with Jon Tucker in his 1995 Subaru Impreza WRX STi. While it has been a dream come true for me to actually get to compete for real, money has been tight so we haven’t been able to do as many events as we would have liked. That said, this real world experience has been invaluable in ensuring that DiRT Rally is without question the most authentic representation of the sport we have ever produced here at Codies and hopefully you’ll think it is the closest thing you have ever had to driving a rally car in real life.
So onto my area of expertise and the reason you are all here… Co-driver calls!
We investigated using systems that are more prevalent in the real world such as 9-1 or 6-1 where the higher the number the tighter the corner but we found that players who were used to Colin McRae Rally and DiRT were struggling to get to grips with the change in system.
So we settled on using the 1-6 system, in this system 1 is a slow corner and 6 is fast one. We call the corner direction first i.e. “Left Five into Right Three” and have a little more detail such as “Square”, “Hairpin” and “Accute” corners for when the corner severity is 90 degrees or greater.
Linking all of the corners together are distances. “Into” and “And” are very small distances between corners, we then use even numbers up to 100 metres and odd numbers once we go over the 100 metre mark.
As well as receiving the audio calls we have also implemented a system of co-driver call icons that will allow you to get a visual clue of the corners ahead. These don’t have as much detail as the audio calls but they do at least give you a good idea of the corner severity and of any bumps or dips in the road ahead.
The main difference with the notes in DiRT Rally is that we have used a new Level Design tool that studies the corner angles and gives us a pretty accurate first stab at a set of notes. I’ve then gone through the notes with Jon Tucker (who I go rallying with) or one of the Level Design team to correct any errors with the system and add additional detail into the calls to make sure that you get all the information that you need to attack the stage with confidence.
The key thing to remember with these calls is that they are not Pace Notes. Pace Notes are written on recces and are very personal to the crews that create them and the car they are using. The calls we have created are Route Notes and they are designed to describe the road as best as possible. This makes them much more consistent and far less subjective, as a result they are a much better fit for the broad spectrum of rally cars that you will be able to drive on our stages.
People often describe the 1-6 system by saying that the numbers are the gear you should be in to take the corner but that is not strictly true. Sometimes you will go from a tight Right One into a fast Left Six but the chances are that you won’t have dropped into first gear for the Right One and you won’t have picked up enough speed to be in sixth gear by the time you get to the Left Six.
The best way to describe the calls that describe the corner severity is with a diagram. So here is one I prepared earlier:
The corner angle is derived from the angle of the corner available when using as much of the road as possible, the racing line, stage width and obstacles are taken into consideration but having this diagram in mind when listening to the notes should help a great deal with understanding the road ahead.
Another key area we have looked to improve in DiRT Rally is the additional description of detail in the road ahead. This has been a necessity due to the added technicality of the stages. We have calls such as Care, Caution and Double Caution to signify sections where extra care should be taken. We talk about corners that Open, Tighten or Double Tighten when the angle of the corner changes mid way through. We describe the corner length using Half Long, Long or Continues for.
We describe the various things that you can drive over such as Crests, Bumps and Jumps as well as things you can drive through such as bad camber, dips and water splashes. We also make sure that you know when not to cut or run wide on corner exit as some of the corners have some rally ending rocks that aren’t immediately obvious hiding near the apex.
After we have written, checked and double checked the notes we set about recording them. In the past we have recorded the calls with an actor in a recording studio but to try and get a better sense of being in the cockpit we have rigged up a Stilo Intercom System in our D-Box room. I wear my crash helmet and sit in the D-Box chair. It’s a motion seat so every bump, dip and crest in the stage is transferred through the seat and into my body. It’s subtle but the faster sections are reflected through the intensity of the calls and things tend to get calmer when the car is going through some of the slower sections.
Perhaps the best part is that through the bumpier sections you can really hear the compressions in the stage coming through in my voice. Its pretty rough having to do multiple runs through the stages over the course of an hour with the D-Box turned up to the maximum but I think it has been totally worth it for the overall game experience. In fact, all of this virtual practise made me a better co-driver when went back out on stage in Somerset Stages on the 18th April.
Ultimately, you can drive an unknown stage without co-driver calls but you will have to slow down for every crest or corner where visibility is minimal. As rallies tend to take place out in the wild many of the corners that you’ll encounter will be hidden or deceptive so without co-driver calls you will never be able to drive them with true commitment as there will always be a chance that the corner does not end up being what it looked like it was going to be.
The reason for co-driver calls is to describe the road ahead so that despite having not driven the stage before you can confidently attack the stage. Listening to the calls gives you a mental picture of the road ahead allowing you to approach corners with an understanding of the challenges they will present. Timing is crucial and in DiRT Rally we’ve given you the option to get the calls earlier or later than the default so you can tailor the timings to suit you better.
All in all I think it is testament to the authenticity of the game and the increased technicality of the stages that the co-driver calls are once again such an integral part of the experience. When we have turned the calls off we have really noticed the difference in how much slower we have to drive through the stages without them.
DiRT Chief Game Designer & Co Driver.