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What does Colin McRae Rally / DiRT mean to you?

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A discussion broke out earlier this week in the office about what it was that made the original Colin McRae games so special for people and what they loved about them, the same can be said for DiRT (I guess it just depends on your age) and everybody has a different story attached to them. 

So I was interested to hear how you guys feel about the series, what your first memories of it are and how it had had a an impact on your life (sounds a little over dramatic I know but hear me out).

Back when I was in my teens we didn't have much money but one Christmas my mum brought me and my brother a PlayStation 1 and the only game we had for it for a very long time was the demo disc it came with. It had Tekken, Gran Turisimo, Porsche Challenge and I think V-Rally on it, maybe some other stuff but that was pretty much all we had to play for months! 

Then after saving up for what seemed like forever me and my brother had enough to buy a new game, V-rally was our favourite out of the lot of the demos and that lead us to decide to buy the first Colin McRae Rally, it was pretty much all we played for the next year. We'd sit in front of the telly and take it in turns running a stage, I'd beat him up for crashing the car, he'd try put me off when it was my go - we were a**holes to each other looking back but it was fun.

Then as time went on we saved up and brought every other Colin McRae game that followed (and most of the ToCA's) and we would always play them in the same way. Then my sister started joining in as she got old enough and we'd beat her up for crashing the car (kids are d****s aren't they?).

After leaving school I applied for a job in QA to work at Codemasters. I remember the advert in the paper, it had Colin's Focus on the top like the one on the box for CMR 3. I didn't get it for obvious reasons - I was 15/16 and knew nothing about working in QA or how games are made. I just thought to myself "yeah I could be a games tester that would be an awesome job", don't think I even got a "Dear John" letter back!

I moved on to work at a radio station, then wound up working in retail for what seemed like eternity. Thankfully I had more money now and could afford to buy the new consoles and latest games - including the DiRT games obviously.

Somehow I decided I wanted to start writing about games and specialised in covering racing games. In my spare time I started up a blog where I would just write any old rubbish before eventually writing for a small gaming website. As that site started to get bigger I started to get to go to press events like one for Need For Speed Hot Pursuit (I got a ride along in a Lamborghini cop car!) the DiRT 3 Battersea event and eventually expos like PAX, E3 and Gamescom. I wont lie it was pretty sweet. 

My brother had seen that I was getting to do all this cool stuff and decided he wanted in so he started writing for the same site, we both made a few friends with people in the industry and did a little side work for EA. I eventually decided I wanted to run my own gaming website which I set up with my brother and a few friends (one of which was Loore/Ben of GRID fame) - it sucked up all my time and pretty much all of my money but I enjoyed it. By the time we were ready to set the new site live my brother had gone on to work for EA full time and Ben got offered a job at Codemasters the day we launched our new site.

Fast forward a year and after just coming back from taking my new site to Gamescom I had an email from a lady called Sam at Codemasters asking me if I would like to apply for a Job (it would appear that Ben had put my name forward), two days after getting back from Germany I pulled a sicky from work and went in for an interview which turned out to be be 3 of them! One after another, on the same day. I must have done well because a week later I was offered the job!

I was put to work on the ill-fated F1 online and was helping out on F1 Race Stars and GRID 2, but just there on my Facebook was the admin for DiRT, this game that I grew up loving - it got me into motorsport and I had the ability to (now this sounds weird I know) "be DiRT". So I just started posting up photos of rally cars and all of a sudden I had all of these people talking back to me about them and these games I grew up loving - it was awesome!

I kept that going but was careful not to post up all the time because I didn't want to make people feel like there was another game due when truth be told I didn't even know if we were making one! I must have been at the company about 6-7 months before I'd even met Paul and I always just assumed Jon worked here haha!

Then I was shown something that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up by a guy called Andy in a company presentation - I don't think we've ever really spoke about him that much but his is the Executive Producer on DiRT and he is an absolute genius, he has these ideas about the direction video games are going and is really inspiring when he's talking about something. That combined with Paul and the rest of the teams passion and ideas about what we should be doing and the mind boggling math's and science stuff the car handling programmers do is crazy. 

I do really have to pinch myself sometimes when I think that I'm a part of it all, and to have gone from being a spotty teenager to getting emails from the people making the game saying "Hey Lee, what do you think of this..." and taking to/teasing (sorry about that but it is fun) the fans and you guys is awesome.

I better put the brakes on the story here before I give anything away I shouldn't but despite all of what happened since, DiRT still means the same thing to me - sitting in front of the telly with my brother taking it in turns on Colin McRae Rally.

Your turn.
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Simple for me too really I'm just a general motorsport fan that liked the idea of a good rallying game. I have watched some rallying on TV but I'm not as familiar with that as I am other racing disciplines My favourite discipline of course is F1 as I pretty much watch that every weekend it's on.(Exce4pt when something ilke a World cup is on or something then I may miss the odd race and just watch the highlights.)  I don't often watch practice but I always watch/record every qualifying/race session as the early morning ones at the start and the end of a season as they tend to be at weird times for me so tend to record those ones to watch later in the day.
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Fantastic write-up @justbiglee ! I think it's a great story that you're right in between the passionate rally game fans and the team making the games - hopefully you'll help Codies distill the wishlists/feedback to what really matters and make it happen.

My journey with Colin McRae Rally games and DiRT has two stages. 

I've always been into cars and motorsport. I read car magazines from start to end, remebered stats so that I could suggest the optimal car for my dad (for some reason no 1 parameter was boot capacity...).

Needless to say I followed motorsport closely and when I got my hands on Colin McRae Rally 3 I must have smashed three keyboards... :) I never had a chance to play the earlier games when they came out for some reason - could have been because of my access to computers or consoles in Poland in early 2000s. 
I loved the challenge and depth of the CMR games I got to play. Without a doubt level of expectation changes with time, but I know that at the time my expectations were exceeded ten-fold.
The game then gave me a feeling of progression and in a way access to something international.

Fast forward to 2009 when I've invested in a PS3. My very first game was DiRT 2. Initially I've played with a controller and then with a wheel. I'm sure that this was the game I've clocked the most hours on. I think I've particularly enjoyed fun handling, which gave a decent feeling of driving on a loose surface. I didn't mind the festival/US dude vibe and I've loved the soundtrack. In a way I think I'm a very easy customer to please.
I don't need fancy graphics, innovations or a sleek menu - I want the core of the game to be engaging and satisfying, the rest are bonuses.

For me DiRT series is a game franchise which never really disappointed me. Of course now looking back I can spot some flaws, but I vividly remember sweating up the couch trying to win online races. 

The CMR/DiRT games introduced me to PC and console gaming. Since then I consider myself pretty much racing game only consumer, who buys other genres when they're a must-buy.

I don't visit other gaming communities - I only care enough about the rally games from Codemasters to spend time in the evenings on this board and slack a little bit at work during the day.

I guess it was my 'fanboy-ism' that gave me a chance to meet the DiRTi developers in person during the Battersea event and on other occasions. Having met some of the team in person I know first hand how much they care about our views and how hard they're working on a game we'll consider amazing.

Therefore, for me the CMR/DiRT is the racing game.
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Great read Lee. That's really interesting to see how you ended up working for Codemasters too!

The first Colin McRae game I got was CMR3 and that was in 2003, so when I was just 7 years old I guess! I spent hours on that game, it was so fun and I vividly remember taking McRae's Ford Focus out on the snow in Sweden and the orange gravel of Australia. 

That great experience led me to buying CMR4 and CMR05, and again, such good memories, but it was CMR3 that was the best for me.

Then in 2007 I bought myself a PS3 and I bought CM DiRT which was really good fun, but not as much as CM DiRT 2. Again, I spent hours on this game and I loved the cool feel to the game with Ken Block and rallycross was my favourite. Such good fun.

And then I got DiRT 3 in 2010 and again, such good times on that game and I loved the trailblazer events.
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Heh Lee, that sounds like most people's ideal career path, getting into Codemasters from playing the games originally!

I started with gaming relatively early, with my first computer being an Amstrad CPC 464 (the one with cassette tapes!). I had several Codemasters games from back then (Twin Turbo V8, Mig 29 Soviet Fighter, Rockstar Ate My Hamster (there's a game ripe for a reboot!)).

Moving on, via a Megadrive (no rally games on there, but I did have Micro Machines, the first one!), I eventually graduated to a decent enough PC to run games.

For me, it wasn't McRae Rally that made the biggest impact, but Sega Rally Championship; we were playing it at Uni in the student's union, then it was finally ported to PC and me and my flatmates played splitscreen on my old Pentium 100Mhz in low-res VGA! Old times now...

I was aware of V-Rally on the PSX, but it seemed too floaty and fast (a feeling confirmed when I got the PC version eventually).

Anyway, when Colin McRae Rally came out, I was already the owner of ToCA Touring Car Championship, and liked rallying, so I thought I'd give it a go. And despite the car handling a bit like a block (multi-point suspension didn't arrive until later McRae games!), it played enough like Sega Rally Championship for me to love it.

I still can't honestly say I've completed it though! Then came McRae Rally 2.0, 3, 4, 2005, and the DIRT games; I've still not really played huge amounts of them (mainly as my current Pentium 4 3.2GHz Extreme Edition is now ancient), but still appreciate them and look forward to the future.

In fact, due to Sega Rally Championship, Colin McRae Rally, and some other games, I got into rally games so much on the PC that I now buy pretty much every rally racer available! One day I'll finish my screenshot comparison of them all...!

p.s. in terms of games I've completed most by Codemasters, ToCA Race Driver 2 and 3 I've put most time into, something to do with the diversity of racing on offer. That's something that DIRT has added, but due to my slow PC I've never really been able to run it. I plan an upgrade in the next month or sooner, so finally I may be able to enjoy the games at a frame rate better than slideshow!

p.p.s. in terms of other rally games, Richard Burns Rally is honestly the most realistic simulation of rallying, but isn't quite as much outrightfun as DIRT, as it can be terrifyingly brutal - it's all about driving within your limits. I'd also like to give a shout out to Rally Championship 2000, as no other game has tried to simulate a 30 mile stage before. These are both things that the DIRT games could look into in future, but I expect (and hope) that they instead might take on the RallyCross championships that seem to be capturing the public's imagination... as well as point-to-point traditional rallying!

p.p.p.s. (how many can I have?!) I was playing WRC4 recently, and the reuse of stage sections is annoying. DIRT should try to have as much unique scenery in each stage as possible; yes it's easy to flip/mirror/cut up a big track to get more stages, but there's only so many times I can see the same scenery before I get bored (in WRC4 it's the rocky seaside part of the Great Orme that repeats in pretty much all of the UK stages...).

I feel I've gone off topic a bit... heh
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Heh Lee, that sounds like most people's ideal career path, getting into Codemasters from playing the games originally!
Being honest I count my blessings everyday. 

I am a rare case, I'm not saying its not impossible doing it my way. Being honest it actually happened when I stopped trying, its like the planets all needed to align or something. 

People go to university for years and work really hard to even get an interview. I was just lucky and I have a pretty awesome boss who I guess must have seen something that was there. I can really kick your ass at times but I do really love my job, I wouldn't be talking to you guys at 10pm if I didn't. ;)
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That's really inspiring thread, I mean, it's cool to listen how others' dreams are coming true. Personally, I've always wanted to be a race driver (more of GT3 cars) and I hope to share equally interesting story in the future. If it comes to DiRT.. DiRT2 was the first one I bought, I spent around 80h, I loved rally stages (but those were too short) and trailbrazer but for me it was just another game to chill out with. DiRT3, well, I bought it to race with Dave but untill this event I've started to being fed up with this game(I was playing only with Dave, frontfender,frontbumper,yar72, was losing one stage after another all the time :p). Honestly, there is something missing there, no idea what though. Or maybe nothing is missing just the spirit is different. Back in days I was playing CMR2.0 on keyboard with brother (but can't remember punishing him for crashing cars :D) and it gave me quite a lot of emotions. Enough to say I don't remember much from childhood years, only some flashbacks and playing CMR2.0 was one of them. I really like watching cars sliding in dirt, and getting dirty with mud and that was so fun. Btw, GRID was the game making me go full hardcore and playing in cockipt view with no aids at all.. On keyboard. I haven't the faintest idea how I managed to keep control over the car. Then I bought DFGT which now is falling apart (after 5years I think), potentiomater is working randomly. Now I'm more into Project CARS but when DiRT4 comes out I will have something to devote all nights to.
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Great read Lee! Its nice to see older gamers (I mean that respectfully! ;)) who remember the roots of the series at the helm.

For me CMR really came at the perfect time to get me hooked. McRae's WRC title in '95 had shifted rally from a casual interest to my fave sport, McRae himself was just spectacular and Subaru's were the coolest thing ever.

My introduction came to CMR after I bought a Playstation magazine driving special which came with a demo disc (ah, the good old days of cover-mounted demo discs!). After being rather disappointed with V Rally I tried the CMR demo, loved it and decided it was worth the sizeable investment (£30 was a lot when I was 16!) to get the full game.

I've subsequently purchased and completed every CMR and DiRT title (with the exception of Showdown, which I don't class as part of the series). Although I have enjoyed other driving games along the way, the CMR/DiRT games are one of the few driving series that I have stuck with from day 1.

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Great read, Lee!
I used to play NFS HS, V-Rally 2, ToCA back in 2000 by plugging my PSONE in a black Phillips telly, really good old times :)
Colin McRae Rally 2.0 was so special and it meant a bunch to me when i was 6 back in 2000 aswell, i still rather prefer it than any other rally games! it's a masterpiece that Codemasters have ever developed and created!! I was spending my entire time beating the championship which include long vast stages in different rallies (Finland, Sweden, Greece, France, Australia, Kenya, Italy and UK)... i was always happily urged to play that game!! What a memorable merriment!! :)
i still study at the university and i'm hoping someday to take part of a gaming industry which is really a dream but it takes perseverance and self-confidence especially!

Is it possible to organize CMR2.0 championship after DiRT 3?
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It is simple.

- CMR series: Primarily, for adults. Good games for the time, specially 1,2. Memorable handling and overall playablity, which while not realistic by any means, made the first and second games terribly fun (and the third one too actually), and what It mattered most..., replayable (even to this day). Replayability is the actual legacy of the series, and where the important point lies, although you still insist on forgetting about your past, and resort to It only when some commercial interest comes in, as such is the purpose of this thread you suddenly open.

- DIRT series: With the first one being probably the exception, they are all $$$ Cash cows for the kids and younger audiences. Dirt2 was some terrible lackluster with that "young party" background designed exclusively to cover up the total lack of content present in the game. Dirt3, although It had good handling (finally after 3 attempts), It was lacking content as well in the form of very few and short stages available, plus the lies when It came to the RALLY SUBJECT. Finally, I feel that commenting on the last Dirt, that Showdown thing you farted as another gift for the children audience would plain as a complete waste of time, sincerely.

I discovered the first CMR game back then in '98 when I was eighteen, when I bought my first playstation after an era of really hard work when I was young I would like to forget about. The game, along with the Tekken and Ace Combat series gave me life again.

You can now figure how importan first and second CMR games were to me. That's, among other things, why I can't stand what you have done to the franchise. While in business, It is normal and perfectly understandable to look for a wider audience (that was even your aim with the old CMR games too, but It was obviously different), but you have gone down that road for too long already during, and sacrificed too much of what It made you a great small company once .

Sooner or later you will find out that pleasing the casual 100% of the times comes at a cost too. For now, your reputation has been at stake for this entire already old generation of consoles, and btw you have to thank a lot for that too to your mates at Birmingham Studios.

Let's see how deep those hypothetical changes in your policy toward the more serious gamer get actually. I can't wait to see If you guys lie again about Dirt4, or If on the other hand have actually begun to do things well once more at long last, by not looking at just $$$$
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CMR 2005 on the PS2 (along with TOCA 3) is probably one of the games that I spent the most time with ever, having only got (gotten? stupid English language) in to games in the PS2 era. However I never got past about half way into the career mode because the save file was 4MB big on my crappy 8MB memory card, which when combined with Cricket 07 custom teams (come EA, where's my reboot!) at 1MB and Gran Turismo 4, meant that I would have to periodically have to delete my save in order to play something else! (probably something equally nostalgic like Simpsons Hit and Run!)
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I myself had always had a knack for two things and two things only, racing, and the High Medieval Ages (9th-13th century Europe).

As a kid, we had a PS1 and the only thing I'd ever really play was Toy Story: the Game, and the Grand Turismo 2 demo (could only use a Celica rally, mustang, and lancer evo to what I remember now). We'd always rent games at my local video store, and there was this one game that really interested me, it was just jam packed with rally cars, and that's it. I could say it was a Colin Mcrae game, but I've no idea.

Anyways, flashing forward to when I got Grand Turismo 2, the full game, I was... hm, maybe 5 or 6. I loved the game, but my attention deficit made me hate the idea of getting a license and drive figuratively minivans until I could afford something nice. That's where my best friend's dad came in, see he had a racing wheel, and the game for a year by the time he simply saved his game onto my memory card, and bam, 1 million credits. And what was the first thing I bought? The Subaru Impreza Rally Prototype '01. I LOVED this car. It ripped, and that is where my love for the bug eye's flourished, perhaps it's nostalgia, but if I will never have the chance to sit in a bug eye'd manual WRX, I will not allow myself to step foot in heaven nor hell.

Over the course of my life, I went through too many hot wheels, and Lego castle sets, hell, I was still buying both in 8th grade, 4 years after it wasn't "cool" to do so.

I occasionally played and heard of DiRT 2 over the course of two years, but a few months into grade 9, my friend tells me about this game, Mount & Blade: Warband, telling me it's a "medieval Call of Duty". By this time I was well past the CoD, only playing about 30 hours. I find I have a level head, and decided to give it a shot, I downloaded Steam, and I fell in love immediately. At the time I had a terrible laptop, by the time I had DiRT 2 and DiRT 3, it ran the either at less than 10 frames per second, and took about 6 minutes to load. It took me about 10 hours of playing to deem it unplayable (with a keyboard, I might add). And rented it from my library for PS3. My love for the game flourished, at that point, I wasn't sure what made me more... hot... The '05 n12 subaru, or Solberg's '01 rally car. Either way, I beat the entire game with the Impreza group N, and Racing Lancer.

My new laptop is coming to be about two years old, the first game I palyed on it was DiRT 2. I clocked too many hours on it, and interestingly hated DiRT 3 for it's gameplay. A codemaster's hiatus occurs, and a few months later, I was on 4Chan, and there was a thread on racing games. I mentioned "I wish there was like a DiRT game but with track racing, maybe, call it ASHPHaLT or something like that." A lad mentions "There is something like that, same developers, it's called GRiD", and turns out it was on sale. So I bought it, installed it, and grabbed my controller. I played it to no end, but it got me to try DiRT 3 once more. Long story short, I cannot go back to DiRT2.

About a year ago and a half ago (When I got my driving alone license) I felt my car too well, as though it was part of me, much like how you must feel your sword is just an extension of your arm, and a shield a growth from your shoulder.) I realized many work options were erupting and I heard the story of the infamous Caswell, and was barely motivated. But it unlocked something which festers in me now. It is my dream to contribute to rally.

But here in Canada, rally isn't really at large. To compound, my family is not too keen on the idea of a car that will not be a daily driver. I just have this passion in my heart, and if I were given the chance, I feel I would do absolutely terrible, but better than the average. I find I am very, very good at doing things first try, and even better at improving. Not to sound narsastic, it's almost theraputic, but some things someone could train for a month for, I could challenge them and prove a worthy opponent going in almost blind.

But if that fails, which is at a very high probability. I have accepted my offer to University, and I am going into a hands-on automotive and mechanical engineer program. If I can't have the joy of driving a rally car, it'll still take something larger than Goku's Spirit bomb to wipe the smile off my face when I'm working on one.

I do thank you Codemasters, for opening a portal for where getting your car nice and dirty is a good thing.
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  • 2 weeks later...
I played Colin Mcrae Rally (the first one) when my dad bought it for PC. After a year he bougt Colin Mcrae Rally 2 and so on and so forth. I have always loved rally. My dad drove a rally car and myself is a co-driver and hopefully within 2 years i will get my own, either buy one or start my own project.
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