Some time ago I wrote a bit about the game they call “official WRC game” but which is, in my opinion, pretty much garbage with only the customer support being worse than the game itself. First one, released in 2010, was bad, and the sequel only reiterated that despite claims about improvements across the board. Cars handling was bad, peripherals support was lacking, entertainment value was limited and most of all any kind of customer support was non existent.
So, with WRC The Game 1 and 2 being as bad as they are, what else can we take on to satisfy our need for (virtual) rally speed? Not much actually. There’s Codemasters’ Dirt series with their arcadey approach and there’s the immortal Richard Burns Rally, which despite numerous fan-made updates (as pictured) and many online leagues is showing signs of age and just isn’t what you’d expect from a modern game. That said, RBR is still one hell of a game and tough thing to master if you’re into more serious virtual rallying.
In series of posts I’ll try to share some ideas on what I think could be used for future games attempting to simulate rallying and/or World Rally Championship on computers and consoles. I must note I will probably cover some topics several times, as ideas evolve. In this first part I’ll talk a bit about putting more focus on the crazy half of every good rally crew – co-driver. I hope you’ll join me after the jump.
In current and past rally simulations co-drivers were usually used only as pre-recorded narrators, delivering pace notes and customization usually ends with selection of whether you want your notes read by male or female voice. In some games you were also able to adjust the delay in which co-driver will shout his instructions to you. And that’s about it.
Of course, co-driver system is closely related to how game is constructed and it’s not easy task to introduce more elements of co-driving without expanding other core sections of the game architecture. But it all starts with the ideas, right? So, here are few.
Randomly generated stages and recce
This alone would make me buy the game for myself and all my friends and family! Let’s say we come to rally in Finland. Game has selection of roads to choose from, let’s say 150 kilometers of roads available for use as special stages. Now, as each season begins you are faced with randomly generated itinerary based on those roads. To make things less complex, some stages might stay the same over the course of several seasons, but others would change.
There is fair amount of freedom for game developers, as stages can start and finish at random spots and they can alternate direction in which they’re taken. And that’s just one small part of this system. Players should not be able to learn stages too well (like in current games), as that defies basic idea of rallying and makes it more in line with circuit racing. The idea of randomly generated stages is quite complex and extensive and I’ll elaborate on it further in future posts. For now let’s just use it to illustrate how co-driver system could work.
So, you come to randomly generated stage and are allowed five (for beginner level) or two (for pro) passes in order to make your pace notes. Now the fun part begins. You take the role of your co-driver and get to sit in his seat. You have at your disposal a set of elements which you can put in your pacenotes, such as length of straight sections, severity of corners, crests and dips, bumps, etc., and you are adding them to the notes yourself! just think of it as some kind of game editor, where you create your own game to some extent.
The speed at which the car is traveling could be set to either be computer controlled or you’d have it under control via some basic interface. There lies another opportunity to increase challenge to players – if car is constantly moving you must be focused at making notes and react to what you see on stage. Sort of mini-game within the game itself. Pictured above is the system used by RBR “expansion” RBRdll and it’s own pace notes editor for existing stages in that game. Looks exciting, doesn’t it, even if it’s not used in game in the way described above?
As this is game we’re talking about, there would have to be some compromises. So for example, you would have to be able to do some changes to notes after the set amount of co-driver controlled runs. For example, after two runs in co-driver seat, you get behind the wheel and do a speed run with the ability to pause and edit notes. Or something like that. And after you’re happy with your notes, you continue further on towards the actual rally.
Time controls in game
This one might be a bit harder to implement, but hey, programmers are not of this world anyway and they don’t have “impossible” in their vocabulary. In fact, if not done in great detail, this should not be that hard.
After you finish each stage, or even visit to service, you’re shown with time card, similar to those used in actual rally. The trick would be in that computer is randomly making errors in setting the target time for your arrival to next time control. As a good co-driver, you’d have to check those times and adjust them if needed. After that time card goes away and you’re automagically transported to the next time control ahead of next stage at desired time. If you made a mistake, you are penalized, if not – great, you can start the stage without handicapping your chances in the rally.
To make things more interesting, computer might not make a single mistake over the course of the rally, or he may be constantly wrong and you’d have to correct it in order to keep your virtual crew within target time.
Become the co-driver yourself… or not?
Why not take this even further. If we imagine game would be huge and detailed and budgeted enough, this might even be possible to put in. The idea is to take the role of co-driver through some kind of management system, which would control the speed and precision of driving based on how good or bad you’re doing your co-driving. It can even be made so it depends on how well your driver and you are improving through the season.
On the second thought, this would be pretty complex thing! And besides, who’d want to be a virtual co-driver. Ok, it would be nice to have as an option, but I’d rather take superb physics and challenging stages with powerful social interface over it.
Liaison sections in normal traffic
In another post I’ll discuss this topic a bit – introduction of liaison sections between two special stages. Just think of the possibilities – traffic, punctures, repairs, getting lost, obeying speed limits… It would, in my opinion, be great!
Till next time, keep spinning your virtual wheels!
Disclaimer of some kind: Ideas noted here are taken from my head and as far as I know, none of those are currently available in any game. If any developer decides to use these ideas, I don’t expect but I would welcome a nice mention. You can even donate some of the hefty profits! If all fails, just remember you read it here first!