Ideal WRC or rallying simulation, part two – Road sections fun

I took my sweet time since first post in what I thought would be regular series, discussing ideas and options of ideal rallying simulation. Despite that I still plan to write about the topic and discuss it far and wide, time permit. In first post I wrote a bit on how role of co-driver could expand in modern day rally sims, bringing more of the real world action into gaming environment and maybe even allow you to play a game as co-driver yourself.

What is so tempting about co-driving that it would justify development time needed to add such role properly to future games? Well, for one, such option never existed in games – you never had a chance to become co-driver in some kind of multiplayer, or rather co-op setup, whether you play locally or via Internet. But co-driving is not nearly the most “outrageous” idea of them all.

In first post I briefly touched one idea I always find missing in rally games, and which is vital part of rally competition – liasion or road sections if you like. While doing road sections crews must obey traffic laws and regulations, including speed limits, traffic lights, and basically every little bit of your everyday driving through towns or country.

I do realize it’s somewhat hard to comprehend the idea of adding something comparable to sitting in a garage in F1 car in Formula 1 simulation, but I am discussing ideal and complete rally simulation here, and as we know, rally is not only about stages. Just ask crapload of drivers how they ended their rallies while on road sections – Richard Burns’ painful retirement few meters from the service in 2002 Safari Rally comes to mind (video below).

By adding normal traffic sections to our future ultimate rally simulation we would be able to experience what it’s like to be part of rally crew and compete in an event in much broader sense. Quite often crews end up previous stage with broken parts or punctures and they attempt repairs in road sections. Add normal everyday traffic to it, police speed controls, pressure to reach next time control in time and you have quite an amusing mix of different kind of action. To top it off, you would need to find your way to next stage by following in-game road book system, no magic flashing arrows or green line leading to the next time control.

Seeing this is a game and it should be first and foremost fun, perhaps road sections should be present only between selected few stages, or just do it properly and allow people to either go for “gimme my stages” approach and not bother with road sections at all, or have them complete each and every stage by driving liasion sections in full length between them.

I was lucky enough to be able to do few rallies as co-driver and it was an amazing experience, the one you just never forget and always hope to repeat. And fun and awe did not end when you raced through the timing equipment beam in stage end. Moving between stages, coping with traffic, fiddling through road book while paying close attention to time was just as fun, just slower and differently packaged.

But what could possibly be fun about road sections. Well, for example you could be allowed to alter some settings of the car for next stage using on-board tools and equipment, but only if you reach designated “tuning” zone within given time. Of course, in order to do that you’d have to be very punctual about every speed limit, traffic light, and your road book. Just think – a virtual pothole generator (this thing exists in real life, I am sure everyone will agree) would be enough to spice up the road section for you – broken wheel and a puncture would take time to fix and replace, thus reducing time you have available to tune your car for the next stage.

If we expand this concept even further and add more parameters in the mix, it becomes more complex and potentially more fun. I mentioned designated “tuning” section before, but there could also be a part of road section in which you can work on your tires – warming them up and check pressure or switch fronts with rears, etc. Of course, all within very limited time frame and only available to you if you manage to complete road section without major dramas. If not, you are forced to skip tire management or setup changes and just do the next stage as is.

Not deep and immersive enough? Fine, how about adding the elements of PR and marketing into the soup? You’re sitting on a traffic light in your shiny rally car and another “civilian” challenges you to green light duel. If you accept and win (which you would) you can slightly increase your PR value due to fans appreciation, so some sponsors would pay attention to your rallying efforts. But at the same time, such duels will lead you to break traffic rules and laws, and any encounter with police would reduce your PR level, sponsors would not be happy about it and you would lose time and in-game cash. Tamer version of this would be to accept fans asking you to stop on road sections and take pictures with them, thus increasing PR value and bringing more cash, but at the expense of time which could have been used to prepare car for next stage.

It’s just about how deep and detailed you’re willing to push and what majority of people would consider fun.

Admittedly, in modern simulations or games which pretend to simulate rally it’s hard to make room for this very slow paced kind of content, but if the final goal is realistic rally simulation then I believe road sections must be included in it. It could be just me, but whenever I reached end of stage in Richard Burns Rally or even Dirt games, I always wanted to continue driving to the next stage, switching car into road mode, checking road book, minding times and so on.

Out of many possible additions which could enrich rally sims of the future, road sections may sound like least desirable, but I for one would be very happy to have them.

Hopefully next post will not take few months to write and I promise I will pick a more fast paced idea as main topic for it.