DiRT Rally 2.0 Interview with Chief Games Designer Ross Gowing

By Dave Horobin, 9 days ago
Ask anyone who played DiRT Rally and they'll tell you just how realistic and, as a result, gut-wrenching the game could be. It's not for the casual fan. With DiRT Rally 2.0 barreling toward launch later this month, we recently got to chat with the game's chief game designer, Ross Gowing, to discuss what fans both old and new should look forward to with the sequel.

DiRT Rally 2.0

DiRT Rally 2.0 suggests that this isn't just a sequel, but a complete overhaul. When you started work on the new game, what did you want to achieve with this new title? What does 2.0 represent to you?

We wanted to build on the reception our fans gave us from the first title, and push ourselves to represent rally in a more authentic way than ever before. As a result, we've worked with professional drivers such as Jon Armstrong who is now part of our team on a daily basis, as well as Ryan Champion too. Their input and what they've been able to teach and show us has been invaluable, and we're really happy with the results.
This title promises to be even more realistic and authentic than ever before. How have you balanced that with keeping the game accessible for newcomers? How does it compare to DiRT Rally?

We're not afraid to present a challenging and real difficulty curve for players. In real life, you wouldn't jump into a high-powered R5 Ford Fiesta and plant your foot to the floor, and the same applies here. Rally drivers start out in lower-powered front-wheel-drive cars to cut their teeth, and our advice to new players follows the same principals - start small and learn the basics of car control and weight transfer at lower speeds, learn to listen to your co-driver and how he describes the shape of the road, and use this to get a collection of clean stages under your belt by driving within your means. Once you start to build confidence you can build up to more and more powerful machines and start to explore higher and higher speeds.
Will there be any changes to the career mode?

Our 'My Team' mode gives you a starter rally and rallycross car, and then it's up to you how your career progresses. Whether you want to try and fight your way to the top using only a single car within a discipline, or whether you want to expand your line-up to own every car in the game, it's up to you.

You'll need to hire and train engineers to keep your cars in good repair, and for the first time you'll need to do this in-between events, so avoid having a spectacular crash as you cross the finish line in the final stage of an event! Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Challenges also see a return, and there's a few alterations and improvements to those both for launch and post-release that we can't wait for people to experience.
What can you tell us about the track degradation feature in the title?

Something that came up time and time again when we spoke to drivers and co-drivers was the effect that being low down in the running order has on your chances of doing well in an event, and we wanted to try and replicate that in the game. If you're near the top of the order you'll find yourself sweeping loose material from the road for other competitors, 5th through to about 10th-15th provides good running, and then from 15th down to 150th you'll find things increasingly challenging as other vehicles rut up the track surface and leave you with their tyre tracks to make your way through.
Which track would you say really shows off the best of the title? What is your own favourite Rally stage?

Argentina is like nothing we've ever built before - the way the location looks is a testament to all the hard work our Environment Art team have put in, and the challenge of driving it takes things to another level. It's the biggest challenge we've ever offered to players in my opinion.
Classic Chariots or modern monsters, which do you prefer? Do you have any particular favourites?

My personal favourites are the Lancia Stratos and the 1995 Subaru Impreza - the former is definitely a classic, and as much as I don't think I'm that old I suppose the latter is classed as that as well isn't it...
What car and stage combination will test even the most hardcore of DiRT Rally fans?

We've found that threading the Group B Audi Sport quattro S1 E2 through the tight rocky corridors of Argentina is a real test for even the most experienced drivers.
What online features can we expect? What will be returning? What will be new?

Our online Custom multiplayer mode allows you and seven friends/strangers to go toe-to-toe in rally, rallycross, or mixed championships as you please. You can configure which classes you want to use at which locations, restrict the use of assists if you want, and see who comes out on top of the pile.
With the success of the DiRT World Championships (DiRT 4) in the e-sports arena, would you like to see DiRT Rally breaking into this arena? Are there plans for e-sports?

We are looking forward to announcing our esports plans post-launch — and you're absolutely right that we'll be looking to build on the previous success of the DiRT World Championships and give our players the opportunity to prove themselves as the best competitive DiRT driver in the world.
What are some other marquee changes to the new game?

We've introduced a dedicated Historic Championships mode for players to want to experience the distinct eras of rallying from the 1960s through to the present day and have packaged these up into four chapters to play through. There's also the official FIA World Rallycross Championship mode where you can jump into cars from the 2018 season and not have to worry about anything other than putting in fast lap times and fighting your way onto the podium. We also have a Time Trial mode for those who pride themselves in owning the top leaderboard times.
What differentiates this new title from other games in the DiRT franchise? How do you see the two franchises (DiRT, DiRT Rally) working together — is this comparable to Forza Motorsport and Forza Horizon franchises with two different directions for each?

I think the easiest way to describe it is that if someone was looking to try their first rally game ever then a 'numbered' DiRT game would be a good option for them - they are slightly more accessible than the two DiRT Rally titles, and there's a broad range of play options available within them. However, DiRT Rally is a home for serious rally and rallycross fans who want to test themselves as authentically as possible against the challenges and surprises real-life off-road racing provides.
With the new Xbox One X, what has this enabled you to do that wasn't possible in the first title?

With the Xbox One X being new since the first DiRT Rally, it’s enabled us to both switch on features that were reserved for higher spec PCs and still maintain the solid 60fps that the game should be played at. Examples of the features improved for the X include: improved anti-aliasing, higher resolution shadows, higher detail in crowds and ground clutter, and improvements to the night lighting too.
In the dev diaries and videos, we've always seen the game played with a wheel. How easy is it to play with a standard controller?

Our Car Handling team work really hard to make sure that the game is balanced between wheel and controllers, and that controller players aren't left out. It comes down to personal taste really; a lot of people working on the game prefer to use wheel as you have a greater level of feedback to feel how the car is behaving, but whether you're on a pad, a wheel, or a full-scale motion platform, we've got it covered.
How much did the feedback from the community contribute to the development of the new title?

Whilst we didn't go down the traditional definition of Early Access this time around, we have players who we refer to as our 'Community VIPs' who have provided incredibly detailed and useful feedback to us in the past. Alongside the making of 2.0, they have received key builds throughout development to assess and validate the changes we've made along the way. They're a really passionate and dedicated group and we couldn't have made this game what it is without their knowledgeable input.
Thanks to Ross for taking the time to chat with us. For more on the game, be sure to check out its hub here on TA. You can look for DiRT Rally 2.0 when it hits stores on February 26th.

Check out our Best Racing Games article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.
Dave Horobin
Written by Dave Horobin
Dave is the TrueAchievements Social Manager and has been a Newshound since 2010. When he's not chasing developers and publishers for early review copies, he can usually be found on the TrueAchievements social pages discussing all things TA related.