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Dirt 3: A closer look with Lead Game Designer, Paul Coleman

Last week we headed out to London’s Battersea Power Station to see Codemasters latest racer, Dirt 3. During our time in London we managed to have a look at the new game, have some time driving around a virtual version of the venue where the event took place and also have time to chat with the lead game designer, Paul Coleman who told us about the games influences, such as Call of Duty.

So what’s new? Well, a lot has changed since Dirt 2, especially on the multiplayer side which now has the inclusion of split/screen and some interesting online modes. Add to this the brand new Gymkhana mode inspired by Ken Block’s antics on YouTube and you are looking at a racer which could appeal to a lot more than just the hardcore rally fans.

As mentioned one of the main new additions comes in the shape of the Gymkhana racing, which, judging by the Ken Block performance at Battersea is a mixture of speed, action and precision. In other words you need to master the tracks to get the best time and therefore the best score.

The best place to see Gymkhana in action is in the games DC compound, in here you can skid around the track, trying to gain as much speed as possible while also being precise enough to drive through pipes, shipment containers and also drive up ramps. It’s actually a lot of fun just driving around this track, although you can add a more competitive nature to this if you wish by inviting multiplayer friends or playing in split screen as explained by lead game designer Paul Coleman.

“The process we went through for multiplayer was to make the compound for Gymkhana and pretty quickly we realised that it was just a great place to drive a car and have fun. So the next logical step was on how many people we can get in here to play it.”

This idea also carried over to the other game modes, such as Oubreak, where the screen turns green and you have to chase other cars to infect them; Infected, where players drive around knocking over cardboard robots, and also Transporter, a capture the flag style game. These are certainly interesting game types, which were mainly developed to “allow players to chase each other around and have a bit of fun,” according to Coleman.

“The games are simple; they had to be reasonably cost effective because we were focusing on the core aspects of the game as well, such as rally. But it was a good opportunity for us to let our hair down and have a bit of fun with the multiplayer side of racing, because we have a great racing heritage but wanted to show that we could do a little bit more.”

There is certainly more than a little bit of “Call of Duty” influence, not only within these games but the whole multiplayer aspect, an observation which Coleman seemed to agree.

“The game is almost certainly influenced by others, I mean at the moment we are really busy so are focusing on our game we are making, however when we have a bit of downtime we all like to play games, we are all gamers,” he said. “So you glean stuff from all sorts of games, e.g.  the hidden packages hidden around the compound – Grand Theft Auto has hidden packages.”

“Also we mentioned the way our multiplayer works has been strongly influenced by Call of Duty, because we love the way they just keep people playing, there is none of this waiting around for the host to start the game and by the time it starts five people have left,” Coleman continued, “it’s all about people just dropping in and we give them some rule sets, they can vote on them and carry on.”

Every Dirt fan will be very pleased about the return of split screen, and they will be even more pleased when they see just how fantastic it looks. During the presentation we witnessed it just looked perfect, which it seems, is what Codemasters were aiming for all along.

“We had split screen in the past,” Coleman told us, “however this is the first time in the next gen consoles,” he said. “Moving from Dirt 2 to Dirt 3 we didn’t have to worry about losing some of the codebase, so we were able to just move in and tweak some of those graphics to make sure they were absolutely stunning both in split screen and single player mode,” interesting stuff indeed.

You would be forgiven for thinking that there was no single player mode in this game considering we have barely touched on it yet, however that couldn’t be further from the truth. Coleman explained to us that not only is there a full single player mode, but this goes into just as much depth as the multiplayer mode does.

“We are aware, realistically; a lot of people never go online or play splitscreen and just want to have a focused single player experience,” said Coleman, “so we have created the Dirt tour mode in which people go through four seasons, unlocking events as they go,” he continued, “players build their career and get to do DC challenges in the compound, so we are just keeping the player interested, keeping them racing and not worrying about micro management aspects; it’s just about getting people in the car so they can drive.”

Although we could see for ourselves how different this game is, Coleman was keen to stress that the developer hopes that it will manage to appeal to not only its core audience but others as well.

“There are not many people out there doing off road racing games which are true to life,” he said, “we always try to look at it from a bit of an irreverent point of view so we are always try to make games that don’t necessarily just go with the simulation hardcore audience, but also those who are maybe only interested in Rally because they have seen Ken’s videos (Ken Block) and have watched him driving around, this way we appeal to everyone, which is our ultimate aim.”

As for other aspects of the game, well, unfortunately Dirt 3 will not support 3D on PS3 or Xbox 360 at launch, with only PC getting a third dimension, this Coleman said was due to the studio “not wanting to jeopardize the frame rate too much,” however he did add that the studio will “look at 3D for consoles in the future.”

Dirt 3, from what we have seen, is looking like a rather stunning game. The multiplayer is obviously a big focus this time around for Codemasters and by the looks of things they have done an incredible job. When you consider there is also a large single player aspect, split screen mode, YouTube uploading and the Gymkhana mode, this could turn out to be one of the most complete racers to hit shelves yet.

Edited On 10 Apr, 2011

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