DIRT 5 developer interview: Next-gen, game engine, weather, more


DIRT is renowned as one of the best rallying games available. With the next installment, DIRT 5, dropping soon, we took the opportunity to speak to lead game devs for the franchise to discover how next-gen technology will benefit the series.

DIRT 5 is the latest incarnation of the well-loved DIRT series. Focused on off-road rallying, DIRT has built a loyal and devoted fanbase since its initial release way back in 2007. The game can trace its origins as far back as 1998, when it was named “Colin McRae Rally.”

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With both the PS5 and Xbox One X due to release in the near future, next-generation hardware has been the talking point for all major game studios.

Codemasters are no exception; Michael Moreton (Lead Game Designer) and David Springate (technical designer) kindly discussed with us how new hardware and technology are going to benefit players in DIRT 5 ahead of its release on November 6, 2020. 

How DIRT 5 will use haptic feedback technology

With a plethora of new features available to developers for the first time, Codemasters are looking to capitalize on this for DIRT 5. Improved haptic feedback is a big talking point, and the DIRT series of games are perfect for making the most of this new feature, as Moreton explains:

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“We want players to really feel the surfaces that they are racing on. The haptic feedback allows us to really dial up the feel of the surface under the wheels, the different vibrations that indicate whether a car is in grip, on the edge, or in full drift!”

DIRT 5 SubaruDIRT 5 will use haptic feedback to provide players with a much more immersive control feel.

Hardcore racers should relish the additional ‘feel’ they will get for the surfaces, as it will allow for more precise inputs and reactions depending on the conditions of the track. That’s not all the team have planned though.

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“We’re hoping that we can convey the feeling of racing on different surfaces better than ever before. We’re also able to simulate that recognizable judder when a car’s ABS system engages and other similar features.”

With the familiar ‘shake’ of ABS familiar to many diehard racing fans, it will be interesting to see how the brains at Codemasters turn up the ante with new haptic feedback technology.

DIRT 5 moves to 120fps

Moving to 120fps from the more standard 60fps should give a more fluid, “smoother” motion in DIRT 5. This will be especially important for loose-surface courses, as players will be able to control their drifts far more easily according to Michael:

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“More frames per second will lead to smoother motion, giving the player more opportunity to line up that perfect angle to drift round a hairpin. It also gives us the chance to pick up more subtle controller movements from the players and give them a more accurate representation of their movement portrayed onscreen.

DIRT 5 UrbanDIRT 5 will see the series move to 120fps for the first time.

DIRT 5 dynamic game engine

As with all good things, however, there is a trade-off. With the higher frame rate eating into console and PC resources, lower resolution textures and objects are required in order for the game to run smoothly.

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Thankfully, DIRT’s team of crack developers have thought of this, thanks to the “dynamic nature” of the DIRT 5 engine, as explained by David:

“The dynamic nature of the DIRT 5 engine allows us to change lighting, shadows, resolutions, LODs, texture quality, geometry, and much more.”

“This means we can tweak and change to hit the perfect spot for visuals and performance. This allows us to have quality and performance options so players can choose how best they want to experience DIRT 5.”

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DIRT 5 NorwayDespite the trade-offs required by the move to 120fps, developers are confident the game will look better than ever.

DIRT 5 new weather system

Part of the way Codemasters are utilizing next-gen technology is by implementing an all-new weather system in DIRT 5. While this is possible with the technology available in current consoles, according to Springate it wouldn’t have quite the same impact:

“The weather systems themselves work across both current and next gen, but the extra power on the new consoles means better visuals. Also, the new haptics systems and 3D audio allow for a more immersive experience.”

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The way the weather has been built-up is incredibly complex, mimicking real-life behavior. The team is justifiably proud of the system, as Michael explains:

“We’re really proud of the way weather works in DIRT 5. The rainbows for example are formed by our sunlight shining through our rain, the snow forms and sticks to the ground in the driest areas first, puddles in areas where you’d expect them, and so on.”

Dirt 5 IceThe Codemasters team are “really proud” of the way the new weather system has been integrated into DIRT 5.

Keen players will also be happy to hear that the weather systems have plenty of impact on the in-game experience. Hardcore rally drivers will be able to put their wits to the test and fight not only the course, but the environment too.

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“The gameplay effects are so varied and bring something fresh to the race experience. Reduced visibility in snow and rain, especially at night as the headlights reflect the snowflakes. The wet track surface influences the grip that the cars can access while racing,” states Michael.

More dramatic events will also play a part in challenging drivers as they navigate the twisting courses and routes featured in DIRT 5, with “more extreme” weather events passing over the map. Lightning storms and sandstorms fall into this category, with lightning ‘lighting up’ the sky, while sandstorms take visibility “down to almost zero” when they strike.

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How DIRT 5 weather impacts game difficulty

When asked if the new, shiny weather systems would impact the game, a resounding “for sure” was the answer from Moreton.

Weather impacting the behavior of in-game vehicles is nothing new, but by utilizing the system in conjunction with new technology, the Codemasters team has ‘turned it up to eleven.’ These events are also sporadic and fluid, adding a new dimension to the game:

“As the rain falls, puddles appear where water would settle; snow sticks on less-driven areas of the track and must be pushed through. This affects the grip that the car’s tires can exert on the road surface, making the surface more slippy and prone to drifts and slides,” explained Michael.

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Dirt 5 VWThe new weather system will impact the game difficulty, and include random, fluid events.

The fluid events also add a whole new challenge to contend with, should the players choose to do so:

The effect of the weather on the track is constant across all difficulties, however, the player is able to set a number of different driving aids that alter the way the cars handle. We feel that the impact of the changing weather is important enough to keep across all difficulties, however, the way the car handles across the tracks – wet, dry, or snowy — is up to the player.”

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With it’s hotly anticipated release scheduled for November 6 2020, many YouTubers have had early access to the game to show off its new features. One thing is for certain – this is going to be unlike any DIRT game we’ve ever seen.

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