Thanks to games like TOCA Race Driver and Colin McRae Rally, Codemasters has built up a great reputation for offering realistic yet approachable racing experiences, but you might think it has its work cut out with the ambitious Race Driver: Race & Create.
Pete Shea, creative director at Firebrand, the game's Glasgow-based developer, isn't worried, though. In fact, he's certain Codemasters' first 3D racing game for DS will match up to those other titles.
We caught up with him to find out more about the game that will be leading the pack of autumn DS racing releases, which includes the likes of THQ's Juiced 2 and EA's Need For Speed ProStreet.
Pocket Gamer: The big push for DS at the moment seems to be casual 2D games, so why did you decide to make Race Driver?
Pete Shea: The DS is perfectly capable of running good-looking 3D games but the hardware requires careful development to get the best of it. The team at Firebrand Games has developed a DS engine from the ground up, which is designed to maximise the 3D capabilities of the hardware, while maintaining a solid frame rate of 60 frames per second. The power of this engine, combined with the lack of excellent, realistic racing games so far on the DS made the decision to produce Race Driver really easy.
Have you extended the atmosphere of realism through to the driving physics of the game, or does it have more of an arcade feel?
The game features relatively advanced driving physics that were modelled on the most recent TOCA Race Driver games. Obviously, this had to be simplified because of the limitations of the DS, but we're extremely proud of the level of driving realism we've achieved. But we have tailored the vehicles' handling to have a slightly more arcade 'pick up and play' feel compared to some of the other Race Driver games.
How did the idea for the track editor come about?
We wanted to bring something new to the Race Driver series that made use of the DS' touchscreen controls and online capabilities. It became clear during initial prototyping that including a Track Designer was the perfect way to do this. Some simple car customisation is included to let players distinguish themselves when playing online, but the real focus is the ability to design your own circuits. We hope that as well as having fun designing circuits to race against their friends, users will also be keen to show off their design skills online, racing their creations on the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.
What are the limits in terms of the size and complexity of tracks you can design, especially in the free draw mode?
The only limit in terms of size is the workspace the player must build in, but with some careful drawing it is possible to build circuits that are over 10 miles long, although tracks like this might not make for the best racing experience. There are over 60 unique track pieces in two styles, including bridges that let you have one section of track cross over another, so the possibilities are vast.
Will you be able to share self-made tracks using the game sharing option or will all players require a full version of the game?
Sharing of self-made tracks is only possible when multiple people have the game cart, or via online. The game does feature a rich single card download play mode, though, with the choice of eight circuits and three cars to race.
Did you consider allowing people to upload their tracks to a central server via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection?
This was considered but didn't quite make it into the game. We are looking at it closely for future iterations of the series, however.
On a personal level, what are you most pleased with?
The racing is quick and fun, but has depth, and is fast and furious. It looks good on the hardware and has great performance. There is a large amount of content on the game card in terms of championships, circuits, cars and challenges, and the inclusion of the Track Designer, Wi-Fi racing and Global Leaderboards will hopefully extend players' fun for a long time to come.
Our thanks to Pete for his time. Race Driver: Race & Create is due to be released on September 28th.