The Firing Line: 5 questions for Codemasters on Colin McRae Rally
By Mark Brown 27 June 2013
Game Name: Colin McRae Rally | Publisher: Codemasters | Format: iPhone, iPad | Genre: Arcade, Racing, Retro
Fans of the PlayStation classic Colin McRae Rally 2.0 must have been pretty pleased yesterday when they read that a new version of the game had been made for iOS.

As we mentioned in our review of Colin McRae Rally for iPhone and iPad, though, a number of fan favourite features - like manual transmission, tinkering under the bonnet, and cockpit cam - are sadly missing in this iOS edition.

To find out where they'd gone, and to get some more details on this remake, we chatted to the game's producer, Pete Harrison.

Pocket Gamer: This iOS game is based on the earlier entries in the Colin McRae series, prior to the more bold and brash DiRT games.

Why did you go down this route, and what was it like revisiting these older games?

Pete Harrison: The early Colin McRae games were very pure interpretations of the off-road experience. The focus was just on rally. No gimmicks, no special modes... just you, your car, and your co-driver against the clock and the fiendishly designed course.

Since then, the series has successfully branched into a broader experience, with the inclusion of rally-x, gymkhana, and more in the DiRT games.

For our first internally developed game on mobile, though, we wanted to focus on a single discipline. We wanted to see whether it was possible to translate the tremendous excitement you get hurtling along a tricky course at insane speeds onto the small screen.

Colin McRae
provided that. And as the highest Metacritic-rated rally game of all time, CMR 2.0 was a perfect starting point for us.

Most of the staff here at Codies remember playing the original games and several of the guys here actually worked on the early iterations of them.

So, once we got the first car on track and started tuning the handling, it wasn't long before we had a game that played a lot like the original version. People throughout the company were interested in seeing a part of their past revisited.

Colin McRae Rally

What sort of tech improvements to this new iOS edition have you made over the PSone original?

What new features have you added for this iOS edition?

Colin McRae Rally 2.0 is 13 years old now. It was in development before the turn of the century, which is a lifetime in games. Gaming technology, rendering in particular, really has come a long way since then. This became very clear to us when we booted up the old PSone.

We decided that we wanted to do justice to the high pixel density of today's mobile screens, so we've increased the resolution for both textures and models. You'll see far more detail on the terrain, trees, and trackside objects.

We've used a newer sound synthesis model and better quality audio samples for the car engines and pacenotes.

The CPU power of the latest iPhones and iPads allows us greater draw distance and better frame rates than before, too.

However, this is still Colin McRae. So, we've retained the basic track layouts and visual identity, re-working assets rather than creating them from new. We've also ported some of the original code across from Colin McRae Rally 2.0 - most notably the handling code - which gives it that unique Colin McRae feel.

With all that's new, Colin McRae Rally for iOS is still missing some features. Things like being able to tinker with your variable gear ratios, the authentic cockpit camera, weather reports before race, the all-important manual transmission, and multiplayer.

Why did this stuff not make the cut?

From a design standpoint, we always wanted to transfer that core Colin McRae Rally experience that was developed for consoles over to a new platform. It really is a case of looking at what in those original games would work for today's devices and the way people play games, and polishing that experience for both old and new audiences.

So, for instance, we think something like tinkering with variable gear ratios really is better suited to a hardcore PC simulation than a portable racing game where you tend to play in shorter sessions.

We think this focus on the on-track, core experience has resulted in a game in which we've both captured the spirit and feel of the original games on iOS and hopefully set the standard for off-road games on iOS.

Colin McRae Rally

With iOS racers like Real Racing 3 and 2K Drive, their makers have gone for a free-to-play approach with pay-for repairs and petrol.

Was this ever a possibility at Codemasters, and why did you ultimately opt for a paid-for model?

I think it depends on the type of experience in the game. Obviously, free-to-play works brilliantly for some games and paid works better for others.

While Colin McRae Rally is a new game, we were working from original designs and we felt the paid model was a better choice for this particular gaming experience.

For IAP design to work well and be truly integrated, it needs to be fully balanced and embedded into the design at the start of the project. With this game, however, we were already working from a game and a series that we know work well for players.

If it ain't broke, why fix it?

This doesn't mean we won't revisit the F2P model in future, but it would have to be implemented properly. For now, we think that Colin McRae Rally works really well as a paid game, offering a rally experience that is hard to find elsewhere in the mobile space.

This is one of Codemasters's first iOS games, after Dizzy: Prince of the Yolkfolk. Will we be seeing more of Codies on the App Store in the future?

The answer is... 'yes'. We'll be in touch!
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