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GRID dev lead reveals Codemasters’ Ego engine, confirms summer 2008 release for all SKUs

Tuesday, 19th February 2008 12:49 GMT By Patrick Garratt

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Ralph Fulton, chief games designer on Codemasters’ Race Driver GRID, has confirmed a simultaneous summer 2008 release date for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, and has made first mention of next evolution of the company’s Neon racing technology, named the Ego engine.

“We’re aiming for a summer 2008 release and we’ll be hitting PS3, 360 and PC at the same time,” said Fulton, talking to videogaming247. “There’s no Wii version in the works because GRID uses our next-gen Ego Engine – which was previously called Neon and formed the building blocks for Colin McRae: DiRT. However, since DiRT’s release we’ve been enhancing the engine almost constantly. For GRID this means we’ve now got improved visuals, up to 40,000 spectators on tracks, up to 20 cars on the track at once, alongside a new and improved damage system.”

Fulton expanded on the thinking behind GRID, leaving no doubt that the game – which features both street and track racing – will be a clear departure from the heavy simulation of previous TOCA games.

It’s “key that this isn’t another TOCA game,” he said. “The name change is important in that it signifies a change of direction away from our simulation roots. We’re not making an arcade game, but we believe there’s a gap between those two extremes in which we can create a more accessible, immediate experience. We’re still serious about building a realistically-simulated world, but we want it to be a world seen through the lens of a Hollywood director. That means ensuring that the game is fast-paced and rich with incident – after all, nobody ever complained about a race being too exciting.”

Sounds hot. Read all of Ralph’s answers to our questions after the link.

videogaming247: From tracks to street racing. Why do you think this is the right direction for the Race Driver franchise? How have games like Burnout and NFS affected you planning?

Ralph Fulton: Of course, we’ve played a lot of Burnout and ProStreet, but we’ve also played a lot of Forza and Gran Turismo as well – we evaluate every racing game which comes out. We’ve got quite a few city tracks in GRID, but we’ve still got more traditional racing circuits – we’re a game about a world of motorsport in all its forms, whether that’s racing Formula 3 at Spa or drifting around the streets of Shibuya. I don’t accept that including city tracks into our game somehow lessens our motorsport credentials – the Formula One calendar has an increasing number of street circuits for exactly the same reasons that we do: they provide exciting, eventful racing and they look spectacular.

What’s your USP? You’re up against some very stiff competition here.

Put simply, GRID is all about making racing cars exciting again. We got tired of playing games that are more about collecting or tuning or decorating cars than they are about actually racing them, and we feel we’ve got the perfect skills and technology to put that right. Our focus is on what happens between the grid and the chequered flag – the drama, the rivalries, the aggression, the crashes – all the things which make a full season of motorsport exciting in the real world, but concentrated into every thrilling race experience. It’s also key that this isn’t another TOCA game. The name change is important in that it signifies a change of direction away from our simulation roots. We’re not making an arcade game, but we believe there’s a gap between those two extremes in which we can create a more accessible, immediate experience. We’re still serious about building a realistically-simulated world, but we want it to be a world seen through the lens of a Hollywood director. That means ensuring that the game is fast-paced and rich with incident – after all, nobody ever complained about a race being too exciting…

What’s your release date? You’re down for “mid 2008″. Will the game hit PS3, Xbox 360 and PC simultaneously? No Wii version?

We’re aiming for a summer 08 release and we’ll be hitting PS3, 360 and PC at the same time. There’s no Wii version in the works because GRID uses our next-gen Ego Engine – which was previously called Neon and formed the building blocks for Colin McRae: DiRT. However, since DiRT’s release we’ve been enhancing the engine almost constantly. For GRID this means we’ve now got improved visuals, up to 40,000 spectators on tracks, up to 20 cars on the track at once, alongside a new and improved damage system.

How important is the Race Driver franchise to Codemasters as a company?

All the driving games that we develop at Codemasters are obviously very important to the company. We have a strong heritage of creating exciting and realistic driving titles and that’s something we’ll continue to do in the future as well – especially thanks to the fact that we’ll be continuously evolving the Ego engine.

Finally, you say in your PR that GRID is “set to deliver a step-change in the racing genre”: can you expand on this?

The place that I think you’ll really see the difference between GRID and its competitors is in the race experience itself. From the outset, we’ve concentrated on incorporating all the things that we love about real-world motorsport into the game and it’s those things – the aggression, the rivalries, the mistakes and crashes – which combine to make the racing in GRID more exciting than anything else on the market. We can do this because of the experience and knowledge we’ve amassed over a decade of making racing games, but GRID is different from previous Race Driver games in terms of content and accessibility. There’s a lot of content in this game which we’ve never done before – for example, drifting – and we’ve made a concerted effort to make sure that the game is accessible enough to appeal to as broad an audience as possible.

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    [...] trailer, if you missed it. PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 all get versions of this in the summer. Read our recent interview with chief games designer Ralph Fulton to get you in the [...]

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