Dakar 18 Interview: Open World Setting, Different Game Modes, Map Size And More

The developers of Dakar Rally discuss their approach to bringing the world famous desert rally to the video game form.

Posted By | On 04th, Sep. 2018 Under Article, Interviews

DAKAR 18 is based on the world famous annual rally raid. It brings all of the goodness of desert rally racing to video game form, and it gives you an entire open world to explore. There are five different vehicle classes to choose from and the title aims to up the experience with great visuals and realistic physics.

To learn more about the game and its development, Gamingbolt reached out to the developers with some questions, and the following answers were provided by Director at BIGMOON, Paulo J. Gomes.

"I’m sure if we weren’t an independent studio, our owners wouldn’t allow us to invest all our money on such an innovative title"

What made you decide to adapt the Dakar Rally experience to a video game?

BIGMOON has developed games as a service provider (work-for-hire studio) for its first seven years, including work on racing games such as WRC 3, WRC 5, MotoGP 13, FlatOut 4, and also on action games like Lichdom: Battlemage or Jagged Alliance: Back in Action.

When we decided to start working on our own titles, we decided that we wanted to create something new, something different – something that has never been developed before, and a title where we could join our Adventure/RPG dev Skills with the Racing genre. That’s why we decided to bring the Rally Raid genre to BIGMOON. On top of that, DAKAR RALLY is known as “the toughest rally in the world.” We thought it would make a great adventure, since both elements are in our development DNA.

Of course, we have had people tell us that creating something so unique is very “risky.” We know and embrace that! I’m sure if we weren’t an independent studio, our owners wouldn’t allow us to invest all our money on such an innovative title.

What are some of the crucial elements you had to get right to capture this experience?

I would say that Dakar’s founded on four crucial elements, following this specific order of importance:

  • “Navigation” – As with any Rally Raid / Cross Country Rally, there is no street to follow, you need to navigate using the official “Road Books”.
  • “Open World” – To match with the official “Road Books” from the real race, we also have to recreate a huge and harsh open world, covering Peru, Bolivia and Argentina, with the rivers, mountains, dunes, weather, rivers, mud areas, fesh fesh etc; a real land filled with hazards and something that would ultimately make the navigation component shine! If you can’t get lost, what’s the point of navigation? So, we made this vast scenario where you can literally roam for hours to best recreate the real Dakar experience.
  • “5 Categories” – Dakar is not only about cars. It is about five kinds of vehicles (Cars, Bikes, Quads, Trucks and SxS). That’s why we decided not to license a pre-established vehicle game engine and create our own from scratch. It’s a steeper challenge for us, but since we want to develop several Rally Raid games, this will allow us to update it and adjust it freely.
  • “The Player is the Pilot” (not the vehicle) – That means you can exit the vehicle, explore, ask for help or rescue others. That’s the essence of Dakar as well. And it will allow us to further develop certain aspects of the game later on.

What can you tell us about the open world setting in the game?

DAKAR18’s open world has more than 18.000km2 (+7,000 miles2) and it is not a fantasy area. It is a 1:32 replication of the selected areas of Peru, Bolivia and Argentina.

We replicated the locations, the type of landscape, the rivers, the mountains, the beaches, etc.

We also take into consideration the kind of vegetation for each area, the atmosphere and respective weather. Everything is dynamic to get the feeling of the time-lapse that goes from day to night, from sunny to rain, including fog, thunderstorms, etc.

Despite being a huge world, it also includes dynamic terrain, like mud or soft sand and fesh fesh areas, all of which are important hazards to avoid.

On a related note, why did you choose to have an open world setting for the game?

As I said before, this is a “Rally Raid” a.k.a. “Cross-country Rally” game (the 1st of its genre).

These rallies are based on “Navigation.” It’s not possible to represent a “Cross Country Rally” without the implementation of a Navigation System based on FIA Road Books. And if you need to navigate, that means you must have a huge and realistic area that allows you to simply get lost in the middle of nowhere.

Replicating that feeling wouldn’t be possible with a small pre-loaded track. Deciding against an open world would work if our game was based on WRC or Rally Cross genres, but not for a Rally Raid game.

What are some of the main different game modes that we will find in this game?

DAKAR18 includes four different game modes. “Single player adventure career”, “Multiplayer off-line” (Split Screen for two players), “Online Multiplayer” (up to eight players) and finally the free-mode called as “Treasure Hunt.”

The last one is a freeplay-mode that can be played in single player or in multiplayer. But here, the goal is to explore the countries to find cultural “treasures” related with Peru, Bolivia and Argentina cultures.

It looks like the game is going to be quite challenging. Have you incorporated any tutorials to make the game more widely accessible?

Yes, of course. We asked a Dakar veteran pilot, one that has participated in 13 Dakar editions, to help us to prepare a tutorial— one that explains the basic rules of a Rally Raid. We also asked him to design five small training stages, which we call “lessons”, for the player to complete, before proceeding to the real adventure.

It is essential that anyone who experiences this type of game plays through the tutorial and lessons before moving on. This is not a game with casual racing gameplay. It’s a game that puts the “head to work” if you want to be successful.

Nevertheless, we also prepared the “Rookie” mode for those looking for a more “arcade-like” experience, where the vehicles are more resistant to damage and include a compass tool to inform the location indicated by the Road Book when off-track.

"While it is nice to compete with all the obstacles and AI in single player, it is even more exciting when you decide to compete throughout the DAKAR stages with others, either via LAN or Online"

What can you tell us about the multiplayer aspect of the game?

From my perspective, multiplayer is one of the most interesting parts of the game.

While it is nice to compete with all the obstacles and AI in single player, it is even more exciting when you decide to compete throughout the DAKAR stages with others, either via LAN or Online.

Race, navigate, help others or be rescued by them and return to the competition during +1 hour per stage. It’s something unique. It is also very satisfying to play with a friend at home, using multiplayer split screen.

What is the single player experience going to consist of? Is there a campaign for players to follow?

The single player mode simulates the DAKAR RALLY 2018 full race. The player must register into one of the five available categories and based on that, will have to start a stage on a specific hour with the provided Road Book. Example: Bikes and cars usually don’t start at same time as trucks. Also, Road Books for trucks are many times different to those for Bikes and Quads.

Once the player starts, depending on the previous position, it may find other vehicles in trouble. Players will have to race not only against the other NPCs but also against nature in terms of the terrain, weather, etc.

Was it challenging to make the game since there are quite a few different vehicle types and each handles uniquely?

Absolutely! This game has many technical challenges and the vehicle system was one of them. We decided not to license a 3rd party driving system, largely because the existing racing engines are focused on a specific category. Most of them 4-wheel vehicles.

However, Dakar includes five categories (Cars, Bikes, Quads, SxS and Trucks). All of them have different engines, wheelbases, horsepower, and of course different physics, since a Truck has nothing to do with Motorbikes when it comes to driving physics.

That’s why we decided to start from scratch with our own vehicle system. It made initial development not as fast as we would have liked, but we will build the engine and adjust it to our needs, since we have a series of Dakar titles to produce.

Roughly speaking, how big is the game’s world compare to say something like Forza Horizon 3?

We truthfully aren’t very familiar with the “FH3” map, but I can confirm that “DAKAR 18” has a huge open world with +18,000km2 (around 7,000miles2) and it’s not a fantasy world. It is a simulation of the real cartography of Peru, Bolivia and Argentina, with a scale reduction of 1:32 and that includes the respective vegetation, wild life, soil, weather, etc.

Are there plans to release more games related to the Dakar Rally in the coming years?

Yes. Our project for “DAKAR” is a 3-game project: “DAKAR 18”, “DAKAR 19” and “DAKAR 20”. Each one recreating and simulating the characteristics (vehicles, pilots, road books, open world, etc) of the respective DAKAR RALLY (2018, 2019 and 2020). We also expect to improve graphics, audio, physics and animations every year and of course add new key features every year.

The game will feature Xbox One X specific enhancements. What can players expect if they are playing the game on Xbox One X? Is 4K/60fps on the cards?

For Xbox One X, “DAKAR 18” will have improved frame-rates at 60fps and improved visuals (including a 4K experience).

" Currently the game is running on an average of 40fps on Xbox One and PS4 at 16:9, 1080p. That’s where a PS4 Pro and Xbox One X can boost for better visuals and framerates"

And how will the PS4 Pro version turn out in terms of resolution and frame rate?

As we are doing for Xbox One X, PS4 Pro will have an increased frame-rate at 60fps and allow a 4K experience too.

From a development perspective, how do you find the Xbox One X to be? With so much GPU power, we are sure you must be doing some amazing things.

Xbox One X is the correct evolution to approach the next gen consoles. It’s the correct way so we can work on more realistic Dakar representation. However, we need to see how the market will respond. We need to confirm if the consumers will be more interested on a powerful machine, like Xbox One X, or a Nintendo Switch. We would love to focus on such a machine and explore it. On the other hand, if we don’t find a big number of users on this platform, then we’ll need to adjust investments.

How is the game running on the original Xbox One and PS4, frame rate and resolution wise?

Currently the game is running on an average of 40fps on Xbox One and PS4 at 16:9, 1080p. That’s where a PS4 Pro and Xbox One X can boost for better visuals and framerates.

Do you have any plans to bring the game to Nintendo Switch? If not, why?

Right after the DAKAR 18 release, we will start working on DAKAR 19 and we plan to include a small team studying DAKAR’s viability on Nintendo Switch. They’ll have until December to provide a list of pros & cons of DAKAR on Nintendo Switch. Only then will we be able to say if (and why) we will have DAKAR 19 on the Nintendo Switch.

Next gen is coming sooner or later. From a development perspective, what is your biggest expectation from the next PlayStation and next Xbox?

Beyond the usual evolution of the Xbox One X / PS4 Pro, with a more powerful GPU, memory, CPU, and especially an SSD, we hope for improvements which allow us to finally turn up the scale on realistic visuals in a real-time interactive environment. I also expect improvements on the disc & storage and for everything related to VR.

We expect to have a better way to distribute games, since currently the best you can get for retail is a BD50 discs (that can handle less than 50GB). Alternatively, perhaps the industry adapts to duplication to portable SSD’s so distribute a digital key for a posterior download becomes more common. Whatever happens, we believe that they will try to improve the retail distribution of the games and maybe improve the cloud services and the devices for VR. We expect high quality wireless headsets that allow free movements in 4K quality.

Nevertheless, we only expect to reboot our technology for the next gen, after the third Dakar (by 2020). I don’t think the next gen of consoles will arrive before that.

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