WRC games have come a long way since French studio KT Racing launched WRC 5 in 2015. Since then, the WRC game series has evolved rapidly, with more authentic stage designs and increasingly realistic driving physics.
Launching next month following a short delay, WRC Generations is the studio's seventh WRC title; a culmination of Kylotonn’s excellent work with more content than ever combined with innovative new features.
We spoke with Creative Director Alain Jarniou to find out why WRC Generations will be the studio’s greatest rally game yet and end the series on a high.
The amount of content stuffed into WRC Generations is staggering. With 21 locations plus a special test area, 165 special stages, and 85 cars including historic cars and the new Rally1 hybrids, WRC Generations promises to be the biggest and most complete rally game ever. As Jarniou puts it, it’s like a “greatest hits” package.
“We have nearly twice the number of countries in the current WRC championship,” he explained. “That’s a way to say to our players this is the ultimate rally game – we're giving you all we’ve got.”
“We managed to get every car generation that won the WRC at least once.” As a result, there are “lots of different generations, technologies, and driving experiences in the game.”
With KT Racing losing the WRC license this year, there will be no DLC adding more cars, stages, and game modes after launch, though Kylotonn will still support the game with patch fixes if required.
While there won’t be any post-launch updates, a new driver card progression system will “work like modern games with a season pass” according to Jarniou.
“We’ve got 150 different levels of rewards but it’s free – it’s not made to be paid for. We don’t plan to do paid expansions. The game also won’t be full price because we want the maximum number of people to play our game.”
WRC Generations boasts more rallies than any previous game in the series, but some content from older games had to be cut. Last seen in WRC 8, Rally Australia won’t be in WRC Generations. Neither will Rally Poland from WRC 7 and WRC 6's Rally China.
“It would mean lots of work to get it up to the technology of today. That’s a matter of time. It’s been a long time since they have been in the championship,” said Jarniou.
One rally that is returning, however, is the Rally Corsica. Last seen in WRC 8, the French rally will be revamped in WRC Generations, benefiting from graphical and design improvements.
“It’s a very iconic rally. We couldn’t put every country in the game. We’ve done our best to make the most possible. There are still one or two missing but I think the selection we’ve made is very good. There are a huge number of countries in the game.”
A new era
WRC Generations isn’t just regurgitating old content, however. New regulations in the 2022 WRC Season allow for hybrid powertrains in the top-tier WRC Rally1 class. These hybrid cars are faster, more powerful, and trickier to drive than their predecessors. This meant KT Racing had to adapt the physics engine in WRC Generations when developing the Rally1 cars.
“We contacted a company called Compact Dynamics, which is the official company that made the hybrid system for the Rally1 cars," said Jarniou. "We were in discussion with them while they were developing it for the actual cars to understand how it works. Our job was to put it in the game in a realistic way.”
This meant replicating “how the electrical power is transmitted to the engine, how long it lasts, and following regulations.”
“It’s not only about the car dynamics but also how it works in the competition. When you start a stage, you can change the mapping.”
Like in the real Rally1 cars, “you have to choose between Map 1, 2, and 3. Map 1 gives you more horsepower but for less time. Map three has less power but for a longer time.” This adds a new layer of strategy when setting up your car.
Returning players will need to adjust their driving style when taming the new Rally1 hybrids. “You have more power but you also need to manage the power for your boost. When you use it, the boost will go down. When you brake, the power will come back for the boost."
"You need to be careful about this - the cars are more powerful this year. This is revolutionary for WRC and we’re happy to have it in WRC Generations.”
If the Rally1 hybrids sound daunting, you can also drive the more approachable WRC 2 and WRC 3 cars. Last year’s WRC cars are also returning so "you can feel the difference between the two car generations.”
To ensure the cars handle as authentically as possible, WRC Generations was tested by professional rally drivers including Hyundai’s Oliver Solberg and Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Takamoto Katsuta. This gave KT Racing valuable feedback for setting up the Rally1 cars in the game.
“We got very good feedback from them,” said Jarniou. “Surprisingly, when we tested the game with the actual drivers, they felt the same way they do in real life."
"They don’t use Map 1 every time because it gives lots of power. It’s harder to drive the car, especially in the corners. Depending on the surface and special stage, they would choose Map 3 because it gives the power they need for a longer time.”
“They said exactly the same thing in the game. That’s perfect for us – they feel the same as in reality. It’s also a new strategy to think about when you start a stage.”
New Leagues mode is designed for players of all skill levels
With WRC 10 focusing on the Anniversary mode, the career mode felt similar to WRC 9. However, returning players will notice some improvements in WRC Generations' career.
“Every time we tweak the career we get feedback from the players to make it better balanced,” Jarniou explained. “This year one of the big changes is in the skill tree. We added a new skill tree branch for hybridisation when you enter the WRC Rally1 competition. It’s another way to enhance your car.”
There are also new jobs available for crew members according to Jarniou. Don’t expect any dramatic changes to the career mode, though. “I don’t think people want it to be completely changed. It’s a better career mode but it's familiar if you know the WRC series.”
Instead, KT Racing has focused on one WRC Generation’s most important and innovative new modes: Leagues. With daily and weekly challenges pitting you with players of the same skill level, KT Racing hopes the new Leagues system will engage players and keep them coming back in the absence of DLC.
“I’ve made racing games for years but I’m not a very good driver,” Jarniou admitted. “When we test the games I’m usually in the lower half of the leaderboards. I do my best but the other developers in the team are better than me. The Leagues system is a way to compete with other players who have the same skill level.”
After completing the first qualification week, you enter a league with other players matching your skill level. “It means you’ve got a reachable objective each week to beat those players,” explained Jarniou.
“You can see your progress as you climb the leagues and get better. You’ve got your local leaderboard and at the end of the week if you’re in the first tier you’ll go up in the leagues.”
Every event will offer a unique experience, with a different combination of countries, cars, and weather conditions. “It’s a competition to motivate players like me but also the best players who will reach the top leagues and rank in the hall of fame. It’s a win-win,” said Jarniou.
What’s next for KT Racing?
WRC Generations marks the end of an era for the series. After making WRC games for seven years, this will be KT Racing's last officially licensed WRC game. “It’s a mixed feeling,” Jarniou said when asked how he feels about losing the WRC license this year. “We love this license. KT Racing has grown up with it.”
Launched in 2015, KT Racing’s first WRC game, WRC 5, was incredibly challenging to develop. The team had to create a new game engine and assets from scratch in a short amount of time. “WRC 5 was good but it was not the best game ever. It was a very big challenge for us,” Jarniou reflected.
“The company was quite small at the time. When I came on board we were something like a team of 50 people. As a small team, it was a huge challenge with lots of stress, lots of work, and lots of things to create. Players had high expectations. I think we did a good job and this game was the start of the history of KT Racing.”
But what does the future hold for KT Racing after the WRC license ends? For starters, it will continue using its in-house KT engine for future games like Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown instead of newer engines like Unreal Engine 5.
“We often ask ourselves if we should use these engines with lots of tools and shaders that make a game easier to develop. But on the other side, we have our own engine that’s focused on what we want to do,” said Jarniou.
“We have quite a big team that works on the engine. They are a very reactive team. It means when we have a bug it can be corrected within an hour or the next day – this is not possible in other engines designed to make any kind of game.
"Every new game is an opportunity to improve it and evolve from WRC 5. Our engine is focused on doing racing and driving games. We know our engine, we know our tools. We make them evolve the way we want to evolve - that’s why we will continue working with our engine.”
After WRC Generations, KT Racing is prioritising Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown’s development, an ambitious open-world driving game that’s already several years in the making.
But KT Racing didn’t rule out the possibility of returning to its roots and making a new rally game without the WRC license.
“WRC is a very interesting competition. But rallying is not only about WRC. When you think about rallies, there are other things we imagine doing with the discipline.”
This wouldn’t be KT Racing’s first rally game without the WRC license either. In 2018, KT Racing rebooted the V-Rally series with V-Rally 4. The studio also has experience making games for other racing disciplines including the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, and Jarniou is keen to diversify KT Racing’s portfolio in the genre.
“I think it’s a natural change in our life – seven WRC games is a great run. We love WRC but it’s also time to do something else. We know how to do rally games. We know how to do car simulations thanks to this license. We will surely do rally again and look at other disciplines in racing.”