Richard Burns Rally developer diary: Part three

On top of all this each team manager also has different personalities and ways of running their teams. I'll keep this brief but I'd like to give you the idea: perfectionist managers always go by the book; tactical managers are very quick to react to the ever-changing circumstances of the rally and will be quick to order his drivers to change their driving temperaments to fit a given situation; economical managers take budget concerns into account with every decision; erratic managers are nervous and/or very temperamental and prone to overreact to what is happening in the rally; impulsive managers will often make hasty decisions on too little data; and inexperienced managers will simply get things wrong and have a hard time getting drivers to change driving styles. All these types of personality have been incorporated into Richard Burns Rally, and who you drive for may drastically alter the way you have to play.

During the season the game runs a CNN style bulletin board where general rally information is displayed as it happens, details of competitors accidents, drivers getting ordered to drive differently by their managers, record stage times broken, drivers hospitalized etc. As the competitors drive the stages anew every time you play, no season will be the same. The best drivers can get unlucky or make a mistake and crash and average drivers may peak in their performance. Cars can have technical difficulties; managers make different judgements and order drivers to change their driving styles etc.

Players who take time to familiarize with the competitor drivers skills and abilities and the teams' strengths and weaknesses will get a good idea of what to expect in each rally and will be able to plan ahead to come out on top at the end of the season. For instance it might be a bad idea to go out on a limb to beat a Tarmac specialist in the Mont Blanc Rally (and risk crashing) if that driver is useless in the up and coming arctic rally. Better aim for a few championship points in a safe place behind the Tarmac specialist and thrash him in the arctic rally.

There is a lot of work still to do in getting all the stage times, accident time penalties, temperament performance effects, inspired driving results, technical breakdown effects right and in sync with real life rally timings. Better get to it. - I just want to add a little something about our pace note system first... well, Robert Reid's pace note system, I guess...

Pace Notes
Most importantly our pace notes are called at least a corner ahead of the one the player is at in the moment of calling, and the pace notes are speed-relative. If you drive really fast, the co-driver gives the call earlier than if you go at lower speeds - just like in real life. Knowing that players have different preferences of when to get the pace notes, though, we have made the callout time adjustable in the gameplay options screen. This is a feature of Richard Burns Rally that we think the fans will really like. Also each pace note is followed by a number in meters; this number is the range in meters to the next corner. So a "Flat left fifty" would indicate a flat left turn coming up with fifty meters to the next corner. This range is really helpful for drivers as it tells them how to line up after the corner, weather they have to be prepared to take another corner or can step on it and speed flat-out out of it.

I'll let Fredrik who is one of the guys testing out our pace note system comment on how it feels to use them in the game: "I can only imagine the total concentration a real rally driver must have to memorise the road about 3 corners ahead using pace notes, while driving on the edge of his and his car's abilities. If he misses one pace note, things can potentially go really bad. In the game, when testing the pace notes, we usually drive with audio pacenotes one or two corners ahead, and even that requires total focus if you want to stay clear of mistakes. It helps if in your mind you try to visualise what the road looks like ahead of you, and then drive to that picture. The challenging part is you can never stop, you must constantly update this future picture using nothing but the pace notes, and still be able to drive in the present.

"The good thing is that it really puts you in the car, increasing the immersion of the game, not to mention that your stage times will improve drastically when listening to your co-driver. To make things a little easier, you can choose to enable pace note icons (as seen in many other rally games) as an additional scrolling pace note stack that shows several notes ahead, colour-coded for difficulty, enabling you to judge the course ahead without taking our eye of the road."