Everything you need to know about WRC 7

Kylotonn’s new sim follows hot on the wheels of its rally rivals; we’ve got an exclusive interview.
A screenshot of a Hyundai i20 WRC car in WRC 7
It’s not often a Hyundai looks like this… © Kylotonn
By Phil Barker

With the likes of DiRT 4 and Project CARS 2 currently hogging the headlines, 2017 looks like being a fantastic year for fans of rally games and with the launch of WRC 7, things are about to get a whole lot better.

WRC 7 is the official game of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship, and it ushers in the latest cars, teams and drivers, along with more challenging dynamics and all the latest WRC tracks. We've been speaking to Alain Jarniou, game director at Kylotonn, to find out more.

How many people did it take to create WRC7?

A game like WRC7 involves a team up to 50 people. This includes artists, coders and game designers but also, more specifically, dedicated programmers for car and engine dynamics, specialised designers for car handling, working with professional drivers and engineers. Because Kylotonn studio have chosen to specialise in racing games for years, the team is a mix of experienced people who worked on the WRC series and games like Flat Out. The result is a fantastic combination of realism and great gameplay.

What new features and updates can we expect to see in WRC 7? What’s new in the game that you are most excited about?

Special attention was put on the rally experience for this new opus of WRC game. The level design of stages has been redefined for a more intense driving experience. Roads are bumpier, borders are closer and more dangerous. This year’s version of the game also introduces Epic stages: very long stages providing up to 15 minutes of gameplay. The skills and concentration of rally fans will be pushed to their limits. But the most exciting aspect is that the player will discover all those new challenging environments, the 13 official countries of the WRC, by driving the new WRC 2017 cars, which are more powerful, more agile and more aggressive than previous WRC cars.

What should the players be looking forward to in the latest instalment

The new experience of driving the WRC 2017 cars is amazing; they are so agile and powerful that it’s a new dimension for the gameplay of rally games.

We've seen other developers make courses look slightly narrower to increase the feeling of speed, have you got any similar tricks to put drivers at the heart of the action?

This is definitely a key aspect for realism. Actual special stages are incredibly tricky to master. After years of work on our physics engine, we provide the right combination of narrower and bumpier roads with a car that has solid handling.

What was the biggest challenge in developing WRC 7?

The biggest challenges for WRC 7 was to simulate the behaviour of the new 2017 cars, while the level design was pushing for more realism. To succeed in finding the right balance, car setup was totally remade in parallel with a continuous test on new roads. What we can tell is when we tested WRC 2016 cars in the new environments they were very hard to control. As we want the players to be able to experience the difference between 2016 and 2017 WRC cars in WRC 7, we had to re-adapt them to the new engine and level design.

Have you added any new cars or teams to the game?

All the new WRC 2017 cars are included: there’s a Toyota Yaris, Citroën C3, Hyundai i20 and a Ford Fiesta, and new teams have also been added in WRC7. It’s the same for new junior-WRC cars, which runs with a Ford Fiesta R2 this year. We've also worked on a special bonus car, and rally fans will love it.

Have you placed more emphasis on realism or fun, and how do you strike a balance?

In our game developing process, we first setup a simulation behaviour for more realism, then we develop control aids to provide a wide range of handling possibilities for the player. Keep in mind that, more than ever, the new WRC 2017 cars are more powerful and agile in real life, and they realistically provide more fun.

Rally as a sport is a complicated affair; how have you approached depicting it this time around?

We want the player to be immersed in the rally universe as much as possible. Even in the Quick Play game mode, this year we gave the player the possibility to set up his or her car configuration in real time, so it’s very quick to tweak and test the car in every condition. In the Career mode we also introduced new systemic events, which can influence the player as they would the life of a real driver.

Did you work with any drivers at all? What input have they had into the game, if any?

We worked with drivers to create WRC 7, especially Sébastien Chardonnet, WRC-3 world champion. But we also worked with WRC engineers. Their knowledge about rallying and feedback on the game are fundamental information for our team. Their influence is key for many aspects of WRC 7: the physics engine, car handling, sounds, pace notes, system and more.

A screenshot of a Hyundai i20 WRC car oversteering on the edge of a cliff in WRC 7
2017 WRC cars get all new handling characteristics © Kylotonn

One thing that surprises us with racing games is how all the accurate sounds are created; talk us through the process of recording the cars featured in the game.

To reproduce the best sound experience, which is so important for a rally game, we use both sounds directly taken from actual racing cars and sounds that come from high-quality videos. We learned that a global car sound is a complex and smart mix of those components to deliver the best and more realistic feeling to the player.

What car is your favourite in the game?

The new WRC 2017 cars are amazing, they are my favorite ones without a doubt.

Have you guys been inspired by any other racing games? If so, how?

It’s been a long time since there hasn’t been so many rally games or games including a rally mode on the market. We obviously look at what’s delivered by our competitors and the diversity on offer, and we also keep older games in mind. But the goal is still the same and drives our analysis: deliver the best driving experience in a gorgeous and dangerous environment, in an immersive WRC universe.

What do you think will keep gamers glued to the game?

The driving experience, especially with WRC 2017 cars, gives a new dimension to the game, and the 13 countries of the official calendar will keep players stuck to their wheels, pedals and pads for hours. On the top of that, weekly updated challenges and an eSport competition in parallel to the official WRC gives a continuous renewal of WRC 7 content, and global player progression will be possible for months.

WRC 7 might come out on the Switch if we find good matches with the game experience

What do you think of the Nintendo Switch? Do you think WRC 7 would be a good fit for the console?

Just like Nintendo used to do, with the Switch they’ve provided us with a new way of playing, and it’s very interesting. We are looking into this new platform to see how it can fit for our games in general. Everything is possible and WRC 7 might come out on the Switch if we find good matches with the game experience.

A screenshot of a Hyundai i20 WRC car covered in dust in WRC 7
WRC 7 certainly looks the part © Kylotonn

What are the challenges for putting WRC 7 on the Switch?

Technically, the device is quite different to other platforms. It’s exciting to see what’s behind it and what kind of possibilities it provides. We are expecting good surprises! In terms of usage, it’s also something quite new; gameplay will surely need some adaptation, but that is a good opportunity to rethink the driving experience.

Do you think taking the game on the go would be a great idea?

Driving a rally car while on the bus can be fun, for sure!

Will you guys be supporting VR at all in any way? Or the additional horsepower of the PS4 Pro or Microsoft Project Scorpio?

VR, that we tested for WRC 6 – that is still an option we keep in mind, but there is no plan for WRC 7 as it’s very difficult for most players to be able to stay focused for a long time with such a set-up. We’ll take advantage of the PS4 Pro and Scorpio power, for sure.

WRC 7 will be available for PS4, Xbox One and PC this autumn.

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