Remaking A Classic
It’s been a long time since the first Colin McRae Rally was released and while our latest iOS offering is based largely on Colin McRae Rally 2.0 it has benefited from technology implemented to many of our games since then – So what technical improvements have we made?
there’s no way that PS1 graphics could cut it these days on a Retina display
The Answer… A lot! The graphics use modern shader-based rendering and new textures – there’s no way that PS1 graphics could cut it these days, on a Retina display – but the 30 rally stages all come from Colin McRae Rally 2.0, with every corner, obstacle and surface transition faithfully positioned just where it was in the classic original rallies. Likewise the car bodies have more detail and extra graphical layers but the same vehicle models and engine specs from the classic Rally era, with four-wheel independent physics, four-wheel and rear-wheel drive, realistic dirt, collisions, car body and chassis deformation effects. You can smash off the car hoods, spoilers and other bits of the car, including windows and lights, which naturally affect the way car performs at the time and in later stages.
We’ve had the advantage of involving members of the team who worked on the original Colin McRae Rally console and PC games, and others in the company who have moved on to other projects like DIRT and GRID but still take a proprietorial interest in Colin McRae. This is an in-house development from Codemasters main Southam studio, not an externally-converted port.
In the case of the audio we’ve made case-by-case decisions about when to re-use and when to update sounds. We’ve been able to draw on the whole Codemasters audio library, from the first Colin McRae Rally to GRID 2; e.g. suspension sounds come from DiRT3, wind, gearbox and mechanical samples from Colin McRae Rally 2005, and garage sounds – used in the inter-stage repair screen – from RaceDriver GRID.
Rather than mess with critical track information or timing we deliberately stuck with the original pace notes from Colin McRae’s champion co-driver Nicky Grist. The engine and exhaust sounds use the continuous sweep system from DiRT and RaceDriver GRID, rather than the little loops in the original games, and crowd and other trackside ambiences use sound compiled for Colin McRae 2005 on PSP and Xbox, replacing a few short samples with minutes of varied context-sensitive audio, controlled by hundreds of overlapping trigger zones in the updated tracks. So you’ll hear many of the original samples from Rally, but with much more variety, higher quality and less-compressed sound overall on iOS.
The menu and loading music will be familiar to Colin McRae 04 players, like the button toggle and checkpoint sounds, while the main menu beeps are the Colin McRae Rally originals.
But fashions change, so rather than leave the race sounds to speak for themselves, or plaster the new game with licensed tunes, we support custom soundtracks from your iTunes library, so you can have whatever music you like.
The game was also rewritten in a new language, C#, compiled to native code optimised for Apple’s ARM processors, using the popular Unity3D game engine, but with close reference to the original C source code; thus the handling and physics systems closely follow the original code, line-by line in key places, but with modern PhysX-based collision detection to boost the number of things you can send bouncing around the world if you depart from the racing line. Then there’s massively improved lighting, graphical textures and sound, streamlined menus and controls, and GameCenter extensions like achievements, public leaderboards and challenges.
Though bringing Colin McRae Rally to iOS was no easy task and we still had to make some tough choices for example, Colin McRae Rally for iOS will not run on the first iPad, mainly because it has half as much memory as the newer systems. You have to draw the line somewhere and a large part of the RAM on 256 MB iOS systems is actually used by the system rather than available to apps. Rather than cut down the content in the game for one device, forgo features of the latest iOS, and risk unreliable performance on busy systems, we chose to support iPad 2 and above.
As a universal app, CMR is available on the iPhone 4 though we did not develop for this device so performance can vary on it as stated in the app description. Our initial min-spec target was iPhone 4S, which offers a substantial performance upgrade over iPhone 4. That said, if you upgrade to iPhone 5 you’ll see a big boost in smoothness of the graphics and physics updates – we target 60 updates per second on the latest iPhones – and extra sound and visual effects like dust and sparks.