Klyotonn and KT Racing, founded in 2006, started life out as a developer of first-person shooters. In 2015, however, they began working on the World Rally Championship licensed games under the Bigben publishing arm.
Across six, soon to be seven, WRC games, Isle of Man TT, and V-Rally, KT has really become one of simulation racing’s most important developers, making some of the most complete games in the genre.
Since WRC 5, KT’s rally series has changed drastically. Incremental improvements to the driving have been made for every iteration, but as a package, so much has changed. The number of locations and stages has reached more than 150, classic cars have been added, and there’s now a deep livery customisation system.
Generations is designed to be the ultimate rally game
However, KT has now lost the rights to the WRC license, so they’re giving the series a glorious send-off with WRC Generations before attention moves entirely to Test Drive Unlimited: Solar Crown.
As Creative Director, Alain Jarniou, said when I spoke to him at a visit to KT Racing’s Paris studio, they wanted to make “the best WRC game we can imagine.”
That’s not only going to be done by Generations having more cars, locations, and tracks than any other WRC game, but also through the addition of a league system. As Jarniou says, “we want the game to last a long time. And I mean, the mode is a competition that is always changing and can last for years. People love the game and want to keep playing.”
How it works is pretty simple too: “It's never the same events - it's a new competition every week. A competition is something that we can set up as we want. But it's made today to last 10 weeks with this league system. So a week of qualification, and then nine weeks of competition. Every week, we do the new ranking.”
The big change in the real WRC world is also coming to WRC Generations and it’s one of the biggest single changes KT has ever produced for the series. Now, rally cars are required to have a hybrid engine.
In my own time playing WRC Generations, it was clear the driving feels very different. Cars are heavier, but far more powerful and sensitive. You need to be really careful on the throttle, squeezing on the power just the right amount. Jarniou explained exactly how the process of developing hybrid cars worked:
“That's a very interesting story. Because we worked with a company called Compact Dynamics, who are the official guys that makes the electrical engine for the actual competition, and we integrated the system in our engine while they were making it for the real cars. And at the end, we worked together with the FIA for the regulations and we ended up adding exactly what is in the real life cars.”
“So we tested them with the real drivers, the WRC drivers in Ypres in Belgium, and they say they have the same feeling in the game as in real life. We can select two different mappings. There are three mappings, one gives lots of power for less time, and another less power for more time. So it's a choice to make before starting the special stage. And they say it feels like it is in real life.”
WRC Generations is complete from the moment it releases too. “It is not made to be updated,” Jarniou said. “I mean, there's no plan for a Season Pass or stuff like that - the game is complete. It's made to be huge and to last long but It's not made to get new updates. It's meant to be the ultimate game.”
Generations being the end of KT Racing’s WRC series also sees their official WRC esports events come to an end. That doesn't mean competition in WRC is coming to a close, though, as Jarniou said.
“With the league system, we can add the kind of competition that can be assimilated to eSports. But as we don't have the licence anymore next year, we can't make an official esport final event this year. Three weeks ago, we went to Greece with the best esports players. But that was our last event.”
With so much in the game, including the new livery editor, the ability to create custom championships in the Clubs mode, classic cars, and more, Generations really has been designed to be the most complete WRC game yet.
Test Drive Unlimited: Solar Crown development
KT Racing are moving onto exciting things, however. We already know that they’re working on Test Drive Unlimited: Solar Crown, which is due to release in 2023, following some delays. I was interested to hear how that development process differed from that of the WRC games and when we’re likely to see more from the game.
Jarniou worked on the original Test Drive Unlimited games before joining Klyotonn, so is excited to be working on them again.
“I love this licence,” he said, “it's, I think, the best driving experience you can imagine. So that's how we build the game. I love cars. I'm not a good competition when it comes to racing, but I love cars. I would like to have a Lamborghini or one of these iconic brands and I can do it in the game. I can see the cars turn around, see other people looking at the car, and select my options, like in real life. I think even buying a car is an experience in Test Drive Unlimited. I can open my roof, I can put my blinkers on, I can have a full driving experience. We are focusing on driving rather than racing in Test Drive Unlimited: Solar Crown and this is what the Test Drive Unlimited licence is about.”
The development process was a change for the studio, however, due to Solar Crown being set in a large open world. KT had to “enhance the engine” to allow for the increased scale. The various WRC settings are beautiful, but they’re far more linear. Since you can go anywhere you want at any time in Test Drive Unlimited, it changes how the engine has to work.
Test Drive Unlimited and KT Racing’s WRC games are traditionally at opposite ends of the racing game simulation scale, so the studio had to work to get that right too.
When asked about where Solar Crown will sit on that scale, Jarniou said: “Yes, it will be more about simulation. In terms of feeling, I think the best approach to handling for games is to try to have a basic simulation. So it means you've got something that is pure, something that is solid, in terms of what you can do with the cars. And then by adding things like ABS, traction control, all this stuff, you get to something that is easier to handle. But still, the basic is to have a simulation.”
“In previous Test Drive Unlimited games, the driving was not the best part of the game, I would say, so we won't make this mistake. Then it's a matter of balance and the way we tweak the cars, but we want the game to be realistic. It's not a good thing to do to go off the road with a hypercar, for example, and it's not a good idea to race around the island with an SUV, instead of a hypercar.”
Multiplayer will also be a core part of Solar Crown, just as it is in WRC Generations. “It's mandatory for this kind of game,” Jarniou told me. “There's a part of the player base that are competitors, and they need to have something. So nice competition will be a feature in the game.”
As for when we might finally see more from Test Drive Unlimited: Solar Crown, such as gameplay footage and a release date, that's still a little up in the air. “It's planned for next year [release], but not the next information about it,” so it sounds like we should see or hear more about the game before the end of 2022.
“We really want to show more of the game. We know that people want to get gameplay footage. But we don't want to go too fast. The game is not finished. We don't want it to be deceptive, we have to deliver something that is of the right quality. We are really working on it, and really want to give more to the players than we already have, as soon as possible.”
VR and the future of KT Racing
Alain and I also spoke about the studio’s thoughts on VR racing, which has been added to the likes of F1 2022, Gran Turismo, Dirt, and more racing series over the last few years, as well as what the future looks like for KT Racing beyond even Test Drive Unlimited: Solar Crown.
On VR, Jarniou said: “Yeah [it’s interesting], it's something we did not really make in the past. Because, one thing is that WRC games or TT Isle of Man games are niche games. It's a small market of people, passionate fans of the competition, but the number of VR owners is also an issue. It's complicated to be working on a niche of a niche.” He spoke about how it’s something KT Racing would “want to take seriously… and think about the project from the start.”
However, the upcoming PlayStation VR 2 is exciting for him. “Maybe it's time for a bigger market for people. What we saw is a better technology. It's light, it's easy to install it. So maybe more people will come to this technology, then we can say there's a real market that we can address. So we'll see.”
As for other games that KT Racing plan to work on after the launch of both WRC Generations and Test Drive Unlimited, they have plenty of ideas.
“We are already thinking of making other kinds of racing games that we can’t talk about for now as it's in early stages. But we are working with all the racing simulations we've got now with the things we know, the tools we've got. We should be able to make racing games in other disciplines than just rally. There are many interesting disciplines and ways to play these kinds of disciplines that are not made today and that we could provide to the market and say, yes, that's a realistic experience but also a way to do it that I've never seen.”
So following the release of Generations and the conclusion of KT Racing’s WRC series, it really seems like the future of the studio is bright and exciting. With Test Drive Unlimited: Solar Crown on the horizon and more to come after it, racing fans have a lot to look forward to.