From WRC 5 to Generations – Looking back on KT Racing’s rallying legacy

WRC Generations Retrospective Header

It’s fair to say that the WRC series has grown in stature under KT Racing’s tenure. WRC 5, their first release in 2015, offered a decent rally game experience with plenty of room to improve, and through yearly iterations, KTC Racing has done exactly that. The graphics have improved, the physics and handling have become more and more realistic, the stages feel more representative of the sport, and there’s better and broader gameplay modes on offer. WRC Generations will be the final hurrah for their take on the series, and they’re going all-in to make it the best that they can.

“When we started working on WRC Generations, we had a choice,” said Alain Jarniou, the series’s Creative Director. “We could say that we’d lost the license, so let’s just make a small game and go to another project, or choose to make it the ultimate WRC game that we can do.”

That effort is clear to see. The physics have been tweaked further, now accommodating the new generation of hybrid Rally1 cars, there’s an almost all-encompassing selection of 22 countries going far beyond the 2022 WRC championship, and there’s the new Leagues system to boot.

This game, however, came from that relatively humble beginning. “We would have loved to make the perfect rally game with WRC 5, but it was impossible with the level of experience in the team — with all the things we had to learn — and the size of the team,” Alain recalled. “If WRC 5 was not good, it could have been the last game of KT Racing, but now with all these memories [from the past 7 years], we can say it’s been very interesting to be able to make a game every year, and to make it better and better, until we arrive at WRC Generations today.”


WRC 5 was a solid, start for KT Racing’s franchise, but with plenty of room for improvement.

Thankfully, WRC 5 was successful enough to lead to WRC 6 and beyond, in a yearly franchise that allowed KT Racing to continually evolve the game. They were perhaps a little late to truly accommodate the trend toward more simulation in racing, but quickly answered requests for longer stages in WRC 7, to bring in real world elements and build out the game’s core features like in the career mode.

They’ve done this while also tempering demands with the reality of what people actually play through their game’s telemetry.

“I think that bringing a realistic rally experience goes with those longer stages,” Alain admitted. “Epic stages are important to the experience, but we see that people love and prefer to play the short stages. Shakedowns exist in real life — they’re on Thursdays, and they’re a way to test the car, the set up and stuff like that — and [having them in WRC games] is quite immersive and realistic, but also fun for the players. It’s important that we have both.”


WRC 7 added longer Epic Stages to meet fan requests, but what do they actually play the most?

There’s a good reason for that, as Lead Level Designer Stéphane de Bank told us: “When you first play a WRC game, the first track is almost 4–6 minutes of play. Already with that, sometimes the player is very, very tired because there’s a lot of concentration. We don’t want to throw them in directly with a big stage that, in Monte Carlo for example, can last for 25 minutes for the first time.”

Those longer stages are important for the hardcore players, and while KT Racing has always created abstractions of rallies with occasional landmarks, as opposed to full 1:1 replicas of stages, their approach has evolved over time. “Before we were more reproducing and taking inspiration, not really creating and doing things narratively,” Stéphane explained. “When we start building a level, we deconstruct a country and what makes the atmosphere of this rally. Sometimes it’s the colours, sometimes it’s the type of vegetation and the topology of the terrain — Kenya is very flat, and Monte-Carlo is much more mountainous.

“[But the simple fact is that] some rallies are very long and we don’t want the player to play too long a session. 60km is way too much! And of this 60km, there’s maybe 5km or 10km that is appealing to the player. So we take the interesting parts, deconstruct what is good about it, what makes this rally different and we recreate a country with this.”

Just as important is that this deconstruction can be reapplied to levels from previous games that have been carried forward or are being reintroduced – WRC Generations is ballooning to feature 22 locations. Every stage that is carried forward from a previous release is reexamined by the devs; sometimes they only have minor tweaks, but track overhauls can also be quite extensive. Take the Tour de Corse, returning from WRC 8. “We said, ‘OK, Corsica is pretty good, but it’s pretty old. Let’s focus on just one track and say what have we learned from all the previous countries?’,” Stéphane added.

“We take that chance to dive into this country, say this is pretty good, this part is not, let’s skip that part totally and let’s add this. [For example, perhaps there was] originally there was a forest, but let’s cut all the trees and make a new mountain to add something more memorable for the player.”

It’s a dramatic transformation that can often take a tight, twisty and enclosed stage to one that’s more open, sweeping and higher speed.

This even plays out in the pace notes: “We think about the pace notes at the beginning,” Stéphane said. “In some countries we want to make the player feel like they’re submerged by information, so we want to have a lot of turns and pace notes, so the co-pilot is always speaking. In other countries or other sections, we want the player to rest a little during track, and that’s more important for the epic stages.”

WRC Generations Hybrid Rally1

WRC Generations features the new Hybrid Rally1 cars, which alters their handling and characteristics.

It’s been built on a continuously evolving KT Engine — early performance issues on consoles have eased, data streaming has been introduced for the epic rally stages, and the fidelity of physics and handling has grown over time. Benoit Jacquier, Technical Director for the KT Engine explained: “Every game we improve the simulation. This year we added the hybrid cars, and we tried to be as realistic as possible, to reproduce what we observe and the data we’re given. For example all of the hybrids have batteries, so we fill the battery when you brake, like in real life. We compute the energy that is dissipated and injected in the battery. We know that what we’re doing is a simplification of reality — we could do even better in some parts — but we are happy with our physics in WRC Generations. It’s our best ever.”

There’s clearly hopes that this game will stand the test of time, and a part of that is in the new Leagues system. This will present daily and weekly race challenges, keeping players in divisions of similarly skilled and active players, turning the leaderboard time trial chase into a more engaging activity for more players.

“Leagues are for people like me who are not good drivers, and find it frustrating to be on the leaderboards and be 10,000 out of 50,000 players,” Alain said. “That means nothing to me, but when I get in a League with people of my skill level, that gets more interesting.”

With the many combinations of cars, the breadth of the stages available and more, he anticipates that Leagues could run for years without repeating itself.

WRC Generations Rally Sweden

WRC Generations Leagues can provide years of distinct daily challenges to players.

WRC Generations is sure to be a release that’s full of pride for what KT Racing has been able to achieve in this genre, and with that key turning point a few years ago. “When we were making WRC 5, we were proud of what we were making.” Alain said. “We knew that not everything was perfect, and you could feel the WRC drivers nicely, gently try your game and say ‘It’s OK, but it’s not the same as real life.’

“But with WRC 9 or 10, you saw these guys enjoying the driving, feeling comfortable and start to challenge themselves. We’ve got a truck with the game set up that goes with the rallies on the service parks, so sometimes the drivers or even the teams will come by themselves to challenge each other on the truck in the game and having fun.”

WRC Generations is out on 3rd November for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, Xbox One and PC, with a Nintendo Switch version due by the end of 2022. This coverage was thanks to a studio visit to KT Racing in Paris, with travel provided by publisher Nacon. 

Written by
I'm probably wearing toe shoes, and there's nothing you can do to stop me!