Playing in the dirt
Far from child’s play, DIRT 5 is the only way to get behind the wheel of vehicles like the Audi AI:TRAIL.
Audi models have been favourites on gaming screens for years, with iconic models and prototypes alike faithfully rendered for gamers to get a realistic taste of the real things in action.
30 April, 2021
Giving gamers the chance to sample prototypes and specialised race cars often not available anywhere else
Anyone who thinks that high-quality automotive video games are for kids clearly hasn’t experienced the thrills of a perfectly timed pass, the exhilaration of winning or the soul crushing pain of being beaten at the line. This is serious business and as such, the vehicles, driving dynamics and in some cases the tracks, have been faithfully reproduced with painstaking detail.
In the outstanding Codemasters game, DIRT 5, specialist Audi models are amongst the impressive line-up of exotic machinery available to do battle, giving gamers the chance to sample prototypes and specialised race cars not available anywhere else.
Audi Magazine caught up with Kai Mensing, Head of Product Placement International at AUDI AG on how the brand’s cars come to be featured in these amazing games and just what it takes to reproduce the vehicles and their driving dynamics to such an extraordinary standard.
Audi Magazine: Generally, why do you think it’s important for Audi to feature in video games?
Kai Mensing: Gaming continues to be incredibly exciting and rapidly evolving, and with partnerships like these we have the opportunity to get in touch with a younger audience than our normal core audience.
Do you turn down offers to be included in games? How do you decide which games to say yes to?
KM: Yes we do. The game concept has to align with our brand strategy and communication targets. Therefore we check each request and usually aim for games which are more focused on racing simulations, while not completely locking out arcade games. But once the driving gets too unrealistic we usually pass on the offer.
Audi Magazine: What do you most like about DIRT 5?
KM: I like DIRT 5 a lot, because it is a good blend of arcade racing and rally sport, making it fun and accessible. Dynamic weather and time of day, as well as cool looking environments add to a large variety of racing situations. And naturally I enjoy that electric cars have been integrated into the game.
How do you chose the models that are included? Do you put them forward, or does the studio make suggestions? What’s the reasoning behind each of the models included in DIRT 5?
KM: The process is usually a friendly negotiation. The studio has ideas of which cars they are looking for, and we suggest alternatives or cars they might not be aware of as they have not been communicated yet. Audi has a great and very successful Rally history, and for DIRT 5 it was fantastic that the studio was open to integrate more recent Audi design models which have been aimed for off-road use – the Audi TT Safari and the Audi AI:TRAIL quattro.
Including the AI:Trail quattro was a bold move as it is the first outlook of an electric rally car. And we announced in late November last year that Audi will be competing in the famous Dakar Rally for the first time in 2022 with an innovative prototype. The alternative drive concept combines an electric drive train with a high-voltage battery and a highly efficient energy converter.
Audi has a great and very successful Rally history, and for DIRT 5 it was fantastic that the studio was open to integrate more recent Audi design models
The studios usually have race drivers who test the game during development to fine-tune the car models as accurately as possible
How are the developers able to get such accurate representations of the actual vehicles? Are they built using CAD files provided by AUDI AG? Do Audi designers work with the developers to refine the models in game?
KM: Yes, the game designers get CAD data for our cars to be able to model them as accurately as possible. In addition, especially for non-production models, they usually come to our factory to hold a photo shoot with the real cars to capture every detail. Once the first digital model has been built, we receive it for approval, and depending on the model, several Audi departments get involved in the approval process to ensure a perfect match.
Do you get to test the game before release and are you able to provide feedback as to the vehicles performance, handling, sound, etc?
KM: We usually receive screenshots and video clips for approval as playing the game before the release is complicated and requires special hardware. But the studios usually have race drivers who test the game during development to fine-tune the car models as accurately as possible beyond the technical data they receive from us.
Did the making of DIRT 5 go smoothly from Audi’s point of view?
KM: The photo shoot of the above mentioned cars is still in very vivid memory as it happened during COVID-19 security protocol. It was just the photographer and myself in the ‘Audi light tunnel’ which is a massive structure, several stories underground. The perfect place for social distancing.
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