Everything You Need To Know About Codemasters RaceNet
Games are becoming much more of a social experience; I’m not just talking online while you’re playing either. Slowly but surely they are creeping their way into our everyday life allowing us to take the things we do on our consoles away with us and extend that experience. Some games to their credit do this fairly well while others don’t really try, it’s frustrating for me as a gamer. Why can’t I access all my stats, why cant I see everything my friends are doing while I’m not on the sofa racing with them? And why in God’s name do I have to sign up to another website for every game in a series to get the most out of my games, only for the developer to get bored of the service when the next game is out.
During our trip to Codemasters HQ in Southam last week for a look at DiRT Showdown they showed us their take on this kind of service, and thankfully I’m not the only one who has felt this way. Codemasters are setting out to fix all of those things that are wrong with the various ‘logs’; they’ve got something new on the horizon, something that we’ve all wanted for a long time but nobody has fleshed out enough, and something that we’ve not quite seen before.
Introducing RaceNet: a single online hub which will link all Codemasters’ games from now on. DiRT Showdown is the title kicking that all off, with more and more titles being added to the service over time as and when they release. The version of the website we were shown was of an incredibly unique design with a very playful, almost iPad/tablet-like quality to it. The layout is very simple, with the home page containing widgets that you can scroll left and right through acting as a kind of news feed. Here it will display videos that have been uploaded to YouTube from Showdown by you and your friends, details of upcoming challenges (more on these later) and news from Codemasters.
RaceNet is due to open for registration sometime between now and when Showdown’s demo is released on the 1st of May – obviously there won’t be too much in it to start with as a lot of the content is generated by its users. Signing up when it does launch will give you a few bonuses though, in the way of a unique livery for DiRT Showdown with another two rewarded for taking part in RaceNet events in the future, some bonus in-game cash to get you going and a founder status badge on RaceNet so that people know that you were there right from the beginning.
In the version we saw running, all of this content was pulled from DiRT Showdown as it’s the only title supporting RaceNet at the moment, but this home page will act as a hub eventually pulling in content across all of the Codemasters titles using the service. Across the bottom of the site lies the menu bar for the different titles which again only has DiRT Showdown in at the moment, but the Codemasters logos placed in the other tabs on the bottom menu bar are clearly waiting for other titles such as the F1 series and the “often teased but never officially announced” GRID 2 and DiRT 4 to be added in.
Clicking through on the DiRT tab takes us to what can only be described as a 3D interactive infographic. It’s built on a technology called Flare3D… a Flash based program. The iPad owner in me’s heart sank when I heard that, much like many of yours just did, but I’m not concerned too much, – Codemasters are going a long way to make sure RaceNet is everything it can be, and while they didn’t officially confirm the existence of an app, when asked about one our RaceNet guide James Nicholls said “What we’re doing for now is making sure the site looks awesome for when we first launch so it’s looking as good as possible. We’re pushing the visual quality first so it does mean that some of the older browsers and mobile browsers for things like the flash content wont show up straight away but we will roll that in, we just want to make sure it looks great first and get the service up and running.”
… Which is developer speak for “I’m not saying yes and I’m not saying no.” It’s safe to assume there will be one at some point; the team building RaceNet are a bunch of gamers and tech heads just like you and I, so they know that for RaceNet to be the game changer they want it to be it’ll need to be available on as many platforms and devices as possible. They just don’t want to say so yet.
Codemasters intend on running regular challenges on RaceNet, and to tie into the launch of the demo they want us to drain a tanker of 300,000,000 barrels of fuel. It’s hard to get across from the image that we’ve posted what is actually happening on screen (and you need to see it running for yourself to appreciate just how cool it is) – in the background is a tanker filled with fuel, then as every player who is registered with RaceNet finishes an event their car pulls forward filling up with golden liquid, before driving off with it all sloshing about inside. Should the community manage to drain it then everybody who took part will get a badge of honor for their RaceNet profile.
Across the top of the site we’ll also have access to information about Showdown, and eventually when the game is released we’ll be able to view our progress in tour mode, take part in RaceNet events and compete in team championships. Behind the gloss of the RaceNet website Codemasters are tracking every tiny statistic about what players get up to in the game, allowing you to build up a list of friends and compare your performance to theirs over time.
All you need to do is sign up to RaceNet, link your Steam, PS3 ID or Gamertag (or all three) to your account and when you start playing any of the games RaceNet will be aware of you and start adding new info to your profile, building a history between you and Codemasters titles rather than starting again with a new version of RaceNet every time a new game is released. Codemasters were keen to stress that using RaceNet is optional, it’s not forced and you could play the whole of Showdown without signing up. The idea of RaceNet is to build on what is already there in the game, hopefully extending the life of the various titles by building on Codemasters’ already strong and quite loving community.
Codemasters are taking on the big boys with RaceNet – the bar is about to be raised for out of game experiences in one of those true landmark moments, so sign up as soon as you can and look smug with your founders badge when all the late comers start arriving.