Host, Xbox's Major Nelson
Larry Hyrb: As promised, joining me today, I'm very excited to talk to David Springate. He is the technical director for Dirt 5. David, how are you today?
David Springate: I'm very well. Thank you, Larry. How are you?
Larry Hyrb: I am absolutely splendid. I have to tell you, I'm very excited to talk to you. You guys had a great series of announcements at Inside Xbox, gee whiz, it was last month. And I want to talk about that, but let's talk about what you've announced already, and then we're going to talk some more about Dirt 5.
David Springate: Sure. So Dirt 5 is an incredibly exciting racing game. So at Codemasters, we exclusively make racing games and we make some very hardcore racing games. We really after that hardcore player. We're after that person, that really loves shaving time off their time trials. But Dirt 5 is for someone that wants to chill on the sofa. They want to grab a controller, sit with their friends, great time and have a great visual experience.
So Dirt 5 has split screen, it makes the most of the power of Xbox Series X. It has a lot of surprises coming in the next few months. I'm very excited when we're going to be talking more about that. But really, it's a racing game, an off-road racing game, that's thinking about how do we take racing, but make it, turn up to 11 in the fun. How do we make it so that everybody has a big smile when they're racing around, enjoying great music, great visuals, and a great gameplay experience.
Larry Hyrb: Now I want to start off by talking, we got a lot to talk about, but I want to start off with you as the technical director. Tell us a little bit about your journey to become the technical director of Dirt 5. That'd be great.
David Springate: Okay. So I've been working at Codemasters now for about three and a half years. I started at the studio as principal graphics programmer. So that means I come from a very nerdy background. I've only ever worked in video game engine development.
Larry Hyrb: That is nerdy.
David Springate: So I'm all about... It is very nerdy. So I've only ever worked thinking about performance and visuals. How do we make a beautiful game? But I'm very fortunate in that we're surrounded by incredibly talented people, like our design and art teams. And as you know, any video game is a collection of a large group of people, incredibly talented people coming together, to make a great collaborative effort. So yeah, that's really my story. I've come from a nerdy background and just rose up to lead the team. And I have an incredible team I'm very thankful for.
Larry Hyrb: Yeah. I mean, because technical director is, you kind of touch all parts of it. I mean, there's the creative side that wants to execute on the vision and your job is to look at the technical side and say, "Can we meet that?" And maybe come up with some ideas. That's why I've always loved about video games. For 15 years, I've been talking about this. How I love how the technical side and the creative side, they have to come together and work in concert. And so you're kind of sitting at the nexus of that, aren't you?
David Springate: Yeah. And I guess video game development is primarily, in my experience, and I've been working in video games for 13 years, video game development is about healthy argument. It's about kicking around ideas and saying, "How are we going to deliver this?" Everybody wants to deliver a great video game, everybody wants to make something fun, but how are we going to get it to work on this hardware? How are we going to make it as beautiful as we can? How are we going to maintain incredible frame rates? There's always a lot of healthy discussion. And I think that, the given that we work, and obviously it's a... I'm very fortunate to work in video games.
Larry Hyrb: Yeah, we are often that.
David Springate: That given the way work hard like everybody else, it's very important because I spend more time with my work colleagues when we're able to be in the office. Obviously, not nowadays. But when we were able to be in the office, I was spending more time with my colleagues than with my family. So it's very important that we get on. It's very important that you can have healthy debate and discussion and move past those things and just make decisions and crack on. Be a great team together, seeking to strive and incredible... to make a great video game.
Larry Hyrb: Yeah. I mean, it's interesting because as you said, you've been in the business for quite some time, as well as I, and you've seen teams go from, there's the indie devs that are one or two folks to smaller teams, which are five to 100. And now there're some studios, I don't know how many people you have in your studio, but I've seen studios with thousands of people. It's unbelievable, isn't it?
David Springate: Yeah. And that means that it's very hard to be able to figure out what are the right moves. How do you keep all of the different plates spinning? How do you bring them all together on time? What do you do when things are failing? What are your backup measures? All that stuff. It is very difficult to juggle all of those plates, but we are doing a great job at Cheshire studios. I'm very, very proud of the team.
Larry Hyrb: All right, let's get into it. Because Dirt 5, we talked about it, it was announced last month at Inside Xbox, coming to Xbox Series X. I want to talk to you about that because it is, what excites you about developing and bringing Dirt 5 to life on next generation hardware?
David Springate: So, as a video game fan, that it's a very exciting day when new hardware comes out. Like a lot of video game fans, I've queued for consoles, I've had them pre-ordered on day one, and you're hoping that it's going to come a day early and all that kind of stuff. And it's no different for game developers. That when hardware turns up at the studio, it's a very exciting day. So I remember when project Scorpio hardware, as it was called back then, when it turned up to the studio, obviously it turns up with my name on all of the boxes, which that does not get hold. And so all of these kids turn up, and I grabbed some of the younger guys on the team and said, "Hey, do you want to come downstairs to the IT department and see the new Xbox?"
Larry Hyrb: Right.
David Springate: And their face is like, "Wow." Yeah I can't wait.
Larry Hyrb: It's like Christmas morning, right?
David Springate: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And so, to answer your question, what am I excited about, about developing for Series X. All of it. All of it. So all of the hardware features that we're looking at, it's like being a kid in a candy shop. You're looking at all of these toys and thinking, "How am I going to make great use of these features in our game?" Thinking about things like ray tracing, fast storage, low latency input, variable rate shading, all of that nerdy stuff. How do I translate that into being a fun, great experience for the fans, for the consumers?
Larry Hyrb: That feels next gen. You talked a little bit about that, about quicker loading times, which of course, Xbox Series X will have. But when you look at the features that we've announced, what are some of the other ones that get you excited, especially Dirt 5? Is it ray tracing? Because that's something that a lot of folks are excited about.
David Springate: Yeah. A lot of people want to talk about ray tracing. So as a team, we're looking at everything. I can't commit to everything yet, Larry. But ray tracing is one of those [inaudible 00:07:37], I can't commit to everything, but we're definitely looking into everything. But for me, the mere strength of the console was something that just blew me away, as soon as I started working with it. So one of the things that isn't talked about as much about Series X, is simultaneous multithreading. So that's not one of those sexy features like ray tracing, that people are going to talk about on the blog posts the most, but the CPU is a beast. It really is a B. And you have to have the right engine that's geared up, to make use of that many processes and we're fortunate enough to be in a position that we do. So when I enabled that feature, Dirt 5 just sprang to life on Series X.
And it was amazing. I called people over from across the office, "Come and check this out!" Because it was running amazing straight away. So all of the features. We've talked a little about 120hz-
Larry Hyrb: Yeah, 120 frames per second, right? Right, 120 frames per second. [crosstalk 00:08:37]
David Springate: Yeah. 120 frames per second. Now that's a challenge. And a lot of people were very surprised that we were able to talk about that. That means that you need to hit a frame rate where the frame has to be rendered in under 8.3 milliseconds, which is very quick. There's going to have to be some compromises to make it to 120hz because obviously, we've got an incredibly beautiful game at 60 frames per second on Series X. How are we going to make it be just as fun, half the time, 120 frames per second?
So we've already got that up and running, but we're thinking about, "Well, how are we going to make this work across the game, the whole game?" That's the goal. I don't know if we're going to make it that far, but we're looking at the different options that are available to us. But of course, we'll be supporting new HDMI 2.1 features that are in Series X, like FreeSync 2, variable rate shading, it is on the GPU as well. But variable refresh rates, and of course everything that comes along with the new visual improvements. Yeah.
Larry Hyrb: I think it's important to point out, and I'll link off to the YouTube, the trailer on YouTube, on the Xbox channel on YouTube, but with Dirt 5, I mean, there is a... You've got this amazing CPU because... It's kind of alluded to it earlier. With next gen, it's not just about fast read, write speed, which of course, X-Box Series X had, but it's the entire... as you engineers would say the pipeline, right? It's making sure the CPU and all of these things are there, to really give this next gen experience. So it's really important to look at all parts of the puzzle. Would you say that's accurate?
David Springate: Oh, completely. And even then it's not as simple as just the MVMe drive in Series X is fast. Oh boy, is it fast? What am I going to do with the other pieces of the puzzle as well? So we can have data using hardware decompression. So we compress our data like textures and things like that while we're building the game, for the office, and writing that to your disk. And that means that we can decompress it in the hardware as it's loaded, basically for free. So that means I can get even faster throughput than what the MVMe drive can deliver. So it's a beast. I've got no other way of putting it. It's really, really fast. But yeah, that means that we're able to deliver better, more beautiful experiences than we could before. And that excites me, that I'm thinking, now that I have all of these tools laid out for me on the table, how do I make use of all of these features to deliver an amazing video game, an amazing experience for the gamers?
Larry Hyrb: You know, one question I get asked a lot, but I'm not a developer, so I won't even answer it. I'm not nowhere near qualified like you, but what is it like developing on Xbox Series X?
David Springate: Sure. So anytime new hardware comes out, it's usually a very, very painful experience. When hardware shows up, it's usually half finished or it's crashes a lot, and the API that the programming tools that we use, then usually not finalized or even worse, they can suddenly change halfway through development. And so suddenly you're having to pivot really quickly, but actually Series X has been a very smooth experience. So Microsoft has developed something that they called the game development kit, which is a new replacement. And actually it's going to be utilized on original Xbox One and Xbox One S and Xbox One X.
And that's how everything is going to be developed together, a unified product development all the way from Xbox one up to Series X, but making the most of the hardware features across the board. But there are actually benefits to that as well, so an Xbox one game that was developed before now, could now to perform better if it was made with the new game development kit. And it also has the ability to make use of low latency input, which really, really important for a racing game.
And I'm a big fan of fighting games. So I'm looking forward to some of those coming out in Series X and making most of that too. But all in all, development on Series X has been more of the same, but just allowing me to stop and say, "Okay, my day to day toolset has not changed that much. It's still that familiar Xbox one experience, but now I get to make the most of all of the new toys." [crosstalk 00:13:14]
Larry Hyrb: Yeah. And I think that's important to point out, David, is that, you said that it's much of the same, and that's not a bad thing.
David Springate: No, really not.
Larry Hyrb: It's much of the same. Yeah. It allows you to understand the tools better and then you can... your workflow is faster and so forth. Right?
David Springate: In fact, it's the best thing. I don't want new tools after make the most of the experience that I already have. I want to make the most of understanding how to get to the hardware, not having new tools blocking me from getting in the way of getting to that hardware. So having familiar tools, having a familiar interface, super important. So it's been a really smooth transition for us at Cheshire studio making the fudge.
Larry Hyrb: One of the things you talked about was, the tools being similar and easy to work with, and how Xbox One is going to kind of see some lift from this. That kind of brings me to the next question about smart delivery for your game, and what it means for Dirt 5 hands? Tell us a little bit about how you see it since they are working on it right now.
David Springate: Sure. So one of the things that, as a consumer I enjoy, is the ability to take my Xbox library from one Xbox console and have it just be seamless. So when I'm playing Minecraft engines on my Xbox One X downstairs, if I can't get the TV that evening, I need to play upstairs in my study on my Xbox One S. My save's coming with me, my purchase is coming with me. It's not something I need to worry about.
Larry Hyrb: It just works.
David Springate: Yeah. That's what we want as a consumer. I just wanted to work. Now, of course, I want it to just work with Dirt 5, and with X-Box Series X, so smart delivery allows us to say, "Hey, you want to buy Dirt 5 on your Xbox One, when you upgrade to Series X, whenever that maybe, that may be launched a... It maybe a year after, you'll have Dirt 5. It will be there. You'll get it. The Series X experience, it will just upgrade for free.
You'll get all of those great hardware benefits. You'll get the rendering upgrades, the performance, everything. It will just come over and your save will come too. You'll still be able to play with the friends that you've made on Xbox One. Everybody plays together. That's it. It's as simple as that. So for me, as a gamer, smart delivery is fantastic, but also a no brainer. It's not something... I'm hoping in years to come, we're not going to talk about this, because this is just, it's obvious. It's just a wack.
Larry Hyrb: Yeah, it's funny. It's kind of like, back in the day, 10 years ago, or a little bit more maybe, where people were excited about touchscreens on a phone. But now you don't talk about that anymore because it's just every phone has a touchscreen. Right? It's just like, of course it does. So it feels like this is one of those things that people are going to, once they understand they're going to, "Oh, okay." But then eventually it's just going to fade and become part of what is expected of a next gen gaming experience, right?
David Springate: Exactly. Yeah, exactly. And my friends were saying to me, so if I get an Xbox Series X, because obviously like anybody else, that's really into video games. We all have these friends that ask the questions of the big gamer.
Larry Hyrb: We're the experts, we're the experts. Right?
David Springate: Right. Yeah. And they said to me, "If I buy a Series X, will my Xbox One games work? Would they come over?" "And yeah, of course they will." Anything that you have on Xbox 360 on Back Compat, that's going to come with you too. So if you have two available and Back Compat, which it is that you can take that onto your Xbox One, of course. And it can come with you onto Xbox Series X, if you still want to enjoy that game.
Larry Hyrb: Yeah. It's funny you say that because I've always asked our engineers. I'm like, "Hey, I would... because we don't, you can't really see all the games you've played in terms of the saves." And I would love to say, "Hey, show me what my oldest save is." Because I remember when I picked up, I think it was GTA, a few months ago, I was playing GTA on Back Compat, and having that come in and just to see the last time I played, it was 2011, or something like that. It was like, wow. It just really... Everything else just kind of melts away. And it's fasting. It's almost a little bit of a time capsule. You've been talking a lot about, David, as the technical director. you've been talking a lot about Dirt 5 and Xbox Series X, but tell us a little bit more about the game itself and what gamers can expect from Dirt 5 in terms of the locations and the gameplay and so forth? You kind of hinted a little bit at beginning, but let's go a little bit deeper on that.
David Springate: So there's something very specific I want to talk about. The thing that really makes me smile when I played Dirt 5. So obviously we've got a huge ton of cars. They come from loads of different types of vehicle. So we have a super lights and rock bounces, and all kinds of crazy things. This is a real collection of off road racing. In fact, we have this one car, a sprint car, it can only turn left, and all of the wheels at different sizes. And that means it's got a really crazy handling experience.
Larry Hyrb: It's something you've never done before, because you can't really do that in real life.
David Springate: Well, I remember talking about it with the guys. I mean, it is a real car, but I remember talking about it with the guys in the studio. They said to me, "Yeah, we want to do the sprint car thing." And they talked me through it. And I said, "What? This sounds crazy and weird, but I really got to check it out." And so the tracks are all in an oval and you think that sounds simple and it is not, it is a very interesting experience. [crosstalk 00:18:53]
Larry Hyrb: So David, I have to tell you here in the United States, we have something called NASCAR and you're kind of describing that to a certain degree, but I'm sure it's a little bit more than that, right?
David Springate: It's very, very different from NASCAR, very different. And the first time it's off roads, very, very dusty going around these ovals, and all of your sprint cars being very closely packed together, much like NASCAR, but the experience is so much more visceral, in my experience. But yeah, we have a breadth of off road experiences, different terrains, different surface types to race on, but it's weather that really gets me excited. And I know that's a strange thing to talk about in a video game about cars, but it's the weather. So not only do we have full day-night cycle, all that kind of stuff, that the race can change from day to night. But I was playing the game today and I'm driving through the streets in Norway, and lightning bolts are going off in the background in the-
Larry Hyrb: Wow.
David Springate: Night, huge flashes of lightning. And you see the lightning striking in front of you. And we have very complex weather system that allows us to do lots and lots of interesting things. And I'm worried that I'm saying too much. So I don't want to get into too much detail on this, but I know that we're going to be covering it in the months to come. But weather allows us to have different experiences every time you play Dirt 5.
And it allows us to change the experience whenever we feel like it, as developers. So we can give you new experiences in those places whenever we like. And it's a bit like having a timeline, setting up a bunch of events within a single race. When do we want it to strike lightening? When do we want it to snow? When do we want it to rain? All of that of stuff. And that allows a really interesting experience. So that's one of the ways that we're turning the game up to 11 on Dirt 5 and I really cannot wait for people to see it.
Larry Hyrb: Yeah. I know that when we saw the trailer, and again, I'll link off to the trailer, I remember watching the trailer and I kind of stopped. I mean, I've seen hundreds of game trailers and thousands in my day, but I remember just stopping and looking at this. And I just, my word, it looked the lighting looked beautiful. I mean, all the stuff that we've kind of been talking about, in theory, came into, and I know this is just a trailer and I haven't even seen the real game yet, but it felt so good. And that was some that was in engine capture, that was gameplay capture, right?
David Springate: Absolutely. 100%. So I want to be really, really clear on this, there was no shenanigans in the trailer. Nothing. Nothing was faked, nothing was touched up, in fact, I want to be 100% honest, there's one thing that we didn't do in engine in the video. There's this corruption-looking, graffiti transition between camera shots. That was it. The only thing. And that's for a video effect, that's not game footage or anything like that.
Larry Hyrb: Yeah. That was really just-
David Springate: Everything-
Larry Hyrb: For the trailer itself, but as far as the actual game was actual game footage. [crosstalk 00:21:59]
David Springate: Only for these, that is all captured completely in engine, nothing faked. And I am so proud to be able to say that. I've worked on games before where you have fudge some stuff, fake some things, because you've got trailers and getting trailers done before you finished the game, that's hard. It's really, really hard. But actually, the team, they work really hard, they love what they do, and they're great at it. So, they nailing it. Their absolutely nailing it.
Larry Hyrb: So you mentioned a little... I know I got to let you go here, we've been going on for quite some time, but you've got some more information coming up in the future, maybe I'll have you back on the show if you'd like to do that?
David Springate: Oh, that would be wonderful!
Larry Hyrb: But why don't you give us all the details on when Dirt 5 is coming out and the platforms and so on and so forth. So here's your chance to sell it again!
David Springate: So Dirt 5 is obviously coming to Xbox Series X, but don't forget, with smart delivery, it's available on every Xbox platform. We'll be bringing the game out around the holiday season, where ... Well, nailing down some information on that yet, but I'm sure that you can find out more over at our Twitter, which is @dirtgame. If you have any questions, of course, you can ping me directly @davidspringate on Twitter. But yeah, we've got a lot more surprises coming up. Some really, really big back of the box features, stuff that's going to surprise and entertain people. And I'm really looking forward to seeing what you think of this, Larry.
Larry Hyrb: I pe.
David Springate: So keep your eyes peeled. We've put our roadmap out of what we're announcing when, but there's a big question mark on our roadmap and I'm super excited to show that. So keep your eyes open.
Larry Hyrb: David Springate, the technical director for Dirt 5. Appreciate you taking the time today. I know you're joining us from the UK, so it's a little later there than my day. So I'll let you get back to your family time and thanks again, and we look forward to hearing more information.
David Springate: Sure. Thanks Larry. Thanks for having me on the show.