I, like many other British Touring Car fans growing up was first introduced to the sport through a love of gaming, through the TOCA racing games back on the PlayStation 1. The title was released back in 1997 and introduced a 5 year old me to the chaotic nature that the BTCC has on offer. Shortly after playing the game, I was interested in the sport and before long, I was attending my first British Touring Car live event in Thruxton.
The game itself was brilliant, TOCA and TOCA 2 both played smoothly, boasted an impressive amount of cars on screen, had a large amount of licences for both cars and tracks, and gained generally positive reviews with critics due to the excitement it gave the player and the overall gameplay.
However after TOCA 2, that was pretty much it for BTCC games, the series decided to go in a new direction to try to attract a wider audience. This direction was expanding the race disciplines with TOCA Race Driver series, and the same model was later used in the GRID series (that is due its own remake shortly) and leaving the TOCA Touring Car games behind.
Fast forward to 2019, Halfords Yuasa Racing driver Dan Cammish set his sights on Codemasters in a quest to have a new BTCC game made brought up with the time. The argument being that the sport hasn’t ever been bigger and is attracting more fans than ever before, so this would be a no brainer for Codemasters to reboot the series, surely? Well, perhaps, but there are a few unanswered questions we need to tackle first.
What content would be on offer?
In terms of tracks, the content would be rather low. If we are using the 2019 BTCC calendar as an example; that’s 8 tracks that would be included in the game (ignoring the fact that there is 10 race meets, as Thruxton is visited twice, and Brands Hatch has the Indy and GP track, thus counting as one track.) To counter this, it could be possible to add in previously used tracks (Rockingham for example), tracks from around the world in an off-championship mode, or even fantasy tracks, just like in the original TOCA games.
The race disciplines on offer would be far more substantial than just racing in the Touring Car class. The game could include a career mode that follows the rise through the different car classes, starting with the Ginettas, moving to the Clios, and finally to the Touring Cars, for example. Following the fantasy track idea, it could easily be possible to have fantasy cars with the easiest and juiciest fruit being the 1997 season, on which the first TOCA game was based on.
So, that’s the content, what about the licences?
Licences have always been a tricky beast in video games, and there is always a long book of reasons to why licences aren’t added. Pro Evo Soccer only licences a handful of teams and leagues a year, and games such as Wreckfest, Burnout and Split/Second don’t include licenced cars but the models look so close, you can guess what they’re meant to be.
In racing games, the most common reason for this is damage. Players want a realistic handling and damage model but car manufacturers don’t want their digital versions to be crumpled and distorted, so the middle ground is usually creating a damage model that doesn’t destroy the car beyond recognition, just damages it a fair bit.
Now, BTCC is meant to be a non-contact sport, but everyone knows that’s not the case (as the unofficial BTCC tagline reads: “rubbing is racing”) and frequently some of the cars will be slightly battered as they limp over the line, so finding a middle ground could be key.
The car licences should be fairly easy to gain, and so should the tracks, the non MSV tracks like Thurxton may show some difficulty, but if it comes under the TOCA banner, it shouldn’t be an issue, in theory at least.
That’s the cars and the tracks, who’s going to develop the game?
The obvious answer for this is Codemasters. The team created the original TOCA games, have a pedigree in creating world class racing games and are British based, with 3 studios based in the UK. The team has been doing fantastic work with the F1 series, they’ve created a formula and been adding and perfecting it with each passing year.
On the topic, Cammish said: “Considering how much work they have done on the F1 side, I’m sure they could get their heads round it and pretty quickly adapt that to touring cars.” Although the foundations would be in place for a BTCC game, there would be a number of functions that would have to be adapted for it to work. The physics engine would need to be overhauled for a start, and not to mention Codies would need to recreate all but Silverstone, cars and presentation packages.
A lot of this would depend on if Codies would be aiming to make a remake or a reboot. The remake would write itself, the classic cars on the classic tracks – straightforward to do, just play on the nostalgia for the TOCA series. A reboot would require a lot more work, and building from the ground up and starting again, which is where the line might be drawn and the project deemed to be too much work.
Even though the obvious answer is Codemasters, I don’t believe it’s the right one. Codies have been busier than ever with the Formula 1 licence, the Dirt series and the upcoming GRID reboot that I believe they could pass up on a new BTCC game.
If not Codemasters, then who?
Firstly, we can rule Sony out with their Gran Turismo series, they would be the most unlikely to take on the project, and we can say the same for Turn 10 Studios, the team behind Forza Motorsport. Both studios would be too focused on their own games to make a BTCC spin off, however a branch could be offered to give a BTCC series within their games, as Forza frequently flirts with the idea by having touring car series and has licenced a few BTCC cars in the past.
Their last title Project Cars 2 was the closest in a long time that fans have got to a BTCC game, as it allowed players to take control of Ginettas and Clios on tracks featured in the calendar (Croft, Oulton Park, Brands Hatch) It would make the most sense for Slightly Mad Studios to pick up the game as they already have the foundations built such as the handling models, physics and majority of tracks. The team would need to add each touring car and licence in, and add atmosphere into the game, as Project Cars games tend to feel slightly lifeless.
How about marketing the game?
With the videogame market in the money chucking state it is at the moment, a full £50 physical release wouldn’t be the way to go. Instead a lower priced, even digital-only release would be the best form of attack. This method would work best with new gamers that might not have seen or played the original TOCA games, but might be willing to try a £30 game because it looks good, instead of a £50 gamble.
There is always the possibility of crowdfunding the project, but it has its challenges as everyone that pays in for a crowdfunding project expects their vision and their thoughts to be in the final project, but a group of loyal BTCC fans paying for a BTCC game, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
I believe it’s possible to have a new game, but there is just a few hoops to jump through first, and those hoops won’t be jumped through for a while yet. The enthusiasm that Cammish shows and a willingness to work closely with designers would be a mouth-watering prospect for any studio, and the chance of having developers to track to experience the event only sweetens the deal.
Still, if any designers don’t fancy the trip down, XNVR is always available for a day out.