Codemasters is among Leamington Spa’s biggest and brightest lights, but that’s just one of the many studios it has driving forward the racing genre. This article was created in association with Aardvark Swift.
With three UK studios and over three decades in the industry, Codemasters are a staple of the British games industry. Specialising in racing games, the teams are growing across the country and around the world, but what is it like to work at Codies? Aardvark Swift sat down with Meg Daintith, Codemasters recruitment manager and Simon Barlow, principal game designer to find out what working at Codemasters is really like.
“We’re a pretty global company I would say,” says Meg, explaining about their studios which include their QA studio in Pune, India and a Kuala Lumpur operation. “Southam is the biggest studio in terms of headcount” explains Simon, with around 280 staff, “There’s a real sense of tradition, it’s a beautiful location, and we’re only 10 minutes from Leamington Spa, with a pub on site, because why not!”
Cheshire and Birmingham were once studios in their own right before becoming part of the Codemasters family and “came with their own culture which we’ve always respected,” explains Simon. “The Birmingham studio just exudes F1,” Meg adds, “you walk around a race-track on the floor and there are these maps of iconic tracks on the walls.”
All the studios are part of the ever forward-thinking Codemasters operation. “We want to grow further into mobile, grow into streaming and further develop our esports presence.” says Simon. “It’s weird to sit and talk about the past because it’s not really part of the outlook here,” Meg continues.
Codemasters is best known for its market-leading racing games with GRID, F1 and DiRT Rally all developed at their studios. It is a niche, but that doesn’t stop them from innovating and finding an enormous amount of excitement and pride in their work.
“It’s disingenuous to say racing is just one thing,” Simon says about the perception of being a racing-focused studio. “Nobody says that about any other genre… when you’re creating something like F1 or DiRT Rally where you’re trying to recreate life it’s about ‘how do I make that closer? Better?’ That’s where the challenge and passion comes in.”
“When I got here I thought racing was just racing, but it’s really not,” explains Meg, “The diversity is huge. At one end you’ve got simulations, which for purists are an absolute joy.” Codemasters even employs pro-drivers to work with game developers. That’s how close the driving is to a real race – that attention to detail is in everything they do, “and you’ve also got much more accessible games on the other end of the spectrum, like GRID and new titles in the pipeline. The range really surprised me, racing is a broad spectrum.”
With their most recent release, GRID, the team had a new set of challenges. “What I really wanted to draw out from this GRID was the racing action,” Simon said, who was literally the first employee ‘number one’ on the latest GRID project, “What we do better than anyone else at Codemasters is the on-track experience.”
Simon also went into details of the innovations that GRID brings to the racing genre, “We introduced a nemesis system,” a system in which the drama you have with other drivers will be reflected in how they race against you, becoming more aggressive or passive depending on the action in the game. “It’s our version of a narrative – the role of the driver,” explains Meg, “We really wanted everyone to feel that story while they’re driving.”
“It’s personal to you,” added Simon, “We could all play GRID and have different experiences. They may be the same races but they’ll never play out the same way.”
GRID is out now for PS4, Xbox One & PC. You’ll be able to listen to the full podcast with Simon Barlow and Meg Daintith on the Aardvark Swift website soon.