If you have been around the sim racing community for at least ten years, you are most likely familiar with Ratbag Games, an Australian company that released several dirt track racing simulations and games for the PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox.
Ratbag Games, initially known as Emergent Games, was founded in Adelaide, Australia in 1993. Their first title, released in 1996, was a futuristic arcade racing game called Powerslide. They utilized their own highly advanced rendering system (for its time) called the Difference Engine, that allowed up to 300,000 polygons on the screen at once.
Before Ratbag was acquired by Midway Games, the company released a total of nine racing games, and became type cast as a racing game and simulation developer. The games released were:
- Powerslide – Windows
- Dirt Track Racing – Windows
- Dirt Track Racing: Sprint Cars – Windows
- Dirt Track Racing 2 – Windows
- Leadfoot – Windows
- Holden Dirt Track Racing Australia – Windows
- World of Outlaws: Sprint Cars 2002 – PS2
- Saturday Night Speedway – PS2, Windows
- The Dukes of Hazzard: Return of the General Lee – PS2, Xbox
Midway games acquired Ratbag in August of 2005, then promptly closed the Ratbag operation in December, putting about 75 people out of work with little notice. Krome Studios hired many of the Ratbag Games staff and established Krome Studios Adelaide. Krome Studios never attempted to create any type of racing game or simulation. Ratbag was dead.
Dirt Track Racing 2 continued to be used in online multiplayer league racing despite its quirky bugs and ten player limit until at least 2014, however the community is tiny. It seems ten slots is about all that’s needed, as that is about how many were still playing the game at that time. Gamespy drove the final nail in the Dirt Track Racing 2 coffin May 31, 2014 when they took their multiplayer matchmaking/browser server offline. DTR2 was dead.
I’ve played Dirt Track Racing 2 as recently as 2014. While it was a great dirt racing simulation for its time, it did have some bugs that never got patched despite the fact that Ratbag remained in operation for two years after its release.
The Difference Engine was considered great at that time, and maybe it was, but NASCAR Racing 2003 Season came out during the same year and had better physics and better graphics. The graphics never looked very realistic in the Ratbag titles, and the physics felt like you were driving on asphalt. There was no power sliding, even in the Late Models. You lost too much momentum. It was pretty much an asphalt driving experience.
Fast forward to today. Big Ant Studios with Ratbag’s Mark Bracken as Executive Vice President is looking to fund a new Dirt Track Racing game using a Kickstarter campaign. The project will only be funded if they raise at least $266,000. As of this writing, half of the time has elapsed and the pledges stand at only $52,278.
But hold on just a minute. First of all, Mark Bracken was a marketing guy at Ratbag, not a game developer. His official title was Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, which is a fancy name for a salesman.
Then we see TeamVLR listed as a consultant. Seriously? Is this supposed to impress me? TeamVLR is a guy who ran a Dirt Track Racing 2 league for a few years. There’s nothing wrong with that, but he has no game development experience. It’s starting to sound a lot like name dropping. Ratbag. TeamVLR. DirtWorks Designs.
Okay hold on just another minute. DirtWorks Designs does get my attention. That’s a name I recognize as the leading developer of mods for various dirt racing simulations, primarily rFactor. I really liked the DWD Stocks and Super Stocks. This is a plus.
As you read the details of the project, the $266,000 only covers a base package that does not include any other chassis, and, most importantly, will not support online multiplayer racing. To get the good stuff, Bracken is looking to raise $830,000. I thought $266,000 was ambitious for a 30 day campaign, but $830,000 is nothing short of ridiculous. Anybody can look at the numbers and see that. They’ve raised 50k in 15 days. There is no way in hell they’re going to raise almost 800k in 15 days.
Now that I’ve said that and it’s settled, I will say this: If Big Ant Studios somehow gets close to the $830,000 mark, I’ll contribute enough to make it happen. But it’s just not going to happen. This Kickstarter campaign is DOA.