Over Jump Rally
Image: Alessandro Schiassi

When the first footage of Over Jump Rally appeared online, it rightly caused quite a stir. Created using Unreal Engine 5, it offered a tantalising glimpse of what a modern-day Sega Rally could look like, complete with super-realistic car models, breathtaking environments and – of course – the trademark Sega Blue Sky.

Over Jump Rally is the work of Alessandro Schiassi, an Italian VFX artist and Sega Rally super-fan. The game's Steam page makes no secret of its inspiration. "Over Jump is an independent and unofficial tribute to Sega Rally Championship, the glorious arcade racing game from 1994," it reads. "The idea is to recreate it using Unreal Engine 5: refreshing the graphics to today's standards while keeping the same arcade driving style. This game is a proof-of-concept hoping to get Sega's approval."

Can this fan-made tribute really become a canon entry? Keen to learn more, we got in touch with Schiassi to talk about the most exciting rally video game in years.

Time Extension: Could you give us some background on your career so far?

Alessandro Schiassi: While studying Industrial Design at the Politecnico in Milan (my birthplace), I discovered a fan movie project called Metal Gear Solid: Philanthropy. I quickly joined the ranks and started learning Visual Effects, both as an on-set supervisor and compositor (the artist who puts all the elements together to create the final shot). The workload became quite substantial, also because the rest of the team was mainly in Veneto, so I had to go there every week. At one point, I decided to quit College and focus on this project full-time!

Over Jump Rally
Image: Alessandro Schiassi

When the movie was released, it was praised by fans and even by Hideo Kojima himself! A few months later, in 2010, I moved to Los Angeles to continue my career as a VFX Artist. Then, about three years ago, I started learning Unreal Engine 5 and fell in love with it. I realized that my artistic skills could be easily implemented in this environment, and making video games has always been a dream growing up… and now a possibility, more accessible than ever!

What inspired you to create a tribute to Sega Rally? What is it about that game that makes you love it?

While learning UE5, I wanted to take the same approach I used when learning VFX back in the day, with all the pros and cons of using someone else's IP.

Remakes are fascinating, especially of games from the '90s when 3D tech was new and there was a lot of approximation. This is perfect for using the original game as a blueprint while having plenty of artistic freedom.

Sega, in particular, seemed quite open about fan projects, often turning them into official titles, such as Sonic Mania and Streets of Rage 4.

When I was reviewing all the games I played on my Saturn back in the day, Sega Rally stood out for various reasons: it was an arcade racing game with very simple game mechanics, and it could use the built-in UE5 physics engine specifically made for vehicles, so animations or heavy programming weren't necessary.

It also had real-life models, which can be easily found and purchased: there is no need to model and texture anything! Last but not least, most environments are natural landscapes, which are quite easy to create within UE5.

I also have fond memories of that game, as I played it over and over, especially with my brother. Overall, it's still considered by fans one of the best racing games ever made, with its intuitive controls and memorable OST.

Most Sega fans would agree that Over Jump looks EXACTLY what they'd expect their dream next-gen Sega Rally to look like - how difficult has it been to achieve such visual quality?

It turned out to be quite a challenge! Luckily, my background in compositing and colour grading turned out to be extremely helpful.

When you have to match elements (CGI or footage) on a live-action plate, you must learn about the technical aspects of colour grading. A similar concept can be applied to 3D assets imported into the engine. Then, of course, the main heavy lifting is done by the Post Process-Volume, where you can adjust various parameters… but there's more! Realistic lighting comes from a multitude of places. Even the sky is casting light (which is extremely helpful to avoid shadows being too dark). Additional elements like volumetric local fog and god's rays can be used to enhance specific areas.

In my remake, I also wanted to add a couple of sections of the track that weren't present in the original, namely the Waterfall (with a misty area around) and the Burned Area (with, of course, smoke).

Overall, it's been a constant tweaking and fighting against physically-based materials and how the original looked in terms of saturation, colour palette, and contrast.

The most essential element, of course, is the classic Sega Blue Sky! Nowadays, skies in games are often too overexposed and desaturated, which is something I wanted to avoid at all costs.

Fans love that element, making it stand out from any other racing game in the past decade.

Sega Rally continues to attract praise for its realistic handling - its team even went as far as to visit real-life rally events to get a feel for how the cars handle. How are you ensuring that Over Jump is as faithful to the real sport as its inspiration was?

I'm honestly not, really! I watched quite a lot of footage of the cars appearing in the original game, to get an idea, but most of my focus was on how the game felt like. Yes, they were going to get as close as possible to a real car, while also keeping it fun for an arcade experience.

In my case, starting with Unreal Engine 5's Chaos Vehicle (the proprietary physics engine I mentioned earlier), I had to go the other way around, pushing the limits of what a real car would drive under such extreme conditions (like the swift acceleration in the original, clocking 1-100Kmh in just one second!).

Overall, I have no love for sim racing games. They feel like a step down from what Sega achieved in the '90s with its arcade racing games without actually making them any more fun.

I understand this is a very hot take for most racing games enthusiasts, but unless you have a moving rig with full steering support and force feedback, you'd be better off playing an arcade racing game for that adrenaline rush.

It's safe to say that Over Jump Rally is a game designed for people who are not into racing games, just like myself (and likely most of the fans of the original Sega Rally). However, feedback has been very positive from fans of the genre as well, who are probably happy to play something different for once. And fast. Very, very fast!

How did you get Johnny Gioeli involved with the project?

I honestly just wrote him a DM on his Instagram profile! He replied the day after, and then we moved to emails. His professionalism and approachability were truly outstanding! The whole process of creating the original song, 'The Machine', has been a great experience! I just gave him some inspirations (mostly "it should sound like 'Live & Learn' and 'Gettin' Muddy', the Mountain track from the original Sega Rally) and a list of cool concepts about rally racing.

Over Jump Rally
Image: Alessandro Schiassi

He wrote that "Game Over" part, and I suggested adding a "Yeah" after it… fans surely caught that detail!

I also had the pleasure of seeing him perform during the Sonic Symphony tour here in Los Angeles a few months back. I couldn't believe that the same man who wrote an original song for my project was jumping around entertaining a full theatre!

I also need to mention how many people recognized his voice from the previous video I released, which confirms his legendary status among Sega fans.

The Steam page says that you hope to gain Sega's approval with the game - are you hoping that it eventually becomes an official part of the Sega Rally series? Have any conversations taken place with Sega so far?

Yes, the plan since day one has been to turn this into an official Sega Rally remake. I named the project "Over Jump Rally" both because I wanted the option to continue as an independent game (if needed) and because I feel like I should work for that title as a badge of honour, not something I'd just give to myself.

I can't disclose the situation with Sega at this point; I just encourage fans to wishlist the game on Steam so they have proper data to show them when the time comes. It's basically a proof-of-concept to show interest in this IP.

If Sega doesn't want to be involved, what's the plan from that point?

It depends on how the demo is received and how many wishlists we can get, which would help get external funding.

I would have to see how I'd personally take the rejection, as it could be heavy on the motivation side. I have other projects in mind with different genres, so I might move to those instead.

Over Jump Rally
Image: Alessandro Schiassi

Do you have any plans to release Over Jump on consoles?

Absolutely! I grew up playing exclusively on consoles. An arcade racing game would likely get more traction there, anyway, as it's specifically calibrated to be played with a controller. But don't worry—wheel support (with force feedback) is coming as well! That's by far the most requested feature.

I'm currently focusing on a PC release since it's more straightforward, but I'm definitely considering a console one.

Are there any other classic racing series you'd like to tackle in the future?

One of the pitches I'd like to bring to Sega is a revival of the "Sega Racing Universe," which would include other titles to be remade with the same formula. Picture a Daytona USA (perhaps called "Rolling Start") with next-gen graphics, more realistic car crashes, and up to 40 players online! Or a Sega Touring Car remake, with those amazing touring cars and the return of that amazing OST. Last but not least, a remake of Scud Race would be fantastic!

I might be interested in being involved just as an Art Director, as I'd like to focus on other genres in terms of gameplay, but it would be quite interesting anyway.

The other only title outside Sega IPs I'd love to work on would be a next-gen remake of WipEout 2097. Same music, same gameplay, just a bump in the graphics. Again, the Over Jump Rally formula in action.

Over Jump Rally
Image: Alessandro Schiassi