Last month Console Monster was invited as part of the Microsoft Xbox Community Network (XCN) to submit a selection of questions, which would be answered in a Q&A session with Dan Greenawalt, Lead Game Designer on Forza Motorsport 2 at Turn 10 Studios. We put this to our community via our forum and in return we received some pressing questions from our members. The most interesting and inventive questions were selected and submitted towards the Q&A interview.
What follows an in-depth Q&A exclusive to XCN members with Dan.
Do you feel that you have added all that you wanted in the game? Or did some of it just not make it off the idea table?
To really answer this would be a much longer conversation. Technology hasn’t yet caught up to my vision for the Forza Motorsport franchise. While Forza is an incredible simulator, our goal is to create an inclusive experience that embraces anyone that has an interest or passion for cars. We haven’t even scratched the surface of the total experience I want to create. Just a little more time wouldn’t really help us accomplish my vision. We need a couple years at the very least to develop new innovative technology.
In the same vein as Xbox Live’s Game with Fame, have you thought about getting celebs to design cars and put them up as DLC? Perhaps if you win an online tournament you win the custom car?
Good idea. Truthfully, we’ve been working very long hours in order to get the game done and up to our exacting standards. Our DLC plans are nothing but notes on a whiteboard. Cars and tracks are a no-brainer. Outside of that, we’re still in the planning stages.
Will there be other forms of racing instead of just circuits and sprints e.g. drags?
Moving to next-gen hardware and HD resolution is a mixed blessing. The more powerful hardware allows us to create a truly stunning scene. However, building next-gen content is extremely time consuming. Given the choice between doing rally environments that are only useful to a handful of cars or circuit environments where players can show their passion for all of the cars, we elected to deliver as many next-gen circuit environments as possible. We’ll see what the future holds.
The number of cars available is an advantage Gran Turismo has over Forza 2. Are you going to add a notable number of new cars in order to close the gap on GT?
The original GT had less than 200 cars. When GT made the leap from PS1 to PS2 it went from 500 cars to around 150 in GT3. As a developer, whenever you make the next-gen leap, its a double edged sword. You can make things look much better and create a more immersive experience, but the content takes much longer to create. This is a question of scale versus quality – balancing breadth versus depth. Forza Motorsport 2 contains over 300 cars including Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini. Each individual feature you add to the cars, adds time. For example, having damage and customization dramatically reduced the number of cars we could do by increasing the amount of time each car takes to model. We had to find the correct balance between features/car and number of cars. All developers have to make similar choices weighing important next-gen features versus sheer quantity – do more cars with less features like customization and damage or do more cars with fewer next-gen features. Is also worth noting that while I’m not prepared to talk specifics about DLC; added cars and tracks are a no-brainer.
What do you think of the Xbox 360 driving wheel? Do you think a handbrake should have been included?
The Xbox 360 driving wheel is an excellent Force Feedback wheel – especially for the price. The build quality and the material finish is especially striking plus its wireless. Personally even if I were building a $500 wheel, I still wouldn’t add a handbrake. However, I would want 900 degrees, an H pattern shifter, two thumb sticks, a clutch pedal and especially a Force Feedback brake pedal – again at a much higher price point. Having a pressure based brake pedal with FFB would be hot. Its really hard to simulate real braking with a travel based analog.
Some people have criticised the somewhat ‘aggressive’ behaviour of AI-cars in Forza (their not-so-gentleman-like ways of ‘attacking’ the player’s vehicle, particularly whenhe was about toovertake an AI-car). How have you addressed this in Forza 2? Also, generally, can you tell us how AI has improved in Forza 2?
In order to answer your question, I have to provide some backstory. The Artificial Intelligence in the original Forza Motorsport was based on Drivatar technology developed by one of Microsoft’s research teams in Cambridge, England. This sort of collaboration is one of the benefits of working at a 50k employee company – you never know what sort of technology some other part of the company might be working on. The Cambridge guys are researchers, not game developers. So they approached the problem of AI from a completely different angle. The AI they developed was a form of machine learning. It was truly revolutionary AI. Having revolutionary AI is both a blessing and a curse. The Drivatars are really more like children than standard AI. You don’t script them, you teach them. We really never got our heads fully wrapped around the system before we shipped the original Forza Motorsport. I’d say they were more like 13 year olds in the original.
For version 2, we hired some new developers and a designer dedicated to getting the most out of this system. I’m happy to say, the AI have graduated to the next level. That’s not to say they don’t have room to improve. I’d say they are more like 18 year olds now. This is a very exciting technology. With a better understanding of the technology, we were able to add character to the drivers – personality. In the career, you will encounter 30 different drivatars, complete with different skill levels ad aggression levels. One driver, M. Rossi (no relation to the great V. Rossi) is one of our fastest and most aggressive drivers. Late in development, he started learning things that we hadn’t taught him. He started check braking – a very advanced racing technique, also sorta dirty. Anyway, this was a bit of a scary moment. He was learning faster than we were teaching. Back to your question, the AI is very aware of the human drivers on the course. Will they still bump you, it depends on how aggressive they are. We have some drivers that are so tentative that you can block them to a crawl. Meanwhile, M. Rossi won’t think twice about swapping paint with you if you’re in his way.
Forza is often compared to Gran Turismo when it comes to driving realism. Many Forza-fansthink your game is better and more realistic than GT. What gameplaymechanics have you further improvedto insure this high level of (sim-like)driving realism?
No other racing game gives you cutting edge simulation physics including damage with Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini. We’re obsessed with physics. For example, we partnered with real-world tire manufacturers like Toyo and spent over 3 months on the tire physics alone – to make sure we were on the cutting edge of this very dynamic science. It takes upwards of 9000 parameters to define a car in our simulation – everything’s got weight and inertia from the engine, driveline and clutch to the rims and tires. Also, we run our physics at 360 fps. This makes the cars very responsive like in the real world. Some games run their physics at 60 fps, this makes the cars unresponsive. I have taken several driving schools and track my car. Even heavy cars like mine are more responsive in the real-world than 60 fps can do justice.
Did you avoid weather conditions on purpose(possibly due to time constraints), or is it a feature that the studiois willing to experiment with in the future, so that they couldfurther expand the simulation aspect of the franchise?
Moving to next-gen hardware is a mixed blessing. The more powerful hardware and added resolution allows us to create a truly stunning scene. However, building next-gen content is extremely time consuming. We’ve looked at programmatically creating weather effects and dynamic time of day. However, this replaces the craftsmanship of the artists with the technology of the devs. Thus far, this replacement yields results that do not meet our exacting standards. To build these conditions the old-fashioned way with artistic skill and craftsmanship requires more artists and more time. Our team is already huge and still growing. In fact, we’ve been hiring artists (devs and designers as well) non-stop for over a year. However, we still struggled to create 45 tracks to a next-gen spec with no alternative weather or time of day. Given the choice between doing weather or more unique environments, we elected to deliver as many next-gen environments as possible at optimal racing conditions. We’ll see what the future holds.
I’ve read something about tournaments in Forza Motorsport 2. Is it comparable with the tournaments in PGR3?
One of the perks of working on the Xbox 360 and for MGS is our freedom to focus on innovation rather than reinventing the wheel. With Xbox Live, we get matchmaking, friendlist, voice, hundreds of scoreboards and player ranking virtually for free. Also, at MGS we have a completely separate team working on shared technology. This team developed the Spectator technology that powers both PGR TV and Forza TV. They also wrote the code for Tournaments. This frees-up our team to innovate new features such as photo upload to Forzamotorsport.net and other website integration, seamless MP/SP levelling and the Auction House. The biggest differences between Tournaments in PGR and those in Forza are: 1) Forza will feature 3 huge tournaments per day, 2) bewteen Forza’s car classification system and customization options, Tournaments in FM2 will be a virtual car show where people use completely different car models and no two cars look the same.
Will there be downloadable content? If so, will there be new tracks and cars?
Cars and tracks are a no-brainer. However, we just finished the game and are going to take a well deserved week or two off before we come back to solidify our DLC plans. Currently, we’ve got a bunch of ideas on the whiteboard.
What is the real motive to delay the release of this game?
We’re perfectionists and the game wasn’t done. You don’t ship and date, you ship a game. At the end of the day, you have to ship something you can be personally proud of – we have.
Will there be a cockpit view, 4 player split screen and view of the inside of the car?
This is a question of scale. Forza Motorsport 2 contains over 300 cars including Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini. Each individual feature you add to the car, adds time. For example, having damage and customization dramatically reduced the number of cars we could do. If we did a cockpit view, we would have to radically slash the number of cars again. We had to find the correct balance between features/car and number of cars.
Why do you think Forza Motorsport 2 is the real Gran Turismo Killer?
I don’t like to attack other developers. We are all working hard to make great entertainment. I have tremendous respect for Yamauchi-san’s team. Its natural to compare the two games. However, if you really look at them, the comparisons break down quickly. Forza Motorsport 2 is not only a fantastic simulator – it’s a truly next-gen game that embraces today’s design trends and cultural phenomenon such as “web 2.0”. I don’t want to kill anything, I just want to advance the genre in new directions. More than anything, I want to make a very inclusive game that turns gamers into car freaks and converts car freaks into gamers in order to build a vibrant community.
Other than obvious graphical upgrades, what improvements have been made to Forza 2 since the first game?
What hasn’t been improved. More customization, more upgrades, more cars, better physics and groundbreaking online features. Forza Motorsport 2 is a truly next-gen game that embraces today’s design trends and cultural phenomenon such as “web 2.0”. As a simulator, we’ll always reward great driving. However, with the auction House and all of our online features, we also reward great artists, tuners and social coordinators. In Forza Motorsport 2, you can even hire an AI driver to race for you. You don’t even have to race to have a great time and be a valuable part of the world of Forza Motorsport.
What makes Forza 2 different from other racing games?
Seriously? No other racing game gives you such a complete next-gen package.
* 300 upgradeable, tuneable and personalizable cars including Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini
* Incredible simulation physics running at 360 fps plus damage
* Next-gen HD graphics running at 60 fps with AA, HDR, 3D grass and spectators, real-time reflections and shadows.
* Unprecedented customization options including 4000 paintable layers and web 2.0 features like photo upload and Auction House.
* Tremendous online innovation including Forza Motorsport TV, seamless single player/multiplayer integration, online tournaments as well as integration with Forzamotorsport.net.
Creating designs was quite tricky for those wanting to make unique paintjobs. Has the design process been made easier?
The design process is much easier. We’ve added quick keys as well as custom groups that can be saved and applied to any car. We’ve also added text and hundreds more shapes and decals. Our goal is to empower creative people. Poor artists like myself can easily create a unique livery. But, does that mean that everyone will be able to create the Mona Lisa on the side of their car? Nope. Great craftsmen are empowered and they can then become famous on the Auction House. I see painting as a skill, like great driving and great tuning. You don’t have to be the best driver to be a valuable part of the Forza community.
During Forza 2’s development you’ve kept the community firmly in the loop. Why do you think this is a good thing, and how have you dealt with controversies like delays etc?
Our goal is to ignite and fuel car passion around the world. We want to turn gamers into car freaks and convert car freaks into gamers in order to build a really strong and lasting community. Very few developers have such an open relationship with their community – along with Che, I routinely blog on the site and try to answer forum questions as often as possible. This leaves us open to some abuse, but a strong community is essential to my vision of the game.
Did you find adding achievements for the game a chore or was it something that the team enjoyed?
I’m a gamer before a developer. When we first started working on the Xbox 360 and I heard about the achievement system, I thought: “hmmm, this could be interesting.” After the Xbox 360 launched, I was amazed at the effect that the achievements had on me. I became an “achievements whore”. I found myself playing games differently. Its actually a great tool for designers to encourage unique play styles – just look at Crackdown. Of course some developers have made for really annoying achievements as well – such as “get 1 on the scoreboards.” I mean, that’s crazy. Anyway, to answer your question, we were excited about it.
Is it possible for a car to overturn during a race?
There is a myth in the industry that you can’t do damage with licensed production cars. MGS as been damaging licensed production cars for about a decade – Midtown Madness, PGR and the original Forza Motorsport all featured damage to production vehicles. It’s not easy to do, but its definitely possible – even with Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini. It’s about working with the manufacturers to build a strong partnership. I spend a lot of time talking with our manufacturers to help them understand my vision of the game and my passion for their brand. It’s actually easier for us because we’re a simulator. Of course there are limitations. If we just featured race cars or a really small number of manufacturers, we would be able to completely simulate damage down the last detail. However, most of the manufacturers are made very uncomfortable by damage that would injure the driver. Therefore, we can’t roll the car over, start the car on fire or ball the car up completely.
Will we see a Forza 3? If so, when?
To really answer this would be a much longer conversation. Technology hasn’t yet caught up to my vision for the Forza Motorsport franchise. While Forza is an incredible simulator, our goal is to create an inclusive experience that embraces anyone that has an interest or passion for cars. We haven’t even scratched the surface of the total experience I want to create. We need a couple years at the very least to develop new innovative technology. Also, this game is huge, the expectations for follow-up version will be massive. It will take a long time to top this game.
Thank you for your time Dan!
Forza Motorsport 2 burns rubber in UK stores on 8th June. Grab your copy from Play.com and support the site in the process. We have also uploaded the latest TV ad for the game, this can be streamed over in our Media Area for the game. Finally be sure to check back in a few days time when we give Forza Motorsport 2 a spin of our very own and give you our views of one of this years most anticipated racers on the Xbox 360.