Forza Motorsport 2 Q&A

Last month 360Monster 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 who is the Game Director for Forza Motorsport 2. We put this to our community via our forum and in return we received some pressing questions from our members. Five of 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 at this years X06 in Barcelona.

Give us an introduction to Forza 2.

Forza Motorsport 2 is all about passion. It’s about car passion, it’s built by a team that’s got a ton of passion. I upgrade my car, I take it to the track, we’ve got former pro racers on the team, we’ve got amateur racers, to guys who do motorcycle racing. The people on the team just love cars. What’s really cool about Forza is we’ve got so many cars and there’s such diversity. You can really do anything you want. We’ve got over 300 cars – and that’s actually on the disc! And that’s everything from an Audi R8 – a purpose built race car, won Le Mans five years in a row – all the way to classic American muscle like the Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda, hot hatches like the Civic Type-R and exotic sports cars like this Ferrari F430. We’ve also got new cars; the newest models that are coming out this year like the 2007 911 GT3, so this is the 997 model that everyone’s all excited about – the round headlights are back, the classic style is back, I’m pretty excited about it.

What new cars have you added to Forza 2 that weren’t in the first game?

New to Forza Motorsport is the Lamborghini. An example is the Lamborghini Gallardo – this is a 500 horse-power all wheel drive car. I got to drive one at E3, it’s a kick in the pants, it’s really fun. They’re really loud actually, it’s kind of funny. I told this story at E3: I was showing up to the E3 and there were people all crossing the street, jaywalking and usually you’d use the horn, but this car is loud enough that I could just step on the accelerator and it would just go RRRRNNNNH and everybody just got out of the way…

Cars like that really show car passion because you get a car like that and you drive by people and they all stop. And they look at it. You get this emotional response out of them. Whether they look at it and go, ‘That’s a really expensive car. He’s spent too much money on that.’ Or whether they look at it and go, ‘What an amazing piece of technology.’ There’s just something about cars, and it’s global. It’s not just racers that like ’em, it’s people all over the world that respond to different types of cars. And that’s what Forza’s all about.

How deep is the customisation in Forza 2?

Forza’s got all kinds of customisation that you can do – with all these cars. Remember the Gallardo, 911, F430, BMW M3, Z06, all these cars are fully upgradeable, fully tuneable, and fully customizable. You can put body kits on ’em, so, for example, the Corvette Z06… this actually is an incredibly fast car, for its price especially, it has been just putting other cars to shame. But we allow you to put a wing on this car, you can put a racing wing unit even on a Lamborghini Gallardo, so you can really make these cars truly incredible. But more than anything, our paint scheme editor, or livery editor, was a huge hit in Forza Motorsport 1, and we’re making it even more powerful for Forza Motorsport 2.

Give us some examples of what you can do with the livery editor.

I don’t know if you guys have seen the classic Steve McQueen movie, “Le Mans”? I love that movie, I watched it when I was a kid. Whenever I get chance to paint a car, and when I go online, this is the type of paint scheme I want because it really represents me and my passion, my love of racing. This shows how powerful this livery editor is. None of this is pre-canned, you don’t just go in there and say: ‘I want striped livery Number One and make it blue and orange’. This is really something to empower the player. We know include text, even, as well as a lot more shapes, and we have a lot more decals as well. Your imagination is the only thing that’s going to limit you. In Forza Motorsport 1 we had somewhere between 600-1000 layers you could put on your car. Now we’ve got 4000 now that you can put on your car so you’re not limited by how many layers you can put on.

How much of an impact do you think the livery editor have in the community?

In Forza Motorsport 1 this livery editor became a huge success and we got this grass roots community that built up around it. People were trading liveries, and they were creating these works of art, and it was people who were not necessarily that into racing, what they wanted to do was express themselves as artists. And cars elicit so much passion in people that it’s a perfect canvas for them to paint on. What people would do is, they’d make this great paint job, and then they’d take their camera phone and they’d take a picture of it, off their TV, and they’d put it on the Web, and there were scan lines, and it doesn’t look very good. That’s not the experience we want to give people. We want to allow them to share this, so we’ve got a photo mode in the livery editor itself. Of course there’s a photo mode on the track, but there’s one in the livery editor so when you take this picture, it’ll get rid of all these bars and there’s just a pristine environment in the white light – very, very beautiful. And then you can upload it to the Web, download it onto your phone, or put it on your PC, or… once it’s on the Web, you know, you can do whatever you want with it. Put it on the forums! So, I’m pretty excited about that cuz last time, I’d go on the forums and I’d see, like, some PT Cruiser with a Mona Lisa written on the side or Halo or anything on the side, and I got to see these incredible works of art.

Do you need to pay to change the design of your car?

No, no. As the game director on this project, I’ll tell you, I want people to paint cars. I don’t want to unlock decals to you. I don’t want to unlock anything. If you’re an artist and you want to paint your car, paint it! As soon as you buy it, go into the livery editor and do whatever you want. Now the upgrades, those cost money, but they also have performance impacts so it makes sense that you have to pay for those. But, man, if you want to paint your car, do it. More power to you. Take pictures of it, do whatever you want.

Is it easy to store and select your designs?

We’ve added a catalogue. This is sort of like a wardrobe for clothing for your car. Every single livery you’ve got for, like, your 911 GT3, all those different liveries show up in this catalogue. Whether you got ’em through trading, or got ’em from your friends online, or painted them yourself. An example is one painted by one of the guys at home. I got it off his box so, we’re trading things up. This is one celebrating X06 here in Barcelona – we’ve got the Barca football club logo here. This one I think is really stunning, I didn’t draw this one actually, I wish I could claim I’m this good but I’m not. One of the artists on the team – still using the livery editor though – he didn’t import it or anything, he actually did a livery editor, he put these beautiful gradients, and built the logo… it’s just a stunning car.

Is the FC Barcelona logo a standard design that is available in the livery editor?

No, you still have to make it in the livery editor. We are making a lot of improvements that make the livery editor easier to use and more powerful, however we’re not putting in some sort of importer – it’s really a security thing more than anything else.

But it’s up to you how you put it on the car – how big, or…?

Yes. Oh yes. And I just love this because, again, it’s all about passion. So if your blend of passion is between Porsche and racing and football, well there you go, and you can express yourself online. What’s really powerful about this is that no two cars look the same. So when you go into Forza Motorsport TV, similar to what you see in PGR3, none of the cars are gonna look the same, and you can start recognising racers.

Will you see the driver too, and his helmet?

The car is the star in Forza Motorsport, so there is a driver, he’s fully modelled, he does have a suit and helmet and all of that. But really, we’re trying to say it’s not about the driver it’s about the car because that’s where the passion is.

What can you tell us about the graphical improvements?

The final game will be at 60 frames per second with the same sorts of bells and whistles you’re seeing right now. You can see the bloom on the car in its metallic paint. This is full-screen anti-aliasing. You’ll also see HDR lighting – see the shadow roll over the top of the car – it’s real-time shading, you don’t see that in a lot of other games, you might think you do but it’s not actually there. And the High Dynamic Range lighting just gives the whole environment a feeling of life.

How accurate are your real-life tracks?

One of the things you struggle with making racing games, and I’ve worked on a few – Rally Sport, Project Gotham, I worked on Midtown, I’ve worked on a lot of the racing games out of MGS – one of the things that’s really hard to do is to make a track environment like this, Tsukuba, a real track, look very exciting. If you get a fantasy area it’s a lot easier. But when you’re in a track like this it really is all about the details because we can’t add fake stuff. It’s really the details it comes down to, to make a track like this look beautiful. We’ve got 3D grass and bump-maping on the sand. These are very detailed textures; you can see the different skid marks going on and off. These are also our new view modes, you can see reflections going across the top of the car, this is one of the views available – it’s a HUD view to give players a better context.

Will there be a cockpit view for hardcore racing fans?

We are not featuring a cockpit view; we’ve got that HUD view. For the most part, and this is just all honesty, we’ve got 300 cars on the disc. Not only that, it’s 300 upgradeable cars. It’s one of the things that most people don’t think about but we allow you to do full weight reduction on your car, and when you do weight reduction on your car you strip out the interiors, you know, all the stuff so we wouldn’t be making 300 interiors, we’d be making more like 600 interiors. It’s always something we’re gonna look at – we’re developers, we’re always pushing the genre, we’re going to continue to push the genre forever, but in all honesty, when you get these really dynamic shadows and you can see the car travelling through. It really is more immersive.

What’s your approach to damage?

First and foremost Forza’s a simulator. And you really can’t be a simulator without damage. Damage is a key part of racing – it’s actually what keeps you honest, because if you don’t have damage you just run into walls, and scrape along walls, and run into the AI, and run into the other players, there’s no reason not to do it. But in Forza we’ve got damage, and it’s very dynamic, it’s very exciting. So you’ll see bumpers flying off here. What we’ve found in just testing the game, what’s been a lot of fun is, in every racing game online, at the first corner everyone piles into each other, it becomes this big explosion of, you know nothing, because nothing ever happens, they just go flying off the track. Well, we didn’t necessarily plan it this way – we just wanted to make more dynamic damage by having bumpers fall off and particle effects and glass breaking out and all of that. But what we found while playing it back at work is we still do the same thing, right, so we all run into each other at that first corner and it turns into this just mayhem of parts and dust and dirt and everything like that. And then when we come around the second lap and everyone’s kind of found their groove, there’s parts all over the road because they stay. They don’t disappear or anything like that. So when you come around on the second lap there’s all these other parts to hit and it’s actually… it just becomes a fun little mini game to play while you’re racing around the track.

How does damage to your car influence how it drives?

We’re making damage more dynamic and more exciting. On of my goals was to make the different assists that you have in the game really mean something. So in Forza Motorsport 1 we had all these assists. We didn’t want to dumb down the game, but I wanted to help users. So there’s still that incredible depth to the simulator but players who are not as dextrous can have the green line that helps people drive, traction control and stability manager and all of that, and you can also set your damage level, either Cosmetic Damage, or Limited Damage, or Simulation Damage. But we didn’t go as hardcore in simulation damage as we could. We made it so that it cuts your horse power by a bunch, it made your shift times a lot longer and it made the suspension damping not as good. When I watched people playing online, I kind of felt like people weren’t taking it as seriously as I wanted them to. When you’ve got limited damage on it’s fun, you’re having a good time – yeah, it hurts the performance of the car but you can still have a good time with your friends. My goal for the hardcore was, when you put that simulation damage on and you run into a wall at 150 miles per hour, you’re done. You’re out. That’s it.

So you can totally wreck your car?

Yeah. What that also helps is that it keeps people honest online. If you want to get in and have a good time with your buddies, put it on Limited. But if you’re on there and you don’t want some guy just running into everyone on the track, he’ll be disabled after the first lap so there’s not much you’ve got to worry about from him.

Is there variable weather in the game?

There’s no plan of dynamic weather. Again, we’re trying to make a simulator and some people will argue, ‘Well it’s a simulator so it should try and simulate everything’. To me, I take my car to the track and I don’t like rainy days. The game is a simulator, and it’s not easy when you add the variable of rain.

What can you tell us about Forza Motorsport TV, will it be anything like Project Gotham Racing TV?

Yeah, this is the hidden strength of this entire franchise – the hidden strength of MGS. First off we’ve got Xbox Live so as a developer I don’t have to worry about a whole bunch of stuff. We don’t have to write all our custom servers, we don’t have to take care of friends requests, we don’t have to do all that crap. And that’s a huge liberation for us on Xbox Live. On Xbox 360 we’ve got that same thing and also the really cool thing is… I worked on Project Gotham 1 with Bizarre Creations, the producer on our team also worked with them. We go way back as a team and we share different pieces of technology that are written to go into both games. So, what’s incredible is, a game that’s released every two to three years, they worked on their system and then they release it in one big batch and it’s done.

So the PGR team and the Forza team work very closely together?

What we do is, Project Gotham Racing 2 came out and we had Leaderboards, Quickmatch, Optimatch, it had a lot of great features. Forza Motorsport came out, we had seamless single player and multiplayer competitions, we had ranked matches. We had even more scoreboards. We had car clubs, so we pushed the bar even higher. And then Project Gotham Racing 3 comes out and they’ve got seamless single player and multiplayer for credit. So we just keep stacking. They’ve got Project Gotham Racing TV and they’ve got photo mode and now Leaderboard qualified tournaments… we’re not taking anybody’s code, we just keep working. We worked on that code, they worked on this code. The thing is that nobody can keep up because every other company is working every two years or three years, but we have a whole dev team working on new features, not the old features, we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel and here’s another dev team just working on new features.

What will be on the soundtrack for Forza 2?

You always have custom soundtracks, just like in Forza Motorsport 1 and the Xbox 360… we don’t have to write any of that either, right. That’s a nice thing about being on the 360 is we don’t have to write that. But, the for the 360 we went back to the drawing board and licensed three hours of music, it’s all real licensed tracks from around the world. It’s actually centred a little bit more towards Europe. So, three hours of music. You’re going to have to play a long time before you hear anything repeat.

Will you be able to race online for pink slips and win your opponent’s car?

Forza Motorsport is all about that car passion and people may disagree with me on this but everybody liked the idea of winning somebody else’s car, but I just want to say that 50 per cent of people lose their car. So, if you’ve painted your car, you’ve upgraded it, you’ve tuned it, you’ve put all this work into it – yeah it’s really cool to win your car, and I can go ‘Yay I win your car’ but, you know, not everyone wins. So, I don’t think that’s as great an experience as trading for money, you know. If I want your car, I give you money, you give me your car. And when we’re racing together online we’re racing for money, so if I win I get money, and if you lose you get no money and you have to pay for your damage but it’s not like you’re out of this incredibly important thing to you. What pink slips encourages people to do, and I’ve seen this in like Motor City Online and other games, is like it encourages people to shut off their box. And why would they shut off their box? Because they’re not having fun.

How much will downloads cost from the Marketplace?

Some are free. Some are pay. What I can say is that there’s 300 cars and 70 tracks on the disc. You’re getting a giant game. It’s just an incredible package. The thing I like about DLC is that we can freshen the game up. The Paris Auto Show is right now, and there’s going to be new cars coming out from the Paris Auto Show, and it takes a long time to build a car so it’s not like we can say, ‘Oh, we just saw it today, let’s get it in!’ right? We have to get it, license it, build it, make it, and then we can say DLC. So by the time the car hits the streets it’s available for DLC, and you can play it in the game.

Will there be a demo on Marketplace?

Not until we’re ready.

When will that be?

When it’s ready! This is our baby, and we’re going to make sure it’s ready before we put it out there.

Thanks for your time Dan!


Anthony Barker

Anthony is the designer, developer and owner of Console Monster. In his spare time, Anthony is a keen gamer who enjoys playing mostly First-Person Shooters and Racing games. When he is not developing games or tweaking this site, Anthony likes to be on the slopes snowboarding or hurtling down off-road tracks on his mountain bike.

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