We here at COG were lucky to get a deeper look at the Forza Motorsport 5 during a behind closed door meeting during E3 at the Xbox booth. To get a chance to sit down away from the chaos of crowds and learn more about one of Microsoft’s launch titles was exciting to say the least.
One of the first things shown off to us was the in-game hub. It is a seamless experience that provides fewer barriers for players to get around in the game, from racing, tuning, to buying skins or other cars. It is basically one place for the player to go and by using the push of button, or your own voice, you can then go anywhere in the game. It was also noted that every car you see in Forza 5 can be fully explored in the Autovista mode as opposed to only 24 in Forza 4.
Turn 10 is pretty proud of the visuals. Forza 5 uses a new graphics engine. The Xbox One dev-team asked what the Forza 5 dev-team wanted in a graphics platform and next-gen game machine. Being able to suggest what they would like in a next-gen machine was important as they could mention things that would make Forza a better looking and playing game. They weren’t too specific in tell us what they asked for, but Turn 10 did say that they had hand in some of the development of the Xbox One and they are proud of it.
One of the things discussed was that the cars in Forza 4 looked too perfect. Turn 10 looked at lighting engine to see what changes could be made. When you see cars at dealerships from afar they look perfect, but up you can see the imperfections in real life when you get up close (e.g. flecks in paint, scratches in rotors, armor all buff in tires, etc.). Turn 10 stated that “To make something perfect you need to make it imperfect”. Every material found in the game, and on the cars, reflects light. There are three layers of physical based materials on the in-game items including base coat, clear coat and metal flake. Each layer reflects light differently. The materials are everywhere in game, from cars, to buildings, to the rest of the scenery.
The career mode is massive again. Cars are broken up into 50 championship series and those series are broken up even more. Each car you bring through a series has a unique path it will follow, so no series is alike (location, circuit series, location of events, etc.). Those who play the same series should find that their own experiences will differ from their friends. The core career mode clocks in around 60 hours. Once you complete a series you open a bunch of bonus events and continue the story of that car. It should be an engrossing event and gamers will find that there is more depth then they envisioned.
Something new is how cars are presented to users. Once a player chooses a car “cloud powered curating” takes over and recommends cars based on your past purchases, what you choose to race, and what kind of car you seem to prefer over the long run on specific tracks. It is all stored in the cloud. When you play through the career no two player’s choices are the same as the cloud tailors the choices you can choose from and makes them specific to you. This also applies to such things as liveries and skins, as when you buy a car the cloud can suggest things for your cars. Turn 10 compared it to something like Amazon.com, the more you choose, or purchase, the more it can provide as choices for you on different things.
Turn 10 spoke about having the user always being competitive when they enter a new series of events with a car they buy or already have. It’s about leveling the playing field. When they sell you a car you are given an update to use specific upgrades, which again, the game will provide you. This is similar to the “auto-upgrade” feature in past Forza games, but they spoke about it being more tailored to the player and even more seamless as you don’t have to go into the upgrade section of the game like you did in previous iterations of the franchise.
Drivatar is one of the biggest improvements noted during our time behind closed doors. Developed in 2005, this is one of Turn 10’s biggest game features and Forza 5 looks to blow it sky high in regards to what it can do. Developed by Microsoft Research Cambridge, and implemented by Turn 10, you trained your Drivatar to take over for you with you when racing. Turn 10 saw this as being far from perfect though, and as they describe they “…stripped it down to its bare roots, and while it shares the name Drivatar it is a brand new system”. The new Drivatar system is only something that can be done on the cloud and I was surprised to hear none of it was being done on the Xbox One itself.
As you drive your tendencies and your behaviours (e.g. over or understeer, braking habits, aggressiveness, how you take corners, etc.) are all calculated and sent to the cloud where it is processes the data there. Turn 10 spoke to how it will even analyze how you drive a front wheel drive car as opposed to a rear wheel drive car, or a mid-engine car as opposed to a car with the engine in the front. These human behaviours are then locked into the cloud. Once you are done racing, and you head off to do whatever, your Drivatar then takes over as it will descend from the cloud into your friend’s games, your family’s games, and even random games around the world. Yep, you heard me; your Drivatar is going to race while you’re not physically there. You can even add gamers Drivatars to your online lobby should you not have enough to fill the room. When you head back onto your Xbox One you can see how your Drivatar did and you can even talk to your friends who can comment on how you did…..I mean how well your Drivatar did when racing against your buddies. Turn 10 says your Drivatar will even look like you in regards to the paint scheme or colours that the car will have. Your Drivatar will always be updating from the first time you fire up Forza 5 to a year later when you continue to race.
As Turn 10 demoed a track they pointed out an Orange Lamborghini that was in the race. It was the Drivatar of the Studio Manager who was an aggressive racer who liked to charge fast, not care about drafting, cut racers off in the corners or tap the back of his opponent’s car, and take chances when the openings presented themselves. Sure enough the car reacted like they said it would, and dare I say it drove like someone was actually racing it. It was neat to see a car controlled by a Drivatar given it did not keep to a pre-determined style or line. It made mistakes, it did not seem scripted, and it raced like I would expect someone online to race given the dynamics of the behavior I witnessed.
Something really neat that Turn 10 spoke about regarding the use of Drivatars is that you can access a slider to set the skill level of racers you actually race against. Should you want to race the best in the world, you can set it to access those Drivatars that are ranked as the top racers. For the more casual racer, you can choose tone it down somewhat and only bring down those other racers who may be ranked close or the same as you. It’s like a skill level, but you are choosing what level of human inspired and calculated Drivatar you are going to race against.
If you are truly a gearhead, you may just know that previous Forza games in the past used real world tire data in the game as Turn 10 partnered up with Toyo Tires and Pirelli Tires in the past. In Forza 5 they have upped their game so to speak as they are working with Calspan Corporation who provides tire data to the tire companies. It’s like Turn 10 have skipped the middle man so to speak as they are going to rely on the research and data that seems to have it all. I am sure for some this may not mean much, but for those looking for even more realism in their racing game, well it is a big thing plain and simple.
Turn 10 also told us that they wanted to get a more cinematic feel for Forza 5 too. They wanted the game to speak to the racers emotions from menu to on-track racing. They have partnered up with Lucas Film and Skywalker Sound to build an entire orchestral score for the game. It is a dynamic system and it changes depending on where in the game you are, and what you are doing. From painting a car, choosing a car, to heading on track and finally racing down a long straightaway, the music will build and change in terms of the ebb and flow of what is happening. It’s pretty neat to see, errrrr I mean hear.
As for the Multiplayer front, Turn 10 touched on this during the presentation too. They are going to use fully dedicated servers this time around, and combined with Xbox One’s new “Smart Match” they are envisioning their multiplayer races to be the best there can be.
Finally, Turn 10 has teamed up with Top Gear once again. Although they plan to make more announcements this summer, they did tell us that all the hosts have a deep involvement with the game and fans of the automotive series will love what they have done with them.
At the end of our session I have to say that I was even further impressed with how this game is shaping up. When I think of the experience I had playing the game, and what Turn 10 spoke about behind closed doors, I really can’t wait until November to finally sit at home and start down the Forza 5 career. Racing may never be the same again. From the single player career mode, online multiplayer with dedicated servers, to the cloud based Drivatar system, Turn 10 looks to bring racing games to the next level.