Inside Scoop – Talking Forza 3 with Turn 10

forza 3_media-session

Console Creatures were invited to a special event held at the High Road offices here in Toronto to hear a presentation on the features and development of Forza 3 by Korey Krauskopf, Group Program Manager at Turn 10 Studios. I got a chance to chat with him about the game, and below are some of my notes from that event.

Turn 10 wanted to ensure that the latest iteration of the Forza series was as realistic as possible, while at the same time allowing players of any age or skill set to have fun with the game. They’ve accomplished this by introducing some new assist features along with what’s becoming a genre-standard, the rewind button.

Auto-braking is a new assist that was introduced which basically allows for “one-finger driving”. The player virtually never has to lift their finger off the gas pedal, only having to concentrate on keeping the car pointed in the right direction. The game will automatically slow the car down, and with the added aids of ABS (Anti-lock brakes), traction control, and the racing line, virtually anyone can jump in and have a great time playing the game.

Rewind is another new feature for this game, which allows the player to literally rewind their race in 5 second increments as many times as they want without penalty.  Some hardcore fans might not be a fan of this feature, as it could be thought of as cheating, but using it will negatively affect your standings on the leaderboard.  If you ran a fast lap but used rewind to make any corrections, this will be reflected in your overall leaderboard position.  Want to be considered the fastest?  Don’t use rewind.  However, this goes back to their overall focus of the game being accessible to any skill level.  Now players who rely heavily on assists to get them around a track can feel more comfortable about turning some of them off without the fear of never winning a race again.  Eventually their skill level and confidence will grow and allow them to advance not only their position in the game, but also allows them to test out higher difficulty opponents.

For fans of this franchise, you know about the auction house in previous versions of Forza, which allowed users to buy and sell cars they’ve built up during their time with the game.  In Forza 3, a new Storefront feature has replaced the auction house.  In the storefront, users can not only sell cars, but also tuning setups, vinyl groups, car designs, photos and movies.  Turn 10 wanted to open up this game not only to car enthusiasts, but artists as well, who have the skills required to create outstanding car and vinyl designs.  They went so far as to hire  a player from Forza 2 who created some unbelievable art in that game to be their staff designer.  Players can create their own store where others can browse their offerings and buy them for game credits…some items are even offered for free!  If you find a user who has items that appeal to you, they can be added to your favorites to make it easier to see their latest creations.

To tie all of these skills together, the leaderboard has been expanded to not only showcase the best drivers in the game, but now it ranks car designers, tuners, and multimedia “producers”.  You can get credit for being the best in the game without having to rely on your driving talents if you decide you would rather spend the time creating visual bliss for other players.  This again goes along with the developer’s desire to make this game appealing to all players, not only driving enthusiasts.

Online play has been expanded to include all sorts of new and fun race modes.  Some of these include various styles of Tag, where the driver who is “it” has to catch competitors and touch cars (OK, so maybe touch is too light of a word..crash into might be a more fitting substitute).  Cat & Mouse is another one, where teams protect their “mouse”, trying to keep others away, while at the same time trying to catch the other team’s mouse to win.  Team Drift ranks not only your personal points, but your team’s as a whole.  Make sure you try out all the new online features, as it definitely adds a new dimension to your online racing experience.

As a car enthusiast myself, one of my favorite features of Forza is the in-depth tuning features the game provides.  To many players, this is a scary proposition, since many don’t ever want to mess around with camber angles or gear ratios.  However, if you want to be competitive in higher ranked competitions, it becomes a virtual requirement.  In an effort to make tuning more accessible, Turn 10 introduced a Quick Tuning feature, which allows the player to select the level they want their car to be competitive in, and the game will automatically upgrade specific aspects of the car to get you there.  You can choose to see the list of upgrades that were chosen, so you can see what is involved to take your car to the next level.  If you’re the type (like I am) who likes to setup their car to their liking, your options have grown by 50%!  You can now setup the front and rear suspension and tire setting individually, upgrade your valves/cams, along with a huge list of other popular tuning options.  Engine swaps are one of my favorite, and they’ve continued their efforts in insuring that many of the popular swaps for each car is available (can you say K20 swap into an EG hatch?).  And as I mentioned earlier, if you setup your car to be amazing at certain aspects of the game, say an ideal drift setup, then you can sell your tuning specs on the Storefront and earn a rep as being a Forza tuning guru.

My only beef with the game (frankly, with many current titles) are the long load times.  OK, I understand the initial load has to be long due to the huge complexities and details with the cars and tracks, but I couldn’t understand why you have to load some more once the game is virtually ready to go.  Also, if you decide to restart a game, I would expect to be back at the starting line right away, but instead there is another ~10 second load time to get to that point.  I questioned Korey about this, and he admitted that it was their #1 gripe internally as well.  This is always a compromise in user experience:  with so much money invested in track design, they wanted to show off the beautiful details in each track while you select the final options before the race starts.  They could have sped up this process, but then all you would see in the background is your car standing at the starting line… boring!  Instead, you get an aerial tour of the track and surrounding landscape, but as a consequence the game has to reset the camera to get back to the starting point.  Due to memory limitations in the hardware, a lot of the game is streamed during the races, which requires a short reloading of the data when you want to restart the game.  His explanations make sense, and I now have a better understanding of the requirement for multiple loading segments.

All in all, it was a very informative and entertaining overview of the game from someone who’s worked on every version of the game to date.  If you have the game already, or are planning on getting it, add me to your friend’s list (zzzoltron) and I’ll see you at the track!

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~ by consolecreatures on October 23, 2009.

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