Behind closed doors: Forza Motorsport 3
Behind closed doors: Forza Motorsport 3
Part of Microsoft's behind closed doors tour was a session with Turn 10's content director, John Wendl. Wendl repeatedly emphasised that cars - not tracks, not drivers - are the stars of the Forza series.
Wendl, who races actual cars in his spare time said Turn 10's mission is to convert car lovers into gamers, and gamers into car lovers. He thinks people of all kinds have a passion for vehicles, whether it's understated or worn on their sleeve. Forza Motorsport 3, he says, is trying to tap into that passion.
Forza 3 takes its stylistic cues from Europe more than the US or Japan. Along with the hero car of the game - an Audi - the game's menu system is very clean and refined, inspired, Wendl states, from European car brochures. In practice, the understated, "grown up" look of the browsing and menu elements makes the cars stand out more.
You can expect 400+ cars in Forza 3, and they all will have their own authentically reproduced cockpits (finally). Every car can be damaged. Every car can be painted. In a first for the series - every car can be rolled. Individual car's physical characteristics will determine how prone the cars are to rolling.
When I asked Wendl if there was any potential for car manufacturers to be concerned that "their" cars may be rolled easier than they claim is possible, Wendl stated Turn 10 had been up front about their intent to include the feature and had secured manufacturer consent.
With safety being a selling point for many of the brands featured in Forza 3's lineup, this isn't to say that car maker X will not have an issue after launch I think. Especially if rival car brands are portrayed in Forza 3 to be less prone to flipping or rolling under extreme conditions.
It's not something than directly affects gamers - unless a fuss ensues forcing Turn 10 to modify a car's handling via DLC. Wendl does point out there's a very deep physics model underlying Forza - it's not like a random button goes off saying "roll the car". However part of me thinks the "pure maths and physics" argument could potentially be put to the test if a car maker was annoyed enough.
In game terms, we were shown how a car will sustain damage on all contact surfaces after a flip or roll, and yes, pieces of the car can fall off. But really, Forza 3 is not intended to be a smash 'em up derby - it's meant to be a car sim. One with some super sexy visuals.
Perhaps in response to the concerns that Forza 2 was a little dull ("sterile", as one journo described it) the team has rebuilt the content and visual pipeline of the game from the ground up. Both physics and graphics engines have been improved and juiced up. Cars have 10x the polygons and four times the texture maps of the previous game. Backghround levels of animation have been boosted, and the level of detail on the track itself - tyre marks etc - have been elevated. HDR lighting has been introduced as Wendl concedes even the Turn 10 crew had concerns about how Forza 2 presented itself.
Wendl cites tyre physics as an example of the lengths Turn 10 has gone to make things realistic. The tyres will now deform under pressure from cornering in a realistic manner. There's doubtless a confusing array of maths that goes into determining which tyres on which wheels will shift whichever amount of millimieters/centrimetres - Turn 10 are obviously pushing to ensure the rigor of their model is as reproach-free as possible.
The game will feature over 100 tracks. Wendl said the team tweaked the balance of real to fictitous tracks in favour of ficticious this time around - the split is "roughly 60 to 40". Several reasons were given. One, most modern racing tracks aren't really made for more pedestrian vehicles. Do you really want to putt-putt your way around the Nurburgring at 150kph max? By offering more made-up tracks, the Turn 10 guys hope people will be able to find more tracks that cater to punters who don't always want to run the very fastest vehicles.
Trackside scenery also comes into play. Wendl points out many modern tracks pull scenery and objects away from the race area for safety reasons. Fictional tracks can do away with this. Tree-lined blind corners, potentially lethal hazards - they all become more viable when you aren't putting real lives at risk. It also adds to the sensation of speed, Wendl points out.
The big push: to make the game more newbie friendly. The game will add even more assist functions, including an auto brake mode that effectively makes the game playable with one button. There will also be the ability to rewind GRID-style - the team is still figuring out how far back people can go. The way it works is there will be multiple points (Wendl calls them "pins") throughout each track - you wll be able to jump back to the last point so you're rewinding distance more than time, effectively.
The good news for purists is the game's leaderboards - something Turn 10 are going crazy with - will track and be filtereable via assists use. So you will be able to find who has achieved top times without help, and how you rank ini relation. And yes, rewinding definitely counts as an assist.
A calendar-based career mode will further help gamers at a loss where to go next. If you desire the game can virtually push you to the next race you should do.
Forza 3's push to embrace lesser skilled players is part of what Wendl describes as an attempt to remove "the exclusion of less dextrous players" from the game, which hearkens back to the goal of turning car enthusiasts into gamers.
The custom liveries and painjobs will return. Photos and videos (in HD this time, in-game) will join them as rateable, shareable properties in-game. Wendl likens Turn 10s approach to Youtube. Everyone may use the thing, but it's pretty easy to measure the good from the bad.
Multi screen and Xbox support is currently capping out at four - three in front, with another as a possible rear vision mirror. To clarify this is for the one player, surround screen style. Wendl claims the tech can support more theoretically...nobody's tried. Splitscreen mode however remains to be confirmed.
Forza 3 Motorsport is currently headed for an October ship date - with big changes to its marketplace yet to be announced.
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