The racing genre is by far one of the most competitive genres in the gaming industry today, and one of the most popular and successful franchises within it is without a doubt, Forza Motorsport.
This series first debuted nearly a decade ago during 2005 and it was one of the last exclusives to hit the Xbox, before the debut of the Xbox 360. Well, fast forward eight years and here we are with Forza Motorsport 5 being one of the first exclusives to hit the Xbox One.
As we are only a matter of weeks before we all witness history and the launch of the third iteration of the Xbox, Examiner had the opportunity to speak exclusively with the creative director of Turn 10 Studios, Dan Greenawalt.
The cloud the Xbox One will be utilizing over the next decade is being taken for a test-run with Forza Motorsport 5, and Greenawalt talked to us about the ways they are going to be utilizing the Xbox One's cloud.
"We’ve used the cloud in many ways throughout Forza Motorsport 5. For example, we curate cars and community paint designs to you, based on your tastes, throughout single player. Also, the cloud-based Drivatar learning opponent system in Forza Motorsport 5 is a crucial innovation that impacts practically every aspect of the game.
"As you play, you’ll be constantly refining your own personal Drivatar profile, which will learn and replicate your tendencies in the game. How aggressive you are with other drivers, what kinds of corners you are successful (or less so) at – these are the kinds of factors that the Drivatar system is paying attention to and will be able to replicate in A.I. behavior on track.
"As your Drivatar profile is built, all of that information is sent to the cloud where our servers crunch that data and generalize different on-track behaviors. The Drivatars that you’ll be facing in Forza 5 utilize that massive, ever-changing pool of learning, and the biggest benefit for the player is that the Drivatar opponents feel more unpredictable and alive than any A.I. opponent you’ve ever faced.
"In Forza Motorsport 5, all of the opponents you race against (except in multiplayer, of course) will be Drivatars built by Forza players from all over the world. In the case of multiplayer lobbies that don’t have a full complement of human drivers, the remaining spots will also be filed by Drivatar opponents. The goal is to have a great race against challenging opponents regardless of what mode you are playing," Greenawalt said.
Having a multiplayer mode that delivers a unique, dynamic experience even when you don't play against other human drivers will be something we've never seen before. Who knows what the ultimate capabilities of the Xbox One's cloud will look like, but we know they will be staggering.
Shifting from how they will be able to utilize the power of the cloud to improve the gameplay experience, Greenawalt talked about how they have improved the visuals.
"We have a brand new graphics engine in Forza Motorsport 5, built from the ground up to take advantage of the power of the Xbox One. It also runs at a native 1080p and solid 60 frames per second. As a first party development studio, we were in the privileged position of working closely with the Xbox platform team; we began discussing the console that would become the Xbox One as early as four years ago, even before we shipped Forza Motorsport 4 on Xbox 360.
"For Forza Motorsport 5 we knew we would have a more complex and powerful console able to render cars with millions of polygons. Our visual ambition for the game went beyond mere polygon count, however. We wanted to push ourselves to explore how light and atmosphere interact in order to create a true next generation look and feel for the game.
"This lead us to the development of a system we refer to as physically based materials, where we precisely model thousands of materials that are used in the game to build the interior and exteriors of the cars, as well as the environments themselves.
"We’ve also laser scanned the tracks in Forza Motorsport 5, which allows us to render them with sub-centimeter accuracy – from track-side buildings to the surface of the asphalt itself, every curve and bump is precisely recreated," Greenawalt said.
With Drivatar being advertised as one of the biggest benefits that players will be gaining in Forza Motorsport 5, we wanted to find out more. Greenawalt talked about how Drivatar helps embellish upon "the race within the race" concept they've talked about so much.
"Drivatar represents a fundamental change in how people play racing games. This isn’t traditional 'A.I.' opponents who are stuck to a predetermined path, nor is this racing against ghosts or replays. Instead you are racing against cloud-based opponents that are capable of learning new and surprising behaviors. For the player this means a challenging and unpredictable field of opponents to drive against.
"We often talk of the concept of 'the race within the race' in Forza 5 – no matter where you are on the track, you’re always involved in a competitive riveting race, even if you aren’t necessarily fighting for a podium spot. We also give you the ability to choose the level of Drivatar difficulty you want to compete against. By raising or lowering the Drivatar difficulty, you’ll be pulling from a different pool of Drivatar opponents – ratchet it all the way up and you’ll be going up against some of the best Forza drivers in the world.
"Once you have completed your Drivatar profile after the first few races in the game, your Drivatar will be ready to go out into the larger Forza Motorsport 5 world. Your Drivatar will show up in the races of your friends and even perfect strangers and, the next time you log in, you’ll earn in-game credits for the races it has competed in while you were away," Greenawalt said.
Drivatar will be a feature that evolves and grows. Greenawalt described to us further about how Drivatar will change with the more time players invest into Forza Motorsport 5.
"Our goal with Drivatar has been to mimic human behavior in A.I. opponents and, in the sense that human players will do surprising things when driving, I believe we’ve succeeded. As we’ve developed the feature, we’ve grown the 'pool' of Drivatars to several hundred people and, already, the Drivatar behaviors that we are seeing emerge from that relatively small data pool is surprising.
"For example, we’ve some complex examples of race-craft coming from Drivatar opponents – maneuvers such as feints and complex passing that you might expect to see among experienced racers – are now happening in our races. These are the kinds of strategies that, in previous racing games, would have had to be scripted but, because the system is learning new behaviors all the time, it’s happening naturally in the game.
"Once Forza Motorsport 5 is released, and as the data pool exponentially, those A.I. behaviors will become more nuanced and complex. Once we have millions of Forza players out in the world, it will be fascinating to see how the Drivatar system evolves. I believe we’ve only scratched the surface of what is possible," Greenawalt said.
Forza Motorsport 5 will be launching alongside the Xbox One this coming Nov. 22nd. For all of our latest exclusives, previews, reviews and features, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Game On.