Forza Motorsport 4: Under the Hood Part 1

Brian Ekberg
Wednesday, August 24, 2011

If you’ve been following the press coverage so far, you know that Forza Motorsport 4 is Turn 10 Studios’ biggest game yet. In fact, it’s so big that, despite the hundreds of stories, interviews, and videos that have appeared about Forza 4 since we officially announced back in December, there is still so much to talk about. We know there is plenty you want to know about Forza 4 and, in our brand new FM.net feature Forza Motorsport 4: Under the Hood, we’re going to shed as much light as we possibly can on those unanswered questions. 

 

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Each Wednesday for the next few weeks, we’ll be running a new segment of a lengthy interview I recently conducted with Turn 10 creative director Dan Greenawalt. In each edition we’ll be tackling a variety of subjects from around the Forza 4 universe… from a deep dive into the updated physics of Forza 4 to detailed explanations of Forza 4’s brand new game modes and much more.

 

While our goal for this series is to answer many of the common questions we’ve seen pop up on a regular basis online, we know you’ll always have more questions for us. That’s why we’re opening up the final edition of the Under the Hood series to you, the Forza Faithful. There we’ll be answering questions sent from our readers. If you’ve got a question you’d like to have answered, send us an e-mail to forzafb@microsoft.com with the subject line “UNDER THE HOOD”. We’ll pick a number of questions for the final edition in the series and, while we won’t be able to answer every question that comes in, I can promise they will all be read.

 

In today’s inaugural edition of Under the Hood, we tackle a number of hot Forza 4 topics including the brand new Rivals mode, the return of user-hosted public lobbies, and a couple of burning questions.

 


Let’s start off with one of my favorite new features in Forza 4: Rivals mode. How would you describe this mode? 

 

Rivals mode is basically a combination of career events, time trials, and multiplayer. It allows you to play against your friends in a diverse group of challenging events, even when your friends are offline. Your friend is represented on track by a ghost, but not one of our classic transparent “jellyfish” ghosts. It’s a fully liveried car--more similar to how Forza 3 multiplayer races work when you have them set to “collisions off.” 

 

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For every Rivals mode event you are automatically assigned a rival (usually an Xbox LIVE friend), or you can manually set any player on the leaderboard as your rival. By beating your rival, you get bonus credits based on that rival’s leaderboard percentile rank and the size of the board. If the rival is in the top percentile on a well-populated board, their bounty is very large. The sizes of these bounties are server-driven. So, we can increase or reduce the bounties as the community shows its preferences. 

 

Furthermore, if you challenge and defeat a rival who also happens to be a friend or fellow club member, that person will receive a message in their message center inviting them to try and beat your time. 

 

You can advance through the career and level up using nothing but Rivals mode, if you choose. Win or lose, playing in Rivals mode gives you the same basic XP and credit payout schedule as career and multiplayer races. 

 

Rivals mode events are distributed across seven channels. Most channels feature ten events. Each is held on one track and includes specific race rules. Here’s the rundown:

 

Community Monthly 

 

This channel has a variable number of events from month to month. It can feature any kind of event rules from the other channels outlined below (drift, track day, spec race, etc.). This channel can also feature advanced car restrictions such as drive-types, classes, year, stock only, etc. It can even feature overrides such as cockpit only, no ABS, manual only, and so on. However, the biggest difference in this channel is that we will be swapping the events out monthly. The goal is to provide the community with events that you like on a regular basis.

 

TopGear 

 

These events were chosen by the TopGear staff. Each event is limited to specific model with no upgrades. This is most similar to the time trials events in Forza 3, but with a TopGear twist. For example, this is where the “Reasonably Priced Car” event lives. In this event, you do one lap on the TopGear Test Track in a Kia cee’d. 

 

Spec Hot Laps 

 

Each event in this category was chosen based on motorsport heritage or great car and track pairings. Each event is limited to specific model with no upgrades. Like the TopGear events, these are most similar to the time trials events in Forza 3. These events allow players to get an “apples-to-apples” driver comparison. 

 

Open Time Attack 

 

Each event in this category is class-based. This allows you to bring your tuning skill into the mix. I expect this channel to be the workhorse of Rivals, as it rewards both tuners and drivers. This channel is where I tend to add the most value to my car club. I build cars that are optimized for these events and share them with my car club. My shared cars can be used anyone in my car club, whether I’m online or not. 

 

Track Days 

 

In Track Days events, you race through traffic. Generally, you are in a medium- to high-class car and the track is littered with an infinite number of much lower-class pedestrian cars. Most of these events are class-based, but sometimes they include very specific year limitations as well. I have to say, these events are awesome. Two in particular have become huge hits on our team. One takes place on the Nürburgring Nordschleife and the other on the full Fujimi Kaido. The traffic is heavy the laps are long. They can be extremely tricky. You are battling the track and the traffic as much as you are your rival. 

 

Autocross 

 

These are class-based events on race tracks. However, these tracks have gates. Miss a gate and you will receive a time penalty. It’s amazing how much the games change the tracks. All of the racing lines you have become used to completely change and car setup is critical in these events. 

 

Drift 

 

Drifting has always been popular in the Forza Motorsport physics engine. The new tire model combined with simulation steering take drifting to a whole new level--more difficult, but very predictable and hugely addictive. Drifters are, by nature, extremely competitive, and I can’t think of a better place to prove your skills than in the drifting Rivals events.

 

One feature I know our community will be excited about is the return of user hosted public lobbies. How will these work in Forza 4?  

 

We’re happy to be bringing back user-hosted public lobbies, as we know it’s a feature that the community was asking for after Forza Motorsport 3. If you’ve played earlier version of Forza, you’ll be right at home with the public lobbies in Forza 4. If you’re new, here’s how it works: when you “Create Race” you have the option to make it “Public.” In Forza 3, these were always private. When you go to “Find Race,” there is an option to search “User-Create Races.” Here you can search by general category (i.e., circuit, timed race, drag, drift, custom, etc.) or even set advanced search settings per category. For example, advanced search on “Tag” includes filtering by “It” Class and “Not It” class and advanced search on “Drift” includes class, drive-type and collision mode. 

 

How does car affinity work? What do I get for aligning myself with a manufacturer? 

 

In Forza Motorsport 2 and Forza Motorsport 3, we had two similar car leveling systems. While these systems were called “car leveling,” they were more related to the upgrade parts manufacturers associated with the car manufacturer. Each car was capped to level five. Level five cars provided the player with discounted parts for that manufacturer. Multiple level five cars stacked the discounts. The power of the system was amplified when it was combined with the Auction House, as you could buy pre-leveled cars and instantly reap the part discount benefits. While this system spurred some interaction in the Auction House as well as some short term loyalty to a given car in your garage, the manufacturer loyalty it was designed to create evaporated quickly. Once the car hit level five, there was no longer an incentive to keep leveling it. In fact, if you wanted to get the most reward for each mile you drove, you were incented to change into a car that was not yet at its level five cap. 

 

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In Forza 4, the car no longer levels. Now the player gains manufacturer specific levels, called “affinity levels”. In this system, if you race in a BMW, you gain BMW-specific XP. You can buy and sell multiple BMWs without changing your BMW XP. Your BMW XP is only changed by the miles you race in BMWs. This XP leads to manufacturer-specific levels. These levels reward you with huge manufacturer-specific part discounts (up to 100 percent free parts), large cash bonuses (up to 150,000CR), as well as Badges and Titles for your Forza Player Card (more on that below). Level five manufacturer affinity takes about 30 minutes of racing. It gives you 100 percent part discounts (except on wheels, swaps, and body kits). This allows you to experiment with different part combinations without putting money on the line. Rather than five levels per car, we now have 50 levels per manufacturer. We used logged community data from Forza 3 to set the Affinity level milestone. Our target was to have less than one percent of our players have any manufacturer up to level 50 within 24 months. 

 

Ultimately, our goals for the affinity system were: A) To give players the incentive to stay loyal to their favorite car or manufacturer, and B) To allow players to display their brand pride to the rest of the community, via the new player card feature. 

 

Though the career mode in Forza 3 was huge, it didn’t take long to hit the level cap. How do things work this time around? 

 

There are several major changes to the player leveling system in Forza 4: 

 

  1. Speed to level 50: We’ve made the path to level 50 even faster in Forza 4. We want to give players more cars more quickly. Because player leveling is still our primary gift car reward system, increasing the schedule was an easy solution. 
  2. Level cap increase to 150: Many of you hit level 50 a long time ago. With the increased reward schedule, you’ll hit 50 even more rapidly. However, we want to continue rewarding you even after 24 months of loyal play. So, we used logged community data from Forza 3 to set the new Player Level milestone. Our target: have less than one percent of our players have hit level 150 within 24 months. In other words, reaching the player level cap in Forza 4 is going to take even the most dedicated players a long time.
  3. Car Gift Options per level: In Forza 3, every time you hit a level, we gave you a gift car. In Forza 4, we give you a choice between several gift cars at every level up to level 50. From level 50 to 150, we give you a large credit bonus (from 100,000CR to 350,000CR, based on level). 
  4. Player Card bragging rights: The Forza player card includes several Badge and Title options tied to car affinity, World Tour completion, and of course player leveling. The player card also displays your current player level as a numeric value. This gives you bragging rights. You should expect to find lots of players in the level 20-30 range. By contrast, a hardcore Forza fan should be in the level 50-75 range. Someone above level 100 has put in some serious time. I don’t expect to see a player level that high for many months. 

 

How do Badges and Titles work? 

 

In the aforementioned Forza 4 player card, you can choose between nearly 400 small graphical tiles called “Badges,” as well as short mottos called a “Titles.” The Badge and Title for your player card is changed in the “My Profile” area of the user interface. Some of the Badges are unlocked by default, such as country flags. Most Badges and Titles are unlocked by performing different acts within the game or the community. Some are progression-based. Others are more quirky. Several of the Badges and Titles have multiple levels. For example, all of the manufacturer affinity Badges have three levels. You become a BMW Fan for reaching Affinity Level 1 in BMW. To reach the second and third BMW Affinity Badge and Title tiers, you have to attain BMW affinity levels 10 and 25, respectively. This is no small feat. Taking any manufacturer Affinity Level to 50 will get you an achievement as well as a Badge and Title. 

 

What’s the status of Porsche in Forza Motorsport 4? 

 

This kills me. While Forza Motorsport 4 will feature RUF, it will not include Porsche cars. As many of you know, since the beginning of the Forza franchise, the Porsche license has been available only through a sub-licensing deal with EA. In Forza 3, we were able to feature more than 35 different Porsche models by offering to collaborate with EA. For Forza 4, we were looking forward to adding even more Porsche cars, and we were especially looking forward to featuring multiple Porsche experiences in our new Autovista mode. In the end, however, EA couldn’t see their way towards collaborating again.  

 

We’ve asked our contacts at EA to reconsider their position frequently and regularly over the last 18 months. We also reached out to various influential people in gaming to lobby on our behalf, and on your behalf, but that was to no avail.  

 

In our business, we stay friendly with all of the manufacturers and licensors necessary to deliver players rich and innovative automotive experiences. As you’d expect, this includes quite a few key people in Porsche circles. To make sure we tried everything, we consulted with these advocates and were happy to find they were already aware of the situation and lobbying from within on behalf of Forza 4--and, despite the result, we thank them for their efforts.  

 

While we respect EA’s need to run their business as they see fit, we’ve regularly collaborated in the past and hope we can find our way back to that approach. Forza had the exclusive license for all Ferrari cars, for example, on the Xbox and PC platforms. But at the end of the day, we’ve always found that we just weren’t willing to block other racing games from having Ferraris outright, as we believed that this would do nothing but hurt the racing ecosystem. 

 

I’m very sorry for all of this. Fans shouldn’t have to think about any of this – you should just be able to drive Porsches and Ferraris in the games you love. Porsche makes wonderful cars and I’m sorry that we won’t have them in Forza 4. As I mentioned earlier, we have added three RUF cars in Forza 4. RUF is a manufacturer in their own right, not simply an aftermarket mod shop—they completely remanufacture and enhance the models that they start from, and the results are unique, incredibly fast, and the cars look great. Losing more than 35 Porsche models is a lost opportunity for Porsche fans (as well as a lost opportunity to make future Porsche fans), but I hope that Forza 4 players understand and enjoy the new makes and models that have taken their place.

 


 

Discuss this week's edition of Under the Hood on the Forza Motorsport forums, and stay tuned to next week’s edition of Under the Hood, where we’ll be covering profile import, unicorn cars, and going deep on the new physics in Forza Motorsport 4!