Forza Under the Hood: Community Questions
Welcome to another edition of Under the Hood, our ongoing interview with Forza Motorsports 4 creative director Dan Greenawalt. In today’s entry, we take on questions sent from you, the Forza community. We weren’t able to individually answer each one of the hundreds of questions that have been sent to us over the past few weeks. Instead, we tackled a number of the most common questions that came to our inbox. In today’s edition we go a bit deeper with the explanation of our new braking upgrades, talk about the improvements we’ve made to our audio systems, and give you an inside peek into our DLC pricing plans for Forza 4.
Dean Richardson: Curious about the head tracking and Kinect. My Kinect system is about 10’-12’ feet from where I sit. Will I need to move closer in order for Kinect to pick up the subtle movements of the head?
On the official Kinect page, it’s recommended that solo players stand (or sit) six feet away from the sensor and eight feet away for those playing together.
Successfully calibrating your Kinect depends on a number of different factors, including the amount of available light, how much room you have to move, and how “busy” your play environment is. For that reason, it’s difficult to precisely determine how far away you’ll be able to sit when playing with Kinect head-tracking in Forza Motorsport 4.
At E3 2011, we had Kinect stations mounted on television monitors, and players were seated in a racing cockpit so that their heads were between three and four feet away from the camera. Despite the constant influx of traffic at our booth, with thousands of people walking by throughout the day, we were able to successfully calibrate the Kinect cameras so that they worked with no trouble for each person who gave it a try.
The bottom line: While we’ve designed all our Kinect-integrated features in Forza 4 to be as easy to use as possible, some calibration, depending on your individual setup, may be necessary.
Fedy el: Wll any upgrade have any effect on the audible difference as can be heard in FM2.
For this answer, we turned to Turn 10’s audio creative director Nick Wiswell:
Yes and no—the audio for the cars does change when certain upgrades are applied to the car, but not in the same way as it has been done previously.
In the past the audio samples were replaced when you applied upgrades to the car, but this time we are using real-time, in-game digital signal processing (DSP) effects to change the sound of the car when it is upgraded (apart from the turbo system, which also swaps the dump valve/waste gate samples based on turbo upgrades).
This suite of DSP effects is all-new to Forza Motorsport 4 and allows us to make sure that all the cars sound loud and exciting no matter what audio playback system you use. It also has the added benefit of allowing us to modify how the cars sound, as the player modifies the car in the game.
Almost all of the audio used in Forza Motorsport 4 has been created specifically for this game, so it’s a quite different audio experience compared to previous titles. As well as the DSP changes to the cars mentioned above, we have all-new sounds for tires, turbos, superchargers, electric motors, collisions, crowds, ambience, wind and many others. We also have a new way of creating and playing back LFE content so those with 5.1 systems or butt-kickers are in for a real treat.
For those without a subwoofer, we now have a selectable dedicated game mix for TV speakers in the audio options, so everyone select the mix that best suits their playback system.
Brad Oastler: I'm wondering about how you go about choosing tracks. I'm partial to the real-world tracks since I can see races there on tv or in real life. Consequently, I've wondered why tracks like Mosport or Lime Rock or Long Beach (ALMS!) or Spa are not included. Is it a licensing matter, or a matter of getting to the track to test it?
Cars and tracks go hand-in-hand when it comes to creating a great automotive experience like Forza Motorsport 4. I’m right there with you in your love for real-world tracks and I’m happy that we’ve included new entries to the roster of real-world tracks in Forza Motorsport 4. Race circuits like Hockenheimring, Infineon Raceway, and the just-announced Indianapolis Motor Speedway each have unique stories all their own and each play a part in the worldwide history of racing and motorsports. I’m enormously pleased to have those tracks in our game and I think Forza 4 players will find each of them to be a compelling challenge.
Of course, we always would love to add more tracks to our game. There are a number of factors that play into whether or not a track will make it into Forza. Licensing is one of the factors, but we generally find working with track owners and licensors to be straightforward. They’re usually as enthusiastic about being in in Forza as we are about their tracks. There’s also the sheer amount of time it takes to bring a track to life. Recreating a circuit from the real world (such as the Top Gear Test Track) or creating one from scratch (as in the case of our “crown jewel” track, the Bernese Alps) takes more than a year from start to finish. From travelling to the track to gather source material (a typical track sourcing takes three full days, weather cooperating, and multiple track artists on hand to gather data), to the detailed process of translating the data from a sourcing trip into the game, as well as the long months of polishing that we put into every track to make sure it meets our internal standards, there’s so much work to do. Building tracks in Forza Motorsport is a time-consuming labor of love for us… but it’s one that needs to fit within the larger picture of the realities of our business and our release schedule.
Do I wish we had time to include every track you mention (not to mention the dozens of other tracks we’d like to see in the Forza series)? Of course! But I also recognize the value in making sure that the Forza Motorsport series is released on time and at the level of quality our fans have come to expect.
Donnalee Smith: What improvements, and/or changes have you made to the livery editor (paint booth), photo mode, video exporting for Forza Motorsport 4? Obviously – the IBL must have made significant improvement to the look of all of these aspects – and I’d like to know what else related to these features we have to look forward to...
In our previous edition of “Under the Hood” we talked about photo mode improvements, including the addition of features like vignettes and Big Shot uploads. As always you’ll be able to upload your photos and videos to the “My Forza” section of FM.net. For videos and Big Shots, we’ll provide you with individual download links for you to download those files for your own use.
In addition to being able to import livery creations from Forza 3 into Forza 4, players will also be able to import decals and shapes that they bought on the storefront in Forza 3. Of course, if the creation was locked in Forza 3, it will still be locked once you import it into Forza 4.
Several months ago, the community team put a call out to Forza community members to submit new shapes which would be used in the livery editor in Forza Motorsport 4. The response to the program was tremendous—we received dozens of shapes from the community—each of which was specifically designed to fill a need. In the end, we chose 80 community-created shapes to be included in the livery editor. In fact, those two pages of shapes are the first things you’ll see in the livery editor in Forza 4. Considering the amazing quality of vinyl and design work we saw in Forza Motorsport 3, I can’t wait to see the things our community artists create with these new tools at their disposal.
Michael: Hello, long time fan, first time writing in/emailing: Q: Will Forza 4 incorporate a faster lock-to-lock on steering input much like the Dirt or Gran Turismo franchises? I’ve loved Forza for quite a while and my only complaint is the time it takes the computer to turn lock to lock. GT5 is surprisingly easy to drift simply because when I point the left stick left, the car goes left. In Forza when I point the left stick left, the game takes about 2 seconds to respond.
Hlspwn: Has the braking been improved in FM4, as I feel the current braking model is not true to life?
As for the first question, the lock-to-lock steering rate was increased by approximately 40 percent. This change was coupled with improvements to the simulation of lock-to-lock steering angle that we covered in Part 2 of Under the Hood.
As with the rest of the changes to our physics in our game, the braking upgrades in Forza 4 were tested and developed in a limited beta of top leaderboard drivers and the best drivers in the studio. We’ve improved braking in two important ways:
- We made a number of adjustments to our ABS system. For example, when driving with ABS disabled the braking input curve was altered to allow a larger “sweet spot” just before lockup. We also adjusted how smaller braking inputs are handled to improve light braking techniques such as trail-braking and tip-in, whether or not you are using ABS. Finally we made adjustments to the ABS system to tighten up the lock threshold while still allowing drivers to use the brakes to set up a car for a turn.
- We improved the code that simulates both brake balance and braking pressure to allow more consistent lockup points both on a car-to-car basis and for both front and rear bias situations. You can still tune brake bias via the upgrade system in Forza 4, but the code behind it is now more accurate at calculating bias across the wide range of cars we have in the game.
The braking and steering upgrades, coupled with the new suspension and tire modeling in Forza 4, means that brake dive is much more accurately modeled this time around, as are weight transfer and the unloading of tires. The result is that players will have a much better feeling of what the car is doing, particular at turn entry.
Cameron Assing: Off-road event handling: How is Turn10 handling the issue of intentional and unintentional off-road excursions. Sebring and Motegi in FM3 both had unofficial “lanes” where players could use as run-off to avoid an accident, but these areas could be used(and were used) as exploits to maintain speed and cut across sections of track bypassing upwards of three turns/corners. Has Turn10 implemented any new strategies in FM4 to deter cheating? More reduced speed or low-friction surfaces? Time penalties?
Fair competition is key to maintaining a healthy racing community. So we take cheating and exploits very seriously. For Forza 4, we assigned teams of our most experienced online racers to scrub every track for areas that could be cut to save time or otherwise used to unfair advantage. This included tracks that were part of Forza 3 as well as our new Forza 4 tracks. Of course, our community provided us with tons of data for Forza 3, so we took that into account as well.
Our new tracks went through multiple passes. First, during the very early “drivable” stage of each track, so we could identify potential exploits and address them before full production. Then, once each track reached a late polish stage, we subjected them to another assault by our would-be cheaters.
We experimented with time penalties in past Forza games, and we found that they ultimately confuse things more than they help. For example, as you are racing door-to-door with a competitor, you don’t really know how close your race is if there are pending time penalties.
So we’ve stuck with our physics-based approach. Sure, everyone gets a wheel off in the dirt once in a while, and we don’t want to punish racers for that. But if a player gets out into an area that we’ve identified as an exploit – they’re going to pay the price right then and there through lost speed, handling, and/or acceleration. We have a multitude of options in our toolbox and we try to use them in a fair and balanced way. Depending on the type and location of the exploit, we’ll use different physics effects. The goal is to limit the impact to players who make an honest mistake, while still sending a very clear message to cheaters that they should give it up.
This way, if you’re door-to-door with someone, you know that you’re really fighting for the lead. There’s no hidden time penalty to wait for. If you cross the line first you’re first. There’s no waiting and wondering.
Hal Killian: We’ve heard a little bit about DLC but what are the specific plans?
Our plan is to release monthly add-on packs following the launch of Forza Motorsport 4. In addition to those monthly 10-car packs, we’re also giving players more choice than ever when it comes to acquiring cars in Forza Motorsport 4. Here are the highlights:
- More Credits Than Ever: First up, we’re making it easier than ever to earn credits in Forza 4. Regardless of where you spend your time in the game, you’ll be earning credits as you progress. Earn credits by winning races in World Tour mode, or trying to beat your friends in Rivals Mode. There are cash bonuses for leveling up your profile and your various manufacturer affinity levels. You’ll even get a credit bonus for logging into the Community section of Forza 4 on a daily basis. The goal is to reward players for exploring and progressing throughout the game in the areas that interest them the most.
- Car Tokens: Credits will be readily available in Forza 4, but for players who don’t want to wait and save up for the elite Forza 4 cars, we’re introducing car tokens. While you can always buy cars with the credits you earn in the game, car tokens in Forza Motorsport 4 are a brand-new way to access the cars that matter most to you. Players will be able to purchase car tokens via the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, either individually (80 MS Points, $1), in six-token packs (400 MS Points, $5) or in 13-token packs (800 MS Points, $10). The in-game credit value of a car will determine its token price—the more expensive a car is in the game, the more car tokens it will cost. The most expensive cars in Forza 4 will cost three tokens; the majority of cars will cost either one or two car tokens.
- Season Pass: Today we announced our Forza Motorsport 4 Season Pass, a DLC subscription package for Forza 4 players. Purchasing the Season Pass will give you access to the first six months’ worth of Forza 4 add-on packs—plus one free add-on pack (the American Muscle Car Pack, which we also unveiled today). The Season Pass will cost 2,400 MS Points ($29.99) and represents a 30 percent overall discount as compared to purchasing the DLC packs separately. Individual 10-car packs will cost 560 MS Points ($7) in Forza Motorsport 4. We are also introducing the ability to buy some DLC cars on a per item basis, a feature which will offer players more flexibility and choice to get the cars they want. One side note of interest for Forza 4 DLC cars: Unlike in Forza 3, DLC cars will be seamlessly integrated into World Tour mode—both as AI cars in races as well as in-game gifts you can be rewarded when reaching a new level.
Look for more details on our next add-on pack—available in November—soon.