Forza Motorsport 4: Week in Review 12/23/11
Welcome to the final Week in Review for 2011! It’s been an incredible year for us here at Turn 10 and for the Forza Motorsport series. Obviously the biggest news of the year has been the launch of Forza 4 but this has been a busy year all around. So I thought I’d take a detour from the latest Forza news and post some personal Forza 4-related highlights from 2011. Think of it as the Year in Review, packed into this edition of the Week in Review!
Before we get to January, let’s talk a bit about December. After all, that was when we officially announced Forza Motorsport 4 to the world during the 2010 VGA Awards with a special trailer starring the stars of TopGear USA. This was the world’s first glimpse at what would become Forza 4 and the buzz was palpable.
Once the New Year began, we started our "Welcome to Forza" series, designed to introduce new Forza players to the community and the variety of expression and fun to be found in Forza Motorsport. Yours Truly also made a trip to the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to check out the future of automobiles.
One of my favorite community events from 2011 began in February: the Turn 10 Drive-In. Here, we gathered with the Forza community to watch and chat about automotive movies—in the inaugural event we enjoyed one of my all-time favorites: the original Smokey and the Bandit. The event was really fun and I fully expect it to be back in 2012. We also kicked off our community NASCAR fantasy series and held out an open call for entries in our Community Shapes Challenge contest. You can see the fruits of that contest in the "Community" section of the livery tool in Forza 4 now.
March came in like a lion with the start of the second season of the Forza 3 Hot Lap Challenge, which saw Forza Faithful squaring off in Forza 3 and on the forums on a series of specially designed HLC races run across three separate skill tiers. March also saw the start of a couple of new features on FM.net: TopGear Tuesday, featuring regular doses of automotive fun from our partners at TopGear, and the Community Inside Line, where we highlighted outstanding members of the Forza Community.
A one-day set of April Fools Turn 10 Select Hoppers--including FWD drifting cars, Cat and Mouse on a half-mile drag strip, 50 laps in an F-Class on Motegi—was a fun, if ridiculous, way to ring in April. With Forza 4 information still under wraps, April was a fairly quiet month, news-wise, though we did enjoy hosting race driver and TopGear USA host Tanner Foust for a studio visit and an early look at Forza 4. But, with just over a month to go before the E3 debut of the game, things were anything but quiet here at Turn 10.
E3 madness invaded Turn 10 in May as the studio busily prepared for the show and the official unveiling of Forza 4 to the world. Demos were being polished, stage presentations were being honed, trailers were being pored over with a fine-toothed comb. It was a tremendous blur and incredibly exciting. We couldn’t wait to show off Forza 4 to the world and were equally anticipating the reaction of the press, fans, and our Forza community as well.
Behind the scenes, we were also busily working on redesigning the Web site you’re looking at now. The work to transform FM.net from its Forza 3 incarnation to its present state began months prior but, as we approached E3, we began to finally see the fruit of all the effort we’d put into the site. May also saw the beginning of the Forza 4 pre-order program, as well as a behind-the-scenes visit to Turn 10 by a select group of international gaming press.
I’ve been going to E3 for years now—either as a journalist or as a wide-eyed spectator who snuck his way in. 2011 was the first year I attended the Electronic Entertainment Expo as an exhibitor and it was a completely eye-opening and awesome experience. Being part of the team that helped debut Forza 4 to the world was incredible—watching hundreds of people play the E3 demo during the show, and hearing their excited feedback, was a thrill. It was also gratifying to see the overwhelmingly positive response from the press. We liked Forza 4, of course. But it was nice to see we weren’t alone.
Favorite memory from E3? It might have been meeting The Stig at our epic E3 party in downtown Los Angeles, or watching rocker Gene Simmons walk through our booth, looking only slightly confused about where he was and what he was doing there. But if I think back, I think my favorite moment was the first time we showed off the Forza Motorsport 4 trailer during the Microsoft E3 Press Briefing. The trailer still gets me to this day.
Of course, while the world was eating up everything Forza 4, we also debuted our new look here at FM.net with a new design and color scheme, new features, and more fun to come throughout the rest of the year.
As if heading to E3 and the unveiling of Forza 4 wasn’t enough, I also had a chance to travel to Germany’s Nürburgring to debut Forza 4 at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring race. This was an experience that the race fan in me could gush about for hours (heck, I could spend an afternoon just talking about driving from Frankfurt to Nürburg on the legendary Autobahn after a Seattle-to-Reykjavik-to-Frankfurt trip that left me bleary-eyed and on very little sleep). Forza 4 was on-hand for the public unveiling of the 2012 BMW M5—moments after the car was debuted in front of the press, players could walk out to the lobby and take it for a spin in the game. Upon the game’s launch in October, fans would get a chance to try the M5 out for themselves through a free download pack that included the driveable M5 and a complete BMW M5 Autovista experience.
At the end of an incredibly busy June, we debuted our Forza Motorsport 4 BMW Design Challenge, offering Forza painters a chance to have their winning BMW design featured in the Limited Collector’s Edition of the game.
Longtime friend of Forza and ALMS star driver Gunnar Jeannette dropped by the studio to give us his invaluable feedback on the game—spending time with Turn 10 track artists, car physics experts, and our management team to provide his unique perspective on pro driving, racing games, and more. We also debuted a regular feature dedicated to putting a spotlight on the amazing cars in Forza 4: The Forza Garage.
Also in July, I had the utterly unique experience of travelling to Dunsfold, England to present Forza Motorsport 4 on the set of the world-renowned television hit, TopGear. In addition to doing an actual presentation while sitting in the very same chair Jeremy Clarkson enjoys on a weekly basis, I got a chance to drive around the TopGear Test Track in a Kia cee’d and then had The Stig show me how it’s really done in a bright yellow Lamborghini Gallardo. See this video for an in-car view of that lap. If you squint, you can see me shivering like a girl.
Finally, July also saw the debut of our “Making of Forza Motorsport 4” video series; our debut video featured the creation of our fictional “hero” track, The Bernese Alps.
So many August highlights to cover:
- First Tanner Foust, then Gunnar Jeannette and in August we had maybe the coolest race car driver of them all visit our studio: the legendary Bob Bondurant.
- We announced our partnership with the American LeMans Series, resulting in the subsequent announcement of lots of awesome ALMS cars. This is a partnership that’s only just getting started, folks. Look for more cool stuff in 2012.
- We also announced our latest new track to Forza Motorsport 4, Hockenheim, and released the next in our “Making of Forza Motorspot 4” video documentaries on how we brought the famous German track to life in the game.
- The debut of our Cars and Tracks pages on FM.net, showing off the breadth and depth of the cars and tracks in Forza 4.
- Jeremy Clarkson gave us his take on an utterly unique Autovista vehicle: the Halo series’ M12 FAV Warthog.
- Our in-depth feature interview with Turn 10 creative director Dan Greenawalt—nicknamed “Under the Hood”--kicked off with a look at some new features in the game.
- Forza Motorsport 4 was submitted to certification and the final countdown to the game’s October release began!
September was the final push to getting Forza 4 ready for prime time. We announced Infineon Raceway as a new track in the game and also debuted on television with a Forza 4-themed episode of TopGear USA. The episode featured hosts Rutledge Wood and Adam Ferrara battling Tanner Foust to set the fastest time on Infineon in the Lexus LF-A—with Rutledge and Adam battling it out in Forza 4 while Tanner tackled the real thing. If you missed it the first time, click here to relive the magic.
In addition, September also saw the debut of the Forza Motorsport 4 Season Pass (and the subsequent announcement of our American Muscle Car add-on pack), the pre-order availability of the official Forza Motorsport 4 CSR and CSR Elite wheels from our partners at Fanatec, the winners of our BMW Design Challenge and the first flood of Forza 4 review discs sent out to games press and Forza community VIPs.
It’s no exaggeration to say that getting Forza 4 out to our fans was a tremendous relief for the entire studio. Of course, before the game was released on October 11, we had a demo which made its debut on October 3. Featuring five cars and the all-new Bernese Alps track, as well as a handful of Rivals Mode events to whet the appetite of Forza Faithful, the demo was a tantalizing glimpse of the awesome power that was packed into the full game.
Just before release, we also debuted our "Endangered Species" commercial for Forza 4, an incredibly powerful statement about the times we live in, and a beautiful reminder of the epic nature of Forza 4. To put it succinctly, it’s boss.
And then: We released! After months of anticipation, Forza 4 was unleashed on the world, first in the US and then in Europe and the rest of the world. We celebrated the game’s launch with a party at the ALMS season finale at Road Atlanta, and invited community VIPs to join in on the fun. The critical response to Forza 4 was amazing but, beyond that, it was so satisfying to finally be able to jump into lobbies and play the game we had worked so hard on with you, the Forza community who had followed our latest automotive adventure for so long.
Once Forza 4 released, we debuted our first big contest: the BMW M5 Forza Cup, an online Rivals Mode challenge where the 16 drivers would be chosen to complete in a finals event at BMW Welt in Munich, with the overall winner receiving a brand new BMW M5. Those finals recently wrapped up and you can see the results in last week’s Week in Review. In addition October saw us really making full use of the official Forza Motorsport Facebook page, where we now host our weekly photo contests and our periodic Game With Devs events.
Last month we kicked off our latest contest: the Hyundai THR Secret Car Design Contest. We asked the Forza community to design an original race livery for the Hyundai Genesis Coupe and the results were amazing. We whittled down the list to five finalists, which were voted upon by Xbox LIVE members. The overall champion will win a brand new Hyundai Veloster—I can’t wait to see who takes home the prize. Next month we’ll be debuting a new Hyundai-themed contest with a similarly awesome prize, so stay tuned for more details!
The first week of November also saw the release of our second add-on pack for Forza 4: the November Speed Pack. Headed by the insane Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 and featuring an eclectic mix of cars like the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air and the 1992 GMC Typhoon. A new crop of cars also meant a new batch of Community Monthly Rivals Mode challenges too.
With November wrapped up (and the ten-year anniversary of the original Xbox’s release behind us), we charged ahead to the final month of the year…
… which brings us to, well, now. Of course you remember the beginning of the month, where we released the December IGN Pack, starring one of the more insane cars I’ve ever seen in any Forza DLC Pack: the 2011 Suzuki #1 Monster Sport SX4 Hill Climb Special (as well as other gems like the 2011 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor and the 1957 Maserati 300 S). We also released our second title update for Forza 4, which addressed a number of gameplay issues important to the community.
Earlier this week, and in the spirit of this week’s Year in Review post, I put the question out to our followers on Twitter: What was your favorite Forza 4 moment of 2011? Here’s a sampling of my favorite responses:
- the release was the best moment followed by slinging the e92 GT2 at the horizon backwards round the top gear track – j1nxy13
- Drifting a VW R32 with friends on Maple Valley – D453ND387
- Just getting the game and seeing all the improvements made over forza 3. I still love looking at the cars in the homespace :) -- DDougDoug
- no one moment, but I love that FM4 has given me the freedom to do this: historictrophy.blogspot.com – RichTysoe
- Me and a bunch of guys from our grandprixforums.net forum had a drift competition for 50 mil credits and I won! That's mine! – Cameron92O
- my favorite moment was listening to the Top Gear reviews in AutoVista. That was such a cool feature. – PCMustangGT
- The day my copy arrived. – BenGooding93
So how do we thank you, the Forza Faithful, for such an incredible 2011? With more great content and fun to come in 2012, that’s how! In particular, January promises to be an incredibly busy month and there are so many exciting things ahead in the coming months, I’m nearly bursting to tell you about them all.
Though this is the final Week in Review of the year, next week, you’ll find out the cars that will be part of our January DLC Pack. In addition, we’ve also got our final Game With Turn 10 event coming on December 26 from 5-7 p.m. PST. We’ll be giving away tons of unicorns during this event so fire up that copy of Forza 4 that Santa brought you and let’s get down to business on the track. In addition, keep an eye in your inbox for a special holiday thank-you car for both VIPs and Forza fans alike.
Finally I’d like to take the time to wish you and yours a safe and fun holiday season and a happy New Year. We’ll be back in the office bright and early in January and ready for another action-packed year of Forza fun. See you in 2012!