Heavy Metal Affliction - The Chryslus Rocket 69
The Chryslus Rocket ’69 has finally arrived in Forza Motorsport 6. This is the first time a fictional vehicle has ever appeared as a drivable car in a Forza game, and the car’s creation has been the result of an intense and fascinating collaboration between Turn 10 and the creators of Fallout 4, Bethesda. In today’s edition of Heavy Metal Affliction, we’ll take a look at the creation of the Rocket ’69 in Forza 6, from Bethesda’s origination to Forza Motorsport 6’s drivable model.
The story begins with a look at how the Rocket ’69 was conceived and, for that, we turn to Bethesda’s lead artist for Fallout 4, Istvan Pely.
Concepting the Chryslus
Pely and his team helped bring the post-apocalyptic world of Fallout 4 to life. In the game, players roam a nuclear wasteland centered around Boston, and the remnants of the world that preceded the nuclear apocalypse are everywhere. Pely and his team were responsible for making sure that “the world that was” before the bombs dropped is clearly obvious to the player. “Automobiles are one of our primary opportunities to convey a sense of the design style of the world before the war,” Pely said. “So much of American culture is expressed through the vehicles people drove; they serve as pre-war artifacts for the player to discover.”
The Rocket draws its influences from the real world from an age that conceived that we would all be driving in flying cars by now. In the 1950s designers were obsessed with aerospace styling cues. “The 1950 Oldsmobile Rocket car was probably our chief inspiration,” Pely said. Additionally the Ford Nucleon concept was an inspirational, theoretically nuclear-powered concept car that all of the cars of Fallout are loosely based on.
While Pely is a self-described “car nut”, not everyone on his team shares his gearhead obsession. In fact, the artist who created the original sketches for the Rocket ’69 had no previous experience designing cars. “That allowed him to approach this with a very fresh and original take that fits in really well with the quirky universe of Fallout,” Pely said. “And by the end of the project, with all the research he did to immerse himself in the world of automotive design, he had a new-found appreciation and understanding of this genre of art.”
If you haven’t played Fallout you might be wondering what role the Rocket ‘69 plays in this post-apocalyptic world. The Chryslus brand has been present in the series since the intro movie for the original Fallout. “The brand is more than just a footnote in the lore,” Pely said. In Fallout 3 you can explore the Chryslus corporate headquarters, and in Fallout 4 you can actually see how the most famous model, the “Corvega”, was manufactured.
The Rocket ‘69 makes its debut in Fallout 4 as “an extreme sports car that would represent the ultimate (but attainable) dream car of the successful suburban man or woman,” Pely said. The Rocket stands alone against other pre-war vehicles encounter in the environment. “Adding some automotive variety with the Rocket helps fill out the pre-war world,” Pely said.
The Rocket doesn’t simply exist as an artifact; it has a history. In the lore of Fallout, “America’s obsession with cars was at an all–time high when nuclear war broke out in 2077,” Pely said. When the Rocket was introduced in the year 2069, it was a halo sports car for the brand. It represented the current state-of-the art engine technology with its micro-fusion motor, the most powerful ever developed. Chryslus sales records show it as selling very well but it suffered from obvious impracticalities like the single seat and how difficult it was to drive. Pely tells us that insurance rates for the Rocket were very high and Chryslus even had plans for a later version that had three seats and a massive wing but, due to the war, this model never happened.
The dismal apocalyptic future portrayed in the Fallout series is a playground for the world builders of Bethesda. “We mainly use automobiles for environmental storytelling, as set dressing throughout dense urban neighborhoods full of ruined buildings, and along windy roads in the countryside of the Wasteland,” Pely said. They use wrecked cars like the Rocket to tell a story about the last moments before the mushroom clouds enveloped the horizon.
It’s clear the Rocket has a heavy history behind it, where every aesthetic and performance design choice has been carefully thought out. Next, it was time for Turn 10 to step in and bring the car to life.
From Fiction to Forza
In Forza, the car is the star. Our goal is to bring out the special qualities of every car in the game – whether they are four-door family haulers or state-of-the-art supercars. With the Chryslus Rocket, the team was presented with the unique challenge of applying its insight and talent to a fictional vehicle and making it drivable. According to Turn 10 vehicle art director Gabriel Garcia, the Rocket ‘69 presented a unique set of challenges for the team.
“The bubble dome canopy and stick control are both firsts in Forza,” Garcia said. In addition to those unique features, there were numerous questions that Garcia’s team had to answer. How do you fit an driver with a helmet and HANS device in the cockpit? How do the wheels turn in the wheel wells? How do the hinges work?
To make matters even more challenging, there was no real-world Rocket ’69 equivalent to observe for reference. In essence, the team was pushed to find answers based on creativity and experience, rather than direct observation. “We had to remain faithful to the aesthetic design of the car while fitting it with aero, wheels, and tire combo that could actually handle 200 mph plus speeds,” Garcia said.
The car team at Turn 10 worked closely with Bethesda to understand the background story of the car, how it performed, the design intention, and so on. For example, in the Fallout universe, the Rocket ’69 is “the ultimate expression of American individuality, with a shatterproof flexi-glass dome capable of stopping small arms fire.” In other words, it’s tough but it’s also cool.
When the Turn 10 car team builds cars for Forza games, they usually have thousands of pictures, complete factory specs, and reams of independent research to help inform the real-life design and performance of a particular car. With the Rocket ’69, Bethesda delivered a solid model to start with. “This gave us the full visual presentation of the car, allowing us to focus on making it into a very believable full-featured car,” Garcia said.
The team took these queues and reference material and interpreted them like a custom car builder would. With Garcia leading the way, the team approached the design of the Rocket in the way a builder might prepare a masterpiece for a show like SEMA – with as much reference material as possible, a huge amount of expertise, creativity, and experience, and a strong vision for the end product. Not everything translates from a concept drawing into the world of Forza, however, so there were embellishments to make it all work. For example, Garcia said that the positioning of the front wheels required an additional bulge within the door sill. The end result was, “a really cool detail adding to the authentic feel of the car,” Garcia said. Some things, like the incredible rocket engine tail lights, received additional flourishes to capture the eye.
Having a fully-drivable version of a fantasy car in Forza is a first but, if you remember back to Forza Motorsport 4, Turn 10 brought Halo’s Warthog to what was previously known as Autovista. While the build process had some similarities, the Warthog was much more relative to real-world vehicles like the Hummer H1 Alpha, which had also recently come to Forza Motorsport 4. “The Chryslus Rocket, on the other hand, brought a very different design language,” Garcia said.
There were many benefits to working with another game studio. “We speak the same language, understand the advantages and challenges of working within a video game engine,” Garcia said. For Forza 6 creative director Bill Giese, himself a huge Fallout fan, building the Rocket ’69 was something he won’t soon forget. “It was a remarkable experience for the team,” Giese said.
Since the Rocket 69’s release we have seen amazing photos portraying the car in settings that might fit into the world of Fallout, innumerable paint designs from the virtual past and virtual future, and some race events I have personally been a part of, that created a venue for all the unique cars that have made their way into Forza Motorsport 6. It’s a driving experience like no other. As Giese plainly states, “After all, how many race cars are controlled with a joystick?”
As the narrator says in ForzaVista, “Two doors. One seat. Limitless possibilities.” Now you know how it began. How will you continue the story of the Rocket?