With the slew of racing games in the vein of the Burnout and Need for Speed series, one may be left wondering which title may be best suited for them. With Forza Motorsport 3, players may find that there’s far more than they’d expect from an average racer. The thing here is that the Forza series has always been a “simulator,” containing several facets to the gameplay that help create an experience that shares many parallels to real world racing. This approach could certainly intimidate those who are otherwise uninitiated in all the nuances of automobile racing – adjusting the camber on your tires; tweaking your flywheel; installing cold air intakes – all in the name of building a car that’s suited specifically to you. Then you have to worry about driving style – oversteer, understeer, following a clean line in and out of turns. What happened to games where players simply hit the gas and have fun? Well, we recently had a chance to sit down with Dan Greenawalt, Game Director over at Turn 10 Studios, the developer in charge of Forza Motorsport 3, who discussed the improvements to the game and the new approaches used to make Forza 3 one of the most accessible racing simulators yet.
Though it doesn’t feel as much of an arcade game as, say, Burnout Paradise, the game does include the option to ease the driving experience using a series of “assists,” which are extra options you can turn on or off, telling the game’s AI how much it should or shouldn’t help you. They include things like additional help while braking or steering , helping players acclimate to the controls, or even just enjoy the game without any of the minute details that come with this racer. Using the “auto-brake” assist as an example, Greenawalt explains the accessibility of the game. “The game will literally brake for you, so all you need to do is steer your way around the track by following our suggested line and hold down the accelerator. The game will slow you down or speed you up depending on where you are on the track, making it easy for anyone from a six year-old to a 60 year-old to just pick up the game and start having fun.”
Along with these control options, the game also comes with what’s been dubbed the “racing line,” a line visible on the road showing you exactly how you should be driving. In previous iterations of the game, the line would change in real time based on the route you’d take during a race. If you’re veering too far to the left, or approaching a turn too fast, the line would actually curve to show not only how players should be adjusting their steering, but how fast they should be driving as well. “The line appears green when you’re meant to speed up, and it turns yellow, orange and red when you need to slow down, like when you’re heading into a tight turn, for example,” says Greenawalt. However, some improvements have been made to the line in Forza 3. “We experimented with some changes to the green line early in Forza Motorsport 2’s development – such as having the line move dynamically based on your car’s position. However, in user tests, we found that this change was making the line harder to follow, rather than easier. We’re always willing to experiment to make something better, but the suggested line already seems to be the new standard in racing games. It always been a part of Forza and now we’re seeing it show up in several other great racing franchises.”
Perhaps the biggest new feature in this installment comes in the form of the rewind system. With the push of a button, you can literally rewind the game a few seconds at a time, allowing you to try a given moment again and again. “We wanted to provide an experience that was fun for everyone. If you’re on the final lap of a long race and an AI opponent nudges you into a wall, you might get frustrated and stop playing. Why would we want that? We want you to have the option to rewind your game, adjust your approach, and continue enjoying Forza Motorsport 3. You still have to do the driving – we’re adding features to help keep the fun going, and make it more accessible to all types of players.” Greenawalt also follows this up by saying that all of these new features and assists are completely optional. These are never forced upon you and can be turned off at any point should you want a more challenging experience.Also included in this sequel are a slew of new modes, giving a little something for everyone, along with the traditional career mode, but even the career mode finds a few upgrades. “New game modes like drag racing, oval racing, timed racing and drifting add new dimensions to the Forza Motorsport experience, catering to the tastes of drivers and car fans of all types,” said Greenawalt. “Drag racing has also been incorporated in the Career mode, so players will encounter these events as they progress through the career matrix. Drifting is done via an “always drift” system where your drift scores are always being tracked, regardless of the event you’re participating in, and successes will be logged in an all new drift leaderboard. But more importantly, there is an entire new single-player campaign mode called Season Play. Season includes a dynamic calendar system that custom-builds a player’s career based on the player’s favorite cars and previous choices.”
Essentially, not only does this mean a variety of events are available to the player, there’s also a certain amount of freedom and customized gameplay included based on your choices throughout your career. “The Career Mode has been completely redesigned in an effort to make the experience accessible to new and seasoned players alike. Career Mode in Forza Motorsport 3 offers customized experiences for players of all levels, and boasts an advanced AI system in the game that assists players along their careers, suggesting tuning options and events to race in,” Greenawalt explains. “While the Career Mode and customization options will still be very advanced for players who enjoy the true-to-life simulation, we’ve made accessibility a major focus in Forza Motorsport 3. AI opponents in the game will also adjust their skill levels based on the selections players make so that skill levels are factored into the difficulty. Additionally, it features a dynamic calendar system that custom-builds a player’s career, which encompasses 220 events for players to participate in and upwards of 400 cars to choose from.”
Customization isn’t the only thing to come in the career mode. Turn 10 has also put in a great deal of work to make sure that Forza 3’s career mode has a substantial lifespan as well as great accessibility. In Forza 3, a new calendar is introduced that customizes a player’s career based on your choices such as cars and events. “The calendar guides the player through 6 regular seasons and 55 of the 220 events. This means that by 30 minutes into the game, everyone gets a completely custom career based on their brand of car passion,” says Greenawalt. “After finishing all the 6 regular seasons, which takes about 50 hours, there will still be about 150 events left to compete in. Therefore, season 7 and beyond keep using the event selecting AI to fill up the season calendar with new events. So, there’s a ton of life to the Career Mode on its own, it’s just up to the player.” In short: There’s plenty to do.
Also included in the career mode is an interesting level progression system. Essentially, it almost acts as something you’d find in a role-playing game, where you earn experience to further your skill and unlock new content within the game. “Anyone familiar with basic RPG mechanics will feel right at home in Forza Motorsport 3. However, even if you aren’t familiar with RPG’s, [the] XP level systems have proven to be a very addictive and rewarding mechanic,” says Greenawalt. “In Forza Motorsport 3, credits and XP are rewarded based on time racing – whether that’s racing online or in single player. Credit payouts are based on the player’s finishing place as well as the level of difficulty. Credits can be used to buy cars, parts or other player’s user generated content. The XP is used to level up the player and the player’s cars. When the player levels up, he or she is gifted cars and new racing series are unlocked. When the player’s car levels up, new upgrade discounts are made available.” While other games use similar approaches where you can progress by placing well in a race, few utilize this method, where you’re actively encouraged to place well not only to unlock new events, but also to earn more money to buy some prestigious cars like the 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia, Lamborghini Reventon, or even the Bugatti Veyron.
With all of these cars you can purchase, there’s also a great deal of upgrades that can be performed in order to make your ride that much more competitive. “There will be 175 different upgrades you can put on cars, all based on real world parts and cars. All the tuning and upgrades are based on research that examined weight, engines, conditions, performance and other factors,” explains Greenawalt. “of course, all of these upgrade and tuning options interrelate like a weather system. Changing tire pressure will change the heat profile. And heating the tire exterior will change the gas pressure on the inside of the tire. This in turn affects the tire’s flex and deformation. And so on and so forth. Our goal is to use cutting edge simulation to make a play set, where the player can experiment with different cars, upgrades and tuning options. The permutations are endless.”
Though, if you’re not too savvy on the precise modifications you need to make in order for your car to run that much more smoothly, Turn 10 has that covered as well. “While hardcore tuners will find the incredible depth and freedom needed to really make a car sing, we’ve also built in a lot of guidance for players who are new to franchise. We’ve added an “Auto-Upgrade” assist that essentially flags the player when they’re about to enter an event that their car won’t be competitive for – the Auto-Upgrade then suggests a list of parts that will be automatically installed for a certain number of credits. So again, it’s another example of how we’re allowing more casual players to simply push the A button to get their upgrades, and continue racing, without taking away any levels of depth that we know our core audience are excited about.”
These days, community is an important part of racing games. And once again, Turn 10 has certainly put some effort into this element of the game. Not only in terms of gameplay, but also in customization of your car. The “livery system” found in Forza Motorsport 3 allows players to create various paint jobs and decals that they can share with anyone around the globe. Do you want a Ghostbusters decal on your ride? Do you want a very specifically tuned Nissan 350? It’s all available in the Forza marketplace, where you can find these customized elements as well as share your own. However, customizing your own paint jobs or decals may be a bit daunting, once you get the hang of it, you can create just about anything you can imagine as it uses an interface similar to what you’d find in the image program Photoshop. Once you’re ready, you can upload or download whatever you’d like to and from forzamotorsport.net and find the best the Forza community has to offer.
Online multiplayer is a big component of this new addition to the series, allowing up to eight players in a given event, with the ability to create your own events using a new game rules editor, allowing for a robust variety of ways to play online. “While most racing games allow players to choose a track, the car classes and the number of laps players will compete in, in Forza 3, a gamer can change the rules of how a winner is determined – including limiting specific car classes, staggering roll-off times and tagging specific drivers as the designated leaders. Some interesting results are cat and mouse races or a racing version of capture the flag,” Greenawalt details. “This rule editor works part and parcel with our Xbox LIVE Parties and Hoppers implementation. As seen in many of today’s first person shooters, hoppers are like trains that players and parties can hop on and off of. These trains have set routes. So, you don’t need a host to set all of the rules. As these hoppers are server driven, we can update them at any time. So, if a certain set of rules becomes really popular in a subset of the community, we can bake those in as their own hopper for everyone to enjoy. Our improvements on Xbox LIVE also extend to leaderboards. Here we celebrate great painters, tuners, photographers, and video-makers in addition to the best racers in the community. Another feature we’ve added to continue building the community is allowing players to follow their favorite painters, designers and tuners to keep updated on what they’ve been working on.”
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