Turn 10 Studios has expanded its art team with lead developers and veteran industry personnel who’ve previously worked on top-tier gaming projects such as Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption 2 from Rockstar Games, as well as Madden NFL and Star Wars Battlefront from Electronic Arts and Assassin’s Creed from Ubisoft – all bringing their expertise and strong opinions on the Forza franchise to Turn 10 Studios with one main ambition, to create the biggest and best Forza Motorsport game in the history of the franchise.
Right now, the Seattle-based developer is bigger than it’s ever been in its history, and together, they’re working on their most ambitious Forza project yet. Turn 10 confirmed in March that it would be finally “shifting its weight” onto the next all-new installment into the Forza Motorsport franchise, and on the latest edition of its Forza Monthly broadcast show, the developer shared its “first news” on the upcoming game as it undergoes conceptual stages.
Speaking about the project was Turn 10 Creative Director Chris Esaki, who has been the face of Forza Motorsport 7’s well-received post-launch support, as well as Art Director Scott Lee, who has been undoubtedly excited to see his team expand with names from various acclaimed gaming franchises. Esaki spoke about the specific process the development team has around concept stages for its upcoming projects, which goes back as far as the original game and has been developed and honed over the years. This same approach also applies to the Forza Horizon series as well, even though the bulk of its development is handled by the Playground Games team located in Leamington Spa, UK, which is also owned by Xbox Game Studios and helps develops the highly-robust ForzaTech engine in collaboration with Turn 10 Studios.
Turn 10’s approach to concept is quite different to other game studios, it’s very specific to this team. Part of it includes “boiling the oceans” around what the team are thinking about for the future, talking to the community and coming up with the overall vision and the “big ideas” – which consist of all the features the team wants to do, combined with the goals they aim to achieve with this project.
“Big ideas are these houses for all these features that we want to do, but it gives it more meaning, it gives it more bite – it gives it more weight to organize these things into these large structures of ‘oh, it’s this huge thing now because they're all housed in this one bigger idea,’ So that's part of the concept phase,” Esaki says. “It’s part solidifying kind of a vision about where we're going, and then having this artefact around big ideas that houses all the features and the vision about where we're going.”
The biggest difference with Turn 10’s approach to its next Forza project is its overall openness about the conceptual stage and talking about it publicly. Never in the history of the AAA gaming industry has developers sought to integrate the community so early in the process, and this is something the team wants to take advantage of to make their game better and their concepts better by integrating players. Turn 10’s own Scott Lee believes the team could even set a trend, with the potential of other game developers taking a similar approach with their projects in the future.
Obviously, the team spearheading this initiative at Turn 10 had to sell it to their fellow peers and co-workers. After all, it’s a significantly different approach to game development and concept, but it has seen all of Turn 10’s internal teams working very closely together. “We’ve been on this journey for so long, this next iteration has been in the talks for a couple years, the things we wanted to do with the franchise,” Esaki says. It’s a whole new process that isn’t just about the game they want make, but rather a journey with the entire community. Turn 10 has been watching players in their livestreams and videos shared online, hearing what they have to say about the game and its update, and even going as far as to doing player interviews. It’s a new process that sees the team reaching out to their most loyal fans and asking what motivates them to play Forza, as well as other games.
This also gives Turn 10 the opportunity to ask their most hardcore players about their favourite installment into the Forza franchise and why they enjoyed it so much – how did that game enable specific moments to happen that made it so special? This is all about bringing everything together that it learns from players with their feedback and making it all work – that’s the new vision inside Turn 10 Studios as it concepts and develops its next Forza Motorsport. It’s also not about tearing everything it has already done apart and reinventing it, but rather it’s about making everything a lot better. In the past, there could be barricades in development that would prevent certain features from making it into the product, such as running out of time or perhaps not having the necessary resources to make it happen – but that isn’t a problem anymore.
Scott Lee believes Turn 10’s revamped approach to game development will make its next Forza title and concept a lot better. Previously, it was always done behind-closed-doors, which the Art Director described as “nerve-racking,” due how quickly trends can change in the gaming industry. Turn 10 isn’t just developing a new game, but rather a new process – and Scott is excited to talk about the things he wants to improve in the franchise as well, which includes aspects like visuals, graphics and game cameras.
Turn 10 has changed the entire structure of its team to promote the process of building the game via player feedback, with Esaki hoping for deeper integration between players and the development studio. The Creative Director spoke about sitting them onto the team and co-developing the game alongside them, working on feature structure. Rather than holding back the game close to its chests, the developer can now receive an immediate response from players and move things forward far more easily. As for why this kind of approach wasn’t taken in the past, Scott Lee added his two cents from an infrastructure perspective, saying the team had difficulty iterating on the game. Now, the team are investing heavily on better technology and a robust, skilled team to build an improved framework in its ForzaTech engine and development pipelines – “so that we're able to create and then recreate without having to throw everything away,” he says.
This has undoubtedly been the biggest change the team has ever had in its studio. Esaki and Lee noted that the feedback has been inspiring, creating momentum surrounding the project – but there has also been hesitation in the process as well. It’s tough to have a development process the team has built over the years, that “muscle memory of building a game,” and now doing it completely different to before. But it’s real and it’s happening with the biggest team in the history of Turn 10, with lots of support from studio leads to build this ambitious project, combined with veteran talent and leads from other game developers. Having names who have previously worked on titles from Rockstar Games, EA and Ubisoft undoubtedly makes this one seriously capable team, but they’re all Forza fans too – and they’ve come in with their own strong opinions on the future of the franchise and the direction they’d like to see it head in with this new installment.
“I talked a little bit about adding talent to the studio. Right now, our team is bigger than it's ever been in our history, and again, we've gotten a lot of support from the studio to build the kind of team that we need to make this ambitious project – and I'm going to do some name dropping,” Lee says, excitedly. “Just on my art team alone we have veterans and leads from Grand Theft Auto V, Red Dead 2, Assassin's Creed, Madden, Battlefront 2.”
“You can imagine what they bring with them, and it's not just their technical expertise, but they have more efficient work flows – they've done this before,” he continues. “They hated doing it this way and they'd like to fix it, and they're bringing great practices with them, they're bringing their creativity with them, and they're bringing their very strong opinions as Forza fans with them – which I love. I came in to the studio a couple years ago as a fan of the game, never having worked on a racing game. But knowing what I really, really wanted from the game, and I feel like we need that. Our development process is kind of coming from a fan's perspective as well, which is I think a really cool thing.”
Turn 10 also has its own veteran developers who have been at the studio for several years and have launched multiple Forza titles over their careers. They’ve had their own feature requests since early Forza titles, having desires for the longest time of what they want to see in the game, but now they can finally do it. For Turn 10, this is also “a rare opportunity” to expose what they’ve doing along the way.
Scott noted how he’s obsessed with making the base experience in Forza Motorsport better than it ever has been before, and that purely relates to the feeling of driving and the fundamentals of the game. Turn 10 doesn’t want to ship the same product over and over – instead, the developer wants to make generational leap in terms of technology and gameplay for all its future releases whilst formulating new ways of making Forza more realistic than it’s ever been.
“For me personally, part of the concept process is you getting to make that dream game you've always wanted to make,” Lee says. “You know, making the last game better than it was. It's all these things, but a big part of it really is selling it to our team. It's a really large team. It's growing. We're making a lot of changes in the infrastructure and the team and I think getting everybody on board, getting everybody so excited, and getting everybody to ‘own’ the game is the secret to how we make great games. Which is a big part of the pitch process.”
In the coming months, the team at Turn 10 will speak about the interesting conceptual processes that it is currently going through, including “some real bleeding edge technical things ripped from the movie industry to bring the thrill of real-life racing to the game,” as Lee teased. But the best-case scenario for the developer as it moves out of the concept phase is the opportunity to focus on the overall player experience. Typically, Turn 10 would focus on a new technology or how it’s delivering experiences at a bigger or better scale for its upcoming release, but this time, the Seattle-based developer is focusing entirely on the player experience and the features they want to deliver on.
Turn 10 is renowned for its focus on detail and authenticity, and this certainly won’t be going away. The developer is still in the business of making its car models and graphical details better than ever, but it still must be fun from a player standpoint – it must pass that test, otherwise it doesn’t become a part of the internal pitch process. The player experience is being dubbed as the “pillar” for Turn 10’s next Forza Motorsport title, which is a fundamentally different approach to how things were done in the past.
But there’s more to come, much more over the coming months in fact. For Chris Esaki, he’s happy to begin this conversation on the Forza Monthly show – one that’s so fan-focused and the one where Turn 10 has discussed each of its post-launch initiatives for Forza Motorsport 7. Now, the developer is allowing players to see under-the-hood for development of the next installment into the franchise, and it’s that which drives the team forward in creating this highly ambitious project. There’s a lot happening at Turn 10 that’s different to how the team has operated in the past. From its larger “superhero” team of veteran game developers to its continued post-launch support for Forza Motorsport 7 and Forza Horizon 4, not to mention the launch of its free-to-play mobile game Forza Street, the Forza franchise is continuing to advance – and based on this fan-driven conversation, the next evolution of Motorsport is certainly one to be excited about.
Watch the entire conversation between Turn 10's Brian Ekberg, Chris Esaki and Scott Lee in the Forza Monthly video above. Otherwise, a full transcript can also be found on the Forza forums.
Alan is the co-founder and co-owner of FullThrottle Media. As someone who enjoys spending all his free time playing video games, he delivers the latest in news stories, reviews, and feature articles to the website, as well as videos on his YouTube channel and livestreams over on Mixer.