Turn 10 Studios aims to revive the ethos of its classic Forza Motorsport game experiences and incorporate them into the philosophy of its next installment into the track-focused racing franchise. This idea, infused into the “built, not bought” concept that is a core viewpoint of the next title, was discussed on the latest edition of the Forza Monthly broadcast show by Chris Esaki, a Creative Director on the Forza franchise alongside Community Manager Brian Ekberg.
Esaki began by discussing the team’s continued investment into its Forza Race Regulations adjudication system. There’s still a lot of learnings from the feature the team would like to gather, so therefore to increase its coverage, the developer will be rolling out Forza Race Regulations into its A Class and S Class Hoppers in Forza Motorsport 7 sometime at the beginning of September.
This will allow Turn 10 to get additional data, insight and feedback to assist with future development of the regulations system. Esaki mentioned that A Class and S Class Hoppers are the two most popular Multiplayer Hoppers outside of the Forza Race Regulations Beta for circuit racing. Whilst there’s still many people playing Open Meetups, the Leagues system doesn’t have a huge population compared to the aforementioned Hoppers.
Esaki also noted that Forza Race Regulations uses an “automation style” that isn’t ready to be deployed across the entire game, which means enabling the adjudication system in only a few Hoppers is a much safer approach for the team to take. Whilst this doesn’t mean any further development on Forza Motorsport 7, which concluded with the release of the August 2019 Update, it does allow Turn 10 to deploy a super small change into the game that will help the team on future upgrades to the Forza Race Regulations infrastructure.
With attention shifting towards the next installment into the Forza Motorsport series, Esaki discussed the overall focus of the studio and revealed that most development internally is on tools, framework and pipeline. Those working on such aspects of the game and its ForzaTech engine aren’t necessarily feature developers, they aren’t working on Forza Race Regulations, nor Driver Gear, so they don’t get discussed a lot since they aren’t forward-facing features, but rather the underpinnings of the game. The work done across tools, framework and pipeline is what allows Turn 10 to build cars, tracks and “ship to themselves,” a term used internally that sees the team iterate much faster. Esaki hopes to show off more of their work in the future.
Sound is one area that’s receiving significant overhauls in the next Forza Motorsport game. Led by Audio Director Chase Combs, his team are building a larger system around customization and even sound customization that is directly about how you put together your car. They noticed EA and Ghost Games launch their new NFS Heat Studio app for its upcoming open-world street racer, delivering new customization options along with exhaust sound tuning. Esaki admitted that it’s “really, really cool – our audio team is really excited about that.”
Turn 10 is also trying to figure out a system that programmatically generates different sounds, tones and resonates, based on how you put the car together – therefore shaping the audio of the vehicle centered around your build. Obviously, Forza isn’t a car building simulation, but the audio team is looking at ways it can bring this personalization to life when you are upgrading and building your car. “It’s a pretty cool system, we’ve seen some demos of it already,” Esaki said. “It’s pretty exciting.”
This all ties back into the concept of “built, not bought” and bringing the goodness of classic Forza games such as Forza Motorsport 3 and Forza Motorsport 4 back into the ethos and philosophy of what this next experience is going to be about. It’s a big deal for developer Turn 10 Studios, who are also making investments into aero dynamics. “There’s a lot going on in our physics road-map right now,” Esaki says. “We still have 2-3 years of physics development going on.” The Creative Director also noted that the team is “fully aware” of player-feedback about the Forza Aero system, and he took the chance to explain how it works in Forza Motorsport 7, and how the team aims to improve it for the next installment.
Aero dynamics refer to the “passing game,” the trailing advantage of passing another driver on the track and the slipstream you receive when following another racer. The aero system deployed in Forza Motorsport 7 was built to be “super, super realistic” and is extremely based off all the sim data the team has acquired. It was also designed to be not as exaggerated as seen in some other racing games. What’s seen today is based on the aero data the team has had access to, but going forward, Turn 10 is updating the system so players can set the amount of slipstream force they’re gaining, whilst allowing successful passes and overtakes – building that into rulesets to spruce up the on-track action and change how players behave in the slipstream.
Esaki noted how “built, not bought” can be expressed in a lot of different ways, and this will impact how the team approaches its aero design. It’s a small part of racing, but visually, it’s a significant part of how the car looks. From the front splitter and the giant canards to the massive adjustable wing and the active aero that pops up. “We love all of that, absolutely all of that,” he says. It’s something the team wants to launch with this “built, not bought” concept – to provide all that variety for players to express their individuality in the customization of their cars. This is all currently in the “dream state” internally, but it’s the direction the team wants to head in.
This concept also leads into the approach being taken for Drivatars in the next Forza installment and their evolution powered by machine learning. Drivatars operate a little differently than AI all-up, it’s regarded as a particular subset of how Turn 10 Studios builds its AI. “We take peculiarities or personalities and infuse them into the base level AI,” Esaki said. That makes up the Drivatar which represents individual players in races. Esaki spoke about the underlying improvements that have been made to the system internally almost a year ago on Forza Monthly when discussing Forza fundamentals, but it has naturally seen significant updates since then. This is yet another extensive roadmap for the team, and whilst the updated Drivatar system was expected to arrive in Forza Motorsport 7, we won’t actually be seeing it until the next Forza Motorsport game launches.
It’s a big investment for the team, but it was recently demoed to Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer. The executive was doing a tour of the studio not too long ago, and one of the things that stood out to him, according to Esaki, were the team’s efforts in using machine learning to help with future AI development. Everyone at Turn 10 Studios has witnessed the demo in question, it’s a side-by-side demo of the current Forza Motorsport 7 AI driving alongside the new machine learning AI. The latter gained 16 seconds on a single lap from a standing start over the current AI, a scarily impressive increase. This new AI no longer has the artificial aspects that makes them “unbeatable” and pull ahead of you, no matter how well you’re driving.
Typically, when you’d compare their telemetry, you’d notice how they have more horsepower, more torque and so on. It’s totally artificial because of these controllers implemented into the AI, and they weren’t as sophisticated nor developed as they needed to be. They also couldn’t brake and throttle as finely to get around the track. Now, the revitalized AI powered by machine learning develops on a per car, per tune and per track basis to figure out the optimal line. According to Esaki, they are “theoretically” as fast as Forza Racing Championship athletes – the fastest drivers on Forza Motorsport 7, “within a 1000th of a second at best,” he says. “It’s incredible, it’s truly unbeatable.”
None of this is to say that all AI will blow your doors off. Instead, these technical improvements provide the team with the ability to create an AI system that can drive against the fastest of players to deliver truly competitive racing without the artificial aspects that make them faster and have you asking yourself, “Why are they outpacing me here?” In the future, with this machine learning AI system, you’ll be right with them. Turn 10 Studios can build AI that just sits right there with players, from the fastest drivers to the slowest ones, allowing the racing to be competitive for everyone. Esaki hopes to show off this system in-action soon.
Another area that’ll see changes in the next Forza Motorsport game is Homologation, which is the process of upgrading or downgrading cars to make for a truly competitive racing field that is used in Forza Motorsport 7. Esaki said he feels for players who had expectations for what Forza is going into the last installment, and he takes it to heart – noting the decisions made with Homologation. The intention of this feature was really multiplayer focus, to have competitive fields of cars from a variety of different classes, builds, manufacturers and even racing divisions. The team still believe in this philosophy and think it’s necessary for a fair and balanced multiplayer experience. Therefore, the process of Homologation will still exist in that there will always be a car spec that you’re building towards.
The PI system used today in the Forza franchise expresses the performance of a car, but there’s definitely issues with the ways it works, as admitted by Esaki. For example, the way it’s balanced, and how the “leaderboard car” is always a tiny bit faster than the rest of the field. With Homologation, there’s always a competitive field of cars, as everything feels equal and is all about your skill rather than the individual performance of each vehicle. “That’s what Homologation is supposed to be about – an expression of player skill and not the cars being different,” Esaki noted. Career mode doesn’t require a super homologated field and by bringing back “built, not bought” into the future of the franchise, it allows players to express themselves through their car and have that competition be meaningful for them. That’s the kind of single-player promise Turn 10 is currently aiming to deliver on in its next game.
This isn’t about taking away from player choice and self-expression, which was undoubtedly one of the biggest criticisms in Forza Motorsport 7, as the locked classes meant players couldn’t modify their cars in the game’s career mode – the Forza Driver’s Cup. Since they couldn’t build to the spec they wanted and couldn’t make it their own anymore, it meant players felt they weren’t getting the most out of the experience. That’s a big deal for Turn 10’s development team and moving forward, it wants to allow players to build into a spec – it’s at the heart of “built, not bought” for the next game. Homologation in the next installment will be about a spec you’re building to, a way of gauging performance for a fair and balanced field without removing player agency and expression or forcing specific parts or restrictions. “I can express myself and build cars the way I want to,” Esaki said as an all-around big focus of this project.
There will be a lot more to discuss about the future of Forza Motorsport “over the coming months” according to Turn 10 Studios, with the next edition of the Forza Monthly broadcast show coming on Monday, September 23rd. This one will be live from Playground Games in Leamington Spa, UK, instead of at the developer’s home Seattle, WA. Expect further conversation around the future of the Forza franchise. With the team at Turn 10 Studios constantly expanding with more passionate developers than ever before, combined with a renewed focus on “player-centric design” and a new method of track creation, the next installment in the Forza Motorsport series is aiming to be an incredibly special, community-driven experience that harkens back to the days of classic Forza games.
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.