Playground Games are currently midway through development
for an upcoming title that’s being built with Xbox One X in
mind, the studio’s Creative Director Ralph Fulton shared in an interview this
week with Digital
Foundry. The interview was conducted to celebrate the release of the Xbox
One X Enhanced version of Forza Horizon 3, which launched as the system’s
one-hundredth Xbox One X Enhanced title.
When asked about a future game and how it can take advantage
of the new Xbox One X hardware, whilst trickling down to be also optimized on
less powerful hardware, Fulton teased details for the studio’s next title and
confirmed it’s being made with the Xbox One X at the forefront.
“We are obviously, we’re mid-development on a new
unannounced title right now, and the lead development platform for that title
is Xbox One X – which is great for us and I think ultimately, you know, for the
players in a number of ways,” he said.
Currently, Playground Games has two main teams for both
Forza, which works closely with Turn 10 Studios, and another that’s working on
an open-world action-adventure RPG. The latter of which is also suggested to be
another Microsoft Studios title, with an expansive, new Fable title being the
likely candidate based on recent
reports. The new Fable game is reportedly being planned as “a story and
character-focused open-world action RPG,” and Microsoft has planned for “a
significant investment in its development” with 200 people set to work on the
game at Playground’s newly-established second studio.
Since this new project is still in early days, with the
second studio continuing to expand its team from double digits to its triple
digital target, Fulton was most likely referring to a successor to Forza
Horizon 3. Recently, we exclusively
reported on motion capture photos that were shared for Playground’s next
title by a mocap actor, in which he referred to ‘Forza Horizon 4.’ Given the success
of the series so far, especially the bombshell that was Forza Horizon 3,
it’s no surprise to hear that the next entry in the open-world racing series is
already halfway through development.
Fulton went on to discuss the Xbox One X Development Kit,
which is codenamed Chuckwalla. This has enabled the studio to develop their
games on console easier and faster than ever before, allowing the team to get more
done. Fulton explained that developing for the Xbox One X in mind brings subtle
improvements to Xbox One and Xbox One S as well, due to the unified development
tools that are being used.
“I mean first of all, as I alluded to earlier, the
Chuckwalla kit is just great to develop on. You know, it’s incredibly powerful,
it has more memory than we’ve had, you know to play with before, so it’s a
great piece of kit to be developing a game on, and the easier it is, the faster
you can develop obviously, the more stuff you can get done,” he explained.
“I definitely think we see in developing for this – this
most powerful console – we also see trickle down benefits to the other
platforms that we develop on, the S, the Xbox One – even on PC as well,” Fulton
continued. “A lot of that comes from the standardized or unified test tools
that we’re suddenly working on, you know, both on the Chuckwalla kit and the
Xbox One, the Xbox development platform.”
Developers will also be likely to push the hardware even
further using the Xbox One X Development Kit because of its powerful specs and
the headroom that’s oftentimes leftover when building a game for the system.
When Forza Horizon 3 was first ported to Xbox One X without any graphical
changes or upgrades, about 75% of GPU overhead went unused. The upgrade to
native 4K resulted in 25% of GPU overhead, allowing the team at Playground
Games to push the Xbox One X Enhanced version of the game even further with
increased draw distances, better shadow quality, and a higher level of detail
across the board.
Forza Horizon 3 was one of the few titles to utilise 4x MSAA
on Xbox One, and this carries over to Xbox One X. It’s a feat we rarely see on
consoles, especially on base Xbox One and PS4 hardware. This increased level of
anti-aliasing on top of the visual upgrades across the board really make for an
incredible experience on Microsoft’s latest console, and make it one of the
best places to experience Forza Horizon 3 with some console-exclusive benefits,
such as High Dynamic Range, which is typically only found on 4K TVs, and
high-resolution shadows rendered in 4K resolution that Playground says aren’t
even available on the PC version.
“It’s easier to develop and test stuff across platforms, and
we also I think, you find yourself trying things on the Xbox One X because it
can, because it’s powerful enough, and you’ll love the results so much, you
find ways – not in every instance – but in some instances, you find ways to
make them work on perhaps the less powerful platforms,” Fulton added. “That,
again is great for all of our players, regardless of the platform that they’re
As well as the 4K resolution upgrade, Forza Horizon 3 on
Xbox One X includes improvements to car reflections and shadow resolutions, as
well as increased texture quality for road and terrain surfaces, improved draw
distances with an increased level of detail, as well as 4x MSAA and 16x
anisotropic filtering. Photos captured within the game – whether playing on a
4K TV or a 1080p display, are now saved in native 4K. These enhancements apply not only to the base
game, but also the popular Blizzard Mountain and Hot Wheels expansions.
The next entry in the Forza Horizon series, which is
rumoured to take place in Japan, will most likely be revealed at E3 2018. With
the title about halfway through production and the Xbox One X being the lead
platform it’s developed on; Forza Horizon 4 will likely push technical
innovation and gameplay boundaries once more as Forza Horizon 3 did. Whilst the
Horizon Festival has been fun to revisit in Australia with the Xbox One X
Enhanced version of Forza Horizon 3, we can’t help but be excited to see what
Playground Games has in store for us in 2018 and beyond.
Alan is the co-founder and co-owner of FullThrottle Media. As someone who enjoys spending all his free time playing video games, he keeps the website updated with new and relevant content, including news stories, reviews and opinion pieces for the games he likes writing about the most. He also tweets too much, probably.