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The TORA Outsider #9 - The Dan Greenawalt Interview (Remastered)

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20150710

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The TORA Outsider #9 - The Dan Greenawalt Interview (Remastered)





#9 : The Dan Greenawalt Interview

Hello everyone and welcome to the 9th edition of the TORA Outsider, from here in the heart of TORA land.
No photos to be taken whilst inside this edition, unless, of course, a rare species, such as an Osprey, should gain access to the Outsider, in which case it would be a tragic waste of an opportunity to photograph these beautiful birds in flight.

Now you're probably wondering why this edition of the Outsider contains a transcribed version of the interview with Turn 10's Dan Greenawalt, and not a recorded version, specifically for a special edition of the TORA Radio Show for RadioLeMans.com, we did admit as such in a tweet not too long ago that this was down to a technical issue which was completely our fault, and in the TORA Trackside spirit of thrashing away at what the original plan was and converting it into something worthwhile, President Hunter asked me to ask the questions to Mr Forza himself, while Matt knuckled down with the rest of the bones in his hands to shorthand the entire interview and convert it into what you're about to read.

You know what our voices sound like, so just pretend we've recorded and you're listening to it:
__________


- What was your initial inspiration for Forza?

It probably goes back to 2002. A small group of us had been making racing games for a while, including Project Gotham Racing and Midtown Madness. A whole lot of Madness! We decided it would be great if we got together to do something new.

We wanted to showcase Direct X on the Xbox, and were inspired by car culture and the concept of “web 2.0”, which seems like such an outdated term now! We were also inspired by using the technology that was unique to the console at the time, such as the built in HDD and connection to Xbox Live.

Ultimately though, we wanted to bring people together to enjoy games and cars.



- How did the studio take the criticism from fans following the release of Forza 5?

There's perhaps two types of criticism we can identify.

Firstly, there were the people who really wanted Forza Motorsport 4 for the next gen. However, we felt the fans deserved a truly next gen experience and that meant rethinking the entire game. It meant starting over and building everything again from scratch. This reduced the overall size of the game.

With Forza Motorsport 6, we've created a game that's significantly bigger in every way than Forza 4.

There were also players who were playing the game (that is, Forza Motorsport 5) and who offered direct criticism. Features like the Nürburgring were missing; the economy wasn't quite right; certain favourite cars werent’ carried forward. So we added the Nürburgring, we fixed the economy, we added in a host of new cars from fan favourites to brand new cars to the franchise.

The game six months after ship was completely different to the initial release and that was all based on feedback from the community. The work never stopped to bring the changes the community was asking for.



- Over the years we’ve seen new technical features brought to Forza such as new lighting techniques, Forza Vista and Calspan. Which of these features do you think you are most proud of?  

I love physics. I love going to track days. For me, it's all about the path of mastery of the circuit.

Our work with Calspan has actually meant inventing new tests and concepts to understand how tyres interact with the road surface. It's also meant undertaking research to understand tyre compounds and how they react differently. Even down to the cars themselves; each aspect from things like body flex, body construction, and so on, is a new concept and project for us.

Perhaps the technical feature I'm most pleased with, though, is Drivatar. What we found is that AI can be very good but it never really produces the same social interaction as racing against 'real' competitors. We found that the chatter produced through racing with friends Drivatars was a big step up from 'basic' AI and, for Forza 6, we've improved and refined the Drivatar even further. I'm very excited about that.



- What does it feel like to see your brand featured on real race cars in various categories as well as at Le Mans?

It's nice to see logos on cars but I'm really in this for the fans. I'm not really a marketer.

What is cool is when I look at times when I've been able to meet real drivers including Josef Newgarden and Tony Kanaan. I mean these guys are heroes to me. I met Tony once and I was all, 'Wow you're a hero to me', and he replied, 'You're a hero to me, I love Forza!' That's way better for me knowing these guys are enjoying Forza. I mean we also have Stéphane Sarrazin racing (on Forza) too. That's cool.


- How tempting is it sometimes to focus on the hardcore sim racers or do casual gamers always have to be a consideration?

I don't really think Forza has 'casual gamers'. But it depends where you sit on the 'continuum'. If you’re 50, you see 35 as young. If you’re 20, you see 35 as old. ‘Old’ and ‘young’ are relative words unless you are talking about the absolute fringe. It’s too easy to throw the words ‘casual’ and ‘core’ around, without really looking at the larger population.

Ultimately our goal is to bring the community together and, for that to happen, it has to be for people who love cars and for people who love games.

We like to look mostly at players’ motivations and, for us, there's really four groups;
- People want to drive the car of their dreams on specific tracks.
- People who love the career mode, who want to learn and enjoy new experiences, gain achievements and collect cars in their garage.
- Multiplayer groups where winning isn't the most important thing. It's all about good racing with like-minded drivers.
- People who want sim features and those who put a lot of hours into the game. They may be testing every night for hours, mastering specific circuits and car types.



- 450 cars and 26 environments is a significant step on from Forza 5. Does this represent the ‘complete’ Xbox One Forza experience, much as FM4 was for X360? Or is there always room for growth?

We look to innovate for all of the groups I mentioned above.

One of the groups is looking for lots of content which, for the others, may be less relevant. Some are looking for social innovation. Others are looking for multiplayer advances.

We absolutely still believe there is lots of room for growth. The thing is, we don't take inspiration exclusively from real racing. Our inspiration comes from player's motivations and, naturally, racing is a part of that.

We have to ask ourselves, 'What lights them up?’ Is it real world racing or driving aspects? Is it features from another game or genre entirely?' We have to consider all of these areas.

Of course, people who have an interest in cars may not even look at F1; that may not inspire them. It may be a specific brand or form of racing that might not even be mainstream. We throw up all of these ideas and certainly some do end up on the cutting room floor. I believe that it's not what you deliver it's actually what you get rid of in order to really find the important stuff that matters.

If people get stuck to one idea that’s the death of inspiration. An idea is the start of inspiration, but it's far from the whole story. You have to use that idea as a starting point to greater inspiration. With the jump from Forza Motorsport 2 to Forza Motorsport 3, there was a leap in quality and content. We had new cockpits and tyre detail. There was lots of innovation there.

With Forza 4, we brought in Kinect and new high-end detailed models. The inspiration was coming from other places, not from obvious places.

The thing to remember is it's not just about new cars and tracks. It’s the experiences that matter. Of course, if that's what's needed to create the experiences that players needed then of course we'll do them.


-Forza 6 brings a raft of new features such as night racing and weather, features we’ve seen in Horizon 2. How much cross-pollination of ideas occurs between the two developing studios?

I guess the thing to remember is that it really is two teams working as one. It all started with an understanding there would be two 'visions' but we would be sharing an engine and different ideas.

Horizon was developed specifically for the sub-franchise of exploration and fun. The features of night environments and wet environments are meant to be explored and to look beautiful.

However, for motorsport it's got to be different. Weather in motorsport means threat and danger. It needs to freak you out! This means the vision and the reasoning is very different between the two titles. Puddles and rain in Horizon are beautiful and reflective, you can appreciate them but, when you see a puddle in motorsport, you're frightened; it's a train-wreck waiting to happen.

The quality is essential. Forza Motorsport 5 was a solid 60fps on day one. We always use 100 percent of the Xbox but what you can always do is optimise everything. We have two world-class teams that always share what they learn.

We can always add more particles and post effects like night conditions, wet weather and so on based on optimisation of the box. It can be done in the way you see it. When done over time you do the math more quickly.

Think of it like a professor writing all his equations on a chalk board. It always starts off with a mass of writing but, over time, he refines it. The math doesn't change, you just reduce the steps to achieve the same results. Was it hard to get to 24 cars on track at the same time? Yes, but it only happens if it doesn't affect the rest of the experience.



- If the Horizon games are to be your "Car Culture" ideal that's had presence in the previous 2 forzas (4+5), does that mean you'll be making more room for "Motorsport" in Forza Motorsport 6?

Maybe. We're not really motivated by the real 'this or that'.

We're motivated by the experiences people enjoy and it's perhaps not a simplistic segregation. Obviously real-world motorsport forms a part of that but when you look at it deeper, 'Forza Motorsport' has aspects of car culture with the painting studios and so on and 'Forza Horizon' has aspects of competitive racing. The 'focus' within each title is perhaps what is different.



- Has Turn10 had any involvement in the process for Ford’s return to Le Mans?

I suppose the best answer is, 'not yet, But it is expected to down the line'.

We were really honoured to be involved quite early on with how and where the GT was being made. We were down in this small area watching it being built and designed before even some of the main members of Ford knew of its existence. As regards the GTe, the bid is ongoing and very much still under development. Ford have met with us since to see how Turn 10's strengths can help the program but also how Ford can help with the game too.

In all, the arrangement we have with Ford goes much deeper than just the car on the cover of the box. Expect more on this in the summer.

It comes down to how both parties can best compliment each other; testing data, for instance. [It’s] very much a two way street

Our physics models naturally take inspiration from the real world and it’s considered very much a 'research project' in itself, and good research is always vital. It's gotten to the stage where, say, we need to research a certain aspect and the bank account is opened and we tell people to go do the research. It's that simple.

We need to be in league with the engineers on the cutting edge and sometimes we even need to be ahead of some of them! Research picks up things like porosity based on where puddles form on a race track, as well as hydroplaning which is fully simulated in Forza 6. All these things are tested and researched accurately and then all this makes the rain tense, as it should be!



- Over the years we've seen some outstanding 'fictional' circuits appear in Forza. Which of those are you most proud of?

It's a fair question, I actually prefer the real world circuits. I like to be able to watch them on TV or online and then through game content, race them myself. I love mastering them.

Original tracks give us, as designers, unique opportunities. Prague for example features many unique aspects such as cobbled streets, misty river vistas, and other varied surfaces. It allows the team to really stress not just the physics engine but also the lighting. The Alps does the same, the lighting with that environment is particularly awesome. Rio too challenges the team. I'm really excited about Rio, obviously it was an environment that fans of [the original] Forza Motorsport will be aware of, but this isn't the same circuit at all. Essentially, it's an original track that is based on all the wisdom and experience built up over the years. We've added even more into it; things like sea fog, the waves on the beaches, and it really is a great celebration of 10 years of Forza.


-What would be your ‘must own’ car in real life and is it in Forza yet?


The Shelby Daytona Coupe.

It didn't actually enter Forza for a long time. It was probably Forza Motorsport 3 before it made it into the game. There's a reason for that.

I love it for many reasons but it didn't make the game earlier because I didn't want to be the one selecting cars based on my own bias and what I thought people wanted. It's something that's instilled in the team. We have to bring ourselves to appreciate our car passion but also remain somewhat neutral and add things that improve the experience.

There's other reasons for liking the older cars, though – no cars stress the sim engine like vintage cars can! New cars, like the Pagani Huayra, are easier to simulate. It has an understandable aerodynamic package with adaptable aero and the carbon titanium construction. It has a known architecture. It’s crazy, but understandable and relatively straightforward to simulate.

Vintage cars aren't like that. When you have body flex, wooden construction, cross ply tyres, narrow tyre construction, and so on, things that are hard to model, it makes it far more challenging and rewarding.

I also think the new Shelby GT350 is very good. I love physics and the car has a flat plane crank V8. When Ferrari said it couldn't be done, Ford went and built it and proved it worked  -- and, at an affordable price. It's proof that the 'impossible' could be achieved. I really want one of those cars.



- Live community events have become a big thing for many people using Forza and a Spectate Mode has been revealed for FM6. How much development in the eSports side of Forza are we likely to see over the coming months?

This is a hugely important area of growth and it really needs to be done in partnership with leagues, technology partners, real world partners, and apps through the Xbox One.

So, we're bringing 'Spectator Mode' to Forza 6 in which a player could spectate and move around, etc. When you bring in the apps available on Xbox One we see that really things like Twitch are the future and the basis for this growth. We really hope it catches on.

We always watching communities like TORA, how they run and how they use aspects of our titles. More often than not, we find people are using features in ways they weren't originally designed for, which is great!

There's no doubt that streaming with features such as Twitch and YouTube is the future of gaming and it's crazy to ignore. The people using these features are core gamers and have to be embraced. I really want all these people to get into racing and get into cars.

__________


Last edited by AMR Garage on Thu 23 Jul 2015 - 21:22; edited 7 times in total
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The TORA Outsider #9 - The Dan Greenawalt Interview (Remastered) :: Comments

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Post on Fri 10 Jul 2015 - 12:49 by EZT MAKO 6669

Very interesting. Judging from many of the post and threads over at FM.net, the "community" doesn't always see things the same way.

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Post on Fri 10 Jul 2015 - 15:38 by II AntR II

I don´t want to be a party killer but this does not sound good at all. The "racing crowd" is not included in the four groups he mentioned. The car culture talk is still present.
Hmm....

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Post on Sat 11 Jul 2015 - 1:31 by Fleaver

II AntR II wrote:I don´t want to be a party killer but this does not sound good at all. The "racing crowd" is not included in the four groups he mentioned.

Group 4: "People Who Want Sim Features"

Who would want sim features, other than the racing crowd?

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Post on Sat 11 Jul 2015 - 1:40 by Flyin Mikey J

Thanks for the gratuitous screenshot of the LeMons at Lemans via Twitch Cool

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Post on Sat 11 Jul 2015 - 2:00 by II AntR II

Fleaver wrote:
II AntR II wrote:I don´t want to be a party killer but this does not sound good at all. The "racing crowd" is not included in the four groups he mentioned.  

Group 4: "People Who Want Sim Features"

Who would want sim features, other than the racing crowd?

Ahhh! Overlooked it.

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Post on Sat 11 Jul 2015 - 8:37 by Matt

Arguably also covered when talking about those who want a strong multiplayer too.

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Post on Thu 16 Jul 2015 - 21:58 by AMR Garage

Bump

For anyone who's already read this through, we've just improved the shorthand on the interview, thanks to Ian Webster and everyone at Turn 10 for their support.

ALSO, this edition of the outsider is now the most "read" edition, just overtaking the 900 "reader" mark, thanks, and good racing everyone.

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