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Forza 5: the road to Xbox One – Greenawalt talks console conception

Monday, 30 September 2013 08:10 GMT By Dave Cook

Forza Motorsport 5 studio Turn10 has been involved in Xbox One’s creation since the start. VG247′s Dave Cook quizzes Dan Greenawalt on the early tech, and why the racer is pushing boundaries.

We’ve heard Microsoft and Turn10 creative director Dan Greenawalt talk a lot about Forza 5′s new Drivatar system and the fact that it runs in 1080p at 60 frames per second. It may sound like marketing fluff but once you see it running on Xbox One you will see the difference. It’s a lovely game to look at, but even I was surprised when Greenawalt told me that the racer is using 100% of the console..

It’s a flaky metric, and he added that while the hardware is being pushed, the next-gen cycle will see studios optimising their code better and better to improve performance, just like they do every cycle. Still, I was intrigued. Just how does being one of the Xbox One’s launch titles impact performance? How has that early exposure to the tech guided development? I asked Greenawalt these questions at Eurogamer Expo last week.

Here’s what we discussed:

VG247: You’re an Xbox One launch title, and you’re Microsoft first-party. How early were you exposed to next-gen tech?
Dan Greenawalt: “We were exposed to the tech very early. One of the benefits of being first-party, is that when the hardware architects and everyone was starting to think about Xbox One, they came to Turn10, they came to 343 and the internal teams and said, ‘What is the type of gaming console that you need for our players?’ Obviously 343 and Turn10, we make core games. Now, Turn10 … our games are also played by kids and the like, but it’s a core game.

“So, we were talking about how to do shaders, ways of setting up the RAM, the OS, and tools. There are ways and approaches we knew would be best-used for our gam, and part of that was, we knew from the beginning we wanted to be 1080p, and we wanted to be 60FPS. Meanwhile, we wanted to do a new take – in a sense – on how how cars should look in the next-generation.

“We had basically prototyped next-generation cars in Forza 4, because we had those Autovista, and that was us – in many ways – us playing with the idea of how we wanted cars to look in the next-generation. Now, those cars couldn’t be driven on tracks. To be able to make those as a prototype allowed us to be testing the hardware very early as it was coming on. Trying to be there at launch means we’re shipping our game at the same time the console is shipping, and it requires that kind of hand-holding between their team and our team.

“So in many ways, we’re testing their OS, we’re testing their architecture every day, so it’s an incredible partnership. It’s funny, because I hear it a lot: ‘are you using the hardware?’ The truth is, you always use 100% of the hardware. You just do, but it’s a question of whether or not you’re using it efficiently, and so that’s what happens over a course of years.

“Between Forza Motorsport 2 and then three and four, the game got incredibly technical. The hardware didn’t get any more powerful, but we got more at efficient at doing our math. We’re using 100% of this console, but obviously, we will become more efficient over the years.”

VG247: Do you remember when you were first consulted by Microsoft regarding the console? What sort of discussion did you have with them?
Greenawalt: “It’s funny because basically myself and Chris Tector – who is our chief architect on Forza, basically designing our engine – we were, gosh … I don’t think it was very long after Forza 3, they were starting to prototype with Kinect. It was going to be coming to the Xbox 360, and they were already ideating what should the next hardware be. It was just concepting, there was no prototype, so it was just purely concepting.

“Chris and I started getting pulled into these day-long meetings and ideating where we wanted to be and all that. It didn’t really start warming up until at least two years ago where it was like, ‘We really know now. We know the hardware’s going to be, we know the plan and all that.”

VG247: Is the Xbox One architecture far removed from Xbox 360? PlayStation 3 was a dog to code for at the beginning, clearly, so I want to get a handle on how accessible this new format really is.
Greenawalt: “The architecture is similar. Obviously, the tools are different, there are aspects to the language that are different, so there are changes. It’s not a straight port. But, anyone who can use the Windows developer or Xbox 360 developer is going to understand the essence of, the logical way to think about how to program for the Xbox One.”

”Between Forza Motorsport 2 and then three and four, the game got incredibly technical. The hardware didn’t get any more powerful, but we got more at efficient at doing our math. We’re using 100% of this console, but obviously, we will become more efficient over the years.”

VG247: Forza as a whole is a technical achievement already. How did you decide where to go from Forza 4? How did you plan it?
Greenawalt: “Well that’s interesting because that’s my job and Chris Tector’s job. He’s on the technical side and I’m on the design side, as far as ‘what is the experience we want to create, and what is the technology required to do it?’ So he and I – partnered – is like a hand and glove, ying and yang you know? I’ve got a place where I want us to go feature-wise for our fans, and he is so smart, so wicked-smart about how we technologically get there.

“We have a lot of innovation coming into the game, and the think about innovation is, what’s really great is that one: you don’t know how to really explain it. With the Drivatar stuff, people say ‘oh is it like this?’ or ‘is it like that?’ All I can really say is no, it’s not like anything you’ve ever driven.”

VG247: It’s always good to see new features coming out of new tech, and to see the end of pre-scripted AI racing lines on the track. This is where Drivatar comes in.
Greenawalt: It’s funny because the original Drivatar in the original Xbox, on Forza Motorsport was way ahead of its time. In fact, I don’t believe it could have been by us at game developers. We had a lot of experience as game developers, but it was machine learning, and we had a partner in Microsoft Research Cambridge. Honestly, if we worked as a global game company, we wouldn’t have a research department in Cambridge that could just think of things, new technologies. It’s not a game company thing.

“So they came to us with a prototype for it. They do hypotheses and they build little prototypes, but they’re not necessarily ready to go in a product usually. They had this prototype for racing AI, and this is back in the days of Schumacher versus Juan Pablo Montoya. They were trying to say, ‘what would it be like in a racing game?’, and these guys were wicked-fast right? Juan Pablo and Schumacher were incredibly fast, but they did it very differently.

“What if players could train AI, and they’d still be fast but they’d do it very differently? So we turned that into the Drivatar in the first Forza Motorsport. That was very local. You trained it like a Tamagotchi, and it would behave like you. It had trouble dealing with the complexity of our physics. Our physics was incredible complex.”

VG247: But now you have all these suspension and tyre types, different surfaces and all of those variables?
Greenawalt: “Right, all the different kinematics, the suspension and all of that. That was on the original Xbox. On the 360 our physics got way more complicated, but now it’s a relief because we’re doing things that simply weren’t possible in the last generation physics-wise. So now the Drivatar system – while it has the same name, and it’s the same philosophy of training a Drivatar. It’s 100% different, it’s cloud-based, it’s more like Bing, it’s big data where it learns from everybody.

“Basically, as you drive and I drive and everybody, millions of people drive, it watches the whole system. It looks for correlations like, ‘hey well there was a car in front of you and a car behind you, and you were you were heading into turn three on this track, then you hit the brakes.’

“It doesn’t need to learn that you were check-breaking the guy behind you, but then it looks at all the other people and guess what? ’20% of the population also did that, maybe I should learn that?’ It’s not learning new behaviour and it doesn’t call it check-breaking because it doesn’t care. It just learns that in these scenarios, people do these things.

“It learns in real-time in essence. Real behaviour. So, you’ve got millions of people playing for many hours. It’s going to learn all sorts of things. It’s already learned a lot of stuff from the 400 of us that are playing right now. And then, if I never check-break, my individual Drivatar will never learn it because I never did it. But if you’re the one that trained it to do that, then your Drivatar is going to do it.

VG247: That tech must be good for metric tracking, patching and bug-fixing?
Greenawalt: Oh yeah. We had a lot of telemetry that we captured in Forza Motorsport 3 and even more in Forza 4 and Forza Horizon. What cars did the population prefer? What assists? A lot of data, and that’s allowed us to be smarter in our design of number four and of course number 5. The cool thing about Xbox 360 is that it’s a data-driven box. It’s much more easy for us to decide if we want to change things up.

“It’s not obviously like the whole game is in the cloud, so some bugs, you can’t just fix that way. You have to fix it with a title update. But when it comes to just tuning, balancing and changing things, it’s so configurable. It’s very easy for us to … it’s not like you’re downloading anything, it’s real data in real-time.”

Forza Motorsport 5 is an Xbox One launch title, releasing alongside the console on November 22.

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6 Comments

  1. Lahanas

    This game is reason to buy the Xbox One

    #1 1 year ago
  2. VibraniumSpork

    @1…if you’re into racing sims. Can’t stand ‘em personally.

    #2 1 year ago
  3. sebastien rivas

    Thanks Dave for the article,
    This article tends to prove 1 thing so far unless of course I am completely out of my mind. I understand it to prove The Power Of The Cloud is of help to boast fluidity and framerate for an educated full load of visual amazing thrill and gameplay.

    Something to wonder and ponder is about 2 things.
    -How is the workflow fr the power of the cloud
    -how hard is it to code/develop and use the power of the cloud to intertwine a game in development to remain 1080p instead of 720p @ 60 FPS?

    Anyone, anyone?
    It may help the indie guys too… Or… is it a secret ;)

    #3 1 year ago
  4. Riseer

    Yea if I was buying a Xbone this would be my game.

    #4 1 year ago
  5. Dave Cook

    @3 Any time man. I live to write :)

    #5 1 year ago
  6. ysleiro

    I remember another post (don’t know if it was on VG247 or not) where people went bananas dissing the current gen for being “weak” because Mr. Greenawalt said he was ALREADY using 100% of the system’s capabilities.

    Yes they are using 100% of what is available, every game tries to use as much as possible. The question is “is the game using the resources in an optimized fashion?”

    PROBABLY NOT since it’s the beginning of the generation. Optimization is how they get more done with the same hardware 2 years later.

    #6 1 year ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    Elite: Dangerous was announced for Xbox One at GDC 2015 yesterday, and those disappointed over the lack of a PlayStation 4 announcement will be pleased to know it’s in the cards. According to Frontier boss David Braben the space-sim will head to PS4 at some point, once the console exclusivity deal with Microsoft has expired. […]

  • Here’s two new The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt screenshots to salivate over

    Two new screenshots from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt have been released, and they are gorgeous as always. The screenshots follow the two released over the weekend. You can look at the new images in full HD glory over on Only Single Player. CD Projekt Red is at PAX East this weekend showing off the latest […]

  • Microsoft looking into streaming PC games to Xbox One

    With Windows 10, Xbox One users will soon be able to stream their games to PC. Microsoft is also looking into streaming PC games to Xbox One, according to news out of GDC. Speaking with Polygon at GDC 2015, Xbox program director Mike Ybarra said the company is also looking into the ability to stream […]

  • Free! Vindictus Lann Revamp codes worth €25

    We have 400 Lann Revamp codes worth €25 to giveaway for free to VG247 readers. All you need to do is enter your details in the box below and you’ll be given a code to redeem in game. The codes are for warrior character Lann and offer a 7 day unlimited Inner Armour pass, battle […]

  • US eShop update: Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars, OlliOlli, more

    Nintendo has updated the North American end of the eShop with Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars, OlliOlli and a demo version of Azure Striker GUNVOL. Your full update is below. eShop Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars – Wii U, 3DS – Cross Buy OlliOlli – Wii U, 3DS – Cross-Buy Proun+ – Proun+ […]

  • Rock Band 4 confirmed for Xbox One and PS4: supports old instruments and 2,168 songs

    Harmonix has lifted the lid on the long-rumoured Rock Band 4, stating it will support 2,168 previously released tracks and last-gen instruments on PS4 and Xbox One. The game will be out this year. Harmonix has yet to reveal specific features for the game, but it has been built with a completely new engine. As […]

  • First run of Rodea the Sky Soldier copies on Wii U come with Wii version

    The first print run of Rodea the Sky Soldier on Wii U will come with the Wii version packed in, NIS America has confirmed. The publisher confirmed today in a press release that anyone who buys the first run of the retail version of Rodea the Sky Soldier on Wii U will find the Wii […]

  • Unreal Tournament 4 lets modders sell cosmetic items to players

    Unreal Tournament 4 is a game built with the help of the modding community. So it’s only natural that it will feature a marketplace where all cosmetic items can be sold. Epic Games has confirmed that it will allow modders from the community to sell the cosmetics items they’ve created on the game’s marketplace. The […]

  • D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is coming to PC – rumour

    SWERY 65 has shown off D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die running on PC at GDC this week, teasing that a possible port may be on the way. D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is SWERY 65′s latest project. An episodic detective affair, D4 came out on Xbox One last September and utilised Kinect as its main […]

  • Valve’s Lighthouse, VR controllers and more explained

    Valve’s less-talked about prototype VR controllers and its Lighthouse technology have been shown in more detail. When HTC announced Vive, the VR headset it’s working on with Valve, it mentioned “base stations” and ergonomic controllers. Now we know what they meant by that. The controllers are still in prototype phase, and will look better when […]

  • Listen to two professional Counter-Strike players explain why Dust2 is so popular

    Hear what makes iconic Counter-Strike map Dust2 one of the most popular maps in shooter history from two former eSports players. Sal “Volcano” Garozzo and Shawn “FMPONE” Snelling are both retired professional Counter-Strike players who are currently working as designers. At GDC this year, the pair hosted a panel titled “Community Level Design for Competitive […]

  • Core Morpheus hardware locked in, no plans for wireless version

    Sony has finalised the core hardware for its VR headset Project Morpheus, and does not currently plan on releasing a wireless version. SCE Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida spoke to Gamespot at GDC and confirmed that the core hardware of Morpheus is “pretty much done” but that “lots of tweaks and improvements” are still being […]

  • Watch the full Phil Spencer keynote from GDC 2015

    The full GDC 2015 keynote of Xbox boss Phil Spencer is now available to watch. In case you missed last nights’s Phil Spencer keynote at GDC 2015, the whole thing has been made available to watch on YouTube. The address is titled “The Future of Gaming Across the Microsoft Ecosytem,” and it’s where Spencer announced […]

  • Elite: Dangerous won’t be “dumbed down” for Xbox One

    The Xbox One version of Elite: Dangerous will in fact be the same as the PC one. Elite: Dangerous developer Frontier came out on stage last night at GDC to announce the game making its console debut on Xbox One. Some have feared that the port would not provide the same experience as the PC […]

  • Virtual reality: by gum, it’s really happening

    Virtual reality has exited the realm of peripheral gimmick and turned into something that just might go mainstream. VR has an uphill battle ahead of it. The tech is going to be expensive, and there are a number of problems that need to be solved before it could be considered an inclusive technology (motion sickness, […]

  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor takes Game of the Year at GDC Awards 2015

    And the winner is: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor beat out Alien: Isolation, Bayonetta 2, Destiny, and Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft to win Game of the Year at the Game Developer’s Choice Awards 2015. Elsewhere in the awards, Ustwo’s mobile hit Monument Valley was a stand-out favourite, with wins in the Innovation, […]

  • Alien: Isolation was prototyped in third-person – video

    Alien: Isolation is one of the most effectively scary triple-A games in years, but it didn’t start off a perfect creation of pure terror. Creative Assembly prototyped Alien: Isolation in third-person perspective before they nailed down the final approach. The developer revealed this during a GDC 2015 presentation, and it’s a good reminder that games […]

  • Madden 15 added to EA Vault

    Madden 15 is now included in EA’s all-you-can-eat subscriber service. Madden 15 is the ninth game to be added to the EA Vault, a stash of games available on demand for EA Access subscribers. It's still Madden Season for EA Access members – Madden NFL 15 is now in The Vault for all members. Go […]

  • Source Engine 2 doesn’t have hidden costs or royalties – but is Steam exclusive

    Three major engines went free at GDC 2015, and each of them is monetising in a different way. There’s been a heck of a lot of discussion about development tools and the costs associated with them during GDC 2015. First Epic announced that Unreal Engine 4 would be free, bar royalities on successful releases. Then […]

  • Final Fantasy creator hates sequels

    Final Fantasy, a byword in prolific franchises, was created by a man who hates sequel. Final Fantasy games are famous for being reinvented with each core release, and it was not until series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi began to withdraw from the franchise after Final Fantasy 9 that we started seeing regular sequels and spin-offs. Speaking […]

  • Guardian complaints led to the closure of Destiny’s Loot Cave

    Destiny players are to blame for the shuttering of the much loved Loot Cave. Early in Destiny‘s history, many players got hugely excited about the “Loot Cave”. Accessible shortly after starting the game for the first time, this high-volume spawn point allowed players to stand in one place, taking out waves and waves of low-level […]

  • Xbox and PC games boss Phil Harrison to leave Microsoft – rumour

    Microsoft Interactive Entertainment Business VP and EMEA head of games Phil Harrison is rumoured to have thrown in the towel. Microsoft has not issued a statement on Harrison’s alleged departure, despite repeated questioning by press at GDC 2015. Instead, word comes via multiple sources speaking to GamesIndustry at the show. According to the rumours, Harrison […]

  • Metal Gear Online commentated trailer explains stuffed dog – but not invisibility

    Metal Gear Online developer Kojima Productions has provided significantly more insight into how the multiplayer side of The Phantom Pain works. Metal Gear Online is the online multiplayer component of Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. Konami hasn’t shared a great deal about it yet, but we did see a very cool Metal Gear […]

  • Elite: Dangerous Xbox One trailer shows off space MMO

    If Elite: Dangerous looks this good on Xbox One we have nothing to complain about. Microsoft revealed Elite: Dangerous is coming to Xbox One this year during its GDC presentations today. We don’t know very much about the port, but I suppose we ought to have expected it; Frontier Developments has a very close relationship […]

  • Battletoads to appear in Shovel Knight Xbox One

    A Battletoads remake must be on the horizon. Right? Right?? The Battletoads will appear in the upcoming Xbox One version of Shovel Knight, Yacht Club Games revealed today. The Battletoads drop in for a fight! Shovel Knight is headed to Xbox One and meets up with @RareLtd brawling trio! pic.twitter.com/OCQIuWbH3W — Yacht Club Games (@YachtClubGames) […]

  • The Division pre-alpha footage leaks, Ubisoft says it’s well out of date

    The Division fans finally got a look at Ubisoft’s MMO this week, but the publisher has said the footage is not in any way representative. Pre-alpha footage of the The Division was leaked this week, but has since been thoroughly smacked down by takedown notices. All that remains are a few screenshots and a GIF: […]

  • Microsoft HoloLens designer killed in hit and run accident

    Very sad news out of Redmond this week, as Mike Ey was killed in a tragic accident. Ey, 30, was one of the key project designers on Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headset. He was killed on Saturday morning in a rear-end collision. The driver of the second vehicle fled the scene but was tracked down by […]

  • AMD throws support behind VR with new low-latency anti-nausea tech

    GPU manufacturer AMD has released a new SDK compatible with “a broad set of VR devices”. Called LiquidVR, the tech is designed to “bring better content, comfort, and compatibility to VR applications” including games, simulation, entertainment, education, social media, travel, medicine, real estate and ecommerce, apparently. AMD said maintaining comfort and realism in VR environments […]

  • Danganronpa 3 in the works, but a long way off yet

    A new Danganronpa is happening. Danganronpa 3 is in the very, very early production stages, writer Kodaka Kazutaka has confirmed. Nothing about the project is “set in stone”, Kazutaka told Polygon, so there are no details to share yet; the characters and story may change several times before being finalised. The writer said he’s weighing […]

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare MLG Pro League 2015 schedule announced

    Major League Gaming has announced the full schedule for the 2015 Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare MLG Pro League. The eSpots firm revealed two more seasons of Pro League, a live Relegation tournament for Season Three, and a season ending World Championship with $250,000 up for grabs You can watch all the action on MLG.tv […]

  • Happy Birthday PlayStation 2, you are almost old enough to drive

    Amidst all the GDC 2015 hoopla today, we forgot to wish PlayStation 2 a Happy Birthday. The system turned 15 years old today, going by its March 4, 2000 launch date in Japan. It was released in the west that autumn, and had shipped 100 million units in less than six years post launch. PS2 […]

  • Here’s what the final version of Valve’s Steam Controller looks like

    A look at the updated Steam Controller has surfaced via a hands-on post from Polygon. Valve said what you see in the images below is the final version of the controller. The controller has gone through numerous revisions since it was first revealed, but it seems Valve has decided on two touch pads which work […]

  • The Sims, SimCity developer closed down

    The Sims 4 developer Maxis has been shuttered, EA has confirmed. The Sims, SimCity and the rest of the Sim franchise has traditionally been helmed by Maxis, which had its flagship studio in Emeryville, California. Now EA has confirmed with Kotaku that this studio is being closed. “Today we are consolidating Maxis IP development to […]

  • Gigantic MOBA coming to Windows 10 and Xbox One with cross-play

    Today during GDC 2015, Microsoft announced that the new IP from Motiga called Gigantic will be cross-play enabled. Slated for Windows 10 and Xbox One, the five-on-five third-person battle arena game allows the player to select from an array of heroes with distinctive powers and play styles. Players will then make their way through areas […]

  • Here’s a look at Unreal Tournament DirectX 12 gameplay

    Epic Games is creating Unreal Tournament using Unreal Engine 4 running on DirectX 12, which Microsoft says “sets a new bar for visual fidelity.” DirectX 12 is a single API developers can access across Windows devices, which can result in a 20% improvement in performance over DX11 running on the same machine. The Unreal Tournament […]

  • Wireless adapter for Xbox One controllers out later this year

    Microsoft announced at GDC 2015 today it will that all wireless Xbox gaming accessories will be designed for and supported on both Xbox One consoles and Windows 10 PCs moving forward. Later this year, a wireless adapter will be released, allowing current Xbox controllers and future devices to be used wirelessly on PCs. This will […]