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Behind the scenes at Forza Motorsport with Chris Bishop
By Mathieu Day • 10/10/2015
HOW RACING GAMES CAME OUT OF THE TOY DEPARTMENT
Kiwis now have the chance to drive a rain soaked Nurgburgring, while driving Shane Van Gisbergen’s Tekno V8 Supercar, with the all new Xbox driving simulator Forza Motorsport 6.
The game , now on sale in New Zealand, features new driving conditions and more than 450 drivable cars.
We caught up with the game’s global product manager, Chris Bishop, while he was in Auckland for the XONZ gaming expo to find out what goes into creating a driving simulator.
Bishop has been a Microsoft employee for eight years, working on Xbox for five and dedicated to the Forza franchise for just over three years.
How long does it take to make a Forza game? It’s a game we’ve been working on for well over 10 years with a lot of the same crew. We have two studios — Turn10 mostly focuses on the Motorsport series and Playground Games in the UK works on the Horizon series. We’re sharing code and both working on the Forza Tech engine with the goal of creating a great game.
What is the key difference between Forza Horizon and Forza Motorsport? Horizon is an open-world game. At its core it allows players who love motorsport and love racing to have that kind of fun as a different kind of motorsport enjoyment. Motorsport is kind of traditional me versus you competition racing. Horizon is more me with you. Let’s go on a journey together, we’re going to have fun, listen to different radio stations and music. if we go off-road into a vineyard so be it.
Chris Bishop says there is plenty of value for fans in the new game.
How do they transfer tracks such as the Nurburgring to the digital world? It’s a lot of different things. We use laser scanning, so we do have little robots that shoot out lasers and record everything down to the millimetre and combine that with thousands of different photographs. The Nurburgring took us a long time. All 16 miles of it are recreated accurately. With Forza 6 we have night and rain so in all the puddles that we’ve placed for the first time in a racing video game we have these 3D puddles that actually cause aquaplaning.
So did you guys have to go there when it was raining to find out where the puddles form? Correct, we had some guys on the sourcing team spend some time at all the tracks. It takes us six months to create each car on average, and around 12 months to do an environment like the Nurburgring.
Soaked tracks and night racing are now features of Forza Motorsport.
So Forza Motorsport 6 needs a lot of time invested in it?
We wanna make sure that the gamers out there get a great value. There’s no micro transactions at launch, with Forza Motorsport 5 we got some feedback that the fans didn’t like that. So now everything you earn at launch is genuine. Now luckily with 460 cars we can throw a lot of cars at you.
Is the campaign locked to regions like the earlier games were?
It’s not geographically specific, so the way we’ve done the campaign now is called the stories of motorsport, and its broken up into five volumes. It’s a little bit more traditional, it’s linear but with a lot of possibilities to choose.
So you start out in the first volume with the sports car series. There’s some great options like BMW 235, I think the Nissan 370Z is in there . the BMW 235 is a really good example , very quick, very fast car when you start out.
There’s really no bad cars in the game. There’s slower cars, we have some cars from the 1940s , 50s, and 60s, but there’s a wide range of vehicles to pick. And you can always pick a slower car and upgrade it as well. All 460 cars are fully upgradeable, fully customisable.
Customisation has always been a key difference between Forza and Gran Turismo. Can you still do popular engine swaps, like putting Holden Commodore engines into Nissan Silvias?
Yeah, the upgrades and customisation options are bigger than ever. You can share tunes and liveries online with your friends now, which is really cool. I’m a bit of a gearhead so I like personally getting in there and doing the upgrades myself, but my best friend just finds a car that he wants and downloads tunes.
You can look through hundreds if not thousands of tunes that people have created, and he finds the perfect tune for whatever class he wants, downloads that, pays to upgrade the parts for his vehicle and he’s off and running that way.
So [customisation] is pretty approachable, whether you’re a gear-head or not.
How do you select the difficulty of the game?
There’s a preset for driving assists, easy, medium, hard, professional. Under all of those there’s probably,like, 15 different assists under those . I normally go to hard and if I have my elite controller I turn on manual. I’m just starting to get rid of the driving line as I’ve raced the environments enough that I’m now trying to learn and race without the braking line. It’s completely up to you on what type of experience you’ll make it.
How was the crash damage in Forza made? Did you go to watch people smashing cars like ANCAP testing?
Yes, it’s that combined with a lot of engineering. We build the cars based on CAD, laser scanning and photographs.
So you haven’t gone out and crashed any classic cars for the cause? No, no. We like cars way too much for that!
What is the process for getting a hero car on the cover of Forza? It’s crazy how much the industry has changed. Ten years ago we were knocking on doors saying, ‘Hey we’re Forza, a racing game’ and were told to go talk to the toy department. Now we have these great partnerships we’ve built over years [such as that with V8 Supercars, meaning you can pretend to be Van Gisbergen]. We have over 80 manufacturers in Forza 6, who we have extensive licensing deals with.