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A Smaller Game? Tracks and the Garage

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The revelation that the next game in the Forza Motorsport series -- Forza 5 -- would only feature a total of some 200 cars and 14 tracks -- compared to the 500 cars and 26 tracks of Forza 4 -- came as a shock to most Forza Faithful. The chatter online on the Forza-focused discussion boards spoke of concern that the game was simply rushed to the market in order to fit into the Xbox One's Launch, a concern that may have some weight to it as it turns out.

Even more of a concern though was the worry that the rush to get the game ready to deploy as a launch title might suggest that it was not given the level of bug-testing that the series is very well known for. There was always a concern that this time around, Turn 10 might have sacrificed the legendary focus for quality over quantity -- or in this case over speed -- that it devotes to its projects.

As the news trickled out of Turn 10 Studios, confirmation that some of the most popular tracks has been cut from the list of venues to be included at launch, including Infineon Raceway and the widely anticipated (and very popular) Nurburgring with its infamous Nordschleife configuration.

These were courses that the players looked forward to mastering in the new game, so news that they had been cut - hopefully a temporary situation as there is every reason to believe that they will be added to the game eventually -- the only question being will they be free additions or will the players be required to pay for them?

To address many of these concerns and do some damage control, Turn 10's creative director Dan Greenawalt sat down with Eurogamer's Martin Robinson to discuss the matter, offering official word on what had already been circulating as strongly believed rumors.

"Some of the tracks needed updating," Greenawalt told Robinson. "Some of them needed light updating, and some of them needed heavy updating. Silverstone, for example, was a complete recapture. Several of our tracks were just plain wrong, either because they were poorly captured and technology's moved on, or the track's changed like Silverstone.”

As the interview progressed Greenwalt candidly admitted that for the time that they had, and with the tracks being in various states of incomplete conversion, it really was not a question of should they be cut - they had to be if the game was going to make its deadline.

The important thing to bear in mind is that the integration of tracks was not simply a matter of just porting them into the new game using its system -- they could easily have done that. The issue is that the track team and the game design team found consensus in the desire to properly render the modern tracks, not a version years out of date, because the point to that effort is to provide the players with the ability to simulate racing in those real-world locations in as close to the real-effect as possible.

When Forza 5 hit its release date, the track list consisted of the Bernese Alps, Catalunya, Spa, Indianapolis, Le Mans, Laguna Seca, Mount Panorama, Prague, Road Atlanta, Sebring, Silverstone, the Test Track Airfield, the Top Gear Test Track, and Yas Marina. While that is certainly a good and a challenging list of venues, it is about half the size of what was widely anticipated, and Turn 10 knows this.

Every effort was made to include as many of the iconic tracks as could be managed under the circumstances, but Turn 10 has stopped short of confirming that the missing tracks will be added, or how they will be added.

"We're looking at what we're going to add as DLC,” Greenawalt told Robinson. “Obviously we're committed to cars - that's something we do very well. We're looking at tracks as well to see what we can do there."

That quote appears to suggest that the tracks may come as DLC, but it does not indicate whether or not that DLC will be free or fee. Considering the feelings that have been expressed by the Forza Faithful and the popularity of paid DLC, we suspect that the answer will likely be a mixture of paid and free DLC.

Considering the very real costs involved in scanning and importing the tracks it does not appear likely that Turn 10 could give the tracks away, but by putting the highly desired tracks like Infineon and Nurburgring in as paid DLC (those are very likely to be universally purchased by fans) that might pave the way for offering other tracks without charge.

The FM5 Car Stable

The questions of cars is not so cut-and-dried or simple, particularly considering that the 200 cars that were included in the launch more than sufficiently cover the racer needs in terms of all of the tracks - those present now and those likely to be added later.

That being the case, it seems we are far less likely to see free cars added as DLC with the exception of sponsored packs like the recently released Honda Legends Pack. But that is really not a problematic issue as long as there are releases in addition to the six scheduled month-packs.

It is diversity and variety that the fans want, but also the inclusion of the legendary cars that have helped to make the Forza Motorsport series what it is today.

The absence of Porsche among the included manufacturers is a blow to be sure. It seems to be very clear that the player base was hoping that Turn 10 would manage somehow to work out a licensing agreement with the German auto maker similar to what they did for the previous game -- even if it has to be paid DLC.

Considering that Turn 10 has not ruled out that possibility, there appears to still be hope that something can be managed. It would be surprising if, when they negotiated the deal for the previous game they did not at least explore the idea of a deal for future Titles in the series.

The addition to the game of both open-wheeled racers and Hypercars like the LaFerrari and P1 certainly helps take the sting out of the situation, and if Turn 10 manages to include a selection of truly classic racers in the DLC mix in the future, chances are that will nicely address the concerns of the fans.

It should be important to fans that the tracks and the cars share the same basic concern as far as Turn 10 considers the matter: quality above all else.

Each of the cars that was included in the game -- and each that is added as DLC -- have something in common: they were each torn down and rebuilt from the ground up before they were added to the game.

The result of that is a measure of quality not simply in looks or motion but also in the unique feel of driving these beasts -- an activity we freely admit we prefer to do in the game rather than in real life. After all in the game we can hit rewind when things go all pear-shaped :)

Finally the one question that seems to be widely in circulation is whether or not the smaller stable was a choice made to make the DLC releases more profitable - an allegation that Turn 10 categorically denies.

In an interview with OXM Greenawalt explained that the studio was not holding back cars, noting that the DLC process was very different than most gamers think.

"We're not keeping anything back. I think people misunderstand the way these things work. It takes us six months to build a car, so when I say there's a ten-car pack launching day one--they're not done. We're not done with them yet," he told OXM.

"So we're not holding anything back; we were crunching to make sure we had this level of quality on all 200 cars. Every one had to be Forza-level of quality. This was as many as we could build-- straight up," he explained.

According to Greenawalt the company devised an internal rating system for tracks and cars, and each was then rated -- any that received less than an “A” rating simply did not make the cut. The process of creating a single car takes the studio six months, and the smallest track in the game required something like 9 months to scan, import, and code to the finished product.

According to what Greenawalt has said, it seems that the $50 Car Pass that the studio is offering within FM5 is really something of a bargain, considering the amount of work that goes into creating each car and track.

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