Forza Motorsport 5's developers at Turn 10 Studios are bringing the power of cloud computing to bear in an attempt to deliver a personalized racing title that tailors your experience to the way you play and carries it forth even when you're not playing.
The cornerstone of Forza 5's cloud functionality is a feature called Drivatar (pronounced DRIVE-uh-tar), which the studio showed off during Microsoft's E3 press briefing yesterday. Drivatar actually debuted in the original Forza Motorsport in 2005, but according to Bill Giese, design director of Forza 5, Turn 10 didn't have the technology to realize its vision for the feature until the Xbox One.
Forza 5 tracks everything about the way you race — not just the the types of cars you drive, but the paths you take around the track as well — and pushes it up to the cloud. There, that data is compiled into a profile and extrapolated into a Drivatar. The Drivatar is essentially a virtual driver that exhibits your tendencies in races. If you only choose cars with front wheel drive, so will your Drivatar; if you're not afraid to bump other racers and cut corners, that's how it will drive. Giese said Forza 5 gets as specific as noticing that you always understeer through a particular turn at Laguna Seca.
"When you put the controller down, then your Drivatar begins its day," said Giese. Your friends and other online players won't run into you online, but they'll face your Drivatar, and Giese said the idea is that people who know how you race will feel like they're playing with you even when they're racing against your Drivatar. (Forza 5 will always notify players whether they're racing with a live player or that person's Drivatar.) And the more you play, the more your Drivatar will be able to learn about the way you race.
"This isn't AI; this is actual human behavior," said Giese.
In addition, your Drivatar will earn you credits, Forza 5's in-game currency, as it races while you're offline. And along with acting on your tendencies in races, Forza 5 will use the profile it builds of you to suggest cars similar to the ones you drive and designs that resemble the ones you like. The game will also offer suggestions on vehicle upgrades that cater to your play style. Giese compared the feature to the recommendation engines from services such as Amazon and Netflix.
The career mode is also customized by the cloud. It's designed around 50 events called Career Series that are broken up into eight leagues; the Career Series will offer different events for each car, depending on what you choose to drive. "No two players will have the same career," said Giese.
Forza 5 players will be able to rank up in whatever mode they like to play; even if they just stick to multiplayer and never touch career, they'll be able to earn credits and buy all the cars they want. Giese didn't go into detail on the game's multiplayer component except to say that it will use dedicated servers, not peer-to-peer connections, for the first time in franchise history.
Giese closed the presentation by driving one lap around Forza 5's Prague course with a McLaren P1. The Old World city offered scenic vistas, especially as Giese raced along the Vitava River.
According to Giese, Turn 10 worked hand in hand with Microsoft's Xbox One designers to help make the impressive visuals possible. The platform developers approached the studio four years ago to ask what it wanted to see in next-generation hardware; Turn 10's software architect, Chris Tecton, told Microsoft that the developers wanted to be able to deliver a racing game that ran in 1080p at 60 frames per second, and according to Giese, Tecton "helped influence the chipset" in the Xbox One.
Forza Motorsport 5 will be available when the Xbox One launches in November. The game will cost $59.99.
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