True innovation happens when the lines blur between two industries. Forza Motorsport has been pushing the boundaries of online racing by creating a driving simulator that has peaked the interest of Ford and other car manufacturers. At E3 last month the Ford GT 2017 was unveiled during the launch of the popular XBox racing game Forza 6. The level of collaboration between these two companies from different industries is unprecedented. We’re going to explore this relationship which has lead to so more than just a slick looking car in a video game.
We’re at an interesting inflection point, organizations are having a have a hard time breaking new ground at the pace they’ve maintained over the past few years. In order to keep moving forward in ways that aren’t just incremental, looking at where disciplines intersect offers a glimpse at real innovation. New methods or processes of creating are being developed and we’re starting to look at things we’ve seen a thousand times in a new ways.
Ford & Forza Motorsport Changing the Way Cars Are Built
Forza is more than just a video game, it is a racing simulator that is as close as it gets to driving in the real world. Forza is so realistic that it recreates the exact suspension of a vehicle, how much flex it has, how it will react in different conditions. They’ve gone as far as including real audio of the engine driving on wet surfaces, around buildings and through tunnels. Forza even has Drivatars that use machine learning in their races.
Forza has had early access to cars in the past, but never have they been granted access this early. The Ford GT 2017 is being developed simultaneously virtually for Forza & for production by Ford. This is unprecedented in video game design as well as the car’s manufacturing process.
Forza won’t have the final specs of the car for over a year, but during this time the two companies can engaging in testing like we’ve never seen before. Ford can be delivering information to Forza and their community, Ford can actually test out proposed changes and get real driving data back from test drivers. Millions of players will be driving on Le Mans driving 24 hours a day 7 days a week before the car even touches the track and the two companies are actively engaging one another. Mobile Geeks visited the Microsoft campus in Redmond to poke around and take a look at Forza 6 and after the press had their fun, the two teams braced themselves to work late into the night.
“It’s an exciting time to be involved because the car is in such active development” according to Dan Greenwalt Creative Director at Forza. We’ve got an interview with him below about Innovation as well as Garen Nicoghosian Designer of the Ford GT 2017.
Ford GT 2017 Innovating with Forza Motorsport 6 – Behind the Scenes
Looking at Forza 5 and the evolution to Forza 6, game play remained 1080p at 60fps, but on the same hardware they added in night time driving as well as wet conditions, while jumping from 16 cars to 24 cars on track. They made it look better, play better, sound better on the exact same hardware. This is the kind of incremental improvements that you expect to see, but when tackling big trend innovation industry trends things are in flux.
“How digital communities and machine learning started affecting the ways cars are designed is where we’re seeing a break out in innovation.”
“When I look 10 years back and 10 years forward, we’re a changing point. The way cars used to be made was by hand and they were delivered in a physical world. With video games they were made by hand and delivered in a digital world. Now they are being made digitally and delivered realistically, but they are also being made digitally to be delivered the same way. There is an interesting change up on how people are changing their approach to making cars. Which is leading to a new way of making cars which we’re seeing in the way that Forza is working with Ford.” said Greenwalt.
It Ford about 3 years to design a car which include the creation of a few clay models built to scale, but with the Ford GT 2017, they tried something new. They took a larger block of foam and cut it into a full size car which they could actually put on a chassis. They can do this in 1 day which was a big step in streamlining the processes saving time. This could actually be added into how Ford designs cars in the future.
Drivatars – The New Test Driver?
Before the game is even released Drivatars are testing out early prototypes of the Ford GT 2017. This begs the question of what is a test driver going to look like in the future. Could a test driver be 5Million people? Can test driving me done virtually before heading to the physical world? What makes this relationship interesting is that Forza can isolate different aspects in their simulations which yield very accurate results. Though the sheer amount of data Froza can test and collect, the relationship can go both ways and Forza has the potential to provide valuable feedback informing the design process a vehicle. This approach has never been taken in gaming and certainly not in car development.
Forza Motorsport 6 & the Evolution of Machine Learning in Drivatars
Drivatars are digital players that drive like humans, but not just any human, they can drive like specific human players. They imitate the details of how a player drivers, things like how they take a tight corner, or if they lock the front wheels braking, even how aggressively they hit the gas coming out of a corner. In Forza 5 & Horizons 2, Drivatars have been growing smarter through machine learning and in Forza 6 they are getting an upgrade. You’ll be able to customize how your Drivatar behaves. When you’re playing a computer you might drive more aggressively hitting other cars, but when you play humans you have better race course etiquette and you can choose to make them more professional or more casual. Racers can actually drive with more of your real-world friends, or get rid of friends entirely.
One of the more interesting chats I had during my trip to the Forza studio and that was about how they actually made the games. If you’re interested in learning how Forza puts cars into their games there are a few different ways. They can take a scan of a real world car and make a digital version or the car manufacture can send over a 3d version of the car. Whether it’s a real world car or a virtual one, they all start with the same body in white and get add ons from their. Forza has proprietary software that they use as well as a process that allows multiple artists to work on cars and allowed them to ramp up to 450 cars in Forza 6.
Forza Motorsport 6 – How they Add Cars to the Game
Another new feature that has been added to Forza 6 is night time driving as well as wet road conditions. We got to talk to a few different people at Forza around wet driving conditions. We’ll start with a brief overview of the physics behind driving in wet conditions as well getting the new sounds that go along with the new condition into the game.
Forza Motorsport 6 & Adding in Rain – Behind the Scenes
This September, Forza Motorsport 6 will hit the shelves and our download buttons for the Xbox One.