If there's a way to push your favorite car to its limits, you'll probably find it in the upcoming Forza Motorsport 3 from Turn 10 Studios. Racing ranges from traditional circuit and oval racing to more specialized disciplines, such as timed races and drift events. While all of these racing styles require technique behind the wheel and a mind for tuning your car to its peak of performance, perhaps nowhere are these two disciplines more perfectly melded than in drag racing, which is yet another race type that will be found in Forza 3. Recently, we had a chance to speak with game director Dan Greenawalt on drag racing in Forza 3 to see what's in store for the quarter-mile crowd.
GameSpot: A drag racing mode was rumored to be in Forza 2 but obviously never materialized. Were there plans to put it in the previous game and, if so, how far along did you develop the idea?
Dan Greenawalt: We had a drag mode in the first Forza Motorsport on the original Xbox, and we had plans to bring the drag strip track over to Forza Motorsport 2 on [the] Xbox 360. However, after the X06 press event, we decided to cut drag racing from the game. The reason for this change of heart was because we felt that in hindsight we hadn't given the proper game design attention to the mode in the original game and doing a straight port from Forza 1 to Forza 2 wouldn't provide it the proper attention it deserved. And because we were investing heavily in other areas of the game instead, such as Auction House and the livery editor. I know our community has been asking for it since day one on [the] Xbox 360, so I'm glad we're able to revisit drag mode for Forza 3 and do it justice this time around.
GS: How will drag racing events work in to your Forza 3 career? Are drag events optional or a required aspect of your career?
DG: Just like other racing events in our Career mode, there's a series of drag racing events players may encounter during their exploration of our 220-career event matrix. All drag race events in Forza 3 are limited by horsepower and power train, and they take place on our eighth-mile and quarter-mile drag strips (although we also have the one-mile and half-mile drag strip tracks in the game as well). All career events are optional in Forza 3.
GS: Talk us through a typical single-player drag racing event. Is it a simple one-shot race, or do you race in multiple heats, tournament style?
DG: Each drag event is a series of three race days, and each race day consists [of] three heats. In classic tournament style, the winners of each race face each other in the next round while the losers are matched up. And basically, you go through a total of nine runs to determine the winner of the overall event between eight competitors.
GS: What kind of options will players have for upgrading their cars for drag racing?
DG: We've added 50 percent more car upgrades to Forza 3 from the previous game, which already had plenty to begin with. That said, we don't have specific drag racing part upgrades, like line lock, drag-specific fuel pumps, or drag-specific superchargers. What we've got are a ton of upgrades to mix and match, such as different tire compounds and separate front and rear tire sizes. Managing these upgrades can make your car very good at launching--drive train swaps, engine swaps--basically all the components that make your car really fast for drag racing. Just like in real life. Again, Forza 3 is an automotive sandbox that allows the player to optimize cars for all types of scenarios--circuit, oval, drag, drift, etc.
GS: How will car tuning work for drag events? Will there be special tuning presets you can choose from to get started or are you on your own?
DG: Our auto-upgrade helper in the Career mode will help the player reach the horsepower requirement for the drag event, but the voodoo that goes into fine-tuning a car is always up to the player. In the real world, there's something of an art to tuning a car. Forza Motorsport is no different. The good news is for those who want to test their hand in drag racing but don't view themselves as great tuners, there are many in our community who have made a name for themselves tuning all types of cars for different purposes, and we're excited that drag racing will become a big part of that. Now with Forza 3's storefront feature on Xbox Live, these community "tuning garage" groups will be able to set up their own presence in the game that's accessible to the player 24/7, and so you can count on there being plenty of drag race tune files out there for users to purchase and share.
GS: Will players be able to burn out before the race to build up tire temperature?
DG: No. Tire temperature is already set to [an] optimum condition to maximize grip. We initially designed a burnout and staging-style minigame within the mode, but it just didn't feel like Forza. We really wanted to emphasize the skills of tuning and racing, not burnout and staging. Instead, we decided to emphasize tuning and racing. We will have plenty of folks who will dominate the drag racing scoreboards because they're going to understand it's not just about holding down the right trigger button when the tree lights up. For instance, launching a car efficiently off the line is a carefully learned skill. Traction control doesn't kick in at launch. Plus, automatic does not shift as quickly as manual transmission, and using manual with clutch gets you even faster shift times still. So those who master manual transmission and manual with clutch will be cutting off small amounts of time with their shifts, and in drag racing, every tenth of a second counts. Also, depending on your car and whether you have a limited-slip differential or if the raw torque of your engine is causing chassis flex, your car will veer off the line and require you to make subtle steering adjustments. It really comes down to your car and how it is set up.
GS: Obviously, some cars are better suited than others for this style of racing. What kinds of cars will be especially suited to drag racing events? Is there any chance of some top fuel or funny car models appearing in the game?
DG: Much of it is what you'd expect from real-world results. Obviously for short one-eighth mile races, all-wheel drive cars have such a distinct launch advantage that they're going to do very well on that track. Managing weight and weight distribution, putting more friction onto the rear tires--these are all things that are important to consider when you're in a rear-wheel drive shootout. What it really comes down to is that we're just letting our realistic physics system handle the nuances of drag racing while we frame a proper game design element around the proceedings.
GS: What length tracks are available, and where are they located? Are they purpose-built drag strips or sections from currently existing circuits?
DG: We have four drag strip lengths in the game: eighth-mile, quarter-mile, half-mile, and one-mile. They are all purpose built, and these different lengths require vastly different setups and tuning.
GS: How will online drag racing work?
DG: In terms of multiplayer, drag racing is one of our big umbrella options, [for] which then you can go and customize rules to create nearly limitless variations on drag racing game types. It's even possible to get multiple cars on the grid drag racing simultaneously, which makes for some interesting team-based battles. By default, it's set up to be a heats-based tournament. The net is that it's really up to our community to come up with clever drag racing modes online, which we may then adopt into the official Turn 10 party hopper.
GS: Occasional lag in online circuit racing is no big deal, but lag in drag racing--where thousandths of seconds can be the difference between winning and losing--can be a real problem. How is the team tackling online infrastructure this time out to provide the best performance?
DG: We've learned a few tricks over the years. Latency is an issue we've dealt with by implementing a custom arbitration system for timing and scoring, as well as a behind-the-scenes AI shadow to help estimate the player's next move in high-latency situations.
GS: Thanks for your time, Dan.
Some of the cars ideal for drag racing that will be included in Forza 3:
- 1967 Chevroley Corvette Stingray 427
- 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z28
- 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS
- 1969 Dodge Charger R/T
- 2006 Dodge Ram SRT-10
- 2006 Dodge Charger SRT8
- 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT-8
- 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR
- 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 429
- 2008 Saleen S331 Supercab
- 1965 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C
Check out a brand new batch of exclusive Forza 3 screens in the image gallery.