How Forza Horizon 5's Extra Year Of Development Helped Make It A Better, More Accessible Game

"We've been able to achieve so much more with the way we build the world..."

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Microsoft's Forza Horizon series released new entries every two years since the start of the franchise in 2012 until this year's Forza Horizon 5, which is coming three years after 2018's Forza Horizon 4. Playground Games creative director Mike Brown explained recently that the extra year of development allowed the team to make "bigger investments" that contribute to help make Forza Horizon 5 a better sim and also a more accessible game for newcomers.

"The fact that we took three years rather than two, our usual two-year cycle, has allowed us to make some bigger investments than we otherwise normally would have been able to," Brown said.

These investments include updates to Forza Horizon 5's suspension and braking systems, which might not sound like very significant areas of focus, but Brown explained the ways in which suspension and braking can actually have a meaningful impact.

"We've completely rebuilt the way suspension works, which perhaps sounds like a small thing, but suspension is one of the main ways your wheels and the body of the car interact with the road surface," Brown said. "So by working on our simulation to make the suspension behave in a much more authentic way, you might think it would make the game more challenging, but it's actually the opposite that is true. Because the springs on the car now behave much more like they would on a real car, the cars are now able to react to the terrain in a much more authentic way which actually, whilst improving the simulation, also improves the accessibility, which is a great result."

For braking, Brown said brakes will now more realistically grab the discs to provide a more authentic representation of braking. No longer will brakes lock up as frequently as they might have in past games, Brown said.

"Another area where we've been able to improve the physical model so when you're really slamming on the brakes at high speed, the pads will grab the disc in a more gradual way, allowing the brakes to come on in a more realistic and authentic way to more gradually grab the disc and stops the brakes from locking up as they easily could have in previous games," he said. "Again, that's an area that improves the simulation, that is more accurate to real life, but it also makes the cars a little bit more accessible as well. A great improvement."

Also during the interview, Brown discussed working with the Xbox Series X and S consoles, which he characterized as being "absolutely fantastic." The raw horsepower of those machines gives the team at Playground more opportunities to hone in on specific details to help make the game more realistic.

"The experience working on the Xbox Series X and S, as a creative, it's been absolutely fantastic. We've been able to achieve so much more with the way we build the world, the way we're able to add in all those little details and just make everything look and feel so real," Brown said.

The technology used in Forza Horizon 5 is shared with Turn 10, the Microsoft studio behind the Forza Motorsport series (which, also, is extending its usual development cycle for the next release).

"Almost all of our technology is built in partnership with Turn 10. They're always pushing things forward. We're always pushing things forward. Looking at ways that that technology can benefit both of our games. So yes, we are sharing technology with Turn 10. That is always true," Brown said.

Forza Horizon 5 is set in Mexico, and Brown said the team at Playground has gone to great lengths to represent the country faithfully and with respect. The team visited Mexico years ago, before the pandemic, to conduct local research. Not only that, but the team made contacts in the country and this allowed them to gather more resources and assets from the country without having to get on a plane and fly there.

"We were really lucky in that as well that we were able to make a lot of contacts in Mexico in those trips so even if members of our team weren't able to travel back there, we have people on the ground who were photographers and tour guides that we could contact and say, 'Hey we'd really like to get more reference on [thing]' and then they could go get that photographs or videos that we needed," Brown said. "We had an audio team out there quite recently as well capturing ambient audio so each area of the map, each biome, has its own ambient audio suite which tries to recreate the feel of being in those places."

Brown also pointed out how Playground is hoping to avoid Forza Horizon 5 playing on Mexican stereotypes.

"We've worked with a Mexican script writer and cultural consultant to ensure that we're not playing off any Mexican stereotypes. We want this to be a game that when a Mexican plays it, they feel like it's been made with care and love and I really feel like we've taken this very seriously," Brown said. "And really wanted it to not feel like it was playing on those stereotypes. And instead feel like it was real and authentic and full of love."

Forza Horizon 5, which features the AMG-1 Mercedes hypercar and the 2021 Ford Bronco Badlands on its cover, launches November 9 for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. A brand-new extended gameplay trailer for Horizon 5 was released during the Xbox Gamescom briefing on August 24 which covers the earliest section of the game. Check it out above, and then stay tuned for Opening Night Live.

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