There are a lot of gamers out there looking to get into the new generation of gaming, but feel like they need a game to truly justify their next-gen purchase. Despite some critical acclaim, Forza 5 quickly went from the game many felt exemplified “next-gen” to a game that felt like it was the epitome of what this new generation of gaming should not be about.
Speaking with IGN, Turn 10 Studios' creative director Dan Greenwalt came to the defense of his game, claiming that the reason the team didn't add many new features from Forza 4 or have as many cars or have as many tracks or have weather was because of resources, time and they didn't want to port over “garbage”.
IGN took note of Greenwalt's bulwark for Forza Motorsport 5, as the creative director acknowledged and defended himself against one of the game's more prevalent criticisms, saying...
“People in the community were saying we cut things, or removed things,” … “We removed nothing. We rebuilt the game from scratch.”
And yet all that rebuilding had to be downgraded.
Take into mind that Forza Motorsport 5 from E3 – the one that was rebuilt from the ground up and looked marvelous when its gameplay was first unveiled – is not the Forza Motorsport 5 that gamers are playing right at this very moment. They're two very different games.
They essentially were paid to gimp their own game.
Worse yet is that all that talk about not porting over “garbage” and yet they port over garbage 2D cardboard cutout crowds from the PlayStation 2 era to replace the 3D crowds they originally had...
Essentially, the assets they actually built for next-gen aren't even the ones they're using. The 3D crowd was scrapped so they could use asset techniques from two generations ago!
I guess Greenwalt was right, they aren't porting over garbage from seventh gen, they're porting over garbage from sixth gen.
Dan goes on to further defend Forza 5, and why the game has a premium charge, plenty of DLC in the works, a microtransaction store and yet a quarter of the content from Forza 4, despite the fact that a lot of the car details are graphically interchangeable, telling IGN...
"Everything had to be rebuilt," ... “[weather and night driving] is not a minor thing, it is not a 'add a little bit of time, throw it in' thing," … "When we do things, we do it all the way. That means physics, that means changing conditions, that means everything. So that is not the sort of thing that is easily undertaken in a patch.”
All right, let me a explain a few things and actually identify why they can't “drag and tag” assets or “flip a switch” and turn the tracks from day to night or implement a dynamic weather system.
Forza 5 was downgraded so much that none of the track's light maps running on the Xbox One are real time. All the lights are, in a way, “burned” onto the track. There is no global illumination, which means that if you took the main light source for the track and dimmed or darkened it to look like night time, all it would do is darken the entire track and make it look like the gamma was turn down real low. The lighting scale isn't dynamic because the light maps are pre-rendered.
Turn 10 had to pre-bake the shadows onto the tracks. This means that the track is pre-rendered with shadow mapping, almost but not quite as if the shadows are textured onto the stage, or “drawn” onto certain segments. Pre-baking is a popular technique that gained a lot of gusto during the previous gen to allow for faster processing of assets. It's a toss up whether it actually helps with load times (depending on the system and the game's core design) but ultimately, pre-baked shadows is what allows for some games to have higher frame rates without worrying about frame loss during heavily shadowed or variously lit scenarios. It's why Gran Theft Auto V looks worse than The Last of Us or Halo 4 and runs worse, mostly because the latter two games have their shadows baked into the maps, where-as GTA V has dynamic light assets, which is why GTA IV could scale to look like this with the iCEnhancer.
All this is to say: if Turn 10 wanted to make night tracks, they would have to completely redo each and every track from the ground up as far as rendering, lighting, textures and skybox assets go. This is usually what I mean by AAA studios paying more to downgrade graphics.
They can't just put a weather system in because, again, that would affect the lighting of the stages and they would have to redo the entire lighting system in each stage. The game was expertly crafted in order for the Xbox One to hit 1080p at 60fps with loss-less quality. Replacing static lighting elements, textured skies and pre-baked shadows with a dynamic system would essentially compromise either the 60fps or the 1080p resolution. They designed themselves into a corner.
Ultimately, there is no recourse for this. Turn 10 is stuck and their design methodology will continue to be expensive and time consuming to compete (content wise) with a last gen game like Gran Turismo 6 due to that design decision.
On a much smaller budget and offering a lot more content is Slightly Mad Studios' Project CARS. The game is coming along quite nicely and also features laser-scanned tracks with dynamic weather, dynamic lighting and dynamic topographical physics.
Racing fans looking for a real next-gen racer would do better to bide their time and wait for a game that isn't cutting corners to peddle high concept ideas with low quality assets.