Xbox 360 exclusive racing game Forza 4 is finished, and Turn 10 chief Dan Greenawalt can think about seeing his family again. Tomorrow he flies home after a gruelling European press tour and countless demos of Microsoft's answer to Sony's Gran Turismo series.
But that's tomorrow. Today, in a plush PR office in central London, he is delivering one final demo to press, and it presents our last opportunity to talk to Dan about the game before its October launch. You'd think, then, there wouldn't be much to talk about. But there is. Read on to find out why Forza 4 has Kinect-only Achievements, why there's no weather or night races in the game, and why Forza 4 isn't necessarily the last Forza on the Xbox 360.
Eurogamer: You can't get all of Forza 4's Achievements without having Kinect. Some of our readers who like to get all the Achievements in a game reacted strongly to that. Why did you think Kinect specific Achievements were the right thing to do?
Dan Greenawalt: Part of it is, there is the reality of what people say about collecting Achievements, and there's what they say. We have all the stats on which Achievements were achieved in Forza 3. There was an Achievement, for example, for finishing every event in the event list. There were Achievements for collecting some of the most expensive cars in the game. And the number of people who have that Achievement is less than I've seen across all the forums so far, arguing about getting all of them.
So that's the general principle. And then there's the actuality. If you look at how many people got that Achievement in Forza 3, it was a minuscule number of people. Now we have 50 per cent more events, so minuscule minus one will be how many people get it.
I've seen on the forums people saying, I don't like this, I'm going to be forced to get a Kinect. I'm like, you wouldn't have got all the Achievements anyways. Statistically, some people will. But when I look at the number of people who argue about this and that...
I have tremendous respect for gamers. I don't want to say I know you're wrong, I'm just saying, statistically, some people are not quite being truthful.
Eurogamer: The EA Porsche issue struck a chord with our readers. Reading your blog post that brought this issue to light, I detected a genuine sense of disappointment that EA has blocked Porche from being in Forza 4. Is there hope the issue can be reconciled?
Dan Greenawalt: Well, I don't have anything new to announce. I pretty much got everything out on the table on that blog, so there are new comments. Obviously, I see it as my role to deliver the greatest car experience we can possibly do to our customers. I'm disappointed in myself. I would like to be able to deliver the greatest cars to our customers and get people really excited.
As far as what the future holds, honestly, everything I know, I put in that blog, so I don't have anything else to add. The big thing is, and the reason I wrote that, is that I care too.
Eurogamer: The Kinect features are interesting. Were there any features you explored that didn't make it into the game?
Dan Greenawalt: A huge number of features.
Eurogamer: Can you give us any examples?
Dan Greenawalt: No. Part of the reason I say no is because of the misunderstandings about how innovation and game design on large scale, triple-A franchises works. There are two aspects people don't commonly understand. It is the job of a designer to make throwaway work. That is our job; to come up not with just one great idea. It's getting a thousand great ideas by breakfast. I don't mean me personally, I mean designers. That is our job.
The right idea at the wrong time is the wrong idea. Often people say, oh, I thought of that 10 years ago. It's like, if it wasn't the right idea, trust me, 40 other people thought of it. There are very few new ideas I hear, because we've been working on this for 10 years. What it comes down to is delivering the right idea at the right time.
When it came to Kinect, it's a brand new model. It's a brand new paradigm. The idea of stuffing controller gameplay, or mouse and keyboard gameplay or wheel gameplay or whatever into it is just a fool's errand. You've got to start with a blank slate. And a blank slate means you don't just have to do a little throwaway work - you have to do a ton of throwaway work.
We have four main integrations of Kinect we covered, but that was born out of thousands and thousands of ideas and months and months of just brainstorming ideation. To be a designer, the work is not ideas. It's shotgun really, is what it comes down to. If you're shooting at a bird, a .22 is much less likely to hit it than a shotgun. We're using that to make sure we've covered all bases and thought of it from all angles.
Eurogamer: What are the issues associated with using Kinect to steer an imaginary steering wheel?
Dan Greenawalt: It's a brain-dead idea. But we did prototype it and threw quite a bit of work away. We're core gamers. Part of the job is to strip away our own bent, our own predisposition so we're designing it for the type of player we're trying to delight and surprise. We knew from the beginning what we wanted this to be was not a replacement of the wheel. If you want to do the 24 hour Le Mans, go get a damn wheel. If you want to do hardcore gaming and drifting and things like that, use a controller, if you're a good gamer.
But when I look at my kids, they're intimidated by controllers. I look at my father-in-law, intimidated by a controller. So the first thing we did, because we're core gamers, is we looked at hooking up the feet to brake and accelerate. Should we do shifting and handbrake and all these other gestures? Those players we were trying to get to think about cars in a new way, they didn't want to do it.
All of the core players, like us, we go, oh, this is neat. I can do all this other stuff... and now give me a controller. All we wanted to do is try it and go back to our normal way of playing. It's like, why would we deliver it if we're not going to use it anyway. A lot of it came down to really understanding, we're not trying to change you. If you're a core gamer, be a core gamer. I don't want you to change. What I do want to do is get people who don't think about gaming to get into our culture, because I love gaming, and I want more gamers in our world. But I'm not going to be able to get them all in if I've got a 16 button controller, and people look at it and go, dude, what the f**k?