Turn 10 Studios announced Forza Motorsport 7 today during Microsoft’s E3 press conference, and it’s primed to be the best-looking and most feature-dense entry in the series. The game was tailor-made to take advantage of the new Xbox One X’s added horsepower, which should render the game in 4K resolution and 60 frames per second.
This also the first full Forza Motorsport game to hit PC. (The series has tested the Windows 10 water with Forza Motorsport 6: Apex and Forza Horizon 3.) And if you want the cars, the tracks, the raindrops on the windshield to look their absolute, pixel-perfect best, the Windows 10 version — with the help of some top of the line GPU — will be the best choice.
Freedom to customize versus tight integration
But the real advantage isn’t necessarily what you’d expect. The key difference, according to developers, will be the PC’s adaptability — being able to use more types of controllers and wheels, for example. Here’s what some of the head folks responsible for Forza Motorsport said when I asked them about PC vs. what at the time was still called Project Scorpio:
Alan Hartman, head of Turn 10 Studios
“Oh, of course, of course [PC will be better]. I don't know what that gap is come this winter when we ship the console. But there'll be a gap. You can go spend however much you need to spend to get over it. Obviously, you can throw ten thousand plus dollars into your PC and build a killer rig, you can do multiscreen. That's not what the console's trying to be. The console is trying to be an entertainment device you just take into your living room, plug it in and you’re up and going. The PC commitment's a different layer.
“The biggest difference from a game creator between the PC environment or the console environment is the efficiency we get out of the console hardware because it's just a known platform. We know exactly how long it takes to transfer a texture from one place to another. We can map that out. We can make sure we have no gaps, no stalls. And we can just be super efficient in what we get. So we get a lot more out of the fixed console. There is no fixed PC right hardware config, right? So you have to build that adaptability into your code and that flexibility, and you just can't assume things are going to work the same way.
“That actually ends up being a pretty big performance boost. And it's where when I get the, you know, the teardowns, which we'll have on Scorpio where they'll take all the pieces out and try and do the off-the-shelf PC and say, ‘Well this is the PC that equals the Scorpio’ — it just isn't. You'd need to go do that and add another 30 percent to your specs to make sure you're going to get the performance we get.”
Like choosing between a tuned-up Lancer Evo and a Ferrari
Dan Greenawalt, creative director of Forza
“I've got this Lancer Evo, and it's got a Vishnu turbo set. It's getting up to 700 horsepower. That's all well and good, but you know a 500 horsepower Ferrari is going to be a lot faster. It's just got a better suspension and better integration. So it's fun to talk about the specs, but when you've got something that's so perfectly integrated, the speed actually comes from the integration not from the individual hardware.”
Chris Tector, software architect for Forza game engine
“I mean as much as the platform's done a great job at providing a common environment for us to develop almost the same title on both PC and Xbox, theres a lot of things we learn. As we would performance optimize, we'll have different levels of features, and those eventually show up as the scalers that a PC gamer gets in their version, and so they are now more like first class citizens in our engine.
“But in the end we can never — the thing that we've done in our history of being able to tune and deliver this very curated, 'Here's what the game does when it plays super smooth 60 frames a second native resolution,’ right? Because we've been native since the beginning. That's at our core and our heart of how we how we develop our content — how we write the code, how we test what we're finally shipping is everybody's tuning to deliver that experience on a very fixed device. We can target that with PC, but in a lot of ways there's things that just get in the way. It's still not a pure ‘I am here for gaming’ device.
“PC gaming is great. I'm not saying it's not. But the purity of what you get out of a console — a box that's been purpose built to play games and not only play games but with Scorpio, to play 4K games — it amazed us from the beginning because we were turning on every knob we had in our ultra PC settings. And everything is built that way — that the box is built that way, the OS is built that way, that the graphics drivers and end libraries those are built that way — and our engine is tuned to fit on that. It means that we can squeeze even more into that that critical frame time of, ‘We want to get in front of the player.’”