Forza Horizon 4 was made using a kind of magic

Ok, well maybe not real magic, but it’s a type of magic that the developer needs in order to make the games in the series as special as they are. 

As I sat down with Ben Penrose, Art Director at Playground Games I had to congratulate him on his work on Forza Horizon 3 and for absolutely nailing the look and feel of Australia in that game.

“Cheers, man. Thank you very much. I appreciate that. When you produce a game world in another country, for example, Australia, you kind of look to the locals to tell you whether you did a good job or not.

“I think the reception we got from Australians when we produced 3 was amazing. Speaking as the art director there of the art team, it was the biggest compliment we could have possibly got.”

Nailing the look of Britain

Penrose explained to me that even if you get all the colours and objects right, the game world might still not feel like the real thing. That’s when the ‘magic’ comes into it. As Penrose puts it, “if you haven’t got that final bit of magic to glue it together, it still won’t work.” Being a Briton, he said that he was even more acutely aware of the need to get that magic combination right with Forza Horizon 4.

“As a result,” he tells me, “there was an extra level of challenge associated with it. We always knew when something wasn’t quite right, or when we started to nail something. It was a bit more of a slightly torturous process. It’s like painting a self-portrait.”

Playing Forza Horizon 4, it’s clear that this is an incredible self-portrait and one that’s had a lot of love and care poured into it.  I asked Penrose what was his favourite thing in the game and the thing that really nailed that magic feeling for him.

He first cited the British Moorland. 

It’s a very quintessentially British thing. They’ve got a very unique visual with all the purple heather. It’s also quite elevated, so you get really amazing views and vistas from that part of the world. It’s actually where a lot of car commercials get shot in Britain.

And the second was, as he called it, “more benign.” “There was something about producing a British motorway, ” he explained. “It was just super satisfying with all the right signage, and everything, and blasting past an average speed camera at 120 miles an hour when it’s got a 60 sign on it.

It’s the little things

“It’s obviously not something you can do in real life, but in a video game, that was quite satisfying.” He’s right too. Absolutely flooring it around the environment has always been a blast in Forza Horizon and there’s no exception for Forza Horizon 4 and its picture perfect British countryside. 

I mentioned to Penrose that the Telstra-style public phone boxes in Horizon 3 and the world perfect road signage were real highlights for me as I played. 

It’s always the small stuff, and I get it. I remember the feedback I got from other Australians, and a lot of people mentioned the phone boxes. It was like, “Okay, people are really getting into this.” Then, obviously, when we did Britain, I was like, “I get it now.” It’s the small things.

Those small things are the special magic that goes into making Forza Horizon as accurate as possible to the place it’s based on. Forza Horizon 4 absolutely nails the look and feel of Britain and we can’t wait to fully explore it on release.

Forza Horizon 4 will be available on October 2, 2018. 

PowerUp! attended a Forza Horizon 4 event in Sydney as a guest of Microsoft.

Leo Stevenson
Leo Stevenson
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

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