As I sat down to go hands-on with Forza Horizon 4 for the first time, something on the screen struck me. Along with the usual developer, publisher and game logos was a screen that read “A Playground Games Event.”
Playground Games wasn’t calling Forza Horizon 4 a game, or a service but rather, an event. I was curious to find out what the developer thought this meant and what it would mean to players.
Thankfully, in attendance at my hands-on session was Ben Penrose, Art Director at Playground Games. As I sat down with him, the first thing I asked about was this idea that Forza Horizon 4 is an event.
Forza Horizon 4 Event
PowerUp! – I noticed when the game starts, it says, “A Playground Games Event.” Where does that come from and what does it mean? What are you trying get across, and how do you make sure Horizon 4 is an event?
Ben Penrose – That is a really good question that nobody has ever asked before.
I think the answer is in the wording itself, right? We want to deliver something as an experience that feels like an event. Which is why we used that particular piece of wording. I hope, when people play the game, that comes across.
And it certainly does. The very first thing that happens when you start Forza Horizon 4 is to drive a McLaren. Right away you’re dropped into this hypercar already going at top speed. It’s brilliant and the perfect way to begin, especially in making Forza Horizon 4 feel like an event, instead of just another game.
It’s not just a McLaren you’re given the keys to in the opening though. As Forza Horizon 4 focuses on Britain’s four distinct seasons, you’re quickly run through each before you even start the game properly.
After flying through some gorgeous, tree-lined and leaf-laden roads in your Autumn McLaren, Forza Horizon 4 puts you behind the wheel of a truck designed for racing in the snow. With the words ‘A Song of Fire and Ice’ emblazoned on the screen, the idea of this game as an event is reinforced.
Sure, it’s a simple reference to Game of Thrones, but it hints at much more to come and a sense of intrigue, even if it’s just a throwaway reference for fun. It gets the job done.
What’s in a name?
From Winter’s snowy and icy racing, you’re strapped into a Ford Fiesta rally car smashing through the wet, green woods on Spring. Racing against a group of motocross riders billowing coloured, smoke, performing tricks and zig-zagging in your path, it’s again, easy to see why Playground Games would call Forza Horizon 4 an event.
Finally, you’re back in your McLaren racing across the British countryside on your way to the in-game Horizon Festival, which is our best clue yet at why it’s being billed as an event rather than a game. The Horizon Festival has been a staple of the franchise and this year is no different. It just adds to the overall vibe and feeling of Forza Horizon 4, a Playground Games Event.
Penrose believes it’s the studio’s dedication to and the pursuit of perfection and detail that helps elevate Forza Horizon 4 above a simple game.
There’s a way that we present the experience and a certain level of polish that we always hold ourselves to in terms of there’s a quality level that we want to try to achieve as a studio.
We ask a lot of ourselves. I think we’ve always ended up with something that we feel really proud of and that we could use a piece of wording like that and feel like it was appropriate.
After spending time with Forza Horizon 4 I can certainly see where Playground Games is coming from when it uses the word ‘event.’ If the finished product can maintain the momentum and sense of awe, then Forza Horizon 4 will have earned the moniker.
Let’s hope so. We’ll find out when it launches on October 2, 2018.
PowerUp! attended a Forza Horizon 4 event in Sydney as a guest of Microsoft.