The introduction of Forza Horizon 4 seasons is the big new feature for the latest in the franchise. You might think that Playground Games has added it this time around as a way to iterate the series, but it’s actually wanted to include seasons for a long time.
As far back as Forza Horizon on Xbox 360, Playground Games has discussed implementing a seasonal feature. Ben Penrose, Art Director at Playground told me about the seasons and just how much work it took to get them into Forza Horizon 4.
“In so many ways, the work is obviously scaled up essentially four times,” Penrose explains, “During the Australian production, we had a guy over here in Australia doing all that data capture work for a whole summer.”
Forza Horizon 4 Seasons
When Playground Games were developing Forza Horizon 3 it had a team in Australia filming the sky for several months. I asked Penrose about this and if the same tech was applied to Forza Horizon 4.
“It’s exactly the same, ” he told me. “This time around, we did it for every single season. We had one very poor man, who was in the field essentially for an entire year. He didn’t even have the benefit of the good part of the year, getting everything.”
The realisation that the sky and lighting were integral to the implementation of seasons came during the beginning of development on Horizon 3. Playground was testing the sky capturing tech and originally filmed the sky over Britain in December.
Being Winter, the sky was grey and the lighting dull and dark.
The team applied that sky to Forza Horizon 2 which was set on the Amalfi Coast. The result was something unexpected.
It was funny because it’s like that’s a location you associate with endless sunshine, but it has this whole wintry vibe because of the sky.
It was one of those things where we were like, “Okay, if you want to do a season’s implementation, actually getting the right lighting data is going to be super key.” If you haven’t got the sun position in the right place for a given time of year, the feel is just not quite right.
The Right Seasoning
I asked if that moment was the birth of Forza Horizon seasons, but Penrose told me that dynamic weather had always been part of the design. It was never included until now due to technical restrictions. Penrose explained that Playground has had an R&D team working on seasons for a long time.
“It was around about the same time we made the decision on the location that we got to the point where the tech teams came to us and said, “You know what guys? I think we could actually do it this time,” which was one of the reasons we ended up picking the British location.”
It’s not just that the tech has finally allowed Playground to include seasons in Forza Horizon 4 either. Britain has what you might call conventional seasons. Each season has a distinct identity and lends itself well to being in the game.
If Playground Games had included seasons in Forza Horizon 3, there wouldn’t have been much difference between them. So, the selection of the location and idea to include seasons was serendipity for the team.
There was a really nice marrying of those two moments together, which meant that we could pick Britain, and represent it, and research it in the level of detail we needed to to be able to achieve that feature. We’d also got the tech to a point where we felt like we could go ahead and build it.
Once you pick up and play Forza Horizon 4 and get to experience each of the four seasons you see how much work has gone into creating this world. There’s a phenomenal level of design detail in Forza Horizon 4 so when you play, pay attention. Especially be sure to check out the sky as it’s what ties these seasons together.
Forza Horizon 4 will be available on October 2, 2018.
PowerUp! attended a Forza Horizon 4 event in Sydney as a guest of Microsoft.