Earlier this week we had the privilege of chatting to Ben Penrose, who is the Art Director for Forza Horizon 3. He shared some information about why Australia was chosen for the location of Forza Horizon 3, how they captured the variety of climates and locations as well as how sound is a bit part of the game.
Can you tell us about how you came to the decision to bring the Forza Horizon franchise to Australia?
Ben: One of the biggest things we had to decide when choosing the setting of a (Horizons) game was that we wanted to have somewhere that had as much diversity as possible. As the art director visual diversity was number one on my list so we spent a lot of time researching locations
A lot of people being in the U.K had sort of preconceived notions about Australia in terms of biomes, so what shocked the team was just how much more there was in Australia than the ‘orange earth’. I remember the rainforests being this big surprise for us, and instantly we got these really nice contrasting visuals, with the rainforests mixed with the outback and coastal towns like Byron Bay, and highrise cities like Surfers Paradise, and it quickly became our number one choice for visual diversity, not to mention the different sort of driving experiences the player would encounter with such different ecotypes, as skipping over sand dunes in the outback would be a totally different experience to crashing through a rainforest.There are so many iconic locations that Australia has, possible more than what Horizons 3 manages to cover. How did you manage to narrow it down to the ones you ended up picking?
It’s really really hard because there’s so much there, so it was the game designers picking their favourites of what they saw. We had concept artists do mockups of the 12 Apostles beach and that was one that people saw and instantly gravitated towards, and it was a similar process with other places where we pitched our favourite locations and had the concept team come up with designs we felt would resonate with players.
It was a huge effort since it’s on the other side of where we work, so we had a team come over and research for a couple of months, and we hired local photographers to basically cover as much as possible. It was fun but it was really hard work, getting up at 5am and driving and shooting until 10pm, and what was really funny was that we’d go to some beautiful exotic locations, and end up spending the day shooting pictures of various surfaces, tarmac and gravel, which wasn’t necessarily ideal when you’re in these locations. But it was definitely a bit of fun, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t.
Outside of the locations and some authentic Australia vehicles, what else is representative of Australian culture?
Obviously music is a big big one, we wanted to offer people the ability to drive to the music they love by expanding the radio stations and one of those stations is 100% dedicated to Australian music. We also employed real Australian voice actors for the game so you’ll definitely hear a few voice actors in the game that are Australian.
The sound design in Forza is quite famous for it’s high level of authenticity, what went into creating the sounds for this game?
We have some really passionate audio designers at Playground, and they get some dream gigs where they’ll go out and hook up Lamborghini’s and Ferrari’s with huge mic setups, then have them drive up and down on different runways and speeds in order to capture everything as accurately as possible. For the harder surfaces, like tires running on the beach, we got the guys to mic up a Paraglider kart/trike with no engine, which was absolutely perfect for capturing the audio of the tire tracks running on the sand.Horizon’s weather system looks like the most realistic one yet, can you tell us about the process that went into capturing the different atmosphere’s and climates?
So at E3 we talked about the camera rig we had, with the multi-4K camera set up that would capture a full 360 degree view of the sky, then we set a team out to a remote location with unimpeded views of the sky, who camped out nearly the entire summer to shoot as much footage as they could get. We then had a huge library of timelapse photography that we could pick and choose from.
Australia’s east coast has a somewhat notorious reputation for it’s schizophrenic weather system, did you capture that climate?
We had two separate locations for the sky capture, and when we set the rig up we thought we’d only get the clearest summer skies throughout our time here and we were actually worried we wouldn’t be able to see any of the more dramatic weather we knew we wanted. But it turned out they were so easy to capture since every day was so different. The awkward thing however was to capture rain, as we couldn’t let the cameras get hit with rain so we would wait for a day where it looked like it would rain but actually didn’t which was difficult but paid off well.
What are your plans for Horizons 3 post release in terms of DLC?
Unfortunately that’s all super secret, all I can say is ‘stay tuned’. But obviously we have a lot of plans for Horizons 3 which we’re dying to talk about soon.
Final question, what would your next hypothetical Horizons game be set in?
There’s so many locations, just like what we had before we picked on Australia. I think it all depends on what we want to do in our next game and what our key factors will be in picking a location so I can’t decide! I’m open to whatever is next.
Forza Horizon 3 will release on September 27th for Xbox One and Windows 10.