(upbeat music) – Please welcome the creative director of the Forza RacingFranchise, Dan Greenawalt.
Dan, how are you? – I'm doing well, it's been a good day.
– Yeah, it's been a good day.
This is your second sort of session today.
First one was really awesome.
And let's actually, speakingof social distancing, give our TV elbow bump.
Be sure to do that everybody.
But this is cool.
Thanks for joining us.
Now, let's start broad.
You kind of are the creative, you oversee creative direction from the franchises both at Turn 10 and from Playground Games.
What is your role? Can you describe your role? – Yeah, well, I'm the creative director on the Forza Racing Franchise.
And yes, that does includeMotorsport and Horizon.
But the way we run these teams, both Turn 10 and Playgroundhave a ton of autonomy, creative autonomy.
And so my role is reallyset out a bit of a future and keep some continuity.
So what is the continuity? What does Forza represent? And then what are we tryingto do with the future? Especially looking attechnologies and new experiences that are coming into play, beit xCloud or what have you.
So the teams are incredibly creative.
And a lot of my role isnurturing that creative culture, making sure the teams talk to each other about new creative ideasand just working with them.
It's kind of a dream job.
I get to work with twoincredibly creative teams and hopefully change car culture, change gaming culture.
– Car culture.
I love that.
Now, this is excitingfor a number of reasons.
'Cause I think the ideaof running a studio is super fascinating.
It's something that I don'tthink I could ever do.
But it's always been great seeing you 'cause you've kind of always been there.
Especially on E3 on the stages you're revealing thecars, that's always cool.
That's a little extra perk.
I remember for ForzaMotorsport 7, I believe it was, I forgot what car it was.
But I remember on Xbox One X, it was 4K.
And I believe, quoting you, “A rock-solid “60 frames per second.
” But it's really cool to see sort of Forza at the head of technology and especially when it comesto resolution and frame rate.
So that's really cool.
Now I'm curious, looking back over the past five to 10 years, what are some of thesignificant developments that you've seen in the industry? – Well, I think I'm gonna have to keep that personal for a second.
I've been working at Turn 10, I've been working at Xboxfor nearly 20 years now.
And my experience is thatyou learn from your mistakes.
You learn from your failures.
And I think it's what's kept Turn 10, it's what's kept Forza strong is that we've beenwilling to make mistakes, then learn from them andget better and get stronger.
So as I look back, since2005 when we launched the original Forza Motorsport, I see one after another things that we could have done better, we wanted to do better.
And I can then see usfixing those over time.
so Forza Motorsport 1, we slipped, we crunched, we did a lot of the classic mistakes that happen in game development.
Forza Motorsport 2, we did it again.
We actually slipped again.
But by the time we gotinto Forza Motorsport 3, we had really worked on ourprocess and our communication.
Had great program management.
Had adopted our own form of Agile.
And as a result, we wereable to hit our gait with great quality.
So I look through all of the last years, and especially the last five to 10.
When we come to Xbox One.
And Forza Horizon really took off and embraced open world gaming.
And the trends around open world gaming really took off as well.
So it was really the rightgame at the right time.
Now, as I look into thenext group of years, I think there's equalopportunity with changes that are happening in the industry.
So for me, I love being where we're at.
We are part of Xbox.
We're part of first party.
We are with our own engine, the ForzaTech engine, pushing the boundaries ofwhat Xbox hardware can do.
And as first party, we prove it out and then share ourlearnings with other teams.
And that's not just inside of Microsoft.
We share our experience towards DirectX, and how that goes into Windows development and PC development in general.
So I love that we getto be on the front line.
We're the vanguard of a lotof technologies and services that can go make games better, all up.
– Yeah, and I think we're gonna talk about those services in a bit.
I want to go back a bit though to this idea of key learnings.
'Cause I don't think anyoneout there is foolish enough to think that runninga game studio is easy and that there are notgonna be some missteps.
You mentioned just now how ittook a couple of iterations for you to kind of get it right.
What are some of thethings that went into, what are some things thatwhen you see and understand “Hey, maybe we didn't land this right, ” that you take back as a studio and what do you guys do about it? – Well, I don't know ifthis is where I'm at today as an individual or it'swhere we are as a franchise, and maybe we'll evolve further.
But when I look back at howwe were oriented early on, it was about ideas and thegame we wanted to play.
It was very introspectiveand very idea-oriented.
As I look at where we are now, it's really about buildingwith the community.
It's about looking outand creating empathy for our other players.
That was something we discussedin the inclusivity panel.
It's very core of how we do creation.
We need the inspiration from a broad and vast community of gamers because our vision isto change car culture and gaming culture.
We're part of both of those worlds and we want to push that forward.
That's more than justtrying to ship a game, make some money.
That's not what this is about.
For me, to keep energizedabout coming to work every day, it's about making a difference.
I love cars.
I love car culture.
But it's not gonna be thesame in five or 10 years.
So when I look back and thinkabout the evolution we've had, we're now in a place wherethe teams are more autonomous.
And they are able to ideate and create, prototype new ideas, bringing customers in and then inflating experiences out so that we can change culture all up.
– Yeah, and I think passionprobably plays a big part in anything that you want to do.
If you don't love it, thenit's gonna be work, right? So I want to also though goto the flip side of this.
I think you all have sort of matured in your developmentprocess and as a studio.
Does that ever maybe scare you a bit? Like, that responsibility? How do you see it as maybea leader in this space? – That's a really great question.
I think there are daysthat it feels like work.
I think it's hard right now.
There's fear in the air.
There's a lot of people thatare working really hard.
But we're under trying times.
I tend to think of it as opportunity.
We've got places we cango and it energizes me.
But I'll be honest.
You run into setbacks whenyou're doing game development.
Things don't work out the way you thought.
Technologies don't come out theway you expect it to happen.
It's why we do prototyping.
And so we can hopefully prove that out during pre-production.
But you get setbacks.
And at that point, theambition feels a little scary.
It feels too big, it feels too far out.
But that's a really smallpercentage of the time for me and I hope for the team as well.
That the team feels inspired that no, car culture is gonna change just like gaming culture has changed.
And we're in some ways, one of the only teams that can sit at that nexusand take the responsibility of changing them both.
I love that.
At that point, it feels much less like a yoke that I'm wearing and much more like just like, “Ah, look at that opportunity.
“We gotta run there.
“We gotta do this together.
” And it's all about betting on the team.
Betting on each other.
I'm not gonna come up with a killer idea.
At best, I'm gonna set an environment.
An environmental where peoplecan do their best work.
And they can think creativelyand have some independence.
But they also have accountabilityand responsibility.
To their fans, to us, as well as to our vision for the franchise.
So it's that environment that I think is gonna really bringthe best out of everyone.
– Yeah, and I was gonna ask about that.
Because I think a studio is nothing without the people who work there.
And making sure that you're fostering that great environment.
From your perspective, how do you view the people who work on the game as itpertains to the actual game that ends up shipping? How do you sort of fosterthat kind of environment? – It's hard, we've learned a ton.
I think early on, it was a smaller team.
And we were a more homogenous team.
We were all generallyin the same age range.
We were kind of coming from the same socioeconomic background, same education level.
It just was a very homogenous group.
And it made things go quickly because we all spoke the same language and everything was very quick and fast.
But it wasn't these reactive ideas that come in and really pushpeople in new directions.
So what we've worked onin the last several years is trying to be moreinclusive in how we hire and how we communicateand how we organize teams.
And create space forpeople to have new ideas.
And we're never gonna do that perfectly.
We're gonna fall into oldbehaviors and it's things we have to watch out for all the time.
But I love we have alignment now.
Whether it's Satya, PhilSpencer, Matt Booty, down to Turn 10, to push fordiversity and inclusivity.
And it's gonna make better games, it's gonna make better experiences.
But we're never gonna be done.
I mean, it's one of those things we have to just continueto find a mistake, get called on it, havean honest atmosphere where people feel they can actually bring these problems to us.
And that's the hardest thing.
You run into a difficultcommunication experience.
It's scary to bring that up.
And so fostering an environment where people feel theycan bring up situations that have happened at work.
Because we will grind to a halt if people come to work and feel excluded.
Or they feel scared.
Or they feel that they're not valued.
I need everybody on that team, I need everybody to becoming with their best self.
And if we can't get there, wewon't achieve our ambitions.
– Yeah, and that's whyI think this session was when I heard thatI was gonna get to do, I was fascinated because I think that, again, the people make the studio.
And making sure that theyfeel like they're included, making sure that they're partof the development process.
Making sure that they'reable to give their input.
Maybe even if it's atough discussion to have.
Now, we're gonna get intosome of the technology stuff in a bit because I thinka lot of developers want to hear that.
But what you mentioned at the end of that answer was ambition.
And I'm curious.
Forza and Motorsportand definitely Horizon, they've tried new things.
How do you wrestle with having these tough or high ambitions and also reining it back to what's realistic? – Well, some of that's justthe game development process.
Where do you put your risk? How much of your risk canyou put during concept and derisk that by ideating with players? Or getting great minds from other studios to vet what you're doing? How can you deriskpre-production by prototyping new ideas and new tools? Adding new pipelines thatspeed up content production.
So each one of these phases has a way that you derisk that phase.
And for those that arenew into game development, these terms may not be very familiar.
But it means there are different phases that you go through in game development.
And each one of those times, you need to be looking atwhat's my hardest problem? Do we have the appetite, do we have the ability to tackle this problem? If not, don't.
Don't take a ringer.
That's the thing that tears teams apart.
And that's the mistakes we madein Forza Motorsport 1 and 2.
Is that we kind of felt wehave to, we must, we willed it.
And that's not how you get it done.
If you want to have these lofty ambitions, yes, everyone has to be passionate, everyone has to bring their best self.
But you also need reallygood, smart logical approaches to these things or it just won't get done.
You can't just speak it into existence.
– Absolutely, yeah, so that was great.
And I think we're gonna transition a bit over to more of a technical space.
But one of those maybe ambitions that you all had were drivatars.
This idea that you wouldbe racing against sort of, I don't know how you would describe it, but cloud-computatedversions of your friends.
What other ways, including that maybe even, has technology affectedthe gameplay of Forza? – I think at the DNAof the Forza Franchise, because we've always been first party, we've been inside of Microsoftbefore we were even a team.
When there are four of usthat were first pitching the original Forza Motorsport and we were all Microsoft employees.
So as a result, we've always thought about technologies like DirectX.
Or the first Xbox hada hard drive installed.
That was a big deal.
– That was crazy.
– It had a NIC card soyou could actually do network gaming in a different way.
These were things thataffected the design.
So even the core concept of what's gonna make this game great, the technologies were integrated into what we call the big ideas.
Some game groups call itthe pillars of the game.
Now, those are always changing.
So you look at Azure, xCloud, you look at, I mean, there's so many new features that are always coming out.
New features that come into, it was already mentioned earlier, like Havok or things thatare there in Visual Studio.
We look at the broad suiteof features and services that are available to usand some of those we say, “We want those, so we'regonna help prove them out.
” We'll be there sending early code.
We're gonna help withthe development effort of those things by sending our code over.
And trying to make them better for the whole game development community.
And some of those we'vebenefited from earlier, game communities.
But one after the other, we integrate these things.
So even right now.
We look at, I mentionedit in the other panel, accessibility and how that can converge through adaptive design toeven xCloud on your phone.
So somebody who wants largerfonts, higher contrast, makes it easier to read, well, you also want thaton a smaller screen.
So you don't have to be alow-sighted gamer to need that.
It's helpful for all sorts of players.
So these technologies converge and great design is ableto kind of solve them.
Make solves that help allof these different areas.
– Absolutely, and yourteam, both studios have been at the ebb and flow of technologies, they've gone along on that journey.
How has cloud sort of affectedthe way your team operates? – Well, some of it's brass tacks.
It's just kind of at the basics.
Like how do we do automation? And what parts of build servers and what parts of creatingcontent are done in the cloud? So I think you had mentioned drivatars.
So that was a technology, it was machine learning, it was in the cloud.
It brought data together and it could generalize an AI opponent based on your behavior.
That was a way of using a new technology.
We had the Thunderheadservers at the time.
Well, Azure is much more than that.
So it actually helpsus do game development.
We can put tools there, itand allows us to expand.
When we have like ForzaHorizon 4, huge hit.
And the number of players that came in, first holiday, secondholiday, huge community.
That's what we love.
We want to build communitiesthat love cars and love games.
Horizon 4 is great for that.
Well, we needed a scalable solution.
So we had already stress tested.
We built our backend on Azure and that allowed us tobuild out and expand when the game did just incredible, just the number ofpeople was just so huge.
So it gets put all over the place.
And I'd say even ML is areally interesting one.
So we look at machine learning and I think on the surface, as a gamer, the drivatar thing was, that's an example of turning the machine learning technology into something that I can actually play.
But machine learningactually has application into how you build yourgame, how you test your game.
How you actually look at taking your game to different levels of machine.
Machine learning can look atthose really complex problems and help you out.
So I can't go into a lotof the details there, those are things that we'reactually working on right now.
But I love that we're able to take this, this information in.
And it's part of working in a big company that's got resources that way.
So there's researchprojects that are happening to do with machine learning that will get integrated into games but will also get integrated into how game development is done.
As they come from Microsoft into things like Visual Studio and the like.
– Yeah, and I think, just to bring it back to drivatar for a second.
I think one of the thingsthat came from that that I saw, especially when it came out, was the social sharing of like, “Hey, I just raced against your opponent.
” Do you see other benefitsfor the community as it pertains to stuff that you're doing with all the technologiesthat you're using? – Yeah, I mean, ultimately it's all about bringinga community together.
And our community has a verydiverse set of motivations.
So we're not telling for example in Motorsport or inHorizon a linear storyline.
You go find your fun.
You explore this beautifulworld in Horizon.
Or you compete down to the last 10 tenths of a second in Motorsport.
But people also paint.
They do other things in these games and they form theselittle social communities.
So we use a lot of technologies to bringing all these players together.
Yeah, I don't know.
I think that we'll just keep pushing more technologies that direction.
And how do we create moresocial bonds between people? – Yeah, and we've seen that— I will say though, one thing that you just reminded me of.
There was a story I rememberreading about RalliSport, which is a game that was made by Xbox.
And there was a guy who had, one of his loved ones had passed away, and his ghost was stillraceable in the game.
And it just, it touched me so greatly.
And I love how technologies can do that, the things that we're not expecting, and create social bonds in new ways.
And drivatar did some of that as well.
I still love the fact that I go online and I race and I see people who I haven't talked to in a while.
And it kind of reminds me like, “Maybe I should reach out to that guy.
” I kind of miss them andthere's a virtual ghost, yourself that's actuallyin the game with me.
I really love that.
– Yeah, I mean, that video, and I believe it'savailable online somewhere.
You can check it out.
'Cause I think they had the narrator, 'cause it was originally acomment in a YouTube video and then they made awhole video around it.
And that video just broughtme to tears, it was so sad.
I mean, in a good way obviously.
But I'm curious from your perspective.
Obviously you oversee both studios.
Have there been other personal stories that you've kind of seen play out that really have motivated the studios? 'Cause I think a lotof developers out there can get a bit maybe discouraged because developing a game is hard.
What sort of things doyou look at as studios to kind of keep you motivated? – Well, there's allthings great and small.
I mean, there's big thingsand there's little things.
When we do sprints, we bring people inside and we get to learn about their lives and what motivates them.
It's incredibly personal.
It's very touching.
And it broadens your perspectiveon why you do things.
'Cause it's easy to turn agroup into some big group.
Like this person represents everything and this is what everybody in here wants.
When you bring it in andmake it much more personal, it gets more touching.
Now, there's a risk.
You're listening to oneperson, not everybody.
So you do have to be committedto check these assumptions with a broader group of people.
But there's always touching stories that come in through there.
We've worked a lot with SpecialEffect.
It's a charity out of the UK.
And through that, we've got some incredible touching stories.
People who so badly want to game and want to be part of our world.
And they're so easy to overlook.
And it feels awful, it feels shameful when you learn like, “Oh my gosh, “this person reallywants to play our games.
” So I love having that exposure.
And that's really what'sgonna inspire the teams.
It's not gonna be somemandate or some compliance or a checkbox or anything like that.
It's gonna come from empathybuilt within the teams for each other and for the players.
And then ideas that come out of that.
It's rarely that an individualcomes to us and says, “Here's the idea that you should do.
” It's the same way.
It doesn't work thatway usually on the team.
It's about collaboration.
So you need inputs thatcreate a chain reaction of ideas and things that the feature teams can actually build together.
– Yeah, I mean, I've never spent a day developing a game in my life.
But I imagine thatafter all the hard work, seeing stories like thatdefinitely help out.
We actually have a Discord question here.
This user says, “Forza, whenit comes to the Forza series, Oh, excuse me.
“When it comes to the Forza series, “when it comes to the data, “does it tell you whatfeatures players would like, “including future gamemodes, future cars?” And this is from Major Respect.
– So this gets into kind ofa deep side of making games.
A lot of game developers useplayer segments of some sort.
It allows you to get some sort of, get your hands around some idea of what does this player want versus person was that player want.
Back in the old days, youmight use just forums.
But the problem is, it's avery small group of people who necessarily are on the forums.
So we need to bring players in.
We need a broader set offeedback that are coming in.
So in the game, we do collect data on how players are using it.
All this is anonymized, it'sreally just population data.
But that's more useful if youwere gonna A/B test something.
Who likes this more, likes that less.
You can see who's playing a feature or not playing a feature.
So it does help you refine, but it doesn't necessarily help you ideate something bigand new and innovative.
We need new inputs.
So that can come throughinterviewing segments, people from these segments.
Bringing people in and talking to them.
Or it can also come fromjust the teams ideating and starting to flight, play test things.
Or it comes from new technologies.
We talked about the harddrive in the original Xbox that was given to afeature team, or Connect.
We did Connect where you could move around the car with Autovista.
New technologies are also a new input that create a chain reactionof ideas from teams.
– I'm so excited to see what comes next.
But speaking of what comes next.
I'm curious, let's look down the line, five to 10 years from now.
What are some of the keytrends or developments you feel developersshould keep top-of-mind when either running a studio or even just making a game in general? – Yeah, there's so manydifferent ways of making games.
And I've really been in thesame place for a long time.
So I can't give a comprehensive view of all the different ways of making games.
I can tell you why Istill love making games which is I love creative teams.
I love working with them.
Everybody on the team is smarter than me.
And I gotta tell you, it'shumbling to come into a place and see these incrediblysmart, passionate people.
But it's also incredibly inspiring.
So I feel I get smarter every day.
I do love that.
And when I look at thetrends, I look at xCloud and I look at things like Azure.
Places where we can createblended experiences.
I look at accessibility and the features that can come out of that.
But I also look at genre changes and genre blends that are happening.
And what comes when thesegenre blends get more power? Like the Xbox Series X.
Or what happens to these genres when they are on the Xbox or using xCloud? And you're maybe playing themon your phone or on your PC.
I think we're gonna continueto see more genre blending and I love that.
I mean, that's where newideas plus two old ideas become something wildly new.
It's even the Horizon I just mentioned.
That it was like Forza Motorsportbut it was an open world.
And then it developed its own expression of what Forza meant.
And it broadened thewhole Forza expression which is fantastic.
So I think that more of these blends are gonna keep happening.
– Yeah, I agree.
And just on a note of Forza Horizon.
We need to get on anactual Horizon Festival 'cause I would love to do that.
I'm imagining there'ssome insurance things that might be around with fastcars and people everywhere.
Anyway, but now you'vegot a bird's-eye view on the gaming industry as a whole.
So from your perspective, what would you tell new developers who are jumping in for the first time, looking to start making a game? – Well, I think it's easyto get stuck in the idea.
And in my experience, it's not the idea.
It's the team and it's the iteration.
So even with my kids.
I like developing games at home as well.
So we do pen and paper, we do dice games.
And I develop them with my kids.
And the same advice I give to them is what I give everybody else.
Throw your stuff away.
Don't get attached to it.
Build it, have fun.
Play it with other people.
Change it, throw it away.
So I look at the years andyears and years of Forza.
They are built on all ofthe ideas we threw away.
And it comes down to focus.
So at a certain point, you have to shift gears from ideation and throwing away to we've really got something here.
And now it's about focus and trimming and trimming and focusing.
And not, “Hey I saw this thing over here.
“I saw this thing over here.
“let's add that, let's add that.
” Boy, that is just really time-consuming and can be very destructive.
Rapid iteration, getting feedback, not being too sensitiveabout when people are like, “Oh, I hate this.
” It's like, “Good, thanks.
” I need the feedback.
– You can't take it too personally.
But it's important to keepaway from the distractions, especially when you're making a game.
'Cause I do think you're right.
That a lot of people can tendto want to make a perfect game and you're always gonnawanna iterate on that.
And I know the Turn 10team was hoping to deliver some talks at GDC.
But you've been headsdown with some milestones in your development.
Will we see any of thosetalks at a later date for the community? – I'm actually not certain which ones are gonna be going forward and which ones are not.
I know that the team has someincredible new technologies they're working on thatthey do want to bring out.
But I don't know the exact menu of how those are gonna come out.
– Well, Dan, let me tell you, this has been a fantastic, and just getting to pick your brain from someone who's beenin the industry this long, it's a absolute pleasure.
We'll do an ending elbow bump right there.