Behind the scenes at Turn 10 Studios and the making of Forza Motorsport 4

Exclusive: While Forza Motorsport 4 developer Turn 10 was busy prepping for its latest E3 appearance, Electricpig was there to keep them company. A few weeks ago we were invited to an exclusive behind-the-scenes peep inside, where we got to see everything that goes down at the studios brand new HQ.

Read on, and join us for an exclusive tour.

From drawing board to final concept, and a glimpse of how those supercars sound just like the real thing in-game – we got to see all that and more up close. Check out the photos below as we now take you on the same tour:

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Turn 10 is a Microsoft-owned first-party development studio based in Redmond, Seattle. The makers of Forza 4 moved here only five weeks ago, Studio Manager Alan Hartman told us.

From outside we could have been at any Microsoft studio. Walk past the lobby and you’re greeted with the Turn 10 logo, and the first sign that you’re about to step into a game developer’s studio. To our disappointment, those were not copies of Forza Motorsport 4 sitting in the corner there. So much for a freebie.

Because no award-winning games studio is complete without a trophy cabinet. As if any motivation were needed to work on what just might be the racing game to own this year wasn’t enough, this trophy and memorabillia stronghold features all sorts: model cars, trophies from various video game award shows, magazines and websites. There’s even a collectible Stig on the right…

Not to mention a signed copy of Forza Motorsport. Recognize the signature there? It’s from someone pretty big on the Microsoft circuit – none other than Bill Gates. How much would that go on eBay for?

There’s Top Gear’s Stig again. The Turn 10 team are massive fans of Top Gear and its presenter Jeremy Clarkson, who does some terrific voiceovers for the game. Other items here include a rather snazzy Spike TV Video Game Awards trophy and a bowling pin from the Forza Motosport 3 ship party signed by Turn 10 staffers.

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Before we toodled along some more, Game Director Dan Greenawalt spoke to us about the studio’s passion for cars, why racing is just a small cog in the Forza Motorsport series and how Forza Motorsport 4 will “transform the genre.” Greenawalt’s a genuine car fan who himself has spent much of his life tinkering with real-life cars of his own. We promise you – this man loves cars.

Here he is showing off the Forza series impressive track record. “Highest-rated racing game of this generation [for] PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 – Forza Motorsport 3. You know what the second highest-rated one is? Forza Motorsport 2,” he says here. “In this version [Forza Motorsport 4], we want to transform the racing genre.”

By now we’re well inside the studio. It’s a large open-plan affair that Turn 10 moved into just five weeks ago, so the team hasn’t quite bedded in yet, not that it felt that way. Nice little touches such as the checkered flags you see and the inflatable football above someone’s workstation gives the studio a cosy feel. However, we weren’t inside for long…

…because Dan Greenawalt quickly took us outside to show us his car – a kitted out BMW with black rims. With the sun shining that day, nothing was going to stop him showing it off. For a moment it felt like being on the set of Fast & Furious. Dan says tells us that he has always loved tinkering with his motors, and plans more upgrades to this very model.

A better view? Ah! Here you go, car fans.

Back inside the studio we waited around for the next part of our tour, but not before playing developer paparazzi, snapping the devs at work/getting down to some Forza 4 action. At the time of visiting Turn 10 had yet to finish the build of the game they showed at E3. In the video below, John Wendl briefly explains how the Forza Motorsport team is hand-picked from around the world.

In the above video, John Wendl briefly explains how the Forza Motorsport team is hand-picked from around the world.

Members of the Turn 10 hard at work. We didn’t quite get close enough to hear what was being said at this desk discussion here without drawing suspicious glances. There was a lot of screen pointing going on.

We were soon given a 10-minute demo of Forza Motorsport’s garage feature by Design Lead, Bill Giese. The garage can be controlled using either an Xbox 360 pad or Microsoft Kinect. Players can literally walk around cars from the game, open their doors using their hands and move in for a closer look. Don’t forget to check out the video we took of it in action.

After that we finally got to see the head-tracking skills in action. Here it is being shown off as part of a steering wheel set-up. “We actually watched how players drive. And the way they drive when they get excited is they tend to move their had a little bit when they get stressed out. We just reeled that in and have it look into the corner for you,” Dan Greenawalt told us earlier.

“At first it feels a little bit strange because it’s new and it’s different. But after you just relax and stop thinking about it and just play the way you would any racing game it just works. It just looks into the corner for you.”

It was soon time to head out to a nearby garage, where we got to see up close how the engine sounds from real-life cars are put into the game. Here is “where we capture all the sounds we need,” Nick Wiswell, Turn 10′s Creative Audio Director explained. Over 1,000 cars have been recorded at this Redmond-based garage. Here we got to see a Subaru WRX STI accelerate hard with the handbrake off. The car is securely fasted and on a dynamometer so that it won’t shoot off in either direction. It was loud. We actually had to sign a form absolving the studio of any blame were we deafened by the experience. Luckily, our eardrums escaped intact.

Strategically placed microphones capture the sound directly from the engine, before being relayed to a number of devices. Turn 10 do this for every car they get hold of, including those from members of the public. Wiswell earlier wrote on a forum pleading for anyone with “a cool sounding car” to show up. It worked. A Dodge Viper turned up that very day.

Once back at the studio, it was time to play some Forza Motorsport 4, this time on triple-screened simulator with 5.1 surround sound. Gaming on a conventional television has now been thoroughly spoilt for us.

Back to the drawing board. Or boards, rather. Here’s where all the brainstorming goes on. This is where ideas for tracks, and their design come together.

Each real-life track is visited by members of Turn 10 and studied in detail before making its way into the game. This sometimes involves walking for miles around whole tracks, resulting in some seriously sore legs by the end.

This is the sound room. All the sound and music you hear from the game are played and tested right here in this cosy sound studio. Curtains are clipped to the wall to eliminate as much noise as possible. It gets loud around here. Fellow Turn 10 staff working nearby are often seen sporting headphones when it does.

John Wendl, the Content Director and our tour guide for the day explained how Turn 10 captures all manner of real-life car sounds, as you can see from this gathering of exhaust pipes. It’s the same with tyres. “Games tend to have poor tyre audio,” he tells us. And those car crashes? “We purchase a bunch of cars and record them smashing into each other.” Of course.

Onto the next room. Wendl tells us we’re going to one of the most important rooms at Turn 10. Going in, we noticed that each room is a car model.

And here’s that room. This is where the most heated arguments take place, all the biggest decisions are made here. The decision to include that car you’ve always wanted, the next downloadable content, the next Turn 10 game – all born in this room.

Just as important is this pair of Audi R8 headlights, hooked up to the Turn 10 servers. A red light means the build of the game is broken. Nobody goes home until it’s fixed. Don’t worry Forza fans, it’s just the flash from our camera doing that.

As we wind down, Wendl points us to the beer tap that the studio has installed. Booze on tap? In the office? These guys work and play hard.

Our tour concluded with some Forza 4 action as we played alongside Turn 10 staff after a busy day working their socks off on the (at the time) yet-to-be-finished E3 demo. We hope you’ve enjoyed the tour.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of our exclusive Forza Motorsport 4 coverage right here.

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