Forza 3 Will Deliver Nearly Limitless Online Multiplayer Variety

More than anything, Forza Motorsport 3's greatest challenge is perhaps its greatest strength.

As racing franchises continue down a diminishing road of more, with detailed engine tuning, real world physics, realistic damage modeling and road wear, they often leave all but the most devoted fans of their games and autophiles in the dust.

But not increasing the realism, not giving what car fanatics need to get the full experience of driving and driving fast, often leads to bland diversions stripped of any right to be considered a simulation.

With Forza 3, developers Turn 10 Studios hope to make something for everyone. Instead of trying to blend the best of both worlds, the game makers have added so many options, so many helping hands that a gamer can create their own experience.

But how can that translate to the diverse world of online gaming? How can Mario Kart fans play Forza 3 in a way that requires little more than gas and steering online with those who expect an intimate knowledge of gear ratios and part selections from their drivers?

The issue of balancing the experience for hardcore and casual gamers in the same environment is solving a problem created by the developers themselves, said Korey Krauskopf, producer for Forza 3.

That long-tail of niche game development is more about trying to differentiate yourself in a crowded genre, than trying to satisfy gamers, Krauskopf said.

"I think that's more about developers trying to be different, not an indictment of the user," he said. "I think it's that game companies are making their games more specialized.

"We want to serve those who already enjoy our games and invite more in."

The problem, he says, is that people hear that a game like Forza is a "hardcore game" and to many that simply means hard to play.

That's why in Forza 3 the developers layered on assists, like auto-braking and one-button driving, he said. And why the game includes plenty of help for auto-tuning a car, if a player doesn't want to do it themselves.

For online gaming, tells Kotaku, Forza 3 features an incredibly elaborate race rules editor.

While the game will ship with a dozen or so pre-created race modes, everything about them, from the number of laps to start delays and what sort of assists a player can be using, can be changed.

"We have a whole bunch of options that just cascade," Krauskopf said. "There are pages and pages of options they can set to make the race exactly how you want it to be."

Krauskopf likens it to the ability first-person shooter fans have to manipulate the online game rules for Halo 3, but with much more control.

For example, most racing games allow players to choose a track, the car classes and the number of laps. In Forza 3, a gamer can take that basic race and choose to change the rules of how a winner is determined.

Krauskopf explains:
*First they could section everyone into two teams, one team will win.

*They could then decide that a specific person from each team must cross the finish line to determine who wins (we'll call this person the "mouse"), the rest of the players are just there to provide interference to the other team, or protection for their own team (we'll call them "cats").

*Then they could create still deeper challenges by limiting teams to specific car classes, tunings, assists, or upgrades.

*If they want to make things more interesting they can stagger the roll-off times from the start line giving some a head start.

*If the players want to be super specific about their race, they can limit the mice to D-class, front wheel drive European hatchbacks and the cats to all wheel drive turbocharged V10s.

"This results in players running in packs on a track, trying to protect their team's "mouse" and see it safely across the finish line first while trying keep the other team's mouse away from the finish line," Krauskopf said. "A very different type of race!"

The game's online modes have more than 100 rule types to tweak giving players an almost limitless ability to customize the way they want to play, he said.

Krauskopf says that the team expects once the game ships and gets into the hands of enthusiastic gamers they will begin to see far more creative combinations of the rules used to create modes they've never imagined.

Since these personalized race modes can only be saved locally, Krauskopf expects that some gamers will make a name for themselves as popular hosts for their custom races. He added that they are considering one day perhaps allowing gamers to save modes online, but right now have no plans to include that option.

Forza 3 will still include all of the Live support Forza 2 had as well. Other new additions to online play include a new party system that allows gamers to hop into one room and then jump from race to race together.

The team has also worked to blur the line between the game's offline and online modes when it comes to a player's career.

"As people are playing online they are still earning experience points and getting rewarded for in-game credit," he said.

Finally, the game will feature a robust set of leaderboards that will take into account how assisted a driver is when racing, so those hardcore fans can steal easily identify "clean" and skilled drivers from those who win with the help of the game.

"We are going to certify score boards, showing you who use assists, and which are totally clean times," Krauskopf said. "Thats how we serve the people who are our real loyal fan base."

And what about all of those casual racers who might flood into Forza's online racing world when Forza 3 hits?

"If you have someone who really wants to race as realistic as you can get he is going to set up a lobby with restrictions, saying we're going to outlaw one button driving and stock car and only allow cars that have been tuned. "

The challenge, he says, is that the team wants to make sure that the detail and depth is there for those who want to dig into it, but obscured from those who may be put off by it.

"We face challenges," he said. "Educating users who think that Mario Kart is quick to use and fun to play and Forza is for hardcore people, so no you can't have a good time playing it."

Krauskopf respects what Nintendo is doing with demo mode, a mode Shigeru Miyamoto first confirmed to Kotaku at E3 was coming to New Super Mario Bros. Wii, which allows a game to essentially play itself.

"What Nintendo is doing with Demo Mode is interesting," he said. "You are building a feature that allows anyone to play the game, but you don't get that badge of honor if you use it."

It's, essentially, a more extreme version of what Turn 10 is doing with Forza 3 online play.

"We are giving everyone the ability to enjoy the game," he said. "But not taking anything away from our fan base."

Forza 3 Will Deliver Nearly Limitless Online Multiplayer Variety

Forza 3 Will Deliver Nearly Limitless Online Multiplayer Variety

Forza 3 Will Deliver Nearly Limitless Online Multiplayer Variety

Forza 3 Will Deliver Nearly Limitless Online Multiplayer Variety

Forza 3 Will Deliver Nearly Limitless Online Multiplayer Variety

Forza 3 Will Deliver Nearly Limitless Online Multiplayer Variety

Forza 3 Will Deliver Nearly Limitless Online Multiplayer Variety

Forza 3 Will Deliver Nearly Limitless Online Multiplayer Variety

Forza 3 Will Deliver Nearly Limitless Online Multiplayer Variety