At the E3 games conference two years ago, the creative director of Forza Horizon, Ralph Fulton, was trying to communicate the visual beauty of the game’s sequel. During a demo session for journalists, he explained how road surfaces in the game would gather rain water after a storm, and that the resulting puddle would be truly reflective, mirroring the chassis of passing cars, and reflecting sunlight.
It was a teeny detail but it spoke volumes about developer Playground Games and the studio’s obsession with sleek aesthetics. For the third title, which takes the open-world driving festival to Australia, they’ve rather outdone that boast, which now seems rather quaint in comparison.
“Look at the sky,” says the art director, Benjamin Penrose, during a demo at this year’s E3. “That is a genuine Australian sky. A bunch of our guys actually went out on location with a custom-built 12k HDR camera rig – they camped in a field for the entire summer taking images every second of every day. They brought all of this amazing photography back to the studio and fed it through a custom process that streams the data into our system, producing the most dynamic, evolving skyscapes you’ve ever seen in a game.”
So as you drive through this vast, geographically varied country, the sky above is a sort of weather cinema: clouds form and flow in real time, storm fronts gather, showers come in, drenching the road surfaces. It is rather special.