Can you cite specific problems with the Forza 3 development that you might have run into that you eventually had to conquer? It sounds like the strike teams solved a lot of problems before they even happened, but there's inevitably some problems that do come along.
DG: Yeah. For Forza 2 in particular, I was a bottleneck, as was our executive producer. We simply were involved in too many decisions. And that just means there's a large army of people who can't operate without you at the head, and that causes tremendous inefficiencies.
Now, the flipside happened when we went to strike teams. We gave ownership to people that weren't quite as senior and were not quite as experienced in a leadership role, and so they didn't always make the same decisions that a more seasoned veteran would make. Some of those decisions, we lived with, because it was kind of six of one, half dozen the other. You know, "I would do that differently, but no harm, no foul. It doesn't really matter."
And some decisions, we then have to say, "Look, where you guys ended up is not where we need to be as a franchise and deliver the right experience we want to deliver." So, it came back to me a lot of times just reinforcing the vision with those teams rather than sticking at the feature level, evaluating their work and saying how well is it actually accomplishing the vision and saying, "You need to go back to the drawing board because you're not quite hitting the vision yet."
Was it worth the trouble to empower the employees?
DG: Absolutely. There's no way we would have hit our date if we had not driven the leadership down into the ranks more. It's not even possible.
There are a lot of new features in Forza 3 that are particularly meant to ease the new players into the Forza world, like the Livery Editor -- you don't even have to race -- and the storefront. And there's the mid-session rewinds. Do you think the next big step in the racing sim genre -- and I see Forza moving in this direction -- is to make it less scary for the novices?
DG: Yeah, I think that's really part of modern game design in general. I don't know if you've played much of Batman: Arkham Asylum?
Yeah, I actually just finished that a few days ago. I couldn't stop playing it.
DG: Yeah, it's an awesome game. And the thing I love about it is you can see the heritage. You can see going from a standard kind of brawler or adventure game -- call it a Tomb Raider if you like -- all the way through like a God of War, and up to this game, where it's still got a lot of the core mechanics of, like, an Ikari Warriors with some of the bosses you might fight, and yet it's not challenging.
They didn't do the challenge by punishing you. They did the challenge by just making it fun... You know, the checkpoint system is great, the brawl system is great. It's just a really good game and not very punishing.
And I think the problem with simulation in general is it's gotten this reputation -- a well-deserved reputation, I might add -- for being overly punishing. And it's something that frankly a lot of our fans ask for, but I don't think they really, frankly, want it. The hardcore fans of the racing sim genre, in particular, are constantly calling to be punished more. It sounds weird. It sounds like we're in some strange sadomasochistic relationship. But they're always saying, oh, there's a lot of our resistance in our community saying, "Well, this rewind feature is going to ruin the sim."
I could not disagree more. I am a sim racing gamer as well, and I can't go back to games that don't have it now. When I play other racing games and they don't have this rewind, I just feel like, "Are you kidding me? I mean, this is kind of old school." And so, in a lot of ways, it's like when you look at Batman or Prince of Persia. When they had the rewind feature in Prince of Persia or Batman, there's no death falls, there's no big penalties. When you fall off a cliff in Batman, they're just like, "Hit RB," and you just miraculously get saved. That's awesome. That doesn't make the challenge less. It doesn't hurt the tension. The game still has great tension.
You still have to earn all of your victories [in Forza]. [You can] redo the corner, but you still have to do the corner. You still have to make the passes. You still have to beat the AI. So, we're trying to accomplish that challenge. So, do I see more racing games going this way? I sure hope so because I think this is the industry needs to go.
You know, people talk about capturing the casual audience, broadening, and all that, and that's what I want to do as well, but I think part of this is just embracing modern game design and realizing that people are different and what they're looking for is great entertainment, and entertainment does not have to be punishing. It can be, and it has been, but it doesn't have to be.