Dan Greenawalt, director of Forza
Motorsport 3 at Turn 10 Studios, is passionate not only about cars,
but the evolution of the racing genre itself. When Sony and Polyphony Digital's
Gran Turismo first hit the market, its tagline -- "the real driving
simulator" -- marked a change in the way console gamers interacted with
Now, as he approaches the launch of the third installment of the Forza series, Greenawalt forsees
the baseline for game design in simulations changing irrevocably. The line
between arcade and sim is blurring and shifting, he says, and developers will
have to change their mentality to capture a wider audience and stay with the
Greenawalt also discusses how
profound changes to team structure allowed for a better, more productive
environment and a sequel which allowed for all of the meaningful evolution
beyond its predecessors.
How has the development been
for Forza 3 -- is the team happy to see light at the end of the tunnel?
Were there some challenges there that you're glad to put behind you?
Dan Greenawalt: I think in a
lot of ways, we went through some crazy growing pains on Forza 2. On Forza
1, we were trying to just build a team sort of from scratch and from the
ground up. That was pretty difficult. We slipped a few dates. We made a game we
were really proud of, but we were so unpredictable. And then on Forza 2,
we tried to shoot for the stars. We felt we had a team, and we're going to really
crank it up and see how quickly we could get a great game out, and we slipped
For Forza 3, we
actually went back to the drawing board, process-wise, and we said, "You
know what?" We looked at SCRUM. We started doing sprints. We broke out our
team. Rather than functional groups -- like design versus dev versus art --
we broke them into strike teams that
were just there to develop features. And that allowed us to get far more
predictable and actually grow a bunch of leaders out of the team.
So, we've been in development
for two years, and the funny thing is in that amount of time, we got a lot more
done because we had a lot more leadership down in the ranks. And we also came
out with a much better game, and we hit our schedule. So, we actually went in
front of management about a year ago, and said we were going to go into cert on
a specific date, and within one year, we actually hit the date on the day,
which I've never done in 12 years of game development.
So, it wasn't just a matter
of you having a basis to build off of with the prior Forza games, but rather an
overhaul in structure at the studio?
DG: Yeah, I'd say that was
actually the biggest contributing factor. And we did have existing tools, but
we rebuilt our pipelines from scratch, so we didn't even have that to go off
of. We stripped out a huge layer from a rendering engine, which allowed us to
rewrite large sections of our rendering engine. The game got a huge overhaul.
But honestly, it can't be attributed to anything besides great producer work --
we hired a bunch more of those -- and great leadership from within the team.
How has the development team
size grown from Forza 1 on Xbox to Forza 3?
DG: I'll give you a little
bit of nitty-gritty here. So, we had, I think about 24 full-time employees on Forza
1. And we then bolstered that staff with probably 70 contract staff that
were on for most of the project -- a couple of years. And then we outsourced a
lot of our artwork to a group in India and a group in Vietnam. That made it so
that all-in, we were probably 200 people, that's my guess.
Then in Forza 2, we
got up to about 250. We increased our [full-time] staff, increased our [contract] staff, and
increased the number of people in India and Vietnam. And now, for Forza 3, we're
just over 300, all-in, with again [contract], [full-time], and a fully-burdened outsource
group. And that's been pretty much since the beginning.
We grew immediately, so as
soon as we shipped Forza 2, all of the [full-timers] took some time off, the [contract staff] kind of went away for a little bit, we disengaged with our outsourcers, and
then within three months, we were back fully-burdened. We were up about 200
people, and 300 within a few months after that.
Was there any kind of fear on
your part, as one of the leaders in this studio, that things were just getting
too big? Is it just a matter of managing it well?
DG: Well, that was actually
why we restructured ourselves so much. You've got two options if you start fearing
you're too big. You either need to scale back your ambitions, or you need to
come up with a new approach to steering such a large vessel. So, by driving
more of the ownership and more of the leadership down into the ranks, we were
able to do more "divide and conquer," as well as grow our bench and grow the
future leaders of the studio. And you have to grow those next leaders. For me,
I need to grow the person that's going to come and take my spot.