Exclusive Developer Q&A: Bringing Mount Panorama to Forza Motorsport 5

After Turn 10 Studios announced last month that “Forza Motorsport 5” will feature the acclaimed Mount Panorama circuit, the Xbox Wire team had the opportunity to speak directly with Turn 10 Studios content director, John Wendl, and Xbox ambassador/Xbox One Racing Team mentor, Mark Skaife, the most credentialed driver in the history of V8 Supercar racing.  

John and Mark recently spent some time at the prestigious Mount Panorama circuit, along with Xbox One Racing Team drivers, Andy Priaulx and Mattias Ekström, as they went hands-on with Mt. Panorama in “Forza Motorsport 5” to prepare for the 2013 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000. Get their thoughts on bringing one of the world’s most famous racing circuits to the Xbox One.

After all the years of fans requesting Mount Panorama, why was NOW the right time to bring it to “Forza Motorsport 5”? 

John Wendl: The Mount Panorama Circuit in Bathurst has been one of the most highly requested tracks for years for the “Forza Motorsport” series. In the past, we simply didn’t have the technology to properly capture and render this unique circuit. Now with digital laser scanning and our all new graphics engine on the Xbox One, we finally have the technology that can let us capture this unique track in all its challenge and grandeur.

What are some distinct parts of the Bathurst circuit? 

Mark Skaife: Definitely The Dipper, the game perfectly captures the breathtaking panoramic view of Skyline, and the adrenaline rush you feel shooting through the Esses and into The Dipper. Also, at 300 km/h, the Chase is the fastest touring car corner in the world.  You need to go flat out in the Conrod Straight and hit the drive line perfectly. You don’t want to miss this one.

Mount Panorama is a unique circuit in many ways. Talk about how you were able to capture the various nuances of the track, the surrounding area, etc.

John Wendl: Mount Panorama is a beautifully complex and technically challenging circuit. It’s known for its extreme elevation changes and subtle camber differences throughout the track. To capture all of this intricate detail, we’re now utilizing cutting edge digital laser scanning technology that allows us incredible precision on both the vertical and horizontal axis. In 2012, we sent a six-man crew to the circuit for three days.  The team captured not only the racing surface itself, but the immediate surrounding areas as well including walls, trees, grandstands and buildings.

Our goal is to give players not just the look and feel of the track itself but to bring to life everything that makes the circuit so special. Of course this means getting the small details right – the cracks in the asphalt, the track signage, and even things like the TV camera towers correct. Beyond that, however, we want to provide players with a real feel for what it’s like being at the track, what the light looks like at eight o’clock in the morning, how it feels to climb the hill or blast down the Conrod Straight. All of these details contribute to the experience of driving Bathurst in “Forza Motorsport 5” and we treat all these minute specifics with utmost care.

As a final step, we were able to work with Mark Skaife, six-time Bathurst winner and five-time V8 Supercar Champion, who recently drove the circuit in our game and validated the accuracy. Skaife was very impressed with how well we captured the circuit. Specifically the sense of elevation heading through “Griffins Bend” and up Mount Panorama and the subtle camber changes from “Skyline” through the “Esses” and into the “Dipper”.  Skaife told us that the Bathurst in “Forza Motorsport 5” is the most accurate recreation he’s ever seen, and that’s coming from the undisputed Bathurst master!

Can you speak to the authenticity and realism of the sights and sounds surrounding the Bathurst track in “Forza Motorsport 5”?

Mark Skaife: When Turn 10 brought “Forza Motorsport 5” to our practice session, I was blown away by how well they’d captured the track.  The racing line takes you through at the right angles to attack the corners. The camber changes on the Mountain Straight are captured perfectly. And the markers that I’ve used for years – like the grate in Reid Park — are all there in the game. When you play the game you can truly understand what it’s like to challenge the mountain.

Is there one area/aspect of the Mount Panorama circuit that simply shines through the power of Xbox One?

John Wendl: The Mount Panorama Circuit presents some unique challenges in rendering with its unique atmospheric conditions and long draw distances from the top of Mount Panorama. With the amazing processing power of the Xbox One and our all new graphics engine, we’re able to recreate the unique conditions of Bathurst and really bring the track to life. For example, you can see the early morning sun beaming through the trees as you exit Forrest’s Elbow and head down the Conrod Straight, as well as the patchy ground fog off in the distant valley. Our goal is to really transport the player in “Forza Motorsport 5,” to give them a chance to explore and experience these legendary motorsport settings. Bathurst is a prime example of that and we’re very proud to be able to bring it to life in “Forza Motorsport 5.”

For more information on the Bathurst 1000, visit the V8 Supercar website here.