Very much in the spirit of Xbox One's new Reputation system, Forza Motorsport 5's Drivatars will be categorised and tweaked behind the scenes to ensure that the less (cough) constructive traits of antagonistic players don't end up in your game - unless, that is, you want them to. Speaking to OXM at a preview event, lead gameplay designer Rhett Mathis promised an experience that's as volatile and spontaneous as regular racing multiplayer, but comparatively light on fender-bending trolls.
Drivatars are digital personalities modelled on your Forza 5 playstyle, which learn and develop as you play. There are no traditional, set-in-stone AI drivers in the new Forza - every racer's either a genuine human being or a virtual copy of a genuine human being, with all the capacity for surprises that entails.
"You can't just take a traditional AI system and put somebody's name on it and say there, look, now your friend is in the race, because your friend isn't just a racing line on the lap top," Mathis explained. "Real people have characteristics that make them unique. They make certain mistakes, they have quirks, they have hang-ups."
"What do you do when you're around other players?" he added later. "How do you react to them? Are you a clean driver or are you like Bill, where you will get up, sneak up the inside and use me to help you get around the corners?
"There are guys that, when the lane of open and you get in there, they'll let you have it, and then there are others who will go out of their way to give you a nudge." Drivatars are able to adopt both tactics, and will apply lessons learned on one of the game's tracks to another, even if you've yet to race on the latter yourself.
So how will Turn 10 deal with Drivatars modelled on players who aren't, shall we say, as professional as others? "We've got multiple ways to deal with what we call griefing. There are levels of griefing. Griefing can be all the way to driving backwards or doing doughnuts and stopping on the track down to just being kind of a rough driver."
"Someone who is a really clean driver goes: 'that rough driver is griefing' when really he's not, he's just a rough driver. And that kind of thing happens in real racing. So it's a bit subjective. So we've done a few things in here. All of the players are real, all of the players have their real tendencies, but you do still fall into a profile of skill, based on who you are and the selections you make.
"So the difficulty options, for example, are going to put you into a profile of the types of Drivatars we're going to pull from," Mathis continued. "Because let's face it, not everybody has this huge, vast number of friends especially at the launch of a console."
Depending on the difficulty options you select, you'll be matched with faster or cleaner Drivatars. The game may modify how the Drivatars of people who aren't your Xbox Live friends behave, making them less likely to employ dirty tactics. "Being in a race, you want to have a variety of players equal to you in speed, but they've got their kiddy gloves on because they're strangers to you," Mathis explained. "They're still fast but they're not going to be quite as brutal."