Forza Motorsport 5 owes its 1080p visuals and 60 frames a second performance to Microsoft's furnishing Turn 10 with easy access to scalable servers, creative director Dan Greenawalt has told OXM. The ability to tap into Xbox Live Compute has allowed the studio to lavish more time and development resources on the game's visuals and complex physics systems; without this advantage, it would have had trouble achieving Forza 5's final resolution.
To be clear, this isn't the same as saying that the game won't run as advertised without an internet connection, only that Microsoft has shouldered the burden of providing and tuning the servers, which has allowed Turn 10 to focus on maintaining 1080p.
"A lot of it comes down to how easy it is to tap into things like the cloud," Greenawalt told our contributor Richard Wordsworth, when he asked why the game was "only possible on Xbox One", as billed during a recent trailer (below). "But first off, it's a bespoke engine, so the engine will only run on Xbox One. So that's the freebie answer.
"The reason we say that, though, is because we could have done cloud-powered opponents last generation, but we would have had to have done all the infrastructure," he continued. "Now with Xbox One we get servers, we get Azure, we get Thunderhead, and it's so easy to plug into."
Microsoft's Azure server network "allows you to bring a lot of computational power and server bandwidth to bear," Greenawalt explained. "It scales automatically and you don't have to write for it, so it's an instant server. It's basically a technology that allows you to do cloud computing very cheaply and very easily. It just automatically scales for the amount of people.
"That is really easy to hook up to with the [software development kit] for the Xbox One platform, that allows us to focus our resources in coming up with fun and innovative features, rather than making backend infrastructure. That frees up a lot of people.
"So, would [cloud AI] have been possible last generation? Sure. And last generation we could have done 1080p, 60fps. But we wouldn't have been able to do that and the physics we did in Forza 4. So Forza 4 was 720p and 60fps, with the physics we had. Now we're doing things in the physics that requires so much more computational power, we would have struggled to be 720p, 60fps."
Asked to clarify that Turn 10's ready access to the cloud has allowed it to spend more time improving Forza 5's resolution and physics, Greenawalt responded: "Right. And that's what's allowed us to, in three years, have a game that has innovation like Drivatar, looks beautiful as well as having the new things we're doing in physics, like the tyres and suspension."
[Update - Here's the exact wording of the interviewer's request for clarification from our transcript: "So, if you hadn't had all this server technology provided by Microsoft, then you would have had to spend more time on that, so you wouldn't have been able to have it in 1080p."]
Turn 10's creative director has previously suggested that next generation innovation is partly about what you can't see - the AI, the physics, and the streamlining of the development practises necessary to create a game like Forza 5. The new racer is apparently the "hardest thing Turn 10 has ever done".
You can read more about the game's server-run opposition care of our Forza 5 Drivatar feature. As for Xbox Live Compute in general, this constitutes free access to dedicated multiplayer servers for all developers, among other things.