As a curious UX and game design enthusiast, I played Microsofts Forza horizon series and was amazed by the implementations of some mechanics that solves few big problems that every UX designer faces each day.
If you are not familiar with the series, First of all, Forza is a racing game where you race with AI players or real opponents. It has nailed the user experience where you don’t have to fiddle with settings to just enjoy the game and when you get started it never bog you down in the menu and sub menu instead it leaves you free to explore the world and enjoy the game.
1. Fluid difficulty curve.
This is a current trend in the gaming where games don’t give you the arbitrary choice of easy, medium and hard at the start of the game. These choices are a bad design choice as it asks the user to make a choice when they don’t have a reference point to quantify their choice without playing the game.
There is another way to approach dynamic difficulties where the game does a test run before starting the main story arc to test user in different parameters and choose a difficulty for them.
Forza implements a hands-off approach to its limiters. If you don’t fiddle with setting too much you won’t even see the menu for changing the difficulty of the game. if you surpass the AI and want to take a bigger challenge then you can dive into the menu to tweak the setting to your liking.
in the menu, you will find an assorted option to tweak the experience you would like. for each change, the user is awarded more credit( Currency of Forza ) for their actions as a result. This implementation encourages the user to keep challenging himself to improve and take on new challenges. Like many games, it rewards to use with mastery of its mechanics but it doesn’t punish the player for not choosing the harder difficulties instead you will have to do a little grind to earn the same amount of points. It never comes in way of users enjoyment of content as I said earlier you can go through the game without making any changes to these settings.
It is a very clever implementation where you are not punishing the new players and giving an option to push skills of the seasoned player to the edge. I would like to see this implementation in more games as it makes users appreciate the mechanism more and adds enjoyment to the experience.
Tutorials are getting better with each generation but some games still seem to be glued to the old methods and teachings. Forza doesn’t have a traditional or any kind of tutorial in my opinion. Many say that racing games don’t need tutorials as they are self-explanatory in their gameplay approach. I was used to playing a lot of Need for Speed games when I was young so had muscle memory for that game franchise and when I started my first race in Forza I was immediately realised that my skills won’t help me much in this game. The main reason for that was attention to detail paid to the cars in the game where each car has its identity and an incredible awareness of its surroundings and its ability to interact with its environment.
To learn to handle cars in the game Forza has come up with a cleaver way to teach user. It has a mechanic called ‘Rewind’ where you can rewind time anywhere in any game mode you like. This ability first seem a gimmick but when you start struggling in the game you will start using this feature where you can revert any mistake you made on the track. If you made a slip at the corner and bumped on the wall, you can easily reverse the time to make the turn perfect and take a lead. what this feature does is that it let the user use the races as a sandbox to make mistakes and let them ability to undo them if they choose to for making a mental note of how to handle that situation. After a few races with this feature, you will get enough confidence to go and win the majority of races.
The result of losing races at the start of the game will knock users down and may create a scenario where he abandons to learn the mechanics and just left the game. If you lose a race cause to a wrong turn you made in the first lap then it becomes frustrating to go back and play that race again or worst you will just leave it there, This an ability give you a choice to reverse the time and learn from mistakes and remove the frustration to restart the race.
This way of teaching user of every feature that you have without prompting him with pop-ups and constantly bugging his experience. The hands-off approach is the core philosophy of the game where the game just let you do what you want and give you tools to learn the craft but don’t force you to learn them instead it encourages you to get better and efficient at the game.
3. Design for fun
The team has the main focus to make the game as accessible as possible for every user. To achieve these goal designers have optimised the game to be more direct and less convoluted story bit. The main focus of the game to unlock various venues in the city that the game took place where everywhere you can find some interesting things to do. I already discussed two main features that help achieve this goal but many other things elevate this goal.
In a time where every game is multiplayer and has some aspect of micro-transactions where it seems that you are getting scammed to earn more money. Forza has a much better approach where multiplayer is not something that you have to touch to enjoy the game but if you choose to do then it can be a joyful ride. micro-transactions are not a big issue as this game just shower you with credits with every race, this doesn’t pressure players to use real money and encourage the player to play more races and get better.
Cars are not scared to accrue as you will have almost plenty of money to buy anything you like after some certain point in the game. You don’t even have to buy cars as they were generously given out throughout playing various races. this hands-off approach makes the user feel powerful and give him the freedom to choose how he wants to play this game.