I've been playing racing games almost as long as I've been a gamer. I can remember playing Night Driver on the Atari 2600 - perhaps the worst racing game I've played (it was bad even by Atari 2600 standards). The first computer I ever gamed on (my brother's) was a Commodore 64, and I can remember playing Test Drive on it. Like, the first Test Drive...the one released in 1987 by Accolade. I've played several of them since then, and there have been quite a few.

I've also played the first Need For Speed. That one came out, oh I don't know...hang on and I'll look it up. Hmm, 1994. Yeah, that sounds about right. I've played quite a few of these, and fairly recently too. I picked Need For Speed: Most Wanted (2012) up out of the bargain bin after noticing it featured a particular car I was interested in, and I enjoyed the game.

Let's seen, then of course there was NASCAR Racing. True story. The first multiplayer game between two computers I ever played was NASCAR Racing. The game was released in 1994 and two of my Navy buddies who lived in the barracks literally ran a network cable between their rooms and played a couple of those "revolutionary" games that included multiplayer. So yeah, I played 1v1 NASCAR racing. You think NASCAR is boring in real life (I don't, I'm actually fan) you should try playing it with just two people on a big track. Thankfully it wasn't the only game we played - we also played some Earthsiege. I went on to race online every weekend in NASCAR 2004 for a year or more.

I don't know if I could name all the racing games I've played over the years. From Pole Position to Grid...and who could forget Mario Kart. That counts right? I didn't even mention arcade games like Outrun or Daytona USA. Even I have no idea how many racing games I've played.

But in all my years and all my racing games, the one series I've never played until recently...

...was Forza.

Or more accurately...Forza Motorsport 5.

Now, I'm not really here to talk about Forza Motorsport 5, but I am here to talk about a feature in Forza Motorsport 5. It's a feature that got of a lot of attention leading up to the release. It also reminds me of a blog I wrote a year or so ago about how I hoped to see advances in artificial intelligence. Glad to see someone listened...


"Our original goal in developing Drivatars was to create human-like computer opponents to race against. As keen gamers we had grown tired of simplistic AI opponents and wanted to try and do something about it. We particularly like racing games and so the racing genre seemed like a great place to start work."

I'm no computer engineer or programmer and I'm not going to even pretend I understand how this is accomplished. Here is what I do know though. The people I race against in my single player games are either people on my friends list or other "gamers". Of course they're not...they are AI computer controller cars that behave like the real people who inspired their creation.

As a big fan of racing games, one of my biggest complaints has always been the computer drivers never seem to make mistakes. In circle track racing (like NASCAR) you can run dozens of laps and the cars are perfectly aligned. They don't really bump each other. They don't get into a corner too hard or over-brake. They always seem to know when to accelerate, when to slow down, when to pass...they are the perfect drivers. Even if you dumb down the AI, they still drive well, just not as fast.

Along comes an idea like Drivatar that actually pits you against computer players that drive like real players. They're reckless. They crash. They'll crash you. They'll power into the corners, realizing after its much too late they are going entirely too fast. They end up locking up the brakes as they go sliding off the track. They will bump you out of the way as they weave all over the road (and off the road). Now what makes the feature even cooler is the driver name that shows up is often someone you know...and you kind of see how they drive. But even more than that, you really want to beat them when they represent your friends.

This is a neat feature and I look forward to seeing how it might be implemented in other games. Imagine any game you play creating players based off of your friends list. And what if these non-player characters patterned their behavior after the actual gamers who inspired them? That could be both creepy and interesting, but is full of potential.

Anyway, Forza...the latest racing game to add to my list...

By the way, did you know Forza translates to "force" in Italian. I'd say that's appropriate. And for all you Forza fans out there...how about a little eye candy. Apparently the Turn 10 Studios team put this replica of a McLaren in the reception area of their building. Replica or not, this car is awesome.