Hot Wheels is the first DLC for Forza Horizon 5.
For this project my responsibility was to identify all new visual features, improvements and pitfalls from the concept stage and see them to completion either through my own work or through working with other departments and team members.
Some of my main focus areas were:
- Building new visual features unique to Hot Wheels.
- Pushing our visual features built for FH5 even further.
- Making sure performance stayed in check as we dealt with new camera angles and situations we wouldn't see in the base game.
- Identifying and minimizing project risks to build the world in a minimal timeframe, while supporting monthly updates.
Below are some of the more tangible highlights from this project, which lasted 4-5 months.
You can't do Hot Wheels without a whole lot of toy orange track.
The artistic direction for this DLC was "Hot Wheels built in real life, as if it were a theme park." To support this we looked at the visual properties of the Hot Wheels track at toy scale and scaled them up in a believable way.
Some of the features in the shader include:
- Fine micro-detail to recreate the iconic directional grain and scratching.
- Supporting macro variation and many subtly different styles and colours of plastic on the same track piece, e.g. slightly stained and worn on the centre of the track vs newer, more uniform on the sides.
- A transmissive effect illuminating the underside of the track when it's blocking the sun.
- Fake depth on the track for toy mold seams and on decals for connector pieces, using RCSM/Parallax.
In addition to the standard Hot Wheels track, we also added some special track types which affected car handling.
- The Ice Track, behaving as you would expect.
- The Magnet Track, keeping cars stuck to the road while turning any which way.
- The Water-Flume Track, giving players an extra push and sending them down the slide.
New Car Paints
To support the theme of "building toys in reality", the cars were treated as real life car builds inspired by Hot Wheels.
Part of this was adding 2 new paint types.
SpectraFlame is a Hot Wheels classic and was mimicked in-game at real life scale.
For this I created a new car paint shader featuring large, visible paint flakes.
It's the default paint on the Baja Bone Shaker but can also be applied to any other car through the player livery editor.
This was in close collaboration with the Art Director, Vehicle Team and Licensing.
Branded features like these require sign-off from the manufacturer, Mattel, and hence get some extra scrutiny.
Another new paint type is the Iridescent paint, featured on the 'Bad to the Blade' Hot Wheels car.
Pushing It Further
For this expansion we required a lot of geology, at a scale even larger than what we had for FH5. Due to the limited timescale and Geology Team size we couldn't rely on making more assets.
To resolve this we decided to sacrifice some mid to near distance detail and instead offer more large scale and variation support to the rock shader. A decent trade-off as players wouldn't generally get as close to the rocks as they did in the base game.
This allowed the geology team to create massive models 100s of meters in size.
Hot Hot Lava
While animated lava was something I added for FH5, it was only present in one area during one specific mission. For this expansion we wanted to push it further and make it a permanent feature of the "Ice Cauldron" biome.