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Dan Greenawalt: He thought of cars

Meet the man who makes Forza happen...

The video games industry simply doesn't have enough MMA-fighting, engine-obsessed religious theorists.

Happily for car nuts everywhere, it does have one: Turn 10's Dan Greenawalt.

The studio boss's unusual trio of talents have spawned an interrogative approach to game creation - as well as a stormless disposition that has clearly mollified the Forza series' most fraught development periods.

Greenawalt credits his mixed martial artist past (he taught the discipline and competed in various noted US tournaments before joining Microsoft in 1997) with instilling an inherent composure; one which has shepherded Turn 10's celebrated familial atmosphere.

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However, it's his time spent studying Comparative Religion at Colorado College in the mid-1990s that has most obviously informed his penchant for asking The Big Questions. And right now, Greenawalt's asking the biggest of his career: Why can't our game attract every car enthusiast in the world?

"Exposure gets in our way," he explains. "Many people who love cars simply don't think of themselves as gamers so it's hard to get them thinking with an open mind. They say: 'Those controllers look confusing.' They get turned off before they're even able to evaluate how much fun they might have. It's a huge problem."

Greenawalt and his team are tackling this barrier to the mainstream via a mixture of comprehensive real-life representation and Microsoft's Short Circuit-aping oddity, Kinect.

The implementation of the motion-sensing camera in Forza 4 has been the subject of some trepidation from the series' fans, but Greenawalt's having none of it. Indeed, the Pennsylvania-born creative is at pains to explain how ruthless Turn 10 has been to ensure the peripheral's adoption is in keeping with the studio's ultra-accurate reputation.

That's especially true when it comes to Forza 4's most promising Kinect feature, Autovista - where gamers can get to 'feel' their favourite cars up close, opening doors and touching surfaces in their very own sleek digital showroom.

"Autovista using Kinect was a brand new model and paradigm," he says. "We all thought we knew what it was good for, but when we first put it in it sucked. [Forza 4] required massive iteration over the years to get it to the stage it is now where it works with Kinect and controller, for kids and adults. We had to ensure that the paradigm didn't get in the way of the fun - and it was a huge undertaking. Frankly we got it wrong over and over again."

Fans worried that Turn 10's paylords will have forced anything game-ruining into Forza 4's Kinect inventory would do well to listen to Greenawalt eulogise on the sheer sacred importance of cars.

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The verve and excitement with which he speaks about motors - whether real life or in-game - puts many developers' rehearsed enthusiasm for space marines, alien monstrosities or hyper-real war to shame.

"My family comes from a fairly working class background in Pennsylvania," he says. "They're very union-oriented people; very America proud.

"One telling anecdote is that one of the first letters I ever received from my grandfather was a list of all the cars he ever owned. I never quite understood it as a 12-year-old kid - I was like, 'Why am I getting just a list of cars?' He was not a very expressive individual, so that to him was really telling me something. I still find it a little bit of an eyebrow-raiser."

It wasn't long before this soul-exposing adoration for all things motorsport rubbed off on Greenawalt Jr, who later stripped down and rebuilt a 1970's Toyota Corolla as his first "project car" - and became so obsessed with amateur tuning, he was "one level away from it becoming a full time job".

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