VirtualGT Pro-PC Option
Shuttle XPC System with Intel 915G and ICH6-R Chip Set3.0GHz Intel Prescott processor with 2MB cache800MHz front side bus speed1GB dual-channel DDR 400 RAM16X PCI-Express video slot ATI X800XL PCI-Express video card with 256MB DDR3 memory Dual output Six-channel audio Gigabit Ethernet (3) 80GBWestern Digital serial ATA harddrives in hot-swappable enclosure ICE (Integrated Cooling Engine) for superior cooling, Smart Fan for quiet operation.250-watt power supply Length x Width x Height (in.): 11.81x7.87x7.28 All aluminum construction Wireless keyboard with built-in mouse and trackball controller accessories included(1) 9 ft. USB male/female extension cable(1) 9 ft. 3.5mm Mini Stereo Phone to dual RCA audio cable(1) 6 ft. VGA video cable(1) 6 ft. power cordAvailable optional link kit to connnect multiple VGTs for head-to-head racing

The Sound Of Speed
An engine's signature sound is a huge part of the gaming experience. If you select a BMW M5 and it sounds like a Buick V6, it doesn't matter how good the graphics are-realism goes right out the window. That's why Microsoft Game Studios is on what seems like a never-ending quest to find the world's most desirable cars-and record them.

This is a massive undertaking that often takes several years and millions of dollars to complete. The process begins with audio content coordinator Mark Price, who is charged with locating the most lusty performance cars-not only on these shores, but Europe and Asia if necessary. "The first thing I do is think about the person that owns the type of car I'm looking for," said Price. "Where is the best place to look for that person? For a Miata, I'd say a Miata club. For a Nissan, probably a Nissan service center or dealer. For a Lamborghini, I would locate a club and find out who the collectors are." Price's most challenging assignment thus far was collaborating with another game studio in Great Britain to record the heady sounds of an Audi R8. "The recording took place at the Audi Sport engine plant in Ingolstadt, Germany," Price explained. "The other game studio flew to Germany to record the engine."

Whenever possible, the car in question is recorded on a chassis dyno near Microsoft's sprawling campus in Redmond, Wash. "The way we use dynos and the type of dynos we use are very specific," said Gregory Shaw, audio lead for Microsoft Game Studios. "We require dynos that are quiet, and those that can place the engine under load so we can recreate the growl of acceleration."

We visited one of Microsoft's recording sessions at Dyno Authority, also of Redmond (www.dynoauthority.com), where a BMW M3 was being placed on the rollers. Sound engineer Mary Olson was busy placing high sound pressure level (SPL) condenser mics at strategic locations on the car: two at the exhaust, two over the engine itself, and one directly above the airbox, which had been relieved of its air filter element. "The goal of these sessions is to accurately capture the key characteristics of each car," said Olson.

Unlike what you might expect, cars are not recorded going through the gears, downshifting, etc. Instead, Microsoft uses a "sound recipe" of sorts. "Before sound is even introduced, we use software that lays out the physics of the game," Shaw explained. "The audio engine, which is the other part of the program, works in concert with the physics engine. We sample specific rpm and load conditions, take the rpm sample and loop it, then map that loop against physics variables (rpm, load, throttle position) to manipulate the sound."

The situation gets more complicated when plausible modifications to each car are taken into consideration. In Forza, players can upgrade their car with myriad mods, from aftermarket exhausts to superchargers and turbochargers. "This builds a list of sound permutations," said Shaw. "For example, if on the M3, you can upgrade the intake and exhaust three times, we would have three separate recordings of that M3." On Forza 1, Shaw noted that there were 788 base foundation sounds. In some instances, components that affect sound may be layered on top of the base foundation to achieve the desired effect.

"I document what upgrades or modifications have been made to each car and enter it into a database," Price explained. "That way, we know what a recording is-what exhaust and/or intake we're listening to-and that helps us decide where to use that recording. Even more challenging is deciding which recording we use for which car in the game. A lot of times, it's not possible to locate a specific car, so we have to use another car with similar specifications."

Some of the most exotic recordings thus far consist of the Ferrari Enzo, F40, F50, a vintage 250TR, and the aforementioned R8. But believe it or not, the most coveted sounds originate from more plebian models. "A lot of the coolest cars are the modded-out production models," said Shaw. "They're the most fun for me. You get these cars on the dyno with big turbos and open exhaust, and they just sound awesome." -Chris Hemer

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