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Five Years of Giant Bomb Forza Race Night

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The first weekly edition of Giant Bomb Forza Race Night started up on November 5th, 2009, and since then, every Thursday has contained some combination of racing, wrecking, tag, and absurdity from Forza Motorsport 3, 4, 5, and Forza Horizon 2.

Seriously. We haven't missed a week. It surprises me sometimes.

This Thursday marks our 262nd running of Forza Race Night, and as always, we'll be rolling along with a bunch of random races and events in the latest Forza title. Nothing stops Race Night, after all. It doesn't matter if the majority of Giant Bomb thinks we've long faded away. Thursdays nights, the party gathers up, and we start driving. The event rarely matters. We prepare for anything, because Race Night ends up being a random jaunt through the strange, the serious, and the silly. We've always pushed Forza's rulesets as far as they'll allow us, so long as the end result is entertaining in some fashion.

Sometimes that fashion's a little sadistic. A common rule of Race Night is that even the worst ideas on paper need a shot in reality, because on occasion, they end up becoming brilliant mainstays of our gatherings.

It's becoming difficult to remember a time in my adult life when Thursday nights didn't involve jawing at friends over the Internet while enjoying a bunch of random games of Forza. Sometimes I worry what that says about me, but then I remember all the friendships I've gained over these years. Since we started, I've started attending the Detroit Auto Show every year with my first in-game rival, Keval. I've met several competitors and regulars at PAX. One year at PAX East, Wormious and I stole a screwdriver intended for Jeff Gerstmann and downed it after a few celebratory shots of Tequila. I've given Slowbird shit over his love of Ford, set up laptops of random games with Craig on half-drunken whims, and hell, I bought Dethfish passes to a PAX Prime one year and still somehow managed not to meet him in person.

What I'm getting at with all of this is that Race Night has become a formative staple of my life. Thursday nights are the high point of my week, and the joy I've had over hundreds of weeks will stick with me for my whole life. I doubt I'd be anything more than a quiet recluse in public, were it not for Race Night. It's done wonders for my otherwise-shaky confidence, for better or worse.

So, five years later, I thought I'd provide a quick history of how we survived through five years of Forza. It hasn't been an easy road, due to bugs and new consoles, but I'm confident we'll always have a chance, provided Turn 10 doesn't screw up Forza too much in the future.

No promises on that, honestly. The Cult of Greenawalt can be a finicky beast.

The Beginning

I always wanted to start a race night. I just never had the courage.

Sometime during the era of Forza Motorsport 2, I realized the potential of the multiplayer. More specifically, I realized that Buick Regal GNXs could be outfitted with horrible paintjobs and driven in destructive races for great amusement. This wasn't with a large group – only one other friend that I'd played a lot of Crackdown with – but at some point, I figured that a Regal Destruction League was something that I'd have to start up on a random site.

Starting a league takes confidence, however, and requires knowing a thing or two about organization. I had some experience with the latter, but it was also through a parody movement which caused me to be ostracized from a then-large sim racing community. Burned bridges aren't great for confidence, and I was bitter about the seriousness of most sim racing communities. To be honest, I still hate seeing sim racing gravitate towards overly serious events with no leniency for lesser drivers or fooling around.

Racing's about trying to win, sure, but when the majority of drivers will lose a race, I think there's more value in making sure everyone had fun in the process.

Anyways, that lack of confidence meant that upon the release of Forza Motorsport 3, I wanted to start a recurring game night of some sort, but didn't muster the courage to do so. Instead, another Giant Bomb user, Pax, started the ball rolling, organizing the first few weeks of Race Night before getting tired of working through Forza's multiplayer options and tossing the ball to me.

I knew I wanted demolition derbies. I wanted silly races to sit alongside the intense wheel-to-wheel affairs. Looking around other communities interested in Forza, I saw rallies along winding Italian coastlines in sluggish "F200" cars, and enormously overpowered cars smashed tiny Lotus Elans around an airfield in makeshift games of soccer.

These ideas were shamelessly stolen, and incorporated into our weekly Race Nights with a few other ideas that Forza's options helped accommodate, like virus tag, flagpole racing, and clunker pushing, in which heavily underpowered Datsun 510s were forced up a winding mountain road by torque-heavy supercars.

If there was a shortcoming to this era of what became known as Giant Bomb Forza Race Night, it was a restrictive player limit. In a lobby that could only hold 8 players, we often had 10-12 willing participants in several weeks. While this overwhelming interest was, in a sense, a good problem to have, having to sit people out each week hindered our growth somewhat in the long term. Still, we managed two years of intense and silly races, combined with two Giant Bomb GT championships and a few special events, including a tradition of endurance races on New Year's Day. It was a glorious time of growth, jokes, and joy for the Race Night crew, and the take-on-anything attitude of our regulars helped Race Night keep a great laid-back attitude, even during our most serious races.

Also, most American car horns beep in the key of F. Just thought you should know that.

The Explosions

In time, Forza Motorsport 4 arrived, and despite losing our favorite Italian coastline, the addition of clubs, a club garage, and a wide variety of new rules and tracks helped Race Night immensely. Also, lobbies could hold 16 players. That would solve all our problems!

Shame that, through all of Forza 4's incredible additions, it also introduced some very serious game-crashing bugs to our weekly racing. Have too many cars with custom designs racing in your lobby? Enjoy every race failing to launch after the first one or two succeed. The only way to correct this was having everybody restart their consoles.

Yeah, this sucked. Eventually the bug was fixed so that the custom design glitch only hard-locked Xbox 360s and didn't completely ruin lobbies, but by then any momentum we had hoped for faded. While 16-player lobbies were still very useful, we rarely pushed them to their limits, instead settling for 8-12 players on a weekly basis. The Forza 3 crowd was a reliable lot along with a few newcomers, thankfully.

Despite the initial glitches, Forza 4 had a bunch of robust game options that allowed for a bunch of really entertaining game modes. Car soccer was official now, and it came with a proper soccer ball that bounced in manners so bizarre that I kept referring to it as haunted. Club garages allowed for more nuanced fixed-setup races, and so bouncy and nearly impossible to drive jelly cars joined our weekly collection of traditions. At some point, stock car oval racing became even more popular than it had in Forza 3. I'm still not sure how that happened.

The real treat for Forza 4 was its completely bizarre car packs. I know that DLC is a controversial point of Forza's whole existence, but the addition of a Ford Transit van and a Smart Fortwo created the greatest series we've ever had, the Giant Bomb Super Series.

Honestly, if I could find a way to bring this magic back, I would. Video recaps do the races no justice. We had a dumb mix of cars, and a dumber mix of rules, and yet somehow the racing was both manic and incredibly intense in the best way possible. I even added a bonus points system for trying to get the Giant Bomb staff to talk about Race Night, creating teams named for them in the series. Taswell R+D won a lot of points in that regard, thanks to Ryan Davis's willingness to retweet just about anything.

Sadly, a poorly-planned Super Series II couldn't grab the magic with a different set of cars, and a glut of Internet issues on my end almost forced me to abandon Race Night. Were it not for a group of regulars who refused to let me walk away, I'm not sure if we'd still be going to this day.

Forza 4's still a bright spot in our history, just for car soccer and the Super Series alone. Never let anyone tell you a van and a mini econobox can't race competitively against one another. We have proof that they're the utmost bitter rivals.

Also, in a custom race, YOU make the rules. Yes, you.

The Struggles

Naturally, with a new console, Forza Race Night hit a few unexpected snags. Shame on me for thinking the transition would be smooth.

I have a hard time recounting our history in the last year, actually. It's been a struggle to keep Race Night alive in the world of Xbox One and Forza Motorsport 5. Car soccer was gone, clunker pushing was gone, club garages were gone, virus tag became unplayable, and so many of our beloved tracks and cars were no longer available. Thankfully, even in the wake of all this loss, jelly car racing was still an option, and our newfound collection of old and new regulars eventually came to accept that constant class and spec racing was OK for the night.

Then Long Beach came out, and we had a super-short track variant for me to screw around with. That, along with the eventual return of the Nurburgring, saved our butts. The options were still lacking for multiplayer races, but at least I had a few more toys to work with.

Oh, and there's that time I ascended, thanks to an awful netcode glitch.

The Future

Right now, we're continuing to thrive in Forza Horizon 2, since there's no way we could safely continue to exist while playing Forza Motorsport 5. While Horizon 2 lacks all of the options I normally enjoy tinkering with the make Race Night what it is, its frantic nature of racing to each event should allow us to continue surviving until Forza Motorsport 6 hopefully gets everything right again and brings back our racing to its former glory.

That's perhaps wishful thinking, if you hadn't noticed by now.

Still, over all the years, we've had countless Giant Bomb users join our ranks and races, helping with our clubs and contributing to our assorted competitions. We may not be a very well-known group on Giant Bomb, even after five years, and the only staff participation we've ever received is from a former engineer (Mike Horn, he's pretty cool like that), but unlike just about every other race night and game night I've been a part of on this site, Giant Bomb Forza Race Night has persevered. I have everyone who's ever joined us to thank for that. You all have my sincere and complete thanks for keeping this stupid and wonderful dream alive.

Put together a bunch of silly cars, races, and rules, and you'll attract a fun bunch of people. We aren't legit pro, unless you're talking about SushiXXX's jelly tunes. We aren't stubbornly serious like the average sim racing crew, and never will be. We believe that cars are fun, and we will always enjoy driving them. As long as Forza keeps their cars and racing dynamic and wonderful, we'll stretch their rules in new directions, creating unique, interesting, and sometimes flat-out stupid races. They're all fun for just about anyone with a sense of humor. We know that from experience. Trust us.

We are Race Night.