An Open (Love) Letter to "the devs"

I’d like to preface this with an apology (EDIT: and add another at the closing): I’m probably more comfortable playing with words than people, and I’m sorry for some of my wall-of-text posts… and perhaps a hint of didactism. Now, where’s my thesaurus?

So, I’ll dive right in… I feel there’s maybe some uncertainty about the role of “the devs” in building games. We know that PG, as “the devs”, did such an amazing job with FH3 they were bought by Microsoft in 2018. However, Microsoft announced the release of FH4 at the same time, so it’s reasonable to believe they were an influence in its development.

I think that’s why it feels a game of two parts, maybe best summed up by the expansion packs: Fortune Island and then Lego SC. The first to be developed seemed like a natural inclusion in Horizon, the second niggled at me; it felt more like a marketing exercise. To some, the Lego expansion was a natural successor to Hot Wheels, but I loved that Hot Wheels was caning about sans physics on plastic tracks in the sky, while Lego seemed to deliver only a (partial) skin designed to introduce the Accolade system.

Aah yes, the dreaded “make work”. PG has been increasingly focused on this since FH4, and I’ve a sneaking suspicion where this influence might come from…

Let’s imagine I’m an executive at some fictional company where I build racing games and my new corporate boss comes in and says ‘We love the work you’re doing with the racing side, but we think it’s equally important to increase player “engagement”’. If I don’t agree the “make work” model is a good fit with the franchise, then I’m no longer a good fit with the franchise, and I’ll be replaced with someone who’ll find ways to deliver the expected player engagement.

This seems like the time to mention that PG co-founder Gavin Raeburn left this month. There’s any number of personal reasons why Gavin may have made this decision, but the timing of his departure suggests the FH5 rollout played a part. ( Regardless, it’s just another disruption for PG as they work to resolve the game’s issues.

When trying to make sense of FH5’s shaky start, the inclination to blame “the devs” for everything wrong with the game is understandable but maybe misplaced. The staff at PG (with a few exceptions) are probably paid industry standard, and have spent the last three years working long hours under increasing stress. Software development in any field can be notoriously cutthroat and unkind to staff, and while PG may be the exception, the state of the game on release shows the pressure to meet deadlines is very real.

When committing to embrace the player engagement model, I believe PG bit off more than they could chew. I think they underestimated the work required to deliver a game in the mould of Horizon’s past while fulfilling Microsoft’s objectives, then throw in the pandemic, more and more “suggestions” from the corporate boss and voila… we get the overbaked and undercooked FH5.

What’s telling is the map is glorious, and the driving mechanics are sensational; approach it with an open mind, race it as much I have, and then tell me I’m wrong (I know this a common and subjective argument, but it’s the most heartfelt I can offer). It feels to me this is where “the devs” love has gone. Now compare this to the buggy state of the Accolades, and we’ll debate whether the same effort has been applied.

I’m reminded of an interview with multi-Academy award winning, sound engineer Ben Burtt where he jokes ‘films aren’t released, they escape’. What he meant was the work is NEVER finished, there’s always something to do technically, something else you’re unhappy with artistically. However, commercially, the film is done when the studio tells him it is.

FH5 was being released November 5 no matter what. PG has had tremendous success, but it still lacks the influence within Microsoft to steer its own course. Joseph Staten (ex Bungie maestro, now hailed as the saviour of 343) lobbied to delay the Halo Infinite release (, but there would be no extra 12 months for PG. In fact, they’d already had it, because the previous schedule was every two years and they’d been given three. Still, the game wasn’t ready and maybe that’s why it appeared on Game Pass, just like Halo Infinite when it finally arrived a month later. The two aren’t remotely comparable in terms of bugs (Halo is rock solid. Damn it’s good), but Halo is also unfinished with its co-op and map building features due later this year.

So why am I bothering with this post?

Because to my mind, the people who can fix the franchise that I admire so much are those we band under the moniker “the devs”. PG are responsible for doing the work, putting in the love, and we know they’re doing it under difficult circumstances. And maybe, there’s influences outside their control propelling the franchise in directions they’re struggling to reconcile with their own vision of the game.

Whatever the internal machinations, we want the “the devs” on OUR side. We need the entire team at PG, from top to bottom, thinking ‘I’m fixing the game because we’ve got the greatest player base’. We want to provide the encouragement to drown out the less supportive noise. Our best isn’t always good enough, but when someone tells me I’ve not tried, I think ‘forget you, guy’…

I’m not a FH5 cheerleader, blind to the state of the game. I’ve a half dozen outstanding tickets, including several for bugs carried into FH5 from FH3 (…), and these are only for things that I’ve not seen others talking about; I could log more that I encounter everytime I play that already appear on the “Known Issues” list. However, setting aside my frustrations, I’ve eight years of enjoyment from the Horizon franchise that convinces me PG can deliver FH5 into greatness, and I think their ongoing efforts should be recognised. Maybe we should call them “our devs”, not “the devs”.

So I’ll keep logging my tickets, (try my best to) be polite, and play the game, because I want Microsoft to give PG more money to swell the ranks of “our devs”.

Now… commence (EDIT: resume) the flaming! Or ignore this. Or have a think about it.

But whatever you do, come race on FH5. It’s awesome. By all means, spend time playing with your friends on FH4, but race for yourself on FH5.

EDIT: Goodness. That was a busy 24 hours, and I’ve been thinking on my post and the responses. Thanks to everyone who took the time to comment. As a result I’ve made a few edits; I’ve tried to remove emotive (and naive) oversimplifications, correct my errors on the FH5 vs. Halo Infinite releases, clarify my understanding of PG’s business structure, and take a more even tone generally. I hope it’s better as a result, and causes a few less shaken heads.
After all, my goal was to provide a rallying point, while advocating consideration of how our contributions affect others. Which just goes to show: any initial release can be a bumpy one, and good intentions don’t guarantee good results. For that failure, I’m sorry. But, please, still come race with me on FH5.


If by dev you mean software developer then no sorry you’re wrong. A software developer does not choose what to do, rather they are told what to do. The people who can fix the franchise is the franchise itself.

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Hey thanks, finally a comment.

I agree absolutely. Which is why I don’t understand the criticism of “the devs”. Either they’re someone who’s responsible for the game, or they’re someone who’s just producing code. Since most comments here which reference “the devs” seem to be directed at the former, that’s the approach I took.

You wrote an awful lot just to show you misunderstand what people typically mean here when they say ‘the devs’ which is to say, they mean Playground Games.

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I make repeated references to PG in the post, but I’m sorry if some feel it was too long for them to comprehend. It’s worth considering that maybe it wasn’t written for those who’ve already closed their minds?

It was this comment from another thread that lead me to believe there was some confusion about how the company (in fact, any company) functions:

“Context. When people say ‘the devs’ are to blame, we mean whomever at the company, up to and including the management or directors. Playground Games or Turn 10 are ‘the devs’. So of course it’s ‘the devs’ who are to blame, who else.”

I read, I comprehended. You’re just being needlessly pedantic is all.

We know not literally every person inside PG is equally culpable for the game’s faults. Does that really need to be spelled out? It’s obvious (or should be) that ‘the devs’ is simply shorthand for the company.

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I welcome all sensible comments, but you stated I didn’t understand the meaning of “the devs”, when anyone who reads the post can see that I do. So either there’s a lack of comprehension, or you were just flaming. I’ll let others come to their own conclusion.

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Well said OP. Well said, indeed. Sorry for shortening your post, but I don’t think it’s necessary to put all of it into quote. :slight_smile:

Keep up the positive vibe. My sarcastic behind alone is proof enough we need more people with optimistic views.

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People become optimistic when they see reason to be.

People just want someone to blame for an arguably lackluster bug infested iteration of Forza Horizon. I wouldn’t get too hung up with the word “devs”. Some people mean the actual software developers, others mean the development team, whereas the vast majority have no understanding of the numerous roles involved in business let along software or game development so they think “devs” do everything.

But to be fair, software developers are responsible for delivering high quality, easily maintainable code. At least in a high performing development team. You catch my drift.

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Hallo Infinite was made by 343, which is a studio owned by Microsoft. Bungie was not involved in the making of the game.

When Bungie bought their freedom (which they sold to Activision… And then bought it back again), it did not come with the rights to the Halo IP. Microsoft retained that, and tasked 343 with taking over the series. 4, 5, and Infinite were made by 343 all while being owned by Microsoft.

I’d also point out that the Halo infinite servers are some of the worst I’ve ever encountered for an fps. I hear it’s fine for some people, but most people I know have stopped playing the game because of the awful experience. I know personally I played games in the 2000s that felt like a better online experience.

Oops sorry. I’ll admit my understanding of the Halo franchise corporate structure is limited; I knew that Microsoft had retained only 20% share in terms of its IP, but I was unsure how that fit into their involvement in the game development by 343. Beyond that, it’s my ignorance that lead me to reference Bungie as still being directly involved.

I do think it’s worth noting it was the former lead writer and cinematic director of the Halo series at Bungie, Joseph Staten, who joined 343 as Campaign Project Lead for Halo Infinite, before being promoted to Head of Creative. Apparently, he was the one who lobbied Microsoft to delay the game (

I’ll defer to your experience with their servers, since I’ve only completed campaign mode (twice). My point was in relation to the lack of bugs in game. That grappling hook… it’ll land almost everytime, no matter where you fire, and then fling you in whichever direction you swing the controller. A simple example, but faultlessly delivered.

First I would like to say that I agree with your view of FH5… I, too, have had issues with the game, but the beauty of Mexico is overwhelming at times!

Second… for all those out there complaining and flaming PG/Turn10 for this game, when was the last time you created something from scratch and then had to listen to MILLIONS of people whine and complain!!! Never. So, how about starting to help for a change?!? They are trying to make the game better for us… not some of us… ALL of us. It is time that we do our part as gamers and help them.

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The fixes we ask for also mean that people spend much more time playing the game so there are no excuses.

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Without knowing exactly how the structure of Playground works, it’s difficult to know where the blame lies…the programmers program what they are told to program and, if working conditions are as stressful and bad as you surmised, then the litany of programming issues can be excused.

For a lot of people, it’s not that the game includes bugs and issues, it’s the demonstrable lack of any meaningful Quality Control at Playground that is the issue…but that would be a management issue. But we don’t know what pressures PGG management have put on them by Xbox and Microsoft, how much they were forced to rush things to cope with Motorsport taking it’s time. Xbox and MS have shown they have no interest in their users and whether their games work properly or not, simply how many users have played the game, how many Game Pass subscribers there are and how many “awards” they get.

I think, ultimately, it’s a combination of everything that led to the game being released in the state it was…yes, at it’s core is a good game (I enjoy racing in it) but the positives are often outweighed by the negatives (for example, I have a 39 mile race which I currently cannot race with other people as the game disconnects from the server everytime) and the negative, rather than disappearing, are getting worse (like the servers which were fine from when they fixed them in early December until they returned from their long holiday and have been getting steadily worse since then). All most players want to see is some sort of progress which says “Playground are trying to fix the game” and one Update 2 months ago does not indicate that.

regarding all the complaints etc: I highly doubt anyone at Playground sees them. From my understanding, Turn 10 staff handle all tickets as they provide the Support system…at a guess, they either only pass along tickets which have new issues highlighted or they simply make a note of issues and pass them along (I, of course, have no actual idea how they handle tickets)…I believe Turn 10 handle the social media outgoing accounts too. So, for all we know, Playground may be blissfully unaware how unhappy a lot of people are…that would certainly explain the lack of any meaningful communication


Why? Not why he left, why time to mention? It doesn’t matter.

I’m skipping the other things…

There is no need to fix “the franchise”! It’s (one of) the biggest MS has on xbox… and it is doing great!

“The devs” in this case the software developers are able to fix the game! And this fixes lots of other things :wink: noone is saying “fix your broken game” if it runs fine… (btw atm game has bugs from at least 2 previous versions) and these bugs prevent me/others from having fun. It’s not an EndUser/Player fault if he/she is complaining about same “broken thing” over and over again…
But yeah there is a big chain from bugreport > fix and something is wrong there… maybe “the devs” should do some “bughunt night” once in a while (with beer and fun) and fix the things (starting with fh3) but who knows how it works at pg hq. And yeah if some junior comes up with bugfix there is another chain that can prevent a fix… It needs right people in right positions and some “nice workplace”…
Other thing is how experienced or talented are the ppl in your team. U can have people with 10+ defects per 1000 lines of code (KLOC) and people with 1/10KLOC but this increases the costs.

Someone has to start fixing things! It makes everything easier&cheaper later. And not “fixing this breaks this” if one fix breaks something other then fix the other thing first! (Maybe start with the Bugreports itself… “Support Person” is not able to reproduce doesn’t mean its not there, play the game for 3h and you have 10+ bugs to start with)

Anyway “the devs” (software devs) are able to fix the stuff not the ppl with the fancy job titles but the “fancy title” ppl can limit “the devs” in doing their job…
Or the “fancy title” ppl can give some bonus for fixes (real fixes not the “Various stability fixes”)
And yeah maybe some lawyer can help fixing… (by “accident” i’ve seen some trainer developer is doing $30K+/month with selling trainers for some games incl. fh5 and is happy to advertise (fh5 trainer) with “noone banned since 2+ months”)
OK and some gameplaydesigner to make it less “boring” :smiley: (not everyone is using eventlab [or atm: is able to use eventlab])

Oh and i’m not asking for 100% fixed game we have buggy code on other planets but even there we are able to fix the “broken/important things”…

But thx to “the devs” (pg/t10/other ppl worked at the game) for (my current “best of fh5” list):
-keeping the “100 bucks for everything” style
-20sec in initial drive “Drop it like it’s hot” (volcano scene)

Btw would be cool to see “devs” (PG) version of the game without MS

I’m not sure if you’d like me to respond, but I’ve made edits to the post that I hope clarifies why I included the information on Gavin’s departure.

I don’t quite understand if you’re skipping the other things because you don’t want to comment, or you’re suggesting you think I’m an idiot. That’s anyone’s right, of course, and it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve weathered the accusation…

I’d have loved to see PG’s version of the game too. I believe it would be a lot like what we received, but pared back to a more straightforward open world racing experience. I tried to suggest that during my post, but I know there’s a lot in there to absorb.

@pinkiepie you lost me but for what it’s worth I have over a decades professional experience in software development. My comments are based on things I can relate to.

Now I’m not sure if we’re in agreement or disagreement or if you want to know my opinion on why FH5 is what it is but I’ll try keep it short.

I believe Playground grounds consists of multiple development teams that focus on different aspects of the game ranging from physics, sound, lighting, design, etc. And I truly believe that many of these teams excel at what they do and consists of extremely talented and passionate individuals. This is based on the depth of tuning, physics, car detail, etc. State of the art.

The problem I see with FH5 and Playground games is poor decision making. End game content is critical in most games. Previous Horizon titles did a good job in this department. But FH5 missed the boat. Again this comes down to poor decision making. Whether it’s a lack of analysis, or overcomitting and underdelivering, or a combination of both, who knows. But the people who influence these decisions are the CEOS, the heads of departments, the business analysts, and to some degree managers and team leads. Not the developers. The developers role is to quote how long a given task will take to implement and implement solutions to said tasks.

Which moves us to developers. Developers come and go in every company. If the company specializes in one product then overtime a well written and we’ll maintained code base can grow out of control and become extremely difficult to maintain. Moreover when key developers leave companies so does alot of knowledge/experience. Based on what I’ve seen between FH4 and FH5 I believe Playground games suffers from all of this. There is a clear lack of quality assurance, which is most likely due to a lack of high quality automated tests, which in turn is most likely due to a difficult to maintain code base which has grown out of control and is now hard to maintain. Which in turn is due to bad development processes which in turn is due to bad management that lead to promoting or employing the wrong individuals for key roles, or putting to much trust in certain individuals.

More importantly it’s clear to me Playground games were pressured by a deadline. Possibly by a contract with key stakeholders to deliver a game to a certain standard by a given date. Ontop of this is the Covid situation which has made a huge impact around the world over the past 2 years.

So to summarize, I believe Playground games is a mix of talented high performing teams aswell as poor performing or struggling teams. I believe their code base dates back to FH3 if not earlier and is extremely difficult to maintain, hence why bug fixes take so long and why many fixes introduce new issues.

For me personally I strongly believe the biggest and only failure of FH5 was a lack of design into introducing new replayable fun engaging progressive content. If they did this or do this then FH5 would live up to it’s full potential. It does so many things great, but not end game content.


You actually have a point, OP. I hate Microsoft much more than I hate Playground and acknowledge them as the main problem.

For me it’s just that what we see of Playground is that, as a studio, they’re perfectly ok with it and choose to accept these policies. It’s a bit like Insomniac with Sony. Spider-Man didn’t need those boring The Last of Us-style sections with Mary Jane and Miles Morales, but Sony mandates it and they’re happy to follow suit because they have the opportunity few studios did (make a Spider-Man game).

Indeed, someone who codes for a game usually does not have a lot of leeway in how things should work and ends up getting the same amount of hate because they’re jumbled together with the whole studio as “the devs”.

When it comes to FH5 I think the improvements made are wasted in a game that amplifies FH4’s issues tenfold and maintains the same gameplay loop, with no sign of change, so I lost the passion.

Microsoft has a lot to learn. On the blue side you have a Days Gone sequel cancelled because it didn’t meet expectations (despite being a game that could be incredible if improved upon) and Cyberpunk 2077 removed from the store outright because it was completely broken.

And honestly it won’t change. Phil Spencer is the guy who, rather than sort his issues with Platinum Games in order to get Scalebound done, preferred to waste tons of resources on the doomed Crackdown 3. I hope they learned whatever they could from the 3 days in which people grabbed their 1000/1000 before leaving, because that release was a huge stain in Xbox’s history. He’s also the guy who greenlighted that cringey Battletoads remake and pushed Ninja Theory to finish Bleeding Edge, which somehow lasted a full year before being put out of its misery.

What we saw with Halo and a bit with Forza was the follow up to that.


The problem is, the devs dont decide what to do or how to do it. They only write the lines of code that manages that.

Its true that the devs of this game are pretty bad, they have been proving it year after year, but thats another story.

And again, why are you writting this wall of text?

Do you realize the devs are NEVER EVER read this or any other person for the matter???

Also, you can keep writting tickets, but so you know, they are completely pointless. At this point whoever justifies the way these three companies are ruining this franchise (PPGs, T10 and MS), needs a brain or go to a doctor asap. I cant justify anything. Just listening to the player base about one or two impotant things about gameplay will be enough to improve the game 75%. And yet the “devs” refuse to do it and they keep doing things in the worst possible way. Im sorry, i cant.