Tech by VICE

'Forza Horizon 3' Update Accidentally Published Unencrypted Build of the Game

Microsoft didn't say whether it would make the game easier to pirate.

by Leif Johnson
Jan 4 2017, 4:13pm

If you've made a couple of mistakes at work this week as you settle back in after the holidays, take heart in the fact that you probably haven't messed up as badly as an employee at Forza Horizon 3 developer Playground Games did yesterday.

Tuesday was supposed to mark the release of the game's Rockstar Energy Car Pack and nothing else. Unfortunately, someone greenlighted the wrong update file for PC players, who found themselves downloading a whopping 53GB download that turned out to be an unencrypted future build (.37.2) of the entire game intended for developers. Naturally, players who'd managed to download it yesterday had a field day leaking the information within, right down to massive posts on Imgur showing all the new cars and forum threads detailing the Porsches thought to come in an future unannounced pack.

Since Forza Horizon 3 requires a constant online connection and works off of a constantly refreshing save file, anyone who played the new patch on PC found themselves slapped with an error saying their Forza profiles were no longer available. Playing it with the new build would thus effectively mean starting a new game from scratch, even if they'd dumped dozens of hours into Forza Horizon 3 since its release last September. But starting over is exactly what players shouldn't have done. The best thing they could do was shut down the game, walk away, and wait for a fix.

"PC players who completed the download of .37.2 and then started a new game save will have a corrupted saved game," wrote Brian Ekberg, Forza's community manager, in a forum post. "Avoid creating a new saved game on .37.2, and only play on .35.2 to avoid this issue. As long as you have an existing save and have not created a new one on .37.2, your saved game will work correctly once the update is available."

In other words, if you happened to update your copy of Forza Horizon 3 with the huge patch from the Windows store, Playground wants you to uninstall the whole game and then download the whole roughly 50GB game again with the the proper .35.2 build number (visible on the game's title screen). That's a huge strain on players with data caps, and for players with backwoods internet connections (such as myself), that means waiting many more hours before getting to play again. Fortunately, Microsoft's cloud save system means the fresh install should return things to the way they were—provided the new players didn't try to start a new game while trying to figure out what was wrong with the patch.

"Players' previous saves will remain intact. For players who started new saves on the incorrect version of the game, they will need to start a new save," said a Microsoft spokesperson in an email response to Motherboard. Unfortunately, .35.2 is also reportedly just a rollback, and PC players are still waiting on the Rockstar Car Pack their console cousins are currently enjoying.

On the bright side, we also learned there may be some compensation on the way for affected players.

"We know this has impacted certain fans and are exploring potential make-goods," said the spokesperson. "We'll have more to share soon."

We also asked for details regarding how and why the mistake was made, but Microsoft declined to comment. Microsoft also declined to comment when we asked if Playground had any plans to address concerns that the unencrypted build possibly makes Forza Horizon 3 much easier to pirate.

The whole episode illustrates some of the complications of widespread contemporary game elements like constant online connections or automatic updates. With mistakes like these, it won't be long until we have to start researching the stability of video game patches with the same diligence many of us choose to research iPhone updates.

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