Friday, 30 April 2010

Kotaku Talk Radio

Last Wednesday I was on the Kotaku Talk Radio along with three fellow Ruffian designers, Steve Ianetta, Dean Smith and Graham Wright. It was great fun, and I feel we may have at last put to rest the bone of contention that is transforming cars and the lack of female agents – both of which I believe are non issues, but people get can become attached to features no matter how big or small – I for one haven’t enjoyed Halo multiplayer since the removal of health/health packs post Halo: Combat Evolved.

Co op funYou can download the podcast over at iTunes or directly here.

For those who want further explanation for the elephant in the room, please read on.

Transforming cars were a feature that I had personally forgotten about until the mid point of Crackdown 2’s development. You have to understand, most of my work has been below the ground around freak lairs - cars are not plentiful in these locations, although you can bring them with you…

There were multiple reasons to drop morphing cars, one of those was memory. Contrary to common forum dweller belief, when one crams as many features as we have into the game, you begin to discover that a console’s power is finite. There is a set amount of memory to use and we had already allocated it with our many other game features (which players can and will take advantage of when we release this July). That’s not to say this ends up bad for the player – not in the slightest. In the first Crackdown, as you levelled up your driving skill you were provided upgrades to the Agency vehicles, the most fun/important of which was the Agency SUV which allowed Agents to drive/bounce up vertical surfaces (provided they were handy enough behind the wheel). This ability was not granted until the player had maxed out their driving level, which is something very few people achieved (based upon achievement statistics and Microsoft user tests). Now we are providing all vehicles fully maxed out from the get-go. As soon as a vehicle is in your possession, you are able to use it to it’s full abilities. Enjoy.

Chopper simRemember, this time we have a helicopter.

It’s fucking awesome.

Next up, female agents.

In the early stages of development these were planned (it’s true, I’ve seen concept art) but as with the other elephant in the room they were dropped due to technical limitations; memory required for an entire batch of animations to match the male character, the texture sets, the character model, the head models… this would have impacted other areas of the game, where we were crafting a bigger, better and more badass experience.

Say hello to my little friendAlso, Ruffian Games is a fucking sausage fest.

So there.

I hope that clears up some of the issues remaining from the podcast. I think it went really well, though the following events did not go without hiccup, in the hysteria following I got rather inebriated and smashed my iPhone screen - £146. Ouch.

If anyone knows of a reliable cover/protector for iPhones, please let me know in the comments below – I don’t want to be replacing any more screens in a hurry.

Oh and thanks to Brian Crecente and Stephen Totilo for having us on.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

I’m back!

It’s been some time since I’ve updated, but that’s because I’ve been busy working on Crackdown 2. It’s been a whirlwind project with little to no time to really look around and take in the scenery. This month marks my final month working on the project and I have to say I’m quite pleased with the result.

Crackdown 2I find it amazing how quickly the game has come together in these last few weeks – it now looks and plays like a finished game. There’s obviously a lot to do for the rest of the team (read: programmers) but as far as I’m concerned, my work is done. Time to move onto something new…

…which I can’t talk about right now, but the future is all very exciting. As is the past. I’ve recently been working through a rather large backlog of games spanning various platforms, one of those games was Metal Gear Solid.

It’s a game that needs very little introduction, Metal Gear Solid was released in 1998 to critical acclaim - though I personally didn’t play it until 2000 when I finally realised what I was missing.Metal Gear Solid I had missed out on one of the most cinematic experiences of the decade - an experience that still stands up today; from it’s excellent voice acting, rich characters, it’s deep and engaging story to it’s ground breaking graphics and convincing environments.

The game had it all and offered an unprecedented level of interactivity for a console game, sometimes even breaking the fourth wall. Moments such as placing the controller on the table for the mind reading boss, Psycho Mantis to manipulate the controller using the dual shock’s force feedback, and having to check the back of the CD case for a code required to progress the story - though the latter was possibly an attempt to foil piracy. Metal Gear Solid There are too many moments to list where Konami broke the mould, my personal favourite being the first time I played around with the genome soldiers – placing my back to a wall just around the corner from said unsuspecting guard, rapping my knuckles on the wall to get his attention, and then sneaking around behind him as he cautiously investigates my knock. Awesome.

The only flaw I could find playing it today was regarding the use of the analogue sticks which don’t appear to take into account the sensitivity curves, so any first person action feels clumsy, and although that is a nitpick, it did make one of the final battles more difficult than it needed to be. Saying that, the controls for all other player actions are excellent.

I think I will always go back to MGS when I’m looking for character inspiration or a reminder of how varied the design of a game can be. A reminder that you can change perspective for dramatic effect, you can limit a player’s movement when the situation demands it, and again, you can break the fourth wall whenever you want to ‘play’ with the player.

Also, it’s worth playing to hear Sniper Wolf’s ridiculously sexy voice. Schwing!

Metal Gear Solid is available for download on PSN and is playable on both Playstation 3 and PSP.

Wikipedia Article

I must address some sad news. On July 14th, 2009, my previous employer Midway Studios – Newcastle closed it’s doors as a result of Midway’s continual financial woes. Subsequently this also resulted in the death of it’s project, “Necessary Force”, a game which I had a personal attachment and a great deal of faith in it raising Midway’s reputation. Alas this was not to be.

Not all was lost, as most of the team went on to other development studios. Several designers had already joined Ruffian Games before the collapse, and a large portion of the programming team moved to CCP. Others scattered to Ubisoft, Sega, Sumo Digital, People Can Fly and Ninja Theory. Shortly after the closure some artists banded together and formed Atomhawk Design, a studio specialising in concept art.

I wish everyone involved the best of luck.