Sunday, 17 June 2012

Memoria: Crackdown 2

It was thanksgiving, 2008 and I’d not slept in 2 days. We’d been crunching hard to get the Goliaths and the locations that they occupy ready for review. Our work however was in vain, they weren’t good enough - there simply wasn’t the time or resources to do them any justice. They were on the chopping block.
We were coming up to a pretty important milestone and the Goliaths weren’t ready. They just didn’t work. The problem was with scope, we were trying to do something too great in scale and sharing too few characteristics with the rest of the game, which given our time frame was ridiculous.
The Goliaths were huge hulking beasts set to roam their subterranean locations using strict patrol paths punctuated by scripted attacks and behaviours, only deviating for dynamic attacks when players moved into close proximity.
The dynamic attacks would target players that got within attack range…
  • Ground Pound (rear 270 degrees)
  • Slash (front 90 degrees)
  • Acid Bomb (front 90 degrees, multiple targets)
      goliath_games_tmWe had these cavernous locations for these monstrosities to roam, but the Goliath’s slow movement pace just couldn’t cut it against our nimble agent characters – no matter how powerful we buffed the Goliaths. Their great size meant any quick movements looked jarring and totally unconvincing, so the speed couldn’t change.
      The prototype location, a subterranean multi-storey car park set at the base of Wang’s Tower was created. The Goliath simply plodded its way down to the base of the car park, picking up cars from scripted locations to toss at the beacon. The Goliath followed a predetermined path to the beacon to destroy it – the idea was that if the Goliath wasn’t stopped, it would destroy the beacon, destroying any players in the vicinity – a fixed time mission of sorts.
      Whilst the location’s size was perfect for their lumbering behaviour, it made navigation a slow and laborious process for players. We battled on because the theory behind the objective worked, it was just how the Goliath was being used – it still wasn’t fun and the planned atmosphere just wasn’t there. The location just took too long to navigate. It just felt dull.
      So as Christmas approached we went back to the drawing board. We pulled an all nighter or two and redesigned the Goliath. We adopted an approach whereby the Goliath would completely ignore the player. The Goliath would sprint as fast as possible to the beacon at which point he would pummel it until it was destroyed – the player’s job was to kill the Goliath before that could happen. It was simpler, cleaner and had a much more interesting visual impact. The first Goliath revealing itself in the old communications center by running through the junk pile was a real visual highlight for me.
      …though that’s making light of the work involved – let’s just say a great deal of effort was put in by the team to stop them being cut from the game, namely Andy Heywood, who painstakingly programmed every one of my whims before it was too late, and Paul Simms for coming up with an awesome concept and model to match the Goliath’s new nimble design.
      I’m glad we successfully saved the Goliaths from the chopping block – I feel they added some much needed variation to the freak “army”, and was a lesson learned that sometimes what reads well on paper may not translate so well to the game.
      Some random facts and related images follow…
      • Ruffian’s first piece of released media for Crackdown 2 was that of the original Goliath concept
      • This is the music track for the Goliaths:
      • The old Shai Gen Car Park lair is mistakenly listed as the final lair in the official Prima guide (it should be the old Research building)
      • The Crackdown 2 development team had a t-shirt with a crude drawing of the original Goliath drawn by lead level designer, Steve Ianetta whilst he was annotating a level design on the whiteboard
      • …this crude drawing ended up as graffiti in the final game as part of the Crackdown 2 graffiti competition
      • The Radio Station Ruins were originally meant to contain a Goliath (see the huge cave that the enemies spawn from) but we held it back to have a reveal on the final island
      • The old Shai Gen Car Park in Unity Heights Square is roughly a tenth the size it originally was meant to be with the old Goliath design
      • …in fact the old Shai Gen Car Park was once meant to be a freak infested mall as an homage to Dawn of the Dead but it’s location being on the final island best suited a Goliath encounter
      • The Security Ruins contains the only Goliath that throws rocks
      • The final Goliath was originally meant to climb the walls of the Research Ruins and throw explosive scroungers at the beacon
      • At one point we talked about having a Goliath climb the agency tower as a final boss, but the idea was scrapped
      • …we briefly discussed having a Goliath featured in the game intro, tied down King Kong/Lost World style, but felt it would ruin the reveal later in the game
      • …we also talked about including them in the Deluge DLC, but we ran out of time to really include them or any objectives that would support their addition
      Goliath Concept Art
      Original Goliath Concept
      Another Original Goliath Concept
      Final Goliath Concept
      Goliath Renders
      Original Goliath
      Final Goliath
      Goliath Graffiti


      Sunday, 10 June 2012

      What Noonan did next…

      I couldn’t have asked much more than to progress from one good open world title to another. Wheelman had it’s fans, and Crackdown 2 recently broke 1 million sales with it’s praises being sung by fans of the franchise and genre alike. I also contributed to Kinect Star Wars, which is well on the way to hitting the 1 million mark.

      During the last two years I’ve worked on some great pitches and prototypes. Unfortunately a lot of this won’t see the light of day, and that’s a shame, as it’s some of my best work. I wish Ruffian all the best with it’s current and future projects.

      However, it’s time to move on.

      I’m moving away from the country I was born, from the family that brought me up, from the friends that I spent my free time with and the companies that kept me afloat financially. Thanks for the opportunities, but it’s time to leave for foreign shores.

      My days at Ruffian will be coming to a close sometime in the next month or so – I’ll be around for a bit for anyone who wants to buy me a drink or give me a high five...

      Out with the old, in with the new.

      In August I will be starting at Ubisoft Montreal to work on Watch Dogs, a game that got a more than positive response at E3.

      Lookin’ good…

      I will try to document my move away and settling period through my youtube channel for the benefit of friends, family, and most importantly, myself.

      …and yes, this is why my UDK projects (Shootan and On The Run) have seemingly been put on hold – getting a new job and moving country kinda gets in the way of hobbies. I might get back to them when I’m more settled over the pond.

      Wish me luck!