An Uphill Battle: Chris Ferriera On Army Of Two's Gameplay and Philosophy
August 31, 2007 Page 2 of 4
How do you let people know from a story standpoint, that this has a correlation to the real world that we’re living in?
CF: If you’ve seen any of our trailers, we use a lot of news footage. You'll see a lot of real-world footage in there. We use all real-world locations and we’re current-day. There’s sort of references in there, but it’s our own universe. It’s a fantasy universe set in modern-day America with our own company, and our own government. It’s different than the way things operate, but it’s kind of scary how reality is as crazy what we’re making, what we’ve put in the game, in this fantasy. It’s to say this is what reality is -- you may not know about it and you sort of need to know.
The target audience for this is a good group of people to try to educate about that sort of thing. On the other hand, it’s definitely a tough undertaking -- it will be interesting to see to what degree it’s successful. I certainly admire any attempt to do something like that. I’ve talked to two other people at this show, who are trying to do semi-similar games -- games that either poke fun at politics, or bring in some subversive left wing stuff. It’s interesting that that’s all happening right now. I think people have gotten pretty fed up.
CF: You look at other games like Haze or BlackSite [Area 51]. BlackSite, I don't know too much about. I know that Haze is set in the future -- it’s more sci-fi. We just really wanted to be now and to-the-moment. The thing is, this is a new IP, right? We don’t want to come out with something that’s mediocre, and just rush it out on time. We want to make sure we’re making the right game we want to make. It’s also being developed in Montreal, so it’s a very international studio. We have guys from Kenya working on it, guys from South Africa, guys from England, guys from France. It’s the most diverse squad of guys I’ve ever worked with in my life.
You’re going really far forward with the co-op stuff. To me it seems kind of daunting -- I look at that, and I’m not really sure if I want to play that...
CF: You’ve just touched on our biggest challenge. We need to re-teach people how to cooperate. So what we’ve made is a cooperative game that, second, it is a shooter. Shooters have been dialed. You play a shooter and you know when the mechanics are tight, you know how to communicate things. [The audience] knows what reload looks like, they know how ammo counters work, they know how health bars work, they understand how regeneration works. All that stuff becomes common knowledge -- because it’s been finely tuned over the years, from Contra up till now, that everyone understands what happens.
Now with co-op, most games have been "I’m a single player game. I’m going to throw another player in and not really change the experience." Maybe it’s going to become easier because you have two guys doing the same thing. So what we did is we created a series of concepts. We have a concept guy, Vander Caballero, who's amazing. He just came up with all of these amazing co-op concepts. So even before we existed as a shooter, we had a bunch of white boxes with co-op mechanics, and we thought, "how could we bring this into a game?" And even before my time at EA Montreal, the game has gone through so many different co-op ideas, buddy cops and thieves, this and that...
And finally we finally settled on the politically-charged PMCs because we wanted to deliver a message. And we figured with two guys, in a situation as tough as theirs, there’s no better way to really bring co-op to the forefront -- because they have to work together and it ties into the title, Army of Two, right? It's two dudes versus an army. You’re not going to survive it if you go it alone, and if you don’t play with your partner, if you don’t communicate. We have to teach that. That’s the toughest point. We have a pretty extensive tutorial and we’re trying to simplify the way things come across, and try to keep it to one to two button presses to get into everything you need.
I certainly like the idea of cooperating. I just never want to have to. That’s the stopping block for me, mentally.
CF: Yeah, that’s going to make if tough to play. If you don’t want to cooperate, you’re probably going to get worked. But you never know -- you might find someone out there who has a similar playstyle or the exact opposite playstyle to you, which is even better. Because using the concept of aggro, which we took from the MMOs and are bring it into this game space, if you want be the run and gun guy and take all that aggression, and the other guy wants to to play the stealth guy and plays it better, that’s fine.
He has to take it back every once in awhile, so that you don’t die -- to take the attention off of you. And you're both responsible for death. Everything from all of your equipment, all the way to the ending, is all co-op. it’s all meant for two players, and two people to interact.
How does the single player campaign work, then?
CF: You play with a partner AI, and that partner AI has an intimate knowledge of the level and the objective, so he knows where to go. He’ll stick near you, but you can also command him. You can tell him "advance on your own," "stay and guard me," or "hold you position" and set his aggro to generate more aggro or less. On top of that he’ll monitor your health and current levels of aggro, so if your aggro's high and your heath is low, he's going to step up, pull out his biggest gun and generate as much aggro as possible so that you have the chance to regenerate.
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