A Line in the Sand: The Spec Ops Interview
April 2, 2012 Page 4 of 4
Can you talk about the sort of light stylization that you guys did on on the characters and locations, and what the thinking was behind it?
CD: Well, talking about just the overall setting in the way that we work, first of all, we wanted to make sure that we didn't just have another one of these brown shooters. I think that it's pretty common these days, to sort of just show this really dirty, grungy brown environment, and we wanted to avoid that pitfall.
And it would be a real shame to show Dubai to you without showing off the super shiny, glass, marble, and gold, and crystal, all this crazy stuff that they're building there. It really is a colorful place; it's a very over-the-top place as well. Like, all the architecture that we've been inspired to emulate is definitely not your typical architecture that you're going to see in a Middle Eastern city, for example. So that's definitely something -- Dubai itself inspired us a lot.
And then when it came to the characters... I think, for us, the characters needed to be a foundation to tell this sort of dark journey with. And so we needed characters that the player could relate to quite well, but at the same time could -- especially Walker, the main character -- project their own emotions onto.
So, you notice Walker's not constantly saying what he's thinking, but as far as the way he looks, that same principle applies. I think we have sort of this mix of realism, if you could say that, with just a little bit of a hyperreal take on that, as far as the way the colors are, and the way we stretched the imagination as to what the sand can look like, and the architecture.
How would you say this desire to let players project onto him applies to Walker, in terms of his look?
CD: He doesn't have like a bunch of tattoos or earrings. I don't think any of those things are negative in any way; it's just I think that those can be things that where you distantly say, "That's Walker, and that's who he is", and it sort of can make it harder to relate to him. So he's a pretty, I guess you could say, "Shepard-ish". They've sort of done the exact same thing with the Mass Effect games. And so it's a character that I think a lot of people can relate to, simply because he's a bit of a blank canvas.
It's interesting to kind of purposefully make a more generic character, visually. I mean it's very common in games to do that, but it's not always necessarily with thought behind it.
CD: Yeah, I think it's really common, as well, to go super over the top, too. I don't know -- I think, for the story that we're telling, we sort of needed that. What we saw is sort of the common American soldier guy, and I think if you look at the protagonist in Apocalypse Now, it's that way, a little bit, as well.
Talking about the stylization, it's believable but not realistic. Uncharted doesn't try to present you with an actual, real-looking character; it's just off enough that it could be a caricature.
CD: Yeah, I like that it's realistic enough that you can sort of imagine being in that environment with those characters. But at the same time, we take some liberties with making sure that the environment is even more beautiful than it could be in the real world. And then the characters have this almost realistic look to them. You're right.
It can be useful in terms of story and projecting things onto people. Because if you think that they're supposed to really be real, you'll try to project actual real life scenarios onto them.
CD: Yeah, like, "That guy wouldn't do that thing." But yeah, in order to drive home a lot of the emotions that we're trying to portray here, the characters are in some scenarios that are hyperrealistic; they're over-the-top, you know? And I think if everything looked extremely like photoreal, that it wouldn't quite work.
What do you personally, as a designer, like about squad combat?
CD: Personally, there are things that I like about it as far as the way it's been developed in the past. But I think the thing that enticed me the most about it is the way that it can become a storytelling device, as far as the way that the squad is constantly speaking with each other, and then giving commands to them. and hearing their reactions and things like that; that's really interesting to me.
I think I like squad commands the most when I feel like I give a command and something very powerful and interesting happens because of that. And I really don't like, as a gamer, giving them seemingly useless commands all the time, just to keep them in line; that's something that I'm not a big fan of.
But I know that there are people that are really into those tactical shooters, and this was sort of an evolution that we went on, as a developer, as well. Trying to find out where our target was, and that just wasn't something that was something that we could do and still tell the story in a way that we wanted to tell it.
This game was announced in a previous iteration, but then was delayed. Did you guys go back to the drawing board?
CD: Well, we definitely learned a lot of things as we were developing. When we did that, that was really because we realized that we had an opportunity, and 2K allowed us to really focus test what we had done, and come back and try and hit a lot harder on the story. That was the thing that really was invested in the most during that time period, was focus testing the story that we had, and then really, really polishing after that, as far as the voiceover and all the things that we were doing with the characters.
That's a pretty rare opportunity.
CD: Oh it is, definitely. I've been on plenty of projects that just don't get that chance, and -- you know what happens to these projects. They either get kicked out the door and you're disappointed, or they get cancelled. And we ended up with a publisher that saw potential and really, really, really wants to tell a story, and that's important to them, so we lucked out.
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