Free Radical is entering into a new, narrative-driven era with its high profile FPS Haze, soon to be released by Ubisoft as a PlayStation 3 exclusive. We recently published an interview with the game's writer, Rob Yescombe. Filling in more of the picture of how a next-generation shooter comes together is creative lead Derek Littlewood.
Gamasutra spoke to Littlewood about his career, the origin of the game, video game violence, the difficulty to "communicate the core message of the game through interactive sequences", three-dimensional character design, Hideo Kojima, beta testing, Apocalypse Now, the importance of themes, and why the industry is so immature.
What did you study, and where did you work before entering the game industry?
Derek Littlewood: I graduated with
a degree in Computer Science from Nottingham University in 2000 before
spending a year working at the bakery in my local supermarket.
Of the two of them, one was enormously educational. I'll leave
it as an exercise for the reader to decide which...
How did you enter the video game industry?
DL: After demonstrating to the Free Radical directors that there really aren't as many differences between baking bread and developing video games as they'd imagined, they gave me a job in mid-2001. My first task was design and setup work on TimeSplitters 2, after which I moved on to lead the design on Second Sight. I was then involved in concepting and designing Haze and become project lead on the game early in 2006.
Typically, how are you involved
in the development of a game, on a day-to-day basis?
DL: It's my whole job. The thing I
do more than anything else is to just play the game, because there's
nothing that tells you exactly where you're at more than simply sitting
down with the game and seeing how much fun you can have with it.
I'll also spend a lot of time chatting to the team about how their work's
going, and seeing if we can refine anything to improve its impact in
the final game. The one change for me on this project compared to
Second Sight and TS2 is that I don't really do much hands-on
work anymore (aside from occasional bits of balancing); but the team
we have on Haze is probably the most talented I've ever worked
with so I'm more than happy to leave them to do their thing.
In your opinion, what qualities does a good game designer need?
DL: An ability to work with the tools
he's given and an understanding of when to compromise and when to go
that extra mile, and more than anything else, a thick skin! There's
a lot of misconceptions about what being a game designer involves --
some people think you just sit and play games all day, others that you
just come up with a vague idea and then some fairies come along and
make it for you. Fact of the matter is that bridging the gap between
having the idea and making it work in game, together with all the inevitable
compromises that involves, is where the meat of a designer's work is.
And the whole way along you can guarantee there'll be a whole bunch
of other people telling you to do it differently, or that they don't
think it's going to work, and that's where the thick skin comes in handy,
to enable you to stay focused and believe in your idea until it works.