What did you want to accomplish with Vanquish -- is it just a pure exciting action game for you, or is it more of a larger experience? Where did the idea come from for you?
SM: Part of it was a desire on my part to give the shooter genre a try, but I also wanted a shooter with a heavy traditional-action element to it.
How much time did you spend in San Francisco to determine the setting?
SM: Hmm...how many times did I visit San Francisco? Around four or five times.
Is the city itself actually important to the game, or is it sort of an iconic place that's incidental to the story?
SM: There's no very deep importance to it, no.
I did appreciate seeing Coit Tower explode.
SM: Oh? I just felt like destroying the Golden Gate Bridge, so...
I feel like that sometimes too.
The game's genre could generally be associated with Western design, but it has the look of a game made in Japan. How do you reconcile those things -- and do you even have to?
SM: I do think the visuals lean more towards a Western style, but the original inspiration was from Casshern, a Japanese animated show, and a lot of the game's taste comes from that. I don't think worrying about reconciling those two ideas was a big concern when we began development, though.
The original inspriation for the visual look is from the movie version of Tristan and Isolde; that was the initial spark, although the look wound up evolving into something completely different in the end.
How do you determine the camera position for third-person perspectives? It seems that the whole genre has been influenced by your decisions.
SM: It was very much trial and error. We played around with the camera angles over and over again for something like one to three months until we got it right. I wanted your character to be visible onscreen, but in a shooter the enemy has to be plainly in sight as well, so I had to strike that balance in my experimentation.
In most game projects, the main character sort of grows new animations through the course of development, and we kept revising the angles to make new animations clear and present onscreen as well.
It's been a really good solution for showing as much of the playfield as possible while showing the player -- not going into full first-person mode where the screen is your very existence. It also removes a lot of clipping errors where the camera will go into things when it's further back.
SM: That's very important, yes, and something that gave us a lot of trouble in this project. From a development standpoint, FPSes are easy as pie to make. (laughs) In third-person, though, the player's viewpoint is different from where the character's bullets or whatever are coming from.
So you have to reconcile the gun versus the viewpoint.
SM: It's never something you can pull off perfectly, because there's a physical difference in the locations of the two points, you know? With Gears, they show the track of your bullets rather than where the actual bullets are hitting. I think that's a really clever solution, but I want Vanquish to show the actual bullets themselves onscreen. That's led to a lot of headaches. (laughs) The fact that there's no online in this game is the one thing that makes it possible.
So considering that first-person is so much easier, what made you decide to keep with third-person?
SM: It was because of the sense of speed we were trying to convey here, the sort of quick, fluid motions your character is capable of. If this was an FPS, we'd need to make things a lot faster than they are now, and even then, that sense of speed just isn't there unless you're showing the character onscreen pulling off those speedy, acrobatic moves.