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Designing Filmic Games: Paul O'Connor And The Bourne Conspiracy
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Designing Filmic Games: Paul O'Connor And The Bourne Conspiracy

March 14, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 8 Next

I'm actually really interested in this cinematic technique you're using. The game starts with a mini-cutscene of a fight, and then you actually are fighting, instantly. Working on these next-generation cinematic techniques, how do these come about, and how do you keep them functional, from a gameplay perspective?

PO: Yeah, if we were doing a postmortem on this project, that would be your angle, I think, is what's going on under the hood to make this real-time cinemagraphic engine run with cuts? I mean, we talked a lot in other demos about how rapidly your brain adjusts to all these camera cuts.

But we're hard-wired to accept these camera cuts. That visual action vocabulary is part of who we are now, because of all the film and television we watch. We just embrace it. We just go with it. And the designers in the room are all like, "Ah, we can't do that. Take away control, and the player's going to get disoriented."

So that it does work is really pretty amazing, and like anything that's really simple, it's really hard to do. I think you'd want to talk to our cinema guys and our engineers. I can give you layman's terms, but I think there's some real interesting lessons that might be of interest to [your audience].

Meelad Sadat: It's a good topic. Talking about when we first started showing the game, there's things that I'd never seen done in an action game before, like real-time camera edits within the action. In takedowns -- I'll point it out to you -- there's actual cuts away from the action to frame it differently. So anywhere from two to five cuts as you're taking somebody down, to give you angles.

PO: And that's all live. The camera's pretty smart. We get the occasional boner where you fight the wall or something, but for the most part, it's doing a good job.

The other question I have is that the series of movies are sort of pitched as the thinking man's action movie.

PO: The thinking man's James Bond.

Right. Obviously that's sort of... I don't know how to phrase it. It's a lingering question right now with games. Yeah, sure, we want lots of violence and some sex and stuff, but it's not necessarily maturity that's commensurate with real, thought-provoking film. What do you think about bringing that kind of sensibility into games right now?

PO: We've had to do it, but obviously with different forms. We have to concentrate on what's actionable. We tried to retain those emotional beats to the story, and tried to restrict the character behavior so that they will behave in an intelligent fashion.

I'm not sure we got all the way there, as much as we would like. I think the character could be a little smarter with his interaction with the environment. But it was something that was in our minds.

It's difficult. When you go and see a James Bond movie... I'll speak of what I think makes the character smart, and maybe you can tell me how to do it in this game. I'll tell you what we ended up doing. When you go and see a James Bond movie, the audience is ahead of the character, generally, because they have a wonderful setup scene at the beginning of the movie where Bond goes to talk to Q and Q says, "Here's all the treasures you're doing to take on this adventure."

You kind of forget about them, but in the back of our head, "When's the watch coming out? When's he going to use the aftershave kit?" So when he breaks the stuff out, it's kind of a familiar surprise. But the audience is ahead of him, because they know what the solution will be to the problem. They've forgotten about it, but it's familiar when they see it.

In Bourne, it's reverse. The audience is always behind Bourne. Bourne is always thinking two or three levels ahead. He's going to deliberately let himself get captured by holding his hands up, and when somebody gets close to him, he executes a quick reversal and kicks people out.

Or he lets himself be captured and brought into a room so he can get somebody's cell phone and clone it. He's always a couple steps ahead of what he's doing. There's no way the audience can anticipate what's going to happen, but it's so fast and with such assurance, he seems really smart.

So how do we do that with the player? For a long time, we wandered down these alleys, like, "Okay, we'll let the player do a mission plant. We'll sneak into the areas ahead of time, plant weapons, case the joint, and figure out where everything is." We just thought we'd end up with a watered-down version of Splinter Cell. It wouldn't be as good or as interesting as that game. So we decided to go up-tempo with the action.

How we tried to preserve the character's thoughtfulness and his improvisation is in the contextual interactions with the environment. What'll happen is when Bourne is fighting, he executes these takedown moves, and depending on what's in the environment, you get different outcomes. The controls are simple, but the outcomes are a surprising and complex.

That's where he's going to grab a pen off a table and grab it into somebody's hand, or he's going to use a fire extinguisher to take somebody out, or he's going to fire his gun and flush enemies from cover. So the player has to initiate those things, but the results can be a bit of a surprise, and it allows the player to express himself with style.

We tried to do the same thing with the Oddworld games. Give the player a lot of tools so they can express themselves in terms of how they want to handle a puzzle or a situation, and hopefully delight people in the room watching.


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