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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 4 of 8 Next

That's something you see games experiment with lately. The obvious example that reawakened it is God of War, with the contextual action, which everybody started reincorporated as soon as God of War brought it back. God of War didn't come up with it, but...

PO: It's Dragon's Lair.

Dragon's Lair and other games. Shenmue, definitely. But they made it chic. And I guess it's because I recently played Devil May Cry 4, but the way they did it is... Devil May Cry used to have sword and gun attacks, and the new one has sword, gun, and a throwing arm. Every throw move is contextually sensitive to the enemy that it's used against.

It's cinematic, in the sense that it has a whole new set of animations that are done just for each enemy type. It's not like the sword, where it's the same slash you see no matter what you're fighting. But with the throw in DMC4, it's like you're fighting this one enemy, and you pick it up and spin it around and chuck it across the room or whatever. That's a big problem that's being worked on right now, is how to bring that film-like, cinematic quality and retain interactivity.

PO: And aware of whether you're playing, or was the game playing you.


PO: When I play Call of Duty 4, for instance. Great game. Love it. But it's a ride zone. I'm on a rail, and basically I'm going from one spot to another, and the events are triggering based on my penetration of the camera value, rather than the outcome of my mission planning. I don't care, because it's so brilliantly executed.

There's a line where I as a player... it's the willing suspension of disbelief and control that I'm willing to seek in a game if it sufficiently satisfies my need for action, excitement, and surprise. It wears a little thin when I get the same sequence four or five times in a row. We see that a lot. But I think we've got to give credit to the audience. We're never going to fool them into thinking they're not playing a video game.

A lot of times with these cinematic games, "We're going to take the HUD away, and you're never going to know you're not playing a game." I think that's crazy. It's a separate form, and you embrace the aspects of it that allow you to make the game fun. That's why we have those quick action moments.

If we were going to do something that's totally cinematic, you wouldn't allow that to be in the space. I think we embraced those things because it worked, but at the same time, I don't think there's anything wrong with surprising the player by taking away their control of the situation a little bit. As long as the player's buying off on it, then yeah, we'll do that.

That context thing? Yeah, I'm on board. But yeah, you're right, we're walking a razor's edge. With Bourne, we also were demanded to make this a very accessible and broad market game. Obviously, it's a hugely successful film franchise, and the company is hoping it can be a mass-market success.

That also dictated the way we used the controls and how deep we wanted to go on some of the control combinations. But I don't think the answer lies in increasingly complex control schemes and really stupid learning curves. I also don't want to have a game that's an inch deep and a mile wide. I think that a game needs to trust the player a little more than we have in the past.

There's been a fear that the players are not going to get it, or they're going to punch out after 15 minutes, or they're going to rent it and never buy it if we can't give them this incredibly deep experience right from the get-go. I give players more credit than that. They want to be entertained.

What I find interesting when I played the demo is that, as you run through the level, I just about saw the guys who were sliding in on the edges of the screen or around a corner. You can really tell without too much difficulty "don't go that way," without really stopping and looking. How do you work on those visual cues?

PO: Hundreds of hours? (laughs) Nights and weekends, loss, divorces? There's some audio cues there too. A lot spilled into the art. There's light sources pulling you. The camera is also suggestion a direction for you to go. There's a lot of little magic tricks that are happening.

It would've been a perfectly valid approach with this game to have all those takedowns be unlocked by specific control combinations. X plus Y plus left bumper plus adrenaline and swirling my thumb on the left control stick.

Plenty of games have done it that way, but we thought, "Am I going to feel smarter when I do that, or am I going to feel like I'm a dolt who can't be as good as the character in the game?" By simplifying those controls, but making the outcome of the input complex, we hope to make you feel like Jason Bourne.


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