Designing Filmic Games: Paul O'Connor And The Bourne Conspiracy
March 14, 2008 Page 7 of 8
This is just my personal "I'm not a game designer. I just like games and I'm kind of bored right now," voice, but I don't see any reasons to stick to conventions, if you decide... why have a health meter that works the way health meters have worked for the last 20 years, if you're just going to find something that works differently for you?
MS: We experimented with using facial deformation, for example.
PO: We tried a lot of different things. I used to write comic books in my secret past. When you write a comic book, you get things that come with it being a comic book. People are going to accept that a superhero flies around in long underwear. They're going to accept that Clark Kent can put his glasses on and nobody's going to recognize him as Superman.
They're going to accept those things until you shine a light on it and say, "This is ridiculous." And you can do that, too, if you're a really good writer. If you're Alan Moore, you can do it. You can deconstruct a superhero story and it's awesome.
But you attack those idioms and blow up those conventions
at your peril. You better be damn sure that you can replace those with
something that's better or at least as good as what you're destroying.
It's the same thing with a video game. Players come into a video game, and they assume that they have a limited resource that equates to health, lives, or time, and they understand that it's going to be decrementing under a certain circumstance.
They have to get through certain hoops, there's going to be certain reset points... those things, they all accept. What happens sometimes in a cinematic game that attempts to break the paradigm is they throw those things out, but they don't replace them with anything. You just end up being disoriented.
It's like the HUD discussion with King Kong. Why did they throw it out? What would they get from that, other than a screenshot that says, "I got no HUD?"
You've got to look at those things really carefully, and if you can declaw one or two of them... how many of those little rods can you pull out before the Jenga tower falls down? Because they all support each other in ways you may not recognize, and you're saying, "I'll be different! I'll take this thing out."
That's why I think we can embrace certain things and eschew other things, and if we move fast enough and deliver it well enough against the things we embrace, that's where I trust the player.
That's where I trust the player's going to look at it and say,
"You know, I'm not going to ding them because it doesn't have a
Tekken level of depth in the fighting commands. That's not what
they were aiming for. But look what they did do. It's got all this depth,
but it's triggered by this control scheme. And it's fun."
Another example of where that sort of went wrong is... and this game is pretty old now, so I'm not harping on it, but The Getaway was the big groundbreaking title as, "Let's make it as realistic and..."
MS: And you're leaning against a cabinet.
Leaning against a cabinet and then the blood will dry on your shirt. The thing that is even sillier to me, almost, was the fact that when you're in the car, you'd know where to go because the turn signal would turn itself on for you. I thought that was kind of funny, more than anything. I think when they decided to do this, they were definitely going at it from artistic intentions, but it almost was sort of an anti-proof of concept or something.
PO: You've got to be willing to make hamburger out of the sacred cows, too. You can sit with the design session. On the whiteboards, they've got all this stuff. But when you're playing it and it's not working, maybe it's time to change your objective a little bit.
You know, video games aren't reality. Duh. But fiction isn't reality, either. The people talk in novels is not the way they talk to each other in person. There's concision. There's summary. There's things that drive conversations to climaxes and character transformation, and where you get into a scene and out of a scene. They're different than life, so why should video games be held to a different standard when they're trying to show us action?
We have this marvelous legacy of cinematic action that goes back to D.W. Griffith, so why would you try to go against that grammar that's ingrained in everyone's head? For us, it was top-down.
We looked at the director on the second two pictures, and we looked at the way he framed his action. His philosophy was basically, "There's a cameraman in the room with you in all the fights, so when Bourne gets hit, he flinches."
He's pulling the camera back. You can see this in the second film, where Bourne's driving, and a car's coming in and is going to smash. He's looking ahead and can't see the car coming this way, and the camera flinches back, even thought Bourne hasn't seen it because we're the cameraman in the passenger seat going, "Holy shit!" and he gets hit and spun around.
So we grabbed all those elements and built them into our camera system so that it feels like the film. But those huge fights make that stuff happen, because that's normally the way you do a video game.
We're breaking one of the idioms of a video game, which is a reliable camera that the player can control. You can't do that unless you give them a better experience, or at least a different experience that holds together.
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