And so how do you handle story in the game, given that you're talking about wanting to not take away control, not wanting to deliver scripted things? I heard a lot about this coming out of GDC -- I get a lot of people talking to me about articles about, "Where is narrative going in gaming, and how can we shape it in a way that's compelling -- and not intrusive, but actually rewarding?"
CB: Right. You know what, I know... I'm really interested in seeing what the FarCry 2 guys are doing with that kind of stuff; definitely watching with interest. Our ambitions with Mercs, we tried to recognize what the core of the game is -- I think why people are attracted to the game, I don't think it's necessarily for an emergent narrative experience.
So the solution for Mercs 2 has been to keep it relatively simple, but give you a really compelling, easy-to-follow story. I'm kind-of a real dumbass when it comes to games. I'm a pretty good focus test for my own games, I think, because I emulate people who get confused by game stories -- which I think is most of us, to be honest.
So we've kept it relatively simple. You start out, and you meet the key bad guy in the game. You actually start out, in Mercs 2, working for this guy, and through a sequence of events that play out during the first act of the game, he becomes persona non grata -- he does something to you that really, really annoys you. Moving into the worst insult that you can level at a mercenary -- which is not paying you.
And so, the game is set up with a very simple kind-of overarching premise of, "Go and get this guy." And then we have -- obviously, you've got these factions that you're working with, and we've got a lot of really interesting factions that we've brought into this kind of fictionalized Venezuela. And so, by working with the factions, you're kind-of building up your resources, and uncovering clues, and bringing yourself closer and closer to this final showdown with this guy Solano who stiffed you in the beginning of the game.
Yeah, so, I'm not sure I can give you a crisp answer on exactly how we've done it, but it's really -- you know, we've kind of blended this merc's journey of going after this guy, with kind of half-accidentally, but half through just not carrying very much, kind of igniting this entire war in Venezuela, which, if you really take a step back and look at the story, turns out to be pretty much your fault. Not that you care, as a mercenary.
And so, there's all these -- the world becomes the resources that you can use to build yourself up and go after this guy. You have to play the game and tell me how we did in crossing the street.
A couple things that you said really interested me, but one of them is about delivery of narrative. How do you deliver narrative in your game? Is it through cutscenes, or, like, mission updates, or voice overs during gameplay?
CB: All of the above. There are some cutscenes in the game; we use a couple at the start of the game, really just to set, just to introduce the characters in a way that you'll understand. Introduce the world, and make sure that you follow what's going on. And then you go meet the various heads of the factions, and they'll give you contracts that you're going to do. So, those are presented to you as kind-of non-interactive sequences.
We don't do a lot of them, and honestly, I would say, the primary narrative vehicle for the game is the contracts that you do. So you take contracts from various clients in the game, and that varies from, you'll have very military objectives, like you're going to go level entire cities for the Chinese Army, or you've got to, sometimes it's more low-level but lucrative stuff like you're transporting, like, endangered parrots to these Caribbean pirates, or harvested human organs for these Caribbean pirates... So whatever it is you're doing, that is really the context of what you're doing, and why you're doing it, and who you're doing it for; it fills out the world and advances the story.
There are certain missions that are self-generated -- things that you do, not for a client, but you actually elect to do yourself, in part of your quest to get this guy Solano who screwed you. And those really advance the primary arc of the story. So, you know, you're getting key pieces of information, and key resources that you need in order to move forward.
And so a lot of that happens in the missions -- there are various things that you've got to acquire in order to track this guy down and then attack his [base] where he is. So that happens, actually, in the missions. So to answer your question directly, I would say I think the primary narrative device is the contracts themselves -- the gameplay that you do.