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Digital Bruckheimer: Cameron Brown On Mercenaries 2
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Digital Bruckheimer: Cameron Brown On Mercenaries 2


April 17, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 8 of 9 Next
 

Good luck with that. I mean, it's a difficult balance, I'm sure, to try this. That's the thing, right -- you can't be everything to everyone. I mean, this is just totally me, my personal opinion, but I find that there's a certain bizarre expectation that everybody will like certain games. Like, there are "good games," and "bad games," and everyone will play the good ones. The expectations are changing -- I think the Wii is throwing that into sharp contrast, because people are realizing -- but there was a certain point where it was like, you know, "everyone should like Halo," or whatever.

CB: Right, right, right, right. Well, it's, you know, people have different tastes, and I think, honestly, a lot of the most popular games -- just to tick some recent examples, if you look at a game like Call of Duty 4, which is a phenomenal game, and one of its strengths is that it knows what it wants to do, and it does it really, really well. And it doesn't try and do everything, you know? It focuses on being just this über first person shooter on the console.

Just as a developer, I know what they must have done to keep the game running at 60 frames a second. That's a huge -- you know, that would've taken a lot of really smart compromises, and a lot of resisting temptation to just go, "Let's do one more effect! Let's do one more shader! Let's do one more whatever!" Yeah, it took a lot of discipline, I'm sure, for those guys to hit 60, and keep it there, but that's what a focus on your core will do. And that's what a commitment to knowing what you're trying to do, knowing that some people just aren't going to get into it, but by really nailing the core of what you're doing.

I mean, for Mercs, we're always very clear on what our core is. I think people who are coming to Mercs, most of them are coming to have an awesome experience blowing shit up; they want to have an amazing amount of free-form destruction, and just incredible catharsis, and that visceral feeling of power. And we're going to deliver that to them, so I think that throughout the nearly three years of development that I've spent on the game, that's been the consistent daily, hourly focus -- has been, "Let's just make this an unbelievable experience!" When you get the controller in your hand, and you feel the power of this game, this is something that no other game is going to give you.

I guess it's an abstract question, but how do you focus on that? Because like you say, the core focus of Mercenaries is, "Let's make this the Bruckheimer movie of games!" You can sit down and just blow shit up, and it's got to be fantastic to do that. How do you stay on course with that? How do you measure that as you're developing it?

CB: Well, I think that one is relatively simple. I mean, I think early on, there's -- I've heard that a lot of different people have a lot of different names for it. I've heard it called "high concept", I know that EA call it an "X". It's like, what is that single idea that really defines the effort that you're doing? And I'm not saying it has to be one thing -- and Mercs certainly has other central concepts apart from destruction -- but for us, it just really is a daily focus.

And because we settled on that day one, in the first kick-off meetings, where we were getting the team together and saying, "Alright, this is what we're gonna do. We're gonna go to Venezuela; we're gonna have these characters; here's the basic story, we're going to flesh this all out", but from day one, we're talking about how we're going to deliver an amazing destruction experience.

Here's an example, right: from Mercs 1, part of the DNA of the team -- and it's not even a question, it never comes up, no one ever comes and asks me as the director, "Hey, Cam, does this thing have to be destructible?" It's not a question. Everything is destructible. It's just part of the DNA of day-to-day development.

And so, the questions I'll get are, how does this thing destroy? How many pieces should it break into? Should it fall over in this way, or that way? Do we want it to crush things when it falls? Can the player shoot it, and it falls down and crushes other things? So those are the discussions that we have -- it's not, it's never, "Is this thing destructible?" It's only, "How does it destroy? Does it need to destroy any cooler than that?" You know what I mean? It becomes part of the DNA from day one, and I think that's the way to do it, at least in my experience.

It's identifying what you think is the core concept, and then messaging it out, making everyone on the team -- I guess there's a certain amount of getting them to buy into it, and embrace it, and understand it. You know?

CB: Yeah, and I think both of those are equally important. I think you can't just pick an arbitrary high concept, or an arbitrary -- when we talk about it, we usually call them "pillars". Or at least that's what I call them, I'll say, this is a pillar of our game! If you take out this pillar, the roof's gonna fall in. There are a lot of features that come and go during development, things that you try, things that work out, things that don't work out -- but you don't want to remove the pillars, or the structure's going to collapse.

So yeah, so I think it's, you have to have a messages that's credible for the team; I think the team has to buy in, like you said. They have to be able to think about it. Game developers are incredibly smart people -- it's really hard to put anything over on a game developer! So you've got to expect critical thinking in an office, so you can't just say, "Get out there!" and say anything. It's got to be a credible message.

So with Mercs, I think people understand that when we say, "Look, all other things being equal? We're going to destroy everything in the game. It's going to come apart, look amazing, and this is really one of the pillars of the experience." I think people hear that, and I think it's easy to understand, and I think they believe it. And as a result, through thick and thin, and through ups and down, and through the various challenges of development, we've never wavered from that goal. And I think that ultimately, when the game ships, that's part of the core of the product.


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