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Living On The Edge: DICE's Owen O'Brien Speaks
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Living On The Edge: DICE's Owen O'Brien Speaks

June 6, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next

We've been talking to a lot of developers recently, and oddly enough, on shooters, who are very politically aware. A lot of politically aware shooters have come out -- are coming out. Like, I mean, granted, quality varies, but we're talking everything from BlackSite: Area 51, which was very aware of the Iraq conflict; we've got Turning Point from Spark; we have Metal Gear Solid 4 that's about to come out -- that's very much about the PMC situation. As is Army of Two, which is another EA title. I mean, when you talked about tapping into what's culturally relevant to gamers right now, during your presentation, what do you think?

OO: Yeah. I think what I want to do is... It's very easy to look at this game, to misunderstand this game, and say, it's one girl against this police-state dictatorship. It's not. It's more subtle than that.

One of the core questions that the game asks you is, how much of your personal freedom are you willing to give up for a comfortable life? And the other sort of theme for the game is, you can't force other people to live by your rules and your society, even if your society is better -- even if you have got better health care...

But you live in Scandinavia, so you've got better health care.

OO: We have, yeah. We have. I'm quite happy with it. (laughs) But, to be very honest, I'm a big Joss Whedon fan, and a lot of the things in the story of the game came from Firefly and Serenity. I was listening to this director's commentary, and...

So, actually, that sentence that I just used is actually a direct quote from Joss Whedon; the basis of Firefly and Serenity is, you can't force other people to live by your system, even if your system is better. These people want to live on the edge of that society.

Again, in Serenity, The Operative actually says, "This is not an evil empire. We just don't understand why you don't want to be part of our happy club." Obviously, they take it too far, and similarly, that's kind of what happens in our game as well: the mayor of the city decides to take things a step too far.

EA DICE's Battlefield Heroes

This goes, to an extent, for Battlefield Heroes as well -- it seems like right as Japan is descending as a developing force, it seems like the games that are influenced by Japanese culture to a greater or lesser extent are ascendant in the western studios. This game reminds me of the big shining metropolis, which is an icon in anime for years, and it's something that you're feeding on. Am I projecting there?

OO: No, no, I don't think so. I mean, the city is a very definite blend of east and west. It's taking you to Singapore, or Dubai, or any of these sort of very modern cities, and if you look closely at the signage, it's all in dual language.

It's the wrong look, the wrong atmosphere, but I kind of envisage the city in the way the city of Blade Runner would be if it was today. Heading in that direction, you know: a clash of east and west. Obviously ours isn't the dirty, rainy, depressing sort of Blade Runner thing, but it has that mixture of cultures.

You mentioned that the main character is atypical for a videogame lead, and that's something I think we're struggling with as an industry -- especially with female characters. It's known now that in Uncharted, they wanted to have the female sidekick character to be a little bit less sexy than she was. I have a friend who's working on a title where the marketing team is telling him, "Don't make her average-looking. Make her Hollywood ugly." Which means make her gorgeous, but with glasses. Your character is attractive, in a conventional way, but at the same time, can you speak to that?

OO: Yeah, sure. I mean, again, to go back to my Joss Whedon fetish, I like that we have strong female characters. And I wanted a female character that females would like, too. So Faith, we've done a lot of tests, focus tests, on her and with her, as well.

So she resonates with females as well, because she's aspirational without having pneumatic breasts, or ridiculous body proportions. So she looks fit, and healthy, and agile, without being silly. So, she's... I think, again, by accident or design, we've designed a character that appeals equally to men and women. Which is really good.

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