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Thinking Brink: Splash Damage's Console Evolution
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Thinking Brink: Splash Damage's Console Evolution

July 31, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

KG: With your smart [movement] system, you just press the sprint button and then you look at a gate or something, and then you automatically go over there and climb it?

ES: Yeah. I think some people looked at it and say, "It's playing the game for you." No, no. In real life, you wouldn't walk into a room and then climb onto the table in the middle of it. You decide to jump up on the table or over it or shelter behind it or go to the side. Your avatar has got to have that ability as well.

This is something we've been trying to have in first-person shooters for years. It makes no sense that a wall is one pixel higher, and so you can't get over it. That's ridiculous. It doesn't matter what your player model looks like; you're basically a fridge on roller-skates. We've been putting up with this for so long, but enough is enough. We need to have appropriate movement given the abilities of your character.

All the smart system does is that if you could make that jump or that leap -- plus 10 or 15 percent extra for coolness -- you can do it. That just stops you worrying about the interface. It [becomes], "Can I make that jump? Should I get behind this? Should I hang back and reload? Should I wait for another teammate?" We're just turning it so that that's the decision making process, not, "Which button do I press at what point?"

CR: Mirror's Edge doesn't strip it down quite that much, but it still has a very elegant system with the goal of achieving a similar end result.

ES: Yeah, I applaud EA for going with that. Sometimes people say, "Oh, they only go with the safe option." But that wasn't a safe option. That was a cool thing to do.

But we are primarily a shooter. We are absolutely about that. We hired Chris Sweetman as audio director. He was the guy on [Criterion Games'] Black and Burnout Paradise. As you can see already, it's a really solid shooter experience. Whatever else we're trying to do has got to deliver in terms of that.

The movement thing is just something we've been wanting to fix for a long time, and now we get the opportunity. But it's not the first back-of-the-box feature. It's just, "Well, we should have been able to do this all the time."

And it's not another North African town or a railway station. We are totally familiar with those environments now. Our goal is just that gamers have never seen these levels before or that they're completely different. We have a design goal or principle called "instant deep context." The goal of that is that as soon as you open your eyes in a level, you intuitively, immediately, without being told, can say, "I can see what's going on here. I see what the situation is."

At the airport, you say, "This is kind of futuristic. It's not sci-fi. It's a bit in the future. This place hasn't been used in years. That's kind of creepy and strange and pathetic." It isn't an NPC running up to you and saying, "Stop playing the game. I need to tell you what has happened here in the last 20 years." That is the clumsiest way of putting out that information.

The environment is always the best narrative medium. That's the interaction that you're having all the time, rather than, "Stop the game! I must tell you these things." The deep context is that the more you look, the more you will see.

All games face this problem of why you can't just walk off the edge of the map, unless you have a lethal out-of-bounds system: "Where are you going, soldier?! Bang." Or you can put it in a spaceship or on a space station or in a prison.

When I first joined the company, the first thing [founder] Paul Wedgwood said to me was, "We should really do a game on arcology." I remember thinking, "Really? Why would that be fun?" That was a while back. Then he said, "We'll look at that again after we've done the last two games." [laughs] I say "last two," but they're the only two, the first two games we've done.

And we haven't had to make anything up. We invented one thing, Arkoral, which is the kind of trademark building material. The idea is that right about now, some scientist technologist ecovisionary starts experimenting with a test bed for sustainable construction materials, zero carbon emission, all the things that are going on now -- wave farms, solar farmers, algae bioreactors to replace hydrocarbons. Our coral is a genetically modified coral. It's like concrete except it doesn't give off CO2 as it sets.

Everything else is actually being made and done. I don't know if you've heard about the Seasteading Institute. They're looking at exactly this. It's like, "There's our concept. Thank you, we'll take that and twist that." That's from a more libertarian political angle. We thought, "BioShock has really got that covered," the Ayn Rand at sea thing.

All the rest of it is basically an excuse to import every possible social tension. I fell so much in love with Deus Ex, the way in which you didn't have to put on your game mindset. Whatever your opinions, prejudices, suspicions about how the world works, you can bring them to the game.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

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