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To return to an earlier thread, from a very nitty-gritty design perspective, you talk about giving people XP to encourage actions that are not just shooting people in the face. I want to talk about that; is that the primary way in which you incentivize these things?
PW: It sounds like that, but it's really the incidental benefit. The truth is, if you want to create a game that people can play for weeks or months, you need a massive amount of depth -- not width, but just actual depth to the game.
If you were to provide all of those things to the player on day one, they would be overwhelmed and frustrated, and they would feel like they didn't understand the route to fun. One of the great things about having an XP system is that, in essence, you reward player competence with that complexity or better reward playing skill with more fun stuff to do.
If we bribe players to do things that make the game more fun for other players with cool stuff that makes the game more fun for them, we know from experience -- and we've proved this on the floors of GamesCon in Cologne and PAX in Seattle and QuakeCon in Dallas -- that fans will queue for three or four hours and play in big groups of strangers and whoop and cheer and really enjoy themselves because it's just a different experience than the all-out, selfish, "How many people can I kill in thirty seconds?" mode of play that multiplayer shooters are known for.
To go back to your point about "could it be judged as appropriate for a single-player game," I think you could levy the argument for it not correctly being a proper multiplayer shooter in the true sense of the word, because it's not a hardcore, elitist, kick everyone's ass and take names and make racist comments over VOIP multiplayer shooter either.
By that definition, it doesn't appropriately qualify, and maybe it's just time we stopped worrying about genres. All any of these things are, really, is just different distances of camera from your avatar, you know? That's really all there is. You're either looking through their eyes or over the shoulder or a bit further back or way up as the god game looking down at the planet's surface. They're just different levels of immersion. For us, we love first-person shooters because we find them to be really, really immersive. But I definitely don't worry about what type of game it is.
I think that, ultimately, if you're truly following creative instincts, then you worry more about making a game that's creatively empowering.
PW: Right, and here's the interesting thing: you can play the game today as an engineer and not fire a single shot and just do all of the things that most benefit your team and come on top of the scoreboard. You don't have to be the guy who pulls off wicked mid-air headshots to succeed in the game. That's not to say you won't have fun doing that; we are obsessed with guns, as you can tell!
We have our lead writer who, day one at the office, took us to the Imperial War Museum nine years ago; we've been obsessed with weapons ever since. We sourced references for our audio by renting a quarry in Nevada and around a hundred semi-automatic weapons, set up twenty-one microphones, and just recorded them for two days. So it's a big deal for us, the gun thing; but it isn't the most important thing when you have fun.
You were talking about encouraging positive actions and nonviolent actions. Obviously, it's a shooter, but I don't mean that from an ideological perspective, just in terms of how you want to encourage certain kinds of interactions.
PW: Right. It's a combat game, and impeding the progress of your enemy is one of the ways you can improve the progress of your team, but playing selfishly doesn't benefit anyone. If you think about sniping as a general idea, on any given server only one person is having fun sniping. Sniping isn't a great gameplay mechanic for encouraging people to have fun. However, a medic, who's running around shooting and invoking combat but also healing and reviving his teammates, is creating a fun, less frustrating game for everyone that's playing, and they're enjoying their experience.
The guy who's running around giving everyone ammunition; the engineer who's giving people Kevlar armor upgrades and buffing their weapons and laying down defense turrets that defend them so they can pincer players and stuff. There is definitely a buzz, a satisfaction that comes from coordinated team-play that cannot be achieved in a deathmatch server or a team deathmatch server or even a very basic, objective-driven team deathmatch server.
The reason I think this is true is because, even if I go back to my clan days -- I've played Team Fortress for two years at tournament level; I've played team deathmatch at tournament level; I've played CTF at tournament level. So I've had that experience for years and years and years, and I know what the pros and cons are at those different experiences.
I think that the game that doesn't suspend your belief too often, that does everything it can to immerse you by having an environment with a solid backstory that you can believe in, a cinematic that gets you in the mood and introduces you to the theme, a series of objectives that feel realistic that you could actually be pursuing and doing -- all of these non-gameisms help you immerse yourself and have fun playing the game, but, ultimately, if it's still not fun to do something fantastical, then you're not going to have any fun, right? That's where you still come to have fun to shoot people in the face.