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Finnish Experiments, American Nightmare


January 30, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next
 

Yeah, it is a very convenient framing device, for sure. What made you decide to put the live action portions in? Because live action is notoriously difficult to make not campy, and believable.

MM: Yes, yes. I think the live action that I've enjoyed -- probably like Command & Conquer had great live action; that was just so tongue-in-cheek that it worked. But it's also been done unsuccessfully. But I think for us, the Night Springs TV episodes in the original game were live action, so when you used the TV, you had these live actors there. It just felt natural to continue with that.

And because we have the actor for Alan Wake -- Ilkka Villi -- we just felt that it would be awesome to have him do the acting for [Wake's look-alike and "evil charicature"] Mr. Scratch, as Mr. Scratch is leaving these taunting video messages. I think he's unnervingly likeable, and those are maybe more difficult things to nail down in a different format, and that was a convenient way of doing it. I think the big thing is, "How do you stylize the live action?"

To make it fit in.

MM: Yeah, and how does it not become disconnected from the experience? A lot of that obviously comes with the fact that we're using in-game TVs, and we have the opportunity to use different techniques to make sure that it's filtered properly and flows into into the mood.

I noticed you put fake scan lines on there.

MM: Yeah. We wanted to make it feel like maybe a '50s, '60s TV show kind of filter on top of that, even though he's using a handycam or something like that there. So it felt like a risk, but I think it's one that worked out. We'll see.

The live action stuff is camp. The game has got levity in it, but it's also trying to go for a darker tone, and so there's a little bit of a disconnect for me there. Is that something you want?

MM: Looking at American Nightmare, we wanted a different tone. Even though some of the subject matter is disturbing, scary, and it can feel quite intense, we also wanted not to take ourselves too seriously. I mean, if the tagline is more like "the nail gun is mightier than the sword," then I think that sets the tone for a lot of the things we're doing with American Nightmare. And we wanted to have that kind of vibe for this, and the live action was a great fit with that.

I've never gotten to talk with you about this game, period, before. The decision to make, when you're walking, the flashlight point static -- it's obviously so that it can be a targeting reticle, but it also looks a little weird with his animation, because his hand is moving.

MM: It does. It does. We tried different approaches to that, but we felt that we wanted to have playability and intuitiveness go over realism, and I think that's where we err when we need to make those choices. So, for example, we'll tailor the environments, we'll tailor some of the physics to be more fun to play and more responsive, or we'll tailor, like in this case, how the flashlight behaves to be more gameplay friendly, as opposed to realistic.

So for example, the flashlight is actually wildly exaggerated. When we had the first iteration of the flashlight, it was modeled accurately: how far the beam goes, and how it behaves. And that wasn't really fun in gameplay, so we took this almost like an X-Files flashlight, which is almost like car lights, or something, and it just feels better and plays better, so that's what we went with.

And the same thing, for example, even with the original Max Payne game, when we were showing slow motion for bullets and stuff like that. I think the bullets were traveling at something like 60 miles an hour, but they just looked a lot better in the confined spaces. That actually gave you more gameplay, because if they go at real bullet speeds you don't really see much. [laughs]

So I think that's our design philosophy; we'll go for [gameplay over realism]. On the other hand, we wanted to get rid of, for example, an aiming cursor on the screen, because we felt that would've broken the fiction too much. So we found the flashlight to be a convenient surrogate for that.

And how much did you tweak the animation on the arm to normalize that?

MM: I think there's quite a bit of detail and work that goes into that. I don't even know all the kinds of various iterations, but I know we played around a lot with how the camera and the flashlight behave together, and how you see it. I'd call it almost like a rubber band effect. There is a slight lag in the camera towards the flashlight, so it's not always permanently in sync, because that would've felt too mechanistic.

But on the other hand, we felt that we wanted to have almost like a feeling of a virtual cameraman. So if you do sprint, the camera does fall back slightly and wobbles a little, and then when you stop, the camera catches up. So I think we've become accustomed to that. Ever since, like, NYPD Blue was showing on TV, people have become accustomed to that virtual cameraman, or a handycam effect. But obviously you can't wobble too much, because it hurts the gameplay, and it's also disorienting.


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