What is your philosophy of pacing as far as that goes? How many new instances and moments do you need to give players per amount of gameplay time?
CD: Well, I'm not the type of guy that really thinks so formulaic in basically anything that I do, but definitely we focused hard on the setting and the narrative.
And you notice at the start of the game it's quite slow, actually, and we let the player sort of get into the mood and start to grasp some of the overarching sort of plotlines and things like that. And then at times we sort of break those rules and throw you into something that's super energetic and full of action.
But I think the best thing for us has always been just to focus test and also to make sure that the story is in the driver's seat in all of these scenarios.
There's a sandpit you're about to fall into, and you have to hold on to something. This is a minor gameplay moment. Will it come up again?
There are obviously some that you'll do once, and some that will happen again. For instance, shooting out a window that has sand behind it, that comes up again later in a grander scale, but does it come up again in a minor scale? How do you attack that issue of newness versus expectation?
CD: Well, it's a couple of different things; it's a discussion of product value. You want to make sure, at the right time, that you're infusing some of these really exciting events into the combat. Things you don't expect, making sure that there's enough variety.
But as far as the way we do those things, and if we choose to do them again, I always like to do them more than once. But sometimes you can afford to do something that's really exciting just once, and that can be a cool thing, as well, depending on what it is. But like you mentioned, the hanging and shooting, yeah, we do do that again.
And then the scene with the avalanche, that's one thing where we wanted to provide as many opportunities for that as we could. And then we have these sandstorm moments where we fight in these brutal sandstorms, which we've really packed a hell of a lot of product value into. And those are landmarks throughout the experience that we hope people will remember.
Yeah, it does seem like there's a theme of sand as a weapon.
CD: I think the sand is pretty tied into everything we're doing. But just because of the way that it's transformed the environment, and that allows it to tell the story that's you're in a location that's cut off from the world. But at the same time, yeah, we've looked for every opportunity that we could find to integrate that into the gameplay as well.
Landing on a roof that looks like sand that's actually a glass roof, and you fall through. This notion of unsure ground is really interesting, especially with this architecture in Dubai. And then the way that it changes faces, the fact that you could be walking up near the ceiling next to these crystal chandeliers.
And then in the gameplay, too, kicking sand up into the eyes of enemies with frag grenades. There are objects you can shoot that are kind of dripping sand, that can cause sand to fall down on enemies and stun them. And you see the sand avalanches and the sandstorms as well.
Speaking of Dubai, have you been there?
CD: Yeah, actually. My parents lived in Ajman, which is only a three hour drive from there, throughout the whole project -- not because of the project, but it was kind of a happy coincidence. And also our military advisor is located there, which I had the chance to be with him a lot and fire weapons in the desert and things like that. And we've got our art team there doing a lot of research and things like that, too. Dubai is just crazy.
Yeah, it does seem entirely plausible that it could become a sand wasteland of giant, hulking dinosaur structures in the near term. [laughs]
CD: Yeah, I mean there isn't another location like that on the planet, I think... It's sort of off on its own. It's at least a few hours' drive from any small town, and it was built just simply because of the will of man, saying, "Let's just do the biggest, most awesome thing that's imaginable." I do a lot of thinking about architecture, and level design, and I'm just constantly amazed at the projects that they're starting or that they're even completing over there in Dubai. It's unbelievable.
There definitely are some strong correlations to like the Tower of Babel and all that kind of stuff over there.
CD: Definitely. Those themes are definitely interesting, and ones that inspired us as well. So it's sort of a monument to what man can achieve, and in Spec Ops: The Line, we see how fragile that is.