To go back to something Mike said, at the beginning of his answer, it sounded like, Mike, you were going to talk about preproduction to an extent. You made me think about preproduction in the sense that you were talking about making sure all the different parts of the game support each other. Is that something that you looked at from preproduction, or was that something that, as the game took shape, you started to think about how they could support each other?
MS: We definitely looked at that from preproduction. Having worked on an open world game before, a lot of us knew how important this was. Obviously, we still make mistakes, as does anyone, and we've learned a lot more since; but we've continuously looked at those elements and analyzed how they've impacted each other throughout the course of development.
We're still even looking at that today. While we're beyond the stages of making fundamental changes to the game, there are certain elements where we'll need to address an inconsistency or guide the player toward a certain aspect of the game -- or strengthen a certain aspect of the game. While we may not have the resources available in one department, we often find that, because we've developed the game this way, we can use another medium to convey a message.
For instance, let's say all of our voice recording is done on a particular character. We can utilize something like a PDA or a text message because they convey a similar message -- or we can even go in and do something in, say, mission-objective text or whatnot. So there's a lot of tools that we can use to strengthen each discipline.
How much time have you given yourself to really take a look at the results from playtesting and really realize how you have to tweak and nudge the game in different directions like you just described?
SvdM: Obviously, our goal is to get all the content in there and then really, like you say, analyze things. The open world experience is so much about having things in proximity with each other; focusing content in the right areas -- little things like the right line of dialogue or the right music playing when you go into a place.
It's those little details that pull together the experience and make it feel like something more than just a game and a linear experience. How much time? That's tough to say. I can say we've been doing that for a couple of months now, so, all in all, I would say a good seven or eight months that we would have been analyzing the things and understanding whether the content is in the right place, what needs to be moved around, and how we can support it stronger.
JO: In addition to really heavy focus group testing of playing through the game flow, from early on in development we actually did a lot of internal focus group tests where we'd look at individual components such as mechanics or missions and really utilize focus group testing and user testing both from getting interviews and information from people and also from just watching other people -- even on the development team -- playing the game and really seeing those little things that people stumble upon or get confused with or even knowing what we should really focus more on in the game.
You can see from people playing the game at an early stage the things that they really gravitate towards, and that way we know where we should really put our emphasis.
SvdM: I think, just to close off on that point, Mike mentioned that a few of us have developed open world games before, so we've tried to bring our learning into this experience. The biggest difference for me working on this game than other games has been that there was an internal focus on the tools, in terms of being able to manipulate the flow of the game very, very easily.
The thing with our tools, even the way in which we tie some of the progression of the game together, the ability has been there from the get-go to play through sequences of it and move stuff around very, very easily and quickly so that we can start to get a proper sense of flow and a proper sense of feel. So even though there's stuff that we obviously focused more heavily on in the back-end, that has been worked on the entire development of the game.