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The upcoming Mirror's Edge is one of the most original-looking titles to come out of the new-style quality-driven Electronic Arts since the company's creative realignment is announced. It was developed by its DICE studio in Sweden, which is best (and, at this juncture, almost exclusively) known for its Battlefield series of shooters.
What drove the creative philosophy of this game? The visuals and gameplay are a departure from the grittiness and combat-focused world of those games.
In this in-depth interview, producer Nick Channon spells out the inspiration for these decisions, outlining some of the methodology -- as well as the thinking behind the approach the game ultimately ended up with.
So, the most obvious, interesting choice about this game is that it's first person. There are a few free running- or parkour-inspired games out right now, but as far as I'm aware, this is the only one that's first person; how did you guys end up with that?
NC: Well I think at DICE we've done a lot of first person work, and so that kind of inspired us to create [this] -- we wanted to create something quite urban, and we wanted to create a game that was all about movement.
I think the other thing was, as well, that we really wanted to create a connection with you and the character, and the fact that you're playing the game through the eyes of Faith; as soon as you get to third person, you would be watching Faith, whereas we want you to be connected to her.
The analogy we give is "being in an action movie, instead of playing it", and I think that's more rewarding. And I think, also, we wanted to create something very fresh, and it's been a challenge, but we're really pleased with where we are.
I love the idea of using first person not as a genre, but simply as a design choice.
NC: Absolutely. And I think it makes the game feel very different, as you saw when you played it. That flow, and that momentum, that's what it's all about; it's so rewarding when you do it.
You mentioned the idea of wanting to see the world through the character's eyes; a lot of people have said you relate more to the character in third person, because you see more of their animations and motions. What are your thoughts on that?
NC: Well, I think that's what people are used to. That's what we've seen, and I think we wanted to make something that's different. You make, actually, more connection when you're controlling them in that first person, we feel.
We think it's really cool, the way you get glimpses of Faith in the game world: You see her in reflections, you see her in shadow, and I think that gives a really nice feel to the game. Obviously, in the storytelling we do, you see Faith, but we actually show her in a different way, so it's 2D, more cartoon animation.
And again, that was another thing that was very important to us, that we wanted to really have that transition so that people would look at the storytelling. The story is very important to us; it's very compelling. It's written by Rhianna Pratchett, who is Terry Pratchett's daughter.
And it's a really nice style change, to go from the first person perspective to a third person cartoon, and we feel that that will really get people's attention, and they'll really want to know about the story, and how it unfolds.
And how did you end up with Rhianna Pratchett writing your story?
NC: She had worked on Heavenly Sword, previously, and we just really wanted to ground everything in cool fiction; give it a real meaning for Faith, for being in the world, and what she does.
And, obviously, I described to you how the city has changed, and why [Faith is] a runner, and the importance of that. I think any movie or any game needs a good grounding, and it gives everything a reason, and just makes the whole package much stronger.