Interviews

Perfect Dark Zero

Rare's lead designer Chris Tiltson and storywriter Dale Murchie on the making of Xbox 360 launch icon Joanna Dark

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Tell us a little about the development history of PDZ...

Chris Tilston: Well, PDZ started on GameCube about 300 years ago... We had a very small team, two programmers, me and Dale on design, and then maybe five or six others. It was basically prototyping, finding out where we could go and how we could get there. We soon came to the realisation that the GameCube wasn't going to be online and then the whole Microsoft thing happened. So we went through a bit of a redesign on the multiplayer and online side. About two years ago we got to 50 players online on Xbox, but the graphics just couldn't handle it.

Then the Xbox 360 came along. It's just allowed us to do lots of players online and given us the opportunity to polish everything else. The co-op game is a good example. It's not just, 'quick, let's run and kill that guy and not really work together', we've really worked hard to ensure there are things you have to do together. The co-op game is actually a very different experience to the single-player game, and that's thanks to the Xbox 360. I wouldn't say they're two separate games, but there's definitely an evolution in the co-op mode.

Were there other areas of the game you were able to improve thanks to the additional power of the Xbox 360?

Dale Murchie: We were already pushing pretty hard on what the Xbox could do. As soon as we transferred to the Xbox we managed to slow it down instantly because we wanted to throw everything in there. So when we moved to Xbox 360 it was great because we could finally get everything in there that we always wanted. It's so much more powerful.

How do you think people will actually react to the Xbox 360?

Dale Murchie: I think the main thing is to see it moving, to get the pad in your hands and actually see it moving in front of you. It's got a very cinematic look to it that no-one's ever seen in a videogames console before because of all the visual effects.

Chris Tilston: And the animation is amazing, you don't get that in a static picture. You don't get the feedback from the controls, you don't get the sound. It all comes together to something really special that people haven't seen before. We haven't put many PDZ movies out - we're usually pretty secretive about our games - so people haven't really seen what PDZ can do. That's going to change soon, though!

PDZ introduces two new moves we're not used to seeing in an FPS: Taking cover and combat rolling, both of which switch the viewpoint to a third-person perspective. Why did you introduce these and how do they work?

Chris Tilston: We wanted to enhance the stealth aspect, really. In games like GoldenEye you're always ducking out around corners, and we thought that was an opportunity to offer a new gameplay feature that made it easier and more fun. Plus, the game is about Joanna Dark, but if you stick to a first-person perspective you never see her. We didn't want to bring the game into a total third-person view because the shooting works better in first-person perspective. So we experimented with a few things and found that using a third-person perspective for the cover move worked well.

The cover move was specifically designed for multiplayer, but you can use it in the single-player game too. We needed a move that was fast, that you could get into and get out of really quickly, and for that we needed to use a third-person perspective. We could have done a clumsy FPS for leaning around corners if we were only using it in the single-player game, but for multiplayer it works better to move into third-person.

Dale Murchie: As for the roll, we were watching all these supposedly serious online FPS games like Call of Duty and we'd see all these players doing these beautiful tactical movements - and then there'd be one guy bouncing around in the background. It just looks stupid and breaks the reality of the game. We wanted to implement that kind of dodging, that quick evasion, but we wanted to keep it playable and make it look cool. The combat roll is our way of doing that. It breaks the auto-lock of other players and lets you dodge bullets really well. Plus, you get to see the character again. We spent a lot of time working on the transition between first and third-person perspective with both the combat roll and taking cover so that they didn't become disorientating. We did have a first-person roll in there at one point...

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