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Interviews

Stranglehold

Brian Eddy, director on Midway's PC and next-gen console shooter, fills us in on the action opus - we go "Woo"

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As proven by the The Matrix videogame series, there are still problems with translating fantastic fighting sequences into a playable videogame experience. With 'hyperkinetic...choreographed action' billed as a prime part of Stranglehold, how confident do you feel of answering these concerns?

Brian Eddy: Very confident. And by saying that, we are no way implying that it will be easy! It takes a huge amount of effort to continually iterate on complex game-play until it feels natural, intuitive and fun for the player, but we feel it is important enough to devote a lot of our resources in doing so. For instance, right now we have no less than six programmers working full time on gameplay, and more programmers that are spending a good portion of their time working on that as well.

Zoom

In addition we do a lot of focus testing, which consists of bringing in outside players (hardcore as well as more casual gamers) and observing how they play the game, what they enjoy and what they don't like. Then, we take that information and iterate on game-play some more. This worked very well on Psi-Ops, so we are doing the same thing on Stranglehold.

The press sheet talks of building a new gaming franchise from the success of Stranglehold - what plans do you have for taking the series forward?

Brian Eddy: As with every game, we had a million cool ideas that we chose to cut so we could focus on making the core game-play totally polished and fun. In later versions of the game, we'll get to layer a lot of those cool ideas on top of established features and expand the scope of the game. Some ideas we've talked about include co-op story mode, multiple endings, open worlds and an expanded (we already have boats, cars and motorcycles) vehicle system.

Midway's Chicago Studios were behind Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy which brought some fresh ideas to the genre. Is this something you want to do with Stranglehold and show gamers things they've never seen before? Is so, what?

Brian Eddy: One of the things we did on Psi-Ops was to give the player the ability to do a LOT of different things, some of which were fairly complex, while still keeping the controls intuitive and easy to use. I know that doesn't sound especially fresh or new, but when you sat down to play the game and started doing lots of cool stuff without having to fight the controls, it felt fresh and new. Then, we put the player in situations where they could use a variety of those different things to get through any particular situation; basically we put the player in a sandbox with lots of toys, and they got to choose how they used those toys to do fun stuff. Players will have the same experience with Stranglehold.

While aiming and firing weapons, players will easily interact in complex ways with the environment doing stunts and acrobatic moves that actually tie back into gameplay, so they not only look cinematic, but are an important part of the player's technique to do well in the game. So while the game seems a lot like a regular shooter, once you start playing, you quickly figure out that there is a lot more there than you realized, which we think will feel fresh in this genre.

Do you have plans for any Xbox Live features?

Brian Eddy: Yes, but we are not ready to announce them yet.

How many white doves are going to make it into the game?

Brian Eddy: This is actually our most closely guarded secret, as it is a crucial part of winning the game... nah, just kidding! We don't know yet, but count on lots and lots!

Many thanks for your time Brian!

A big thanks to our old pals and brothers in arms OXM.co.uk for this interview. Hell, we might even throw money to the wind and buy them a beer to show our gratitude. Maybe.

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