Sleeping Dogs has been one of the most pleasant gaming surprises this summer, drawing wide critical acclaim for its hot martial arts moves and tightly focussed open world action, not least from our own Sleeping Dogs review which praised it "one of the best open world games of recent years".
The game formerly known as True Crime: Hong Kong and originally Black Lotus had something of a difficult inception but has gone on to become a triumph and we recently sat down with producer Dan Sochan to talk about the evolution of the title, its diverse influences and why open world games are truly the 'most challenging of all games to develop, but also the most fun'.
CVG: When the game was True Crime Hong Kong, it was described as virtually complete, but what has the transition to Sleeping Dogs allowed you to improve, update and refine?
SOCHAN: Well a lot of people forget we were a new IP from the get-go originally code named Black Lotus. But then Activision wanted to brand it as True Crime to try and revive that franchise. Now working with Square Enix on the title, it's been fantastic, it's really given us extra time and we were close to alpha at that point. Open world games, they're massive and they're all reliant on a series of systems. It's not like you play level one and you get to dump all of that and start level two fresh.
Everything has to be running all the time, so a lot of it comes together closer to beta and with the additional year we were able to polish the game and make everything feel a lot tighter.
We had the longest period of beta that I've ever had in 13+ years in the industry so that was great, but we also added in new features like the upgrade system which kind of feels akin to RPGs where at the end of each mission you get a score based on how well you played as a cop or Triad.
You can upgrade your player so they learn new moves, new abilities and new items you can use as well. It branches the tree as well so that you and I can play and have very different experiences based on how we choose to play those missions. If you're mowing down a bunch of people, blowing off steam, you're going to get a very low cop score, so it's going to take you longer to upgrade on the cop side of things.
So we added that, plus the online challenge system so at the end of each mission you get the score, you can then upload that to the server so you can compete with your friends or anyone online globally. Because it's an open world game we track tons of stats: longest jump, longest wheelie, longest cop chase, most consecutive crotch shots, all kinds of weird and wonderful stats that we know people are going to love. They'll all be shared online and you can also challenge a friend, so you can say 'hey I just did a 40 metre jump' and I can issue that challenge to you. So it's great, without having a full multiplayer component, we've still tried to have a real community feel.
Tell us a bit more about Wei Shen and some of the other key characters, supporting cast and bosses in the game
So we've really tried to create a range of rich and deep characters in the type of people you're going to encounter. We've tried to be very true to Hong Kong cinema as well and not make it a parody.
We did a lot of research on Triads, they're gangs who've been around for over 400 years, their involvement in the community and even society. Going over there and meeting with a few Triad members, meeting with some former undercover agents, meeting with the head of the Triad taskforce, to try and really flesh out each of these characters and making them unique and standalone.