of 2005, several GhostRecon.net staff visited Red Storm Entertainment
studios in North Carolina. The following interview transcript
is the result of hours spent talking to RSE. The answers given
are from a particular slice of time within the development
cycle of GR:AW Xbox 360 (close to beta). Keep in mind that game features and
details may have changed since then, and RSE’s statements
shouldn’t be taken as descriptions of the final product,
but rather as a ‘snapshot’ of GR:AW MP for 360
during that period of game development.
- Christian Allen (CA) – lead MP designer
- Brian Tate (BT) – overall lead artist
for GR:AW MP
- Pete Sekula (PS) – co lead artist
for GR:AW MP
- Robbie Edwards (RE) – producer
- Travis Getz (TG) – authenticity
- Hatchetforce (HF) – GR.net Staff
- ZJJ – GR.net Staff
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HF - Wanted to start
at the beginning of the game. Ask you guys about if you know
anything yet about packaging, the way the game is going to
be set up, is there going to be just one standard game or
is there going to be a limited edition? That seems to be the
thing to do now with a lot of packaging is offer limited edition
that shows production materials and things of that nature.
Has there been any discussion of that?
RE - Not that I am aware of.
CA - That is generally handled higher
up than us.
TG - We are delivering a bunch of assets
like artwork and concept art and stuff like that so what they
end up doing with that is kind of up to them. At the studio
level we are delivering things to use. I did go by Casey’s
desk and he showed them a level of concept art.
RE - Most of the concept work will be
released in some form, so that people can see it and that
type of stuff. It’s kind of cool.
BT - There is a lot of gorgeous work.
We’ve got a new concept art team that we put together
specifically for this project and they’ve done some
amazing stuff. So we are proud of it and want to show it off.
HF – Is that
team in house that you put together?
CA – Yep. I can show you guys some
of it after this meeting. We really focused along with that
prototype process that we talked about earlier; we focused
a lot on concept work. So once that rough prototype is done
then it goes to the concept for mood concepts and also specific
detail architectural concepts which has been really, really
nice because then you can visualize the entire thing first
before it goes into play.
BT – So we’re working on a
butt-ugly playable space, and we are actually testing it,
while the concept art team is defining, well, where is the
look of this space going. And when we’re happy with
both, when we are happy with the concept art and we’re
happy with the game play on the space, then it comes together
and we do the production environment and build it that way.
Our concept art team has primarily been focused on the environment
because that is where most of the artwork is in the game play.
HF – In the
past 6-8 months, Red Storm has been involved in multiple projects
going on at once, not just this but the completion of Summit
Strike earlier, the involvement with Lockdown for the PS2,
then furnished the material for the XBox version and the PC
version that is ongoing. You guys in the past have farmed
out some of the work. I know Blackfoot Studios did some of
the work for you. Is all of the multiplayer stuff being done
in-house or is there assistance being provided by anyone else?
BT – This project is 100% in-house.
RE - We have some assets that we borrowed
from the single player game.
BT – Oh, yeah, there is sharing
HF – But just
restricted between the two studios, basically in France and
TG – Right. Also, of course, sound
and voice over, stuff like that.
CA – We did separate voice over
for the campaign, it’s all unique.
TG - But I’m saying it’s done
externally of Red Storm.
CA – Yeah, we used voice actors
and all that kind of stuff. We didn’t do all the acting.
RE – For the most part it is done
the same as any of our other titles the only thing that is
different is we borrowed some models and some art assets from
some different places. That’s about it, everything else
is entirely in-house.
HF – How many
people total are dedicated to the multiplayer project, roughly?
RE – 63? 68?
BT - Yeah
HF - 68 Red Storm
CA - Yeah. GR2 was about 5 people, in
the design section. GR1 was 17 for the whole team. So we got
more people on GR3 online than we did GR2 for the whole game.
RE - Summit Strike (SS) was 25 or so.
BT - That’s about right. A lot of
people, primarily art for SS.
RE - The team will only get bigger from
BT - The next generation games are big
HF – You said
you borrowed some stuff from France, what do you think the
percentage of that is for character models and things like
RE – Zero (0) character models.
BT- Actually it went in the other direction
for the character models. Our character team here produced
a lot of characters for the SP. We got some pretty thoroughly
experienced experts in house.
HF – Well,
since you are handling the MP, how do you do the work on the
coop campaign if that’s done in a MP fashion, but yet
it’s utilizing aspects of the single player game. Is
it not the SP missions? How is that coordination done?
CA – The coop campaign for this
project is completely unique. So it’s actually a completely
separate campaign then what you play in single player.
HF – Because
in GR2, you’re basically playing the SP campaign all
CA – Yeah. We wanted to get away
from reutilizing the SP missions in coop because of some of
our experiences on GR2 where you end up objectives that may
work for a single player, single person, don’t always
hold up well in coop. In GR1 we, the team, built everything
for coop first, and then went back for SP. In GR2, we built
everything from SP and then went for coop and this time we
said, no. Coop is coop, you design for coop. It’s all
about completing multiple objectives, working as a team, and
communicating. So we can balance it. It allows us to do a
lot of things. One, we can balance it for the number of players
that are in the game. As you notice when you play Summit Strike,
if you have 4 people or 6 people or 8 people, it’s really
easy. If you have 2 people it’s really, really hard
and it’s kind of right in the middle for 3 or 4. Well
now we can take that into account. We can say there are 2
players in the game so the mission is balanced for 2 players.
It’s not going to change all the objectives but you
will have a little less guys and a little more guys if you
have 4 players, things like that.
HF – You have
a rough number of coop missions you are looking at right now?
CA – We are shipping with 4 coop
missions and then there is going to be episodic content and
they are cliffhanger, they’ll come out and the storyline
goes through so it’s continuous.
HF –Like Splinter
Cell 3? Splinter Cell 3 did the same thing where each coop
mission was tied to the next coop mission.
CA – Yeah, it’s all a story
BT - If you choose to play it out of order
it will hold up pretty well, as well as we know many coop
players just like to forget the whole mission progression
and “I like this mission, I like that mission”
to mix it up. So it holds up pretty well for that, too.
HF – We had
talked earlier about the size of the MP maps. How does that
fare against the size of a coop player map?
PS – The maps that are designed
to support the coop missions are the biggest spaces. We need
the most room to have different options for tactical play.
So those are the very large spaces. Then we have other maps
that are primarily focused for adversarial player/ team or
solo adversarial. Those spaces are typically smaller, because
the full sized spaces like we designed for a full on mission
tend to have lots of dead space in adversarial play, and you
often get campers who use that dead space. They’ll go
play last man standing, for example, and just run away when
they get in the lead and will they ruin the experience for
everybody. So we are tailoring those maps to be tighter and
to keep the game play in closer for the adversarial experience
so we are building small maps and big maps for their own purpose.
But I should say that adversarial works on the big maps and
we’ve tested it and it’s all designed to be fun.
And other than missions, the other coop game types, such as
design your own coop mode, and the preset modes like firefight,
defend, recon, etc., all work great, on even the smallest
of the adversarial spaces.
CA – Some of the biggest ones, like
one of the maps we are playing is along the big size for a
GR map, it’s something like 600X400. In MP we are actually
cordoning part off that space. When we designed the map for
the coop mission, we laid out here is what we want to happen
in the coop mission, here is all of our objectives and scattered
them around and put them in order. Then we said this is way
too big for MP, you are never going to see each other. So
what we did is we designed in the space gaps that we can close
off in MP, in adversarial. So then you can have that smaller
space to have a really cool [experience]. We went in and built
features for the MP that work in MP but double as objectives
in the coop missions, so that way everyone can have a good
experience. Because what we found with maps, like The Dam
in GR2, were just too big for adversarial. People would play
thief and the guy gets ahead, just take off, he was just gone,
you can’t find him. It’s like “come on,”
so that some of the things we take in to account.
RE – One thing I would like to add
to this. We use the prototype process; we haven’t had
to develop maps. We can develop the experience we want. Like
Rocky Cove is a very small map, but you can see very far and
it’s very sniper friendly and we know this because we
played it a lot. So while the maps may not sound much larger
or much different than the GR2 maps, remember there is 5,
6, 10 times the detail, and they are really, really, very
detailed and very good looking. Some of the maps you couldn’t
see today will blow your mind when you see them finally. That
is something that is difficult to communicate. So while these
maps may not sound like a big difference than was GR2, they
are very large and the game play we are trying to give you
is there and they look phenomenal.
HF – Christian
showed me when we first came in, he was satisfying me about
my bitching about the M468, and when he first showed it to
me, I said, this is a portion of the single player campaign,
right? Because there was a concern when word first started
to get out that the MP engine was going to be the GR2 engine,
and it was like, Ok, well we’re not going to see this
gorgeous thing that we’ve been seeing in these single
player films. Which I had seen a month or two ago I was up
here, and Gary took me over and put me on the 360 to let me
run a piece of the single player mission and I was like “beautiful.”
And Christian shows me and I said well this is a single player
engine, right? And he goes no, this is the multi-player engine,
and I was astounded. The textures were just gorgeous, and
the particle effects and the lighting were phenomenal.
RE – What map was that?
CA – That was Desert Gulch.
RE - That’s one of our more simplistic
maps, that one is focused a lot on desert.
HF – The details,
the texture of the rocks is phenomenal, it looks like being
out in a canyon somewhere. I had to tell you, I was astounded.
BT - It’s worth pointing out that
we call it the GR2 engine only because it’s built on
that foundation. It is not the GR2 engine; it’s the
GR3 engine, the GR3 MP engine. There has been just a massive
amount of work done on the graphics engine, the physics, MP
code optimization for network performance, you name it. We’ve
had this huge team working on it optimizing every aspect of
this game, improving the feature setting and so forth. We
wanted to keep everything great about GR2 and build on that.
HF – OK, You
weren’t sure earlier which version of the havoc you
BT – Version 3.
CA – I thought that’s what
we were using, but I wasn’t sure.
HF – Going
back to the co-op maps, one of the issues with the single
player game in GR2 was the inability to use suppressed weapons
because the AI just basically said that weapon is not suppressed.
Has that been addressed?
CA – It wasn’t actually that
the suppressed weapons weren’t taken into account, as
it the detection model when it came to things like foliage
and stuff. It wasn’t as robust as we would have liked.
It is one of the things that people are spending time with.
HF – So we’re
going to see sound dampening due to terrain now, and not just
distance? Because a lot of games, even to this day, you see
sound dampening based on distance, and not necessarily the
CA – Oh yeah. If you’re on
Desert Gulch and if you’re on the each side of that
rock, and someone’s shooting as they’re moving,
you’ll hear them move behind the rock where the sound
will change. You’ll hear footsteps, then he goes behind
the rock, you won’t hear footsteps anymore. It’s
all included by real time geometry. You can track someone
now. If you turn off the HUD, and just listen to 5.1, and
someone just starts shooting in the air, you can track them
down and find them. Easy.
RE - The sound gets muffled as it travels
over obstacles or along side of something. The rain sounds
differently say if you are inside a cargo container
BT – Or under a boardwalk, or on
top. You can totally track them by listening to the footsteps
on those creaky boards.
RE – It’s certainly not dampened
by only distance as you said. It is aware of what’s
around you and what could be occluding the sound.
HF – Is there
non-controllable multiplayer vehicles?
CA – Yes. Obviously in coop there
are vehicles. One of the options you can set in Territory
is a helicopter option. The team that controls the most zones
has a helicopter on their side hunting the enemy platoon.
So, it depends on how you set it up. Like with siege, the
defending team gets the helicopter. Then like with Domination
or Hamburger Hill, whoever controls that zone gets the helicopter
on their side. And the helicopter is just using the AI, like
from Summit Strike; just going through doing their thing,
hunting the enemy team.
HF – What
are the major multiplayer game types that we’re looking
at besides the standard Deathmatch and team Deathmatch?
CA – It’s mainly just in the
customization. The player will have over 1100 different options.
We have shipped presets for the game types from GR1 and GR2
for like Siege and Domination, and Search and Rescue. Every
single game type that was available in those 2 games is available,
with the exception of Assassination from Summit Strike, which
doesn’t work on this system. But basically, you have
over 1100 combinations. So if you wanted to play 3 Zone Siege,
where the team had to capture all the zones, or Hamburger
Hill, with a zone that moves every time someone captures it,
Siege, Double Siege, Blind Siege. Basically you build your
HF – Have
you placed any heavy weapons?
CA – In coop, yes. I’m not
sure if they are going to be on the standard adversarial multiplayer
mode. If they do, they will be scattered around.
HF – I didn’t
know that if I had team bases, if there would be emplacements
CA – There may be. There may be.
We put some of them in on Summit Strike. One of the big things
now is, if you play a map, no matter what game mode you play
it on, the layout’s the same. Your team start locations
are the same, your control zones are the same. Say if you
always play Double Siege, and you say you know this map, and
then you play regular Siege on it, now it’s totally
different. But you can control all of the setup of those zones,
so you can change bases, you can change where those control
zones are, you can have random control zones, all those different
things. But you always know the map. You always know that
if there is a central zone, the central zone is always there.
The team base is there. That’s nice, because it was
always hard having so many game modes, because you get someone
who has never played Recovery before, they have always played
Team Sharpshooter, they never had a clue where to go or what
to do. They’d get lost, and then wouldn’t want
to play that game. They’d say “well, that game
looked stupid.” So now there is the ability to try all
of these different options, while still knowing the maps.