Ghost Recon Online Theo Sanders Interview
When Ubisoft offered to answer some community questions about Ghost Recon Online we we didn't delay in pulling together some of the more frequently asked questions so that fans of the series could hear the news straight from the source.
Theo Sanders has been the Creative Director at Ubisoft since 2009 and is working on Ghost Recon Online.
Would you describe the maps as open with multiple routes to achieve objectives?
This is an interesting question. The maps are somewhat linear – though there are side paths and flanking routes. There are a few reasons for this, but the biggest is the iteration process that brought us to the GRO gameplay flow. We wanted to achieve a lot of cover-to-cover engagements, where teams squared off against each other, and it becomes a kind of “tactical combat puzzle” of how to break through the front line with your squad.
During our earlier experiments with more open-ended maps, we had a much more run & gun flavor of gameplay that just didn’t feel right. Part of the problem is the player’s expectation of a moderate amount of safety when they use cover. If you’re consistently getting shot from behind, while in cover, you quickly stop using it. It was a long iterative process to get to the point where the game flow felt really good. In other words, where you had the feeling it’s not just another run & gun shooter but at the same time where the map is nuanced enough that every game plays out differently.
What anti-cheat support will GRO have?
Anti-cheat is something you have to do right with an online game. I can’t go into specifics about the technology and/or partners we’re using at this time, but can say it’s among our top priorities. There’s nothing more demoralizing while playing an online game than dealing with cheaters. We’re attacking the problem from a few angles because anti-cheat technology by itself is never foolproof. You also have to ensure your game masters have the right tools and that the community is involved in the process of creating a fair playing field.
Is the peak from cover a toggle or an incremental peek controlled with mouse?
It’s incremental, but with the keyboard. When you’re in cover, tapping up (W) or left/right (A/D) will peek out of cover until you release the key. So it’s up to you whether you want to be sticking your head out or taking just a quick glimpse. What’s really cool though, is the “peek-around mechanic,” which you have analog control over with your mouse. If there’s an opponent on the opposite side of a thinner cover, you can just lean around to shoot him. In our playtesting, it turned out to be the secret sauce that removed any last clunky feeling to using cover.
Why choose third person view over first person view?
To be frank, when we started the GRO development, we weren’t convinced we could get away with third person. However, we had a very clear idea of what we wanted the game to ultimately feel like and, on paper, third person had a lot to offer to achieve that flow. The problem was – it has never been done very well on PC (especially multiplayer).
It’s also a lot more difficult to develop a third-person game: the Ghost is always on screen and his movements and actions always have to look and feel right. For example, in first-person you can plop grenades out while only a very small subset of the animations (hands) need to look right. In third person you’re dealing with the whole body, which can be doing an enormous amount of different things at that moment the player wants to throw a grenade. Then there’s the whole question of control, which players expect to be completely fluid and unconstrained using a mouse & keyboard.
In the end, we think it was an experiment that worked – and something that really contributes to GRO retaining the accessible, tactical teamplay of the original. But at the same time, it gives the game some of its own identity. We knew there were going to be a lot of questions around this topic, but ultimately the only way we’ll convince people is when they play and see how it feels.
Will there be co-op?
I can’t announce anything today, but will say that we consider co-op against AI a really important part of having a great community experience. Besides being the preferred play style for many players, even for the diehard PvP crowd – it’s a very cool alternative.
How many Players does GRO support? What's the minimum number of Players to get a game going?
Our initial game modes will be 8v8. However, if you’re playing during non-peak hours, the automated matchmaking will start games with as few as 4v4.
What gametypes will ship with the game?
The game type we’ve showed so far is Domination on a five control-point map. There’s always two open points, one of which you’re attacking and one of which you’re defending. A team wins when they capture all five, or if they control more points when time runs out. In the urban Moscow map we’ve been showing, the first point is the Ghosts’ point of entry and the final point is a TOPOL missile that the Ghosts need to destroy. The three intermediate points are all tactical locations to secure as they advance through the city streets.
We’ll be announcing the second game mode in the near future, and of course there’ll be a lot more coming down the road.
Did the developers interact with Red Storm Entertainment/Ubisoft Paris staff (who worked on previous Ghost Recon titles) when designing the game?
There has been a ton of interaction between these studios. While we’re working on games for different platforms, it’s critical that Ghost Recon stays cohesive in terms of its gameplay values, narrative, and of course its central characters.
Will we have clan tools?
Details will be forthcoming later this year – but yes, there will be a suite of features supporting clans.
Thanks to Theo for taking time out to answer these community questions! More discussion in our Ghost Recon Online Forum.