Ghost Recon 3 : Advanced Warfighter GRIN Interview
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All questions are by me, shown in green. Unless otherwise noted, all responses are from Bo Andersson, CEO of GRIN.
WK : Tell me about yourself. What are some of your interests?
Bo Andersson : I am 31 years old and CEO of GRIN and own it with my brother Ulf (design director). I first started messing around with games back during the Amiga days. I then went on to doing demos and picking apart games and then hacking/modding them. My brother and I decided to start our studio. We have been a PC game development studio now for 8 years.
My military experience extends to the Swedish Special Forces Anti-terrorism unit [he still wears close cropped hair, I presume from his military days, WK].
I am married and have a son.
I also love adventure sports such as long distance trekking, scuba diving and am a glider pilot.
What do you like about PC games?
I like the precision needed along with the freedom of movement.
How many FPS games have you made?
GRAW is our second FPS game. Our first was a military sim for the Swedish military.
What engine will GRAW be using? What version is it?
We are using our propriety engine, Diesel, that is currently at 6.0.
What build are you showing me?
This is a pre-alpha build. We hope to go to alpha in a month and then beta a month later.
How long has GRAW been in development?
We started full production in November of 2004. Before that we did production design and initial technology improvements for about 6 months.
How many people do you have working on GRAW?
We have 35 people at GRIN working on gameplay. There are even more for storyline and special effects at other studios that all are Ubi internal, such as RSE.
Will there be a stealth aspect to GRAW or will it be straightforward combat?
Yes, GRAW features stealth and tactics. There will be no AI spawn hell [my words, WK].
What is the AI like? How is it different?
The AI is tailor made to the game. The AI we created for GRAW is built from scratch and it is a very dynamic AI. It will respond to the environment, and actions by the enemy. They will actively move from cover to cover when advancing to an objective and, with waypoints, will advance to the place in the stealthiest way possible.
What has been done about enemy AI as far as wounded or fallen enemy team members are concerned? In GR1, the enemy never reacted to their own dead. Most of the times not even reacting to the sounds of a firefight! Is the enemy AI dumb as doornails?
The enemy AI will notice if they are under fire. There are three levels of AI awareness: individual, squad, and what we call mastermind that can control several squads for flanking maneuvers against the Ghosts. AI will be difficult for the right reasons – it will not do head shots while running from 100 yards.
The Booth Beef, Whiteknight and Marc Homayounpour
Will we be restricted to just 4 team members or will we be able to interact (control physically) with more than one?
There are only four team members available, but you can’t physically control them as in GR, but you can give them orders. You can even split them up individually to have them flank an enemy position similar to what you had with the original game.
Will there be modding ability right out of the box and if so, what kind?
There will be a level/sand-box type editor on release. It will also feature scripting language and all objects available in game can be used.
What game types are available?
We will have an SP campaign of course, Coop, Team and FFA game types for players to enjoy. We have several different TvT game types in the works that we can’t discuss right now.
Is there only FPV in MP? If there are other views, can the server force the view?
There is no 3rd person or OTS view in GRAW for PC in either SP or MP games. It is all 1st person.
Will we be stuck with the First Person Weapon View (FPWV)? If it is kept as an option, will the player have a setting to override a servers setting of FPWV so it cannot be forced on a player? That is one thing I personally could not stand about Raven Shield.
For SP it will be FPWV only, but there will be iron sights. The weapon pops up in to iron sights to zoom in to for more accurate aiming.
While talking with Bo about the FPWV and expressing a dislike for it (and not just mine but also others), he started brainstorming right there in the press booth. We talked about options with the weapon view and he added it to his PDA/phone for researching it further.
Will we have the cluttered HUD and colored silhouettes found in the XBox version?
No, it will not be as cluttered as the console versions. As you can see, the HUD outlines are minimal
and the Cross-Com pops up when information is coming across it from other sources such as the
pilots of the Blackhawk. Even team members' info has a smaller profile compared to other versions.
There is still a health bar for your character.
Is the gun camera from GR2 in the game? Is it in MP? Are there restrictions on its use?
We will have the gun camera in the game. Gun cam will be in first person and never as in GR2 where
you saw it in 3rd person at times. Using the gun cam will be a bit like sniper zoom but with more intel
attached to it.
Can you give me 5 main similarities between GRAW and the original Ghost Recon within the boundary of the multiplayer mode? Please explain each one.
There will be new modes for MP.
We will have Coop that will let you play the SP missions.
There will be a tactical mode that I prefer to call Team Campaign at this time, though that is not it’s real name. The idea is to complete missions in order to win. You have to hold ground to eventually win.
Chat will be available in between rounds as Ghost Recon had before. We want gamers to enjoy
themselves while setting up for the next mission or set up a new plan if the first one fails.
There will be similar options for server setup as there was for the original.
I take it the MP side is still being worked on and you need some input from the community?
Yes, we have some interesting game modes in store for the PC community. I think you will like them.
Mathieu Girard (MG): But we can’t talk about them right now, we want them to be a surprise.
I would like to hear near-real sounds from bombs, mortars, grenades and arty. I think it would really intensify the gameplay. How about bullets that “snap” as they go by your ears? All real military can verify the difference in sounds and they are quite different. Now don’t forget, I said near-real sounds, we don’t want you to go deaf or have the police come crashing through the door.
We went to a weapons range to record rifle sounds. [Bo and I talked about grenades and agree, that the sounds of them aren’t as loud or big as people think. Also, the only sound I heard from a round when downrange, actually in the pits marking the targets for shooters, is the pop or crack heard when the round hit the target which was paper pasted on cheesecloth stretched over a wood frame. WK]
Simon Viklund (GR:AW PC sound designer): Sounds should sound real, be crisp and have great clarity, and – where needed – a roaring bass. This should be expected of any game, but sadly, that is an expectation that developers seldom live up to. Believe me though, when I say that GRIN will not disappoint you. Our team has sound staff that is truly passionate about sound, and they are working hard to bring your ears an experience that matches the one your eyes will be treated with when you’re playing GRAW PC.
As the game takes place in an urban environment, you expect the sound to behave in a certain way. In this aspect, GRAW PC takes game sound to a whole new level. Apart from changing character in accordance with distance, gunshots and explosions echo off the buildings around you. Bullets swish by your ears and debris fall on top of your helmet. The sound in the grand robbery scene in “Heat” is the model: The sound is BIG!
Other games’ weapons will sound like cereals poppin’ when you’ve played GRAW PC. If you have a surround sound system, this game will truly prove its worth – but watch that volume meter, or else the police WILL come crashing through your door! Ha Ha.
Also, some in the community have requested that enemies should talk and shout orders to each other to increase realism and add to the immersion of being in Mexico (granted they speak Spanish) – this is a feature that I can confirm is now in the game, and it sounds awesome. We’ll see if we can release a sound teaser to show all this now.
How about near correct military communications? A good example would be GR1. When a team came to a designated holding point they would just say something corny like "we're here." I need to know who is at their spot, like Bravo or Charlie and what their job is, like holding, setting-up, stacking-up, on assault, or scoping things out. Something in this direction would be nice. What have you got for us? Will there be more varied and unique team member voices?
Bo : We hope you feel there is no garbage. We wanted 3 emotional layers to voices and a team member sounds depends on the situation. The more tense it is, the more strained their voices are. If calm, you will be able to tell that from their voices too.
I would like to hear some realistic radio chatter as the Ghosts move into their area of operation. A good example of this is the GR: Island Thunder Expansion Pack. When the aircraft was coming in you could hear the radio chatter. As they landed, they went 'tac' and outside radio was no longer audible (yeah, you have to use a little bit of imagination, it's just a game!). This may be low on the list to many people, but it adds an intensity that is hard to ignore. Good Hollywood movies do this to add ambiance, depth, mood, information, and tension. This is useful on large maps as the Ghosts move into their objective, it breaks up a dry spot in the game and keeps it moving forward and adds technical excitement. Walking into an area in operation, there is quite some info flowing into your headset between your communications center, command, and team members. Will GRAW have this kind of chatter?
We hope you think so as we do think what we have to offer is better.
Communication is the key to a successful mission. How about saying something if the enemy is spotted or at least use hand signals?
While your teammates will let you know of nearby enemies, it may be possible to add hand signals. We are still working everything out and if unable to add it before game launch, we can add it later.
What will happen with tracer ammunition? Will the NATO sides be using RED and the OPFOR using GREEN this time? Yellow tracers are no longer acceptable.
We aren’t sure at this time. We are trying to avoid the “Star Wars” feel with different colors for friendly and enemy fire. We want to give assault rifles a yellow/white color while heavy weapons get a different color altogether. Remember, tracers only have the phosphorescence on the end of the round so the shooter can see where it goes. Basically it’s to show the shooter where the round actually goes.
What about the light bloom? It is awfully bright in some instances and washes out the game.
We are modeling dynamic changes in time. The sun will track across the sky and that will affect how it is reflected off of the surroundings. Still, we will tune it down some before release. Also it is important to know that the bloom is dynamic and changes as the soldier adapts his eyes to the change in light intensity of his surrounding. You can see this in the “leaked” footage on GRAW PC.
While I can handle new weapons and new uniforms, what, if anything will make GRAW for PC a non-linear, thinking mans game like the first one was?
It will be non-linear. We wanted to expand the maps and let the player decide how to complete the missions as in the original Ghost Recon.
How will we be inserted into the game world? I take it we aren’t just spawning on the map?
There will be real time insertions into the game world along with extractions and there will be no cutscenes. On insertion, you will be able to interact with the pilots via the Cross-Com and even be able to shoot at enemy below you from the Blackhawk. You will be fast roping to the ground.
How long will SP missions last?
We anticipate the missions will last two hours. We want you to get really into the game. The maps are huge too. They are at least 1 kilometer by 4 or 5 blocks wide [Bo wasn’t exactly sure of the exact meters, WK].
Will GRAW feature nothing but urban maps or will we have some open terrain to have firefights on?
If you mean empty woods with no inhabitants no. GRAW is urban and ranges from things like shantytowns to dense city environments. I know people are afraid urban will mean less options of approach to a goal but it is rather the opposite. The missions cater to open areas like parks and more wooded terrain but not pure jungle as Far Cry or such.
Will the ghosts fail to be able to move over any obstacles over four inches (120mm) again? Will there be the ability to jump?
While the Ghost still will not be able to jump, they will be able to climb stairs and crawl under obstacles. Sorry, there is still no way to climb. We will be able to move over elevated terrain but no wall climbing in the style of spider man.
There are a lot of issues that need to be resolved. Let’s face it, GR has had over five years to develop, and the players have had many years to learn the faults and suggest improvements to the game. How much fan input do you use to prevent the same mistakes or add to the game?
We read previous reviews to see how the media reacted to the game and we also read forums to see what is wanted and what is not wanted.
Current games are using more sophisticated technologies and more elements from the film industry than ever. These should be used in GRAW PC as long as it does not turn into an arcade/console game. What are you doing along those lines?
We are using emotional curves and lighting enhancements to enhance the mood.
I think the PC players are long time players of GR, more reality based, and many serving /served in the military. Serious players all, and I think we deserve a better game, and a more serious game than what is being currently offered. Just like GR1 was when it hit the market and redefined a whole new genre. What other plans do you have to keep the PC gamer interested in GRAW?
We are concentrating on the tactical approach along with the ability to collect information [think UAV and other sources] and have AI challenging enough to create a better feel to the game. This time around you will also have far better control of the team and trust them to do their job better than any other game in the genre ever.
Booth Babes, at a Games Convention near you!
There was a certain tension I felt and what I like to refer to as a "Jump Factor" (you know, like that last time I got killed I just about jumped outta my chair) that came with playing GR in SP and MP ... Will it be there in GRAW?
We want to take the gamer beyond that. We want the enemy AI to be random in how it operates and we will have different ways to use them.
Has MP been tested with voice comms like Teamspeak, Ventrilo? Is there an in game voice comm?
We are looking at top comm software.
How many players are supported for Coop games?
We will have at least two with the possibility of four. Remember, Coop will feature SP missions and the SP game only has four team members. The coop missions are the same as the campaign – they are around 2 hours long. The game holds very balanced AI and challenges based on behind enemy lines scenarios with 4 team members working together. Playing together against AI on MP maps is a totally different mode which I can talk about later.
Will the pc version use an in game server browser instead of UGS? Will it support direct IP and ASE, Firefox?
There will be an in game browser and GRAW will have direct IP support.
What are the kick/ban options for MP?
It’s no problem to create it. We are looking at it as a way to keep out cheaters.
What about replays?
Due to the way the game is made we will not have replays. Remember, with the use of physics in game, we will not be able to. We would have to save ungodly amounts of data to recreate a replay, even if it is not recorded as a completely rendered scene.
Will clan support be offered?
Yes, we want it to be clan friendly.
Will the browser have a friends list?
While there will be an in game browser, we are not sure of a friends list at this time.
How many gamers will MP games allow to play at once?
We are looking at 32 for team or FFA games.
Will there be any extra maps for MP, will maps be imported from GR or GR 2?
We are definitely looking at porting older maps at a later date, if Ubi will allow us to.
Is there a medic feature in MP?
This is a tricky feature to include in a game. We will have a medic feature, but only to stop the bleeding, but not revive someone. There will be an increase in the stress level for an injured player and that will stay even after being patched back up.
Name one thing that you do not like about GRAW.
I want a more advanced communication system, but development will be over soon.
What kind of future support can we expect with patches or downloadable content or expansion packs?
We will provide patches and work with Ubi for MP support and we hope to do some expansion pack in the near future.
Do you believe you have Game of the Year material?
Oh yeah, definitely. With the interactive environments, better AI and the better tactical layer, we believe we have a game to win awards. The one danger we face is alienating the general gamer as we try to appease the hardcore gamer.
Is Starforce copyright protection to be used or could something else be used? There have been many complaints of Starforce’s invasiveness along with hardware problems that magically appeared when a Starforce protected game was installed that disappeared after the game was uninstalled, the drivers removed and the drive reformatted. We gamers do not mind companies protecting their investments, but we do take offense to having to hardware malfunctions when there wasn’t before and something that buries itself deep into the OS systems folders.
MG: Yes, but we could see if there a less invasive version of Starforce that we could use. I understand some of the problems people have faced with it. We may consider something else for future use if it is available.
What other games do you have in development?
None, we are concentrating on GRAW.
Thank you for your time and answering all my questions so patiently!
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