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In the final part our four-week series, High Moon Studios explains to TVG about the use of firearms in the upcoming Robert Ludlum title...
Due for release on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 from June 27th, Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy expands the story of Jason Bourne and his background as the CIA's secret-ops assassin.
In the fourth (and final) part of TotalVideoGames' UK exclusive developer diaries with High Moon Studios, Aaron Beechler reveals some of the details behind the use of guns in the game - and their integration into the take down system.
"Shooting Experience Dev Diary - Creating the Perfect Weapon" By: Aaron Beechler
While developing "Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy", we were given the opportunity early on to expand into previously unseen elements of everyone's favorite malfunctioning weapon. Very quickly this evolved into re-defining Jason Bourne as a fully operational Treadstone agent, the person he was prior to his breakdown. From there we defined what the player was going to experience in being that expertly trained and ruthless government assassin. Eventually this meant targeting some key gameplay foundations to build from - namely brutal hand-to-hand combat and fast-paced shooting.
Thanks to the rich visual source material of the films and the invaluable decision to enlist the Bourne films' fight choreographer Jeff Imada, we felt that we had a seemingly bottomless wellspring in establishing the hand-to-hand combat in the game. We were however left with one challenge: How in the world do we create a consistent and fun feel for gunplay when our lead character rarely fired a shot in the films?
The easiest place to start was the basics. Thankfully there have been a cavalcade of games in the past few years that showcase what makes shooting in a game fun. It also helped that our studio, High Moon, had its own pedigree in first-person shooting with its debut title "Darkwatch." Drawing from these sources, we were able to institute the necessities. These included an intuitive cover system for the player, AI that effectively used the same cover mechanics, a well balanced camera for aiming, wall-work with smooth transitions into and out of protection, and a varied arsenal of guns. With these in place, our game was well on the way to providing the action packed and fundamentally sound shooting experience we were searching for. Yet as our hand-to-hand combat system continued to develop, it became clear to us that gunplay needed to evolve with it.
One approach that we took was to define what made hand-to-hand fighting both fun and unique in our game, and then incorporate similar philosophies into our shooting system. This led to some of the key features that would set "The Bourne Conspiracy" apart from other games.
First, learning from contextual takedowns found in our melee combat, our team developed a contextual shooting mechanic. This integrated the notion of Bourne using the environment as a weapon against his enemies by giving players the ability to affect AI behavior through firing at objects around them. Is your target hiding behind a crate or pillar? Spray the cover object with bullets to flush him out of his hiding spot or, if completely destructible, destroy it from top to bottom into splinters and dust. Did Bourne Instinct highlight destructive objects such as cars or propane tanks nearby entrenched foes? Use their cover against them by firing at the objects then watching the baddies fly.
Next, we drew from one of the most unique aspects of our hand-to-hand combat. While in close combat, Bourne charges an adrenaline meter by hitting enemies. When sufficiently charged, the player can use that adrenaline to take out multiple opponents in one explosive maneuver called a Takedown. It became a no-brainer to find a way to provide the player the same Bourne-inspired experience while wielding a firearm. The result was the incorporation of Shooting Takedowns. Now the player could seamlessly use the same adrenaline and Takedown system to drop single or multiple opponents with cinematic, and oftentimes explosive, one-shot expert kills.
Learning from what goes right, whether in your game or those of others, is only half the story. Equally important is recognizing what faltered in the past. Our next challenge when combining concepts like hand-to-hand combat and shooting came in the form of balance. For our shooting experience this meant two things. First, shooting had to remain as fun and polished as hand-to-hand - either feature should always be a viable option for the player. With our previously outlined additions we were confident this was the case. Second, the shooting experience had to work seamlessly with hand-to-hand fighting and fit into the overall design scheme of the game. With the incorporation of Shooting Takedowns and use of the adrenaline system for both styles of combat, we had achieved part of that. Yet to fully reach this second goal, we decided that extra effort was needed to find ways to enable the player to naturally transition between shooting and hand-to-hand combat at their discretion. In the end, this was energy well spent. In "The Bourne Conspiracy" players can dispatch anything in their way as they see fit, experimenting with different combinations at whim. As an example, a personal favorite of mine is flushing AI out of cover using destructible objects, then running at them with a well timed Sprinting Takedown while they are haplessly stumbling about.
All in all, the long road for developing our shooting system has been driven by tackling issues that arose from designing an experience never truly defined in a Bourne movie. By combining a careful deconstruction of Bourne's character with our intense, frenetic take on gunplay, we wound up creating an experience that feels right at home in any Bourne film. "The Bourne Conspiracy" provides nonstop, fast-paced game-play, and ever-changing scenarios that constantly challenge players to overcome what would be seemingly insurmountable odds to anyone else. In the end, isn't that what being a thirty million dollar weapon is all about?
Our thanks to the team at High Moon Studios and Lucy Fairbrass at Sierra Entertainment for the insight into Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy. Don't forget that the game will be heading to stores from June 27th - expect our final verdict in the next couple of weeks.
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