: Interview with Phil Wilson
Producer from Real Time Worlds -
other press members of XCN (Xbox Community Network), we have been able to ask
some questions to Phil Wilson, producer from Real Time Worlds concerning their
game : Crackdown.
XCN : Was
there any difficulty implementing the multiplayer in an open world game?
Phil Wilson : Definitely! Everything in the solo game is pushed to the
limit. We have an environment drawn to the horizon and heavily populated with
characters, vehicles and various other objects that can all be influenced by a
powerful physics engine. Duplicating the entire solo experience for the co-op
game by making sure nothing is left out has been our greatest challenge. In addition,
the programming team begged us to keep the players together at all times. However,
we wanted the core goal of player freedom to extend to the co-op game, so players
can go anywhere and do anything anytime. The programming team also insisted that
we shouldnt include vehicles that travel at well over 200mph in a fully
streaming environment, let alone a co-op one, but we did it anyway! The list goes
on, and were delighted that we pushed the programming team so hard that
they delivered the seemingly impossible.
: Will there be new content and things to do in the coop mode, or will it
be the same as the single-player game?
Phil Wilson : Its exactly
the same content, but its often been said that its twice the game!
XCN : Many people have labeled
Crackdown a "GTA wannabe". How do you feel about this kind of statement,
especially when you were involved with the original GTA?
Phil Wilson :
Well, in so far as its what Dave Jones always wanted GTA to be, I guess
thats true! Its a shame that so many action games set in open urban
environments have been attempting to offer nothing more than a GTA style experience.
It means that a game like Crackdown comes along and people immediately assume
that it functions in the same way. The Crackdown team really enjoys the GTA games
and, as you stated, many of them have been involved in their development. So,
we know were offering a very different experience.
: Do you intend to make the main character have more impact on his environment?
Phil Wilson : So far the footage we have seen makes him appear very
light on his feet, more like a Spider-Man or Daredevil type character than a Hulk
or Thing. The principal goal of the character movement was to deliver pace and
fluidity. We wanted the player to seamlessly grab ledges, thrust upwards to a
rooftop and then leap out into an open space while searching for his next foothold.
An Agent is a type of super hero. One of the five skills he develops is agility.
The Hulk might be able to jump huge distances, but I dont think wed
ever describe him as agile! Of course, an agent can also develop his strength
and as he bulks-up you will certainly notice him becoming more Hulk-like.
XCN : The graphic novel visuals
are very distinctive. Why did you go for this visual style, and what does it add
to the gameplay?
Phil Wilson : Well visuals never add anything to
gameplay and dont let anyone tell you otherwise! ;-) We prototyped this
game with flat coloured, flat shaded, blocky environment and skeletal characters.
That prototype delivered on whats core to the playability of the finished
product. When that happens, you know youre making a game for the right reasons!
Quite rightly though, we all want a big slice of spectacle served on the side
of our gameplay. Were confident youll agree that Crackdown more than
delivers on that too! As youll no doubt have realized by now, everything
in Crackdown is turned up to 11. We havent blown our budgets on a handful
of extremely detailed characters or vehicles. Instead weve created a previously
unseen world where thousands of people and hundreds of vehicles are visible at
any one time in an environment that, from the always-accessible rooftops, can
be seen in full. We wanted Crackdown to stand apart visually rather than follow
the flock, so with the OTT action and superhuman abilities we quickly settled
on a graphic novel stylization as a perfect fit. The graphics technologies required
to nail this look have largely been cutting-edge and difficult to achieve. This
has worked against us over the last year or so as we released video footage and
screens while the visual style was still in development. Take a look at the latest
media though and youll see what our intentions always were; were certainly
extremely pleased with the results.
XCN : There are three gangs terrorizing
the city. Asians, Russians and Mexicans. Do the gangs interact with each other?
Phil Wilson : Microsofts geopolitical department would have
a field day with this question! But yes, though there is a fairly balanced inter-gang
status quo across the city before the Agency kicks into action, the gangs do from
time to time engage each other in open warfare. When this happens the player can
move in for some easier kills or just sit back and let nature run its course.
The gangs predominantly speak in their native tongue Los Muertos in Spanish
and The Volk in Russian. I should say that, though the Shai-Gen Corporation is
of Asian origin, the board of directors (gang hierarchy) is completely multi racial.
Therefore, their corporate language is English.
: Can you describe how the player develops new skills and abilities as the
Phil Wilson : All skills can be developed by killing.
In fact, internally we refer to it as skills for kills! Hand to hand
combat is one way to develop the strength skill, but any kill resulting from an
act of brute strength will develop that attribute (i.e. bowling a dumpster through
a bunch of enemies and then using one of the resulting bodies to beat the life
out of the others). In this case the incentive isnt just to become tougher
for the harder missions, its to smash up previously indestructible barriers,
rip up streetlights, use them as weapons, and hurl trucks across freeways into
the path of an oncoming gang vehicle. Everyone wants to be a super agent!As for
developing the other skills: make kills from altitude and the agility skill is
developed to the point where the player can leap Matrix-style from rooftop to
rooftop; run down the bad guys (while surgically dodging the innocents) to develop
driving skill and use of firearms and explosives should speak for itself. In testing
weve found people fooling around with vehicles for hours on end: performing
massive jumps, nailing stunts or simply completing races again and again. The
mantra has always been to reward with skill progression any actions that players
perform repeatedly AND continue to find fun. In fact many activities in the game
will result in skill bonuses. The agility skill can also be developed by collecting
markers scattered across hundreds of rooftops throughout the city.
: Why did you go for coop multiplay instead of competitive? And is competitive
multiplay planned as a surprise?
Phil Wilson : Thats a funny
question because almost all cooperative game sessions regularly deteriorate into
all-out death matches before a truce has to be called. Its a lot of fun,
particularly in the unique world of Crackdown, so we obligingly keep score until
the score is settled.As for more complex multiplay, that would also be awesome
but its a different kind of game compared to the one weve made here.
Plus, Ive never been one for ruining surprises either
: What kind of areas are included in the huge city and will there be other
locations outside of the urban sprawl?
Phil Wilson : The city is divided
into three main districts, with a fourth island at its centre forming the base
of Agency operations. The districts are all uniquely themed to their host gang.
The mission locations within them are all original and distinct, from the lighthouse
and surrounding caves, to an offshore oil rig, to floor after floor of a towering
skyscraper. As you can tell from those examples, we have many rural locations
away from the city lights. We wanted the size and scale of Pacific City to overwhelm
the player to begin with, but only to begin with. Through exploration and character
development you should eventually get to know the full environment really well
and take ownership it becomes your city!
: People might initially see Crackdown as a GTA clone, but in which directions
did you want to take the game to set it apart?
Phil Wilson : The most
obvious answer to this question is up. In Crackdown weve created
a highly detailed vertical environment providing a true play volume for the intense
action. In Crackdown the player is a crime-fighting super-soldier in the same
morality mould as Judge Dredd. The city is his playground, everything in it are
his toys. He has one clear objective: remove all trace of crime, but how he goes
about doing this is entirely up to him there is no restriction of a linear
plotline; he becomes immensely powerful and regularly performs spectacular actions.
So I guess you could say the directions in which we wanted to set the game apart
from GTA was all of em!
: The coop-mode sounds very interesting. Can you explain how it will work
and how we can play it with our friends?
Phil Wilson : One of the
great things about the co-op feature is that players can dip in and out of each
others games at any time. Games can be opened up to accept join requests
from anyone or just friends if preferred. If youre having a hard time with
a particular gang boss, you could invite your friend in to help out. If youve
arranged to meet up in the game then theres no reason to wait at a lobby
just play the game until your friends join request pops up.
: Many thanks for your time Phil !
- Other Xbox
Gazette, January 15th 2007
Thanks to : Phil Wilson,
XCN, Real Time Worlds