GoldenEye: Rogue Agent exposed!
1st Jun 2004 | 16:42
Rare's much lauded first-person shooter GoldenEye on N64 was awesome, broke new ground, had a billion memorable moments, delighted with classic multiplayer moments - yep, we could discuss the game's pleasantries for hours. Believe. Which is why, like the mass of fans of the venerable master, we can't wait to dirty our hands on EA's pseudo-sequel GoldenEye: Rogue Agent.
Lurking undercover for around 18 months, Rogue Agent finally had the curtain officially raised on it back in March, the unveiling followed for us by a jaunt to EA headquarters in California where Chris Plummer, senior producer on the game, filled us in. (And our chat with Chris continues tomorrow in part two, where we hit him hard with an in-depth Q&A).
To begin at the beginning
"GoldenEye: Rogue Agent is a game we've been holding in secret for about a year and a half. This is a game all about being the ultimate villain in the Bond universe - that's the concept... There's something very exciting about the proposition of being able to step into the dark side of the Bond world and tap into everything that makes that such a great place and doing without the stuffy restrictions of being Bond."
Bond-ing with the villainy
"In the very first mission in the game you're flying into Fort Knox with James Bond reliving one of the most famous sequences from the film Goldfinger - Operation Grandslam. This is your first mission in the game but your last mission as an MI6 agent.
"You're kicked out - you're too aggressive, you're too brutal, you're not MI6 material. Like Alex Trevelyan in GoldenEye you take a step over to the dark side and go to work for Goldfinger.
"Goldfinger is one of the most famous villains in the Bond universe, and one of the things that we're doing very deliberately is tapping into this rich fiction that is the Bond universe in a way that no game has done before.
"If you think about the Bond films, they're not sequels to one another. Bond is the same age in 1963 as he is in 2003, and it's a timeless universe much like superhero fiction is, and you've seen the volcano lair and the Spectre board room and all these places in multiple films where all the villains kind of work together in the same secret organisation, and that is exactly the world that you'll get to tap into in GoldenEye: Rogue Agent.
"You'll definitely get to fight alongside and against some of the most famous villains from the Bond universe, including Odd Job, Xenia Onatopp from the original GoldenEye, who actually works for Dr No in the game, and Jaws who works for lots of different villains in the Bond films. You'll have some pleasant and less than pleasant experiences with Onatopp."
An eye for an eye
"Goldfinger of course is a member of Spectre. The criminal organisation of the Bond universe is at war right now, Dr No and Goldfinger are struggling for power, and in this very first mission Dr No takes out your eye. And Goldfinger's scientists replace it with a cybernetic eye that becomes your namesake and you become the villain that everybody knows and fears as GoldenEye. You'll spend much of the game chasing after Dr No and seeking revenge for taking out your eye."
Location, location, location
"We'll take you around the world as most Bond adventures would take you - places like Hoover dam. If you were a fan of the original GoldenEye you'll know that a dam is a great place to have a shootout. But as the bad guy you of course now get to blow the dam and do all sorts of cool stuff like that.
"Ultimately, the HQ for all the villain activity in the Bond universe, is the volcano lair. This is a place you'll get to experience multiple times in the game. Pussy Galore is your personal pilot. She works for Goldfinger in the film and she'll take you from this volcano lair to all your great missions throughout the game. As you rise up through the ranks you'll get to know Pussy better and better."
GoldenEye - it was great!
"Our team is really passionate about the original GoldenEye game from a gameplay standpoint. That was a very aggressive, run-and-gun style first-person shooter, and to really recreate and do justice to that style of game... And today's technology, when you think about it, is much more detailed, much more graphic.
"James Bond can't really do that stuff, but the villains, that's exactly what they do, and so marrying those two things together we can deliver a style of gameplay that people and know and love about the original GoldenEye and do it in that universe by taking people to the dark side.
"And I think another thing that our team thought was really cool about the original GoldenEye - and this is something we also heard from a lot of GoldenEye fans and just Bond fans in general...
The most powerful plot thread in the original GoldenEye was this idea of a 00 agent gone bad. And what was so cool about it Alex Trevelyan was you knew he was a bad ass because you knew he was trained by MI6 - he was like James Bond, he was as bad as James Bond but went to the dark side. We are essentially letting you live out that role in GoldenEye: Rogue Agent."
The magic formula
"The two most important parts of our game formula are the multiplayer and the E.V.I.L. AI system, so everything touches those in one way or the other. The multiplayer's really important to us because it's what some of us are still playing from time to time with our friends around the couch with the split-screen on the original GoldenEye.
"We have more multiplayer maps than we have campaign maps in the game. All of our game modes can be played in a multiplayer capacity, and when there's not real people there to play against the E.V.I.L. AI will step in for them. That is just something that from day one has been a focus."
Something E.V.I.L. lurks...
"The E.V.I.L. AI - this is what all the game systems basically touch. To make a great first-person shooter experience we needed something to be the centrepiece that everything needs to be focused on and E.V.I.L. AI is that for our game.
"What that stands for is, first it's emotion-based - that's what the 'E' is - all the AIs in the game are basically motivated by real human motivations which the player can exploit. The more you're playing like a villain, the more you can actually exploit those emotions to your advantage.
Essentially what it means is, by using emotions likes pressure, aggression and composure to determine behaviour, it means that the AIs are going to behave somewhat unpredictably but completely believably. That was really important to us, because we wanted encounters to be replayable, we wanted you to never be quite sure what the AI is going to do next. Depending on what other AIs are in the area, they're going to behave differently.
"The 'V' is for visceral. What we mean by that is we wanted all the visceral moments that you get from most first-person shooters that usually come in the form of scripted moments, we wanted those visceral moments to come through the AI instead.
"When my friend calls me up and says 'Dude, this guy grabbed his team mate, freaked out and used him as a human shield', and I'm like 'No, that guy, I capped him in the head and blew up this grenade' or whatever - that's exactly what we want, we want those cinematic moments to happen through the AI instead of through gags.
"We will have scripted sequences, we already have some of that, but most of visceral moments you're going to get in the game are actually coming through the AI, which is completely unique.
"'I' is for their intelligence. They're completely aware and intelligent about their environment and about the player. They will use cover very aggressively, if cover changes in the environment they learn and that's the 'L' part. They learn about how you play, they learn about changes in the environment, they learn what weapon you like to use.
"If you destroy cover in the middle of a room and they were going to use it they won't use it - simple stuff like that that really changes the way a game plays out, the way a particular encounter plays out. They'll use death traps against you, all that sort of thing."
The team's a scream
"Our team has really assembled to focus on gameplay, and we're tapping into the Bond universe in a way that no game has in the past and we're really proud about that but at the end of the day when you've got the word 'GoldenEye' associated with your game, what people are really looking for is great gameplay and a great first-person shooter experience.
"We've assembled an all-star team from around the EA world and outside of EA, to take on this very important and challenging task which is to create a game that can live up to that.
"We've assembled this group in Los Angeles; it's a new place for us to do the Bond franchise. We have key members from Medal of Honor, animators from Madden. I mean, take your pick, around EA we've picked the best of the best to come together to do this, but we've also recruited from around the industry and from games that we respect the most - lead positions from games like Halo, Counter-Strike; we have all the key guys from Splinter Cell (although game style is obviously very different in Splinter Cell, we respect a lot of what they did in terms of combining technology and gameplay).
"Everyone has one thing in common - they're super-passionate about the original game, and they're super-passionate and committed to making a great first-person shooter. Forget about the licence for a moment and just focus on that. What we've done is dissect the run-an-gun gameplay and tried to basically build on that formula and focus on the fundamentals of making a great first-person shooter."
Core, that sounds good!
"Core mechanics are very, very fundamental. The first things that we focussed on over a year and a half ago were aiming and shooting, because so many first-person shooters ship without getting that right - they've got all kinds of great features but it doesn't feel right to just aim and pull the trigger. We have literally spent months and months and months getting the controller to feel right to try and take aiming and shooting to the next level.
"One of my favourite moments in the original GoldenEye was taking somebody out with a headshot which I'd never done in a game before up to that point. And trying to live up to that kind of legacy is very challenging because everyone has headshots in a game now. We're trying to take that the next step where you can actually target a guy's grenade and detonate it, so instead of killing him in one shot, you can do a grenade shot and actually take out guys around him in that one shot. We have the ability to precisely target things like the death traps which trigger remotely."
Everybody was Kung-fu fighting, hoo ya-ya
"Another way that we've taken the fundamentals of shooting the next step is at close range, we have additional triggers you can pull, basically. We have a full-on melee combat system that is built upon the fundamentals of aiming and shooting in a first-person game, and it just gives you the option that at close-range you can crack somebody in the head with your weapon or you can just punch them or you can grab them, you can stun them, you can exploit them, you can throw them across the room, feed them to the sharks, all that cool stuff you see in the Bond films but you don't see in the games.
"It's up the player. If they want to shoot everybody they can, but at close range you have a very effective weapon which is your melee attacks. That's taking just the basics of aiming and shooting to the next level."
Moving to the groove
"The next core mechanic that we focussed on was movement and using the environment. It's a run-and-gun style game, it's not about camping in one spot and trying top pick guys off in a room from one spot and then clearing it and walking across an empty room, which unfortunately is what a lot of games do. If you try that in our game the E.V.I.L. AI will pound you, so you definitely have to stay on the move, you definitely have to use cover, which the AI will do to.
"And the cover can be dynamic, it can be destroyed, you can create it in some cases; and all that will affect the play experience. We also have new types of cover like distortion. So if a guy moves behind fire or heat distortion or smoked glass, you know he's there, but you can't target his grenade, you can't shoot him in the head, you can't do these things and it really changes the gameplay. We're making use of that type of cover in a very deliberate way. "
Death trap dungeon
"Next, interacting with the environment with death traps. This is another thing that's a signature part of the Bond universe. We've made a point that every single one of our maps has death traps that the player can exploit, the AI can exploit. I'm talking about things like shark tanks and getting the guy into a spot where you push a button and do a test-burn on the space shuttle and fry him, that kind of stuff. Death traps are a really important part of our game, and they've taken the fundamentals of movement and taking cover to the next level, because now you can use the death traps, now the environment is actually an enemy too."
Villainy, the real deal
"Finally, the last category for core mechanics is actually playing like a villain, and it's really combining all the mechanics mentioned. We track three different sorts of skills that the player has. One is the precise targeting, two is this ability to use physical force, like melee-type stuff, and three is interacting with the environment, death traps and that sort of thing. As you demonstrate skill in those different categories, the AIs will notice and they'll respond, and that's one of the most powerful ways you can exploit their emotional motivators.
"When I talked about the guy freaking out and grabbing someone and using them as a human shield, that's going to happen because you're playing like a villain - the style of play, playing like a villain, is a really important part of the game."
Check back tomorrow for more shocking Rogue Agent revelations.