Rainbow Six: Vegas
31st Oct 2006 | 17:19
Rainbow Six has changed a lot since the days when we ordered our blocky SWAT soldiers around bright terrorist houses. Rainbow Six Vegas shows off the very best of the Xbox 360's graphical prowess, and its new cover and rappelling systems take the tactical series in a more accessible direction.
But what about the face-mapping technology that's been implemented? Lead Game Designer Jean-Pascal Cambiotti explains how it came about and just how far the technology goes. We've also included some in-game shots of our own Andy Robinson as Team Rainbow's newest recruit. For the lady(s)...
CVG: How did the Vision Camera idea come about and was it particularly challenging to implement?
Cambiotti: It was actually very easy to implement. We're using third-party software from Logitech called DigiMask and all we're doing is running DigiMask and generating a mesh that's unique for the Unreal Engine. So it's just a kind of plug and play thing for us.
We did have to play around with the different settings of the camera to get it user-friendly in terms of having sliders so the user can control the brightness and the exposure, and translating that into actual user-friendly settings. We had one programmer working on it and it didn't take him very long to get it up and running.
CVG: The whole face-mapping thing has been tried and aborted once or twice in the past due to controversy. Are you worried that RSV might be affected by this?
Cambiotti: It doesn't worry me at all because at the office we use it, a lot of people talk about it in the sense of "how cool would it be to play co-op with your friends from the office - seeing your real life friends in your team in the helicopter," It's another one of those things that just seems to fit right into the whole Rainbow Six Vegas feel.
I think that in terms of controversy Microsoft does have in place certain features and certain parental settings that do prevent inappropriate pictures from taking place.
So for example the DigiMask technology looks for eyes, nose and a mouth and if you don't have those present in your picture it just won't accept it, and Microsoft has a feedback system, so if you see an inappropriate picture you can flag it as inappropriate and it'll get removed.
CVG: So there's no chance of taking your arse online then?
Cambiotti: Apparently not.
CVG: So what would your response be to the complainers of the world who will say that it's wrong that you can put other peoples' faces into the game and shoot them?
Cambiotti: Well it stays at its heart a videogame - it is a game, you want to have fun. If you are a parent that's concerned and you don't want your child to see certain things or you just don't want to see peoples real faces or you want to hide your face from certain people, you do have the global settings to choose not to see an scanned faces at all or you can choose just to see the ones from your friends, so you kind of have some flexibility.
CVG: Back to the game. Why did you decide to go with Las Vegas? What interested you in that location?
Cambiotti: Vegas is really interesting in terms of its richness and diversity. It's an urban city which fits very well with Rainbow Six and it's not just inside a casino. We now have these new game mechanics like 'take cover' and 'rappel' and they're things that we introduced for Vegas and so they work really well in its environment.
CVG: So what direction did you want to take Vegas? Did you want to keep it very simulation-based and tactical or did you want to water it down for a more mainstream audience?
Cambiotti: Well I don't like to say that we watered it down because it is a tactical first-person shooter. We tend to attract a more hardcore audience who know how an organised counter-terrorist team operates and what they should and shouldn't have, but at the same time we realise that we're making a videogame so we kind of have to reach a balance between having something that's super realistic and something that's fun.
For example you can bring a super-powerful .50 cal sniper rifle that's going to shoot through walls like it really does in real life, but when you put that into the game it's just not fun because it's so powerful.
From the beginning we sat down and said we're not making Raven Shield 2.0, we're making Rainbow Six Vegas. It's got to be different, we're going to try this crazy new thing going from first-person the third-person in different situations.
We feel that we have a game that's going to appeal to the hardcore gamers but its also going to go and get new players that weren't familiar with the other Rainbow Six series.
CVG: Ubisoft's other Clancy game Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter has performed really well on 360 - have you taken any inspiration from that in your plans for Vegas?
Cambiotti: We try not too from a game design perspective. I mean, we look at what worked and what didn't but at the same time we don't want to make a carbon copy. I know it sounds a bit strange that we both have a location in Mexico - Ghost Recon has a location in Mexico but aside from that if you play the game and if you play the Rainbow Six Vegas demo you'll see that they're actually two very different games each with their own bunch of cool things and attractions. So I definitely think there's an interesting market for both of them.
CVG: There's a lot of real life casinos featured in the outside environments of RSV, but you never go inside of them. Is this a design decision or more of a legal issue?
Cambiotti: It's purely a legal thing - the design of casinos and going inside them. A lot of the casino designs are copyrighted so we couldn't just re-use them. Everything we created had to be verified, re-verified and then verified again to make sure that we were going to be OK. So yeah, you never go inside a real life casino - all of the casinos that you go inside are fictional.
CVG: There are also environments outside of Vegas like Mexico as you mentioned. Is that more of a tutorial level or is it a fully-fledge mission?
Cambiotti: Mexico is the first location but it's not purely a tutorial. The way the locations are made is that they're broken down into missions or checkpoints and scenes. Part of the first scene is a tutorial that teaches you the game mechanics and the new cover system.
But Mexico is not just a tutorial - there's a lot going on in Mexico, that's where you're actually going to track down Irena Morales who is the head of a terrorist organisation.
CVG: Everyone's singing the praises of the Unreal Engine 3 at the moment. As a developer who's working with the engine, do you think it lives up to the praise?
Cambiotti: I think any engine it has its positives and its negatives. Unreal 3 has been really helpful as a package that gives you a stepping stone where 'OK, I have my multiplayer component, I have my animation package' - stuff is ready to use right out of the box, and that does save a lot of time. It saves programmers' time, it saves artists' time, it saves animators' time; it really is good.
It can use quite a lot of memory so you don't have as much memory to play around with the environment and you do have to live with certain constraints that the Unreal Engine has. For example if you have this cool new idea that just isn't supported by that engine you can only go as far as the engine will take you.
We knew what we were getting ourselves into, we had a pretty big engine analysis - should we take our internal engine that we had for Ghost Recon, do we use Unreal 3? We decided to choose Unreal 3 in the end so that means that the positives outweighed the negatives.