Bourne Conspiracy Interview
10th Mar 2008 | 09:30
Bourne Conspiracy is all about capturing the spirit of the films. It's fast, no-messing action, brutal take-downs and Uncharted-like shoot-outs gel together to make what could become a movie-licenced game to take note of.
We recently travelled to Paris to get hands-on with the game (read about that here) but we also spoke with lead designer, Rory McGuire.
Tell us about the focus you've placed on capturing the feel of the films. How confident are you that you've got it right?
Rory McGuire: We've literally spent thousands of hours watching the movies, making sure that we get the camera angles, the pacing and the feeling of the movies right.
We definitely didn't want a situation where the player becomes Bourne and wanders around and environment for 30 minutes unable to figure out what they're supposed to be doing.
That's not Bourne - he's the smartest guy in the room at all times, so we wanted to make sure that the player's always moving, and that they're always pushed forward with a fast pace. Pace and cinematics are key.
And you've used a lot of movie-style camerawork to get that film feeling, right?
McGuire: When the player is on foot, not only do we want them to be able to see the actions, but feel like there was literally a cameraman right behind them the whole time.
So when you're running around you'll see a little leaning on the camera like it's being held by someone, and it flinches when you're in hand-to-hand fights, and the camera cuts around.
The control system and elements of the gameplay feel similar to fellow Unreal Engine 3 game, Gears of War. How did Gears influence the Bourne game?
McGuire: There's a larger emphasis of hand-to-hand combat in our game - it's about 50-50 with shooting. But with the shooting side, we didn't necessarily want to re-invent the wheel. We just wanted to focus on how we present the action. There are plenty of games that do hand-to-hand and shooting - particularly recently. Even Gears did to some extent, with the chainsaw and melee.
But what we wanted to do was refine the transition. In Bourne you'll be running around with a gun, run up to a guy and kick him in the face, get out the gun again, run then grab another guy, throw him into a wall, then back with the gun - and all that happens really fast.
What about Uncharted? Its influcence seems a little more obvious?
McGuire: We've heard quite a few comments about it's similarity to Uncharted. There are many areas in which I think we excel above Uncharted, and vice versa. There's more navigational elements and puzzle-solving in Uncharted, which we don't have quite as much of - again our pace is much higher.
But our hand-to-hand combat is quite a bit more in-depth than Uncharted, and there are a lot of similarities in the shooting.
The case-sensitive takedowns in Bourne are brilliant but something you don't see a lot of in games. Why's that?
McGuire: It took a lot of iteration. There are literally hundreds of thousands of animations in there to make sure everything syncs up properly.
What we did for the transitions is go through the environments and flag up areas for interaction. So not only can players go into cover on objects, but our takedown system knows the wall height, and places an animation on it.
Our camera system looks at the same data as well. The camera is conscious of every game in the environment - it knows all the boundaries. So the camera tries to always be in the right place.
Driving sections aren't usually the highlights of action games. How will you ensure your driving levels measure up to the rest of the game?
McGuire: The approach we took is that we wanted to make the player feel like he's driving like Bourne as soon as he gets behind the wheel. It feels arcade-y and intense - we didn't want the player to keep having to restart every time they crash into a wall.
Intensity is usually coupled with speed. But we noticed the driving speed, however, is actually quite slow. Why is that?
McGuire: In the Bourne movies the chases have been less about the speed and more about the quick turns, making quick decisions and dodging cops.
In the first movie he's driving a beat up Mini, and in the second movie he's driving a taxi that's about to fall apart, so it's not about speed.
There has been past talk of Unreal Engine 3 being tough to get working on PS3. How has it performed for you with Bourne?
McGuire: We're still tuning the controls a little, but that's easy. The big worry for us was performance, but I think you can put the two [360 and PS3 versions] together and not tell the difference - they're identical.
We haven't had too many problems with it. Initially we were worried but we had the added advantage of releasing after Unreal Tournament III, so we got to learn from that. There was definitely work involved, but it's been kind to us.
There may be slight anomalies between the two, but it's not going to be the situation, like in the past, where players find that performance is lower on the PS3. We didn't outsource the PS3 version - we did it in-house because we didn't want an inferior product.
Have you any plans for a playable demo?
McGuire: We will be rolling out a playable demo in May, and it should be available on both Xbox Live and PSN simultaneously. It will include the three levels previously shown to press.
Installing on PS3 has been a hot topic of discussion of late. What's you're view on the matter and does Bourne have an install on PS3?
McGuire: Yes it does have an install, but our is a few minutes. In retrospect I wish Microsoft had made the choice to have [mandatory] hard drives like Sony did with the PS3. They did it with the original Xbox. I'm not sure why they decided to not require a hard drive on the 360. From what I understand they don't move many [Core/Arcade] units."
Developers certainly benefit [from a hard drive]. If you have a hard drive, the whole game loads faster. Obviously you'll be facing a short install time, but the developer benefits from it and you definitely benefit from it as a player. So I think that was one of the mistakes that Microsoft made with the 360 - although I love my 360.
Some might say installations on a console could blur the lines between PC and console gaming. Do you agree?
McGuire: I think as developers we should offer the player the choice of whether they want longer loading times or sit through an install. But as a player myself, I'd happily trade five minutes to get faster load times.
Why did you choose not to make Bourne for Wii, too?
McGuire: We're huge Wii fans, but we didn't think that a game like Bourne would be appropriate for the platform. Wii has been beyond casual in many ways - Nintendo has almost invented a new demographic for the Wii.
We also wanted to deliver the same experience on both the PS3 and 360, but we'd have to down-res Bourne substantially for Wii. The fundamental quality bar we've hit with Bourne might not be deliverable with the technical limits of Wii.
This much-talked about 'new demographic' that Nintendo has invented is like a new animal to the industry - no-one can predict its long-term nature. Some say they won't buy many games in future. Do you see this being a problem for Nintendo?
McGuire: No not really because Nintendo makes a profit on sales of its hardware, whereas Microsoft and Sony don't - only on software.
Also, I'm pretty sure Nintendo is still top of the hardware charts, so as long as they keep that up with the hardware, even if they're only moving one or two games per unit per year, they'll still be in good shape.
Who's going to win the console war this year?
McGuire: This year, Bourne aside of course, there aren't as many games coming out on 360 as last year. Last year the 360 has a stellar line-up. Whereas the PS3 - from what I heard - has been outselling 360 recently.
I think part of what's powering that is the Blu-ray fight - Blu-ray has won and Microsoft has started to say they're pulling out of HD DVD a little, and obviously a lot of studios are following suit.
Over the last year Xbox has had the better software for gamers, and that's helped them get their install base, but the key for Sony is going to be games. They need to put out some really stellar games - first party games that are PS3-exclusive or third-party games that they pick up as exclusives.
I know many gamers have picked up the 360 and have had one for a year, but still haven't committed to buying a PS3 because there are very few exclusives so that's key.