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Sleeping Dogs interview: 'Open world is by far the most challenging genre'

Producer Dan Sochan looks back at the making of this summer's smash

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We took some cues from the Departed, from Donny Brascoe, from Infernal Affairs and Tribal Actions, some of the Hong Kong cinema series. We tried to put those together so you're playing a really gritty crime drama and you feel for Wei, the main character, not just because he's a bad ass cop, but what he goes through to be successful to be undercover. You know, crossing boundaries and lines that he would never totally have done, having to betray loyalties from people he's befriended, even on the Triad side of things, really helping the player feel that and empathise with both sides of the law. It's not so black and white as some people may initially suspect and a lot of that we got from talking to former undercover police officers.

Zoom

You've got some impressive actors and voice talent too - what was it like working with those guys?

Amazing. The calibre of some of the actors we were fortunate enough to work with was great, they really bring a believability to the characters and we modelled a lot of the characters to take on the persona of these people.

So we got some well known western stars like Lucy Lieu, Tom Wilkinson, Emma Stone, but also some Hong Kong cinema stars too like Wil Yun Lee and some of the characters only speak Cantonese as well, some of them will go in and out, a bit like Joss Whedon does in Firefly. They'll speak mostly in English but throw in some Cantonese phrases so it feels a bit more integrated and authentic.

Which movies and other inspirations influenced the making of the Sleeping Dogs? Did you incorporate many homages into the game?

On the action side, Hong Kong cinema was a huge influence for us and not just in the cinematography. We do have the slow-mo moments that are very John Woo-esque. We do have one homage moment where Wei gets onto a rooftop and jumps over and starts shooting at a few guys and you'll see a dove fly by.

But even in the way we structured a lot of our missions. You didn't see old school Jet Li or Jackie Chan walk into a room with two bazookas over their shoulder, it's not the Schwarzenegger approach. It's much more that they rely on their wit, their sills, their agility their martial arts abilities. To go into a room, maybe disarm an enemy, shoot a couple of guys, get rid of the gun and then use the environment to take the rest of them down.

So we tried to make that a key focus: you're surrounded by a bunch of 30 enemies, it seems hopeless but how do you get out of it? Well you grab a frying pan, use a frozen fish, jump off a wall, using the environment and martial arts to defeat your enemies.

How did you approach the combat systems?

Zoom

It's all martial arts based, we used Kung Fu, but also a bunch of other styles too to try and make everything as fluid as possible. One of the challenges to make a smooth, intuitive combat system is - Wei is action hero, but he's not a superhero so he can't fly across the screen. So we had to link together a series of moves so he can transition across the screen, so that he can directionally attack people. There was a lot of mo-cap, we had a huge team of animators, a very technical animator and a very artistic programmer who worked side by side to build up the combat system from scratch.

The finishing moves are pretty brutal too huh? We enjoyed those

The environmental props were a lot of fun, it was something we haven't seen in a lot of games before and I think taking it to the level we have and to try and make them feel well not overly cinematic, so you hit a trigger zone five ten metres away and suddenly it happens.

We wanted you to get close enough to it, to make it feel like you really interacted with that prop. The challenge was this: okay I'm in a junkyard, what cool things can you put in there for me to use that would make sense? So in that case it would be car engine hoists, old jalopies. We give you style points for those as well, so get a high Triad score don't just button mash but do a variety of moves and use as many props as possible.

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