Post Script

In­ter­view: Ian Mil­ham, cre­ative direc­tor, Vis­ceral


Arestau­rant named Ishimura, a wa­ter fea­ture that looks a lot like a Marker: Hard­line cre­ative direc­tor Ian Mil­ham’s past as art direc­tor on hor­ror se­ries Dead Space is hinted at by the pro­fu­sion of ref­er­ences tucked away in the lat­est Bat­tle­field. But Vis­ceral is by no means a stu­dio dwelling on its past, as Mil­ham tells us when we talk to him about the process of re­shap­ing a much-loved se­ries into some­thing new. It’s rare to see a stu­dio pick up such an es­tab­lished se­ries and put its own spin on it. How did you ap­proach that chal­lenge? We’re all hard­core Bat­tle­field fans, and have been play­ing it for­ever, but to re­ally get flu­ent in what makes it work, there was no sub­sti­tute ex­cept to help make it. So be­fore we re­ally talked too much about what we wanted to do with it, we had to hum­ble our­selves and helped on one of the ex­pan­sion packs, spend­ing time learn­ing from DICE. When we started this, DICE was still 18 months out from be­ing done with Bat­tle­field 4, so the tar­get was mov­ing. So the DLC you did for Bat­tle­field 3 was al­ways part of the Hard­line plan? Yeah. DICE didn’t have a fifth ex­pan­sion pack on the sched­ule for Bat­tle­field 3, but we started one and they added it to give us a way to see if we could get it right. They helped a ton, but the rea­son there’s a mo­tor­cy­cle in that pack is be­cause we knew we re­ally wanted them in Hard­line. DICE has tried mo­tor­cy­cles in the past, but never licked it. So we were like, “Let us take a shot!” You in­cluded a tank in the sin­gle­player cam­paign; why did you de­cide to leave it out of mul­ti­player? It kind of felt like a fun mo­ment in sin­gle­player, where you don’t need to worry about bal­ance so much, and in that case it specif­i­cally serves a nice story point where at the be­gin­ning of that level you’ve been hu­mil­i­ated and stripped down by th­ese peo­ple, and then by the end of it be­ing this all-pow­er­ful, un­stop­pable tank thing – we liked that. We toyed around with hav­ing one show up in mul­ti­player but it felt like peo­ple al­ready have that game – and that game’s great. We would have ended up burning a lot of calo­ries bal­anc­ing the tank out, and mak­ing the maps tank-friendly; if we wanted to do that, we should just make Bad Com­pany 3 or some­thing. The writ­ing in Hard­line is en­joy­able – did you have Bad Com­pany’s snappy script­ing in mind? Well, a lit­tle bit. To us it wasn’t so much an in­flu­ence as it was an ex­am­ple of the fact that Bat­tle­field can stretch. I think peo­ple tend to think of Bat­tle­field only as the last cou­ple of it­er­a­tions, but when you con­sider the his­tory of it, it’s done all kinds of stuff. Our real in­spi­ra­tion was El­more Leonard books and the stuff that’s been made from them, like Jus­ti­fied, Out Of Sight and Jackie Brown. What we thought was nice about our op­por­tu­nity here was that it doesn’t need to be some big world-takeover story. I’m not go­ing to pre­vent that guy from tak­ing over the world, it’s just he screwed me over and I’m go­ing to get him. Did you toy with idea of hav­ing ar­rested enemies alert oth­ers nearby? We did, but it’s re­ally tricky. There was a cer­tain bal­ance we were try­ing to achieve to al­low depth and have some­thing that felt more in­ter­est­ing in terms of tac­ti­cal va­ri­ety, but we’re not mak­ing Metal Gear Solid. And one of the as­pects of a more hard­core stealth game like Splin­ter Cell is that if you are spot­ted, or if the stealth breaks down, usu­ally when I play those games I feel like, ‘Uh, I’ve failed.’ And I ei­ther let my­self get shot un­til I die or I reload the sec­tion be­cause it is just a stealth game. We were try­ing to add a layer of depth un­der­neath a typ­i­cal shooter, and I don’t think our au­di­ence wants a pun­ish­ing stealth game. So some of those, like, tier-two stealth me­chan­ics such as mov­ing bod­ies around and dudes wak­ing up – that’s all great, but it felt like prob­a­bly a layer be­yond what we wanted to do here in terms of what our goals for the game were. It’s funny, be­cause there have been peo­ple re­act­ing to the silli­ness of them hav­ing Zs over their heads when you ar­rest them. And I get that, but at the same time it in­stantly com­mu­ni­cates to peo­ple, ‘OK, I don’t need to worry about this guy any more’. Now, as for why he’s asleep? I don’t know. But what other icon could you use that com­mu­ni­cates that so clearly? Gad­gets like the zi­pline and grap­ple hook make nav­i­ga­tion eas­ier. Was this a con­scious ef­fort to level the play­ing field for less ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers? I don’t know if it was nec­es­sar­ily a lev­el­ling thing, it just felt to us like we needed some own­able, gamechang­ing gad­gets that felt like they sup­ported the world and in­volved what we’re try­ing to do in terms of bring­ing out strat­egy and giv­ing peo­ple a lit­tle more speed. One of the things we were try­ing to in­vest in was per­son­al­ity and dif­fer­ence that re­ally did some­thing. It’s not like we’re go­ing to do more stuff than Bat­tle­field 4 – they have so many weapons and so much stuff go­ing on that say­ing, ‘Now there’s 80 gad­gets!’ felt like, ‘Woah, can th­ese pos­si­bly be good?’ So we de­cided to re­ally tune for per­son­al­ity, dif­fer­ence and use. In the end, cops and rob­bers is a game we played in a backyard when we were eight years old, so we wanted that kind of re­peata­bil­ity and fan­tasy po­ten­tial in our stuff.

“Our real in­spi­ra­tion was El­more Leonard books and the stuff that’s been made from them”

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