Video games eye more ex­otic lo­cales

The Star Early Edition - - TONIGHT GAMING -

AT THE be­gin­ning of Call of Duty: Ad­vanced War­fare, the player is dumped from the sky on to an ur­ban bat­tle­field, smash­ing into sky­scrapers and land­ing in a fu­tur­is­tic, war-torn ren­di­tion of a city that’s rarely de­picted in video games: Seoul, South Korea.

It’s a Wizard of Oz mo­ment for the Call of Duty se­ries.

The in­ter­ac­tive medium has long built dig­i­tal play­grounds based on real-world lo­cales. How­ever, re­cent tech­no­log­i­cal leaps, and a string of games set in ubiq­ui­tous lo­ca­tions like New York and Los An­ge­les, have mo­ti­vated de­vel­op­ers of some of the year’s big­gest games to boldly go where they haven’t be­fore.

“I think de­sign­ers are on the look­out for com­pelling places you want to be,” said Ad­vanced War­fare se­nior level de­signer, Colin Mun­son.

“It’s fan­tasy ful­fil­ment. That’s prob­a­bly why we al­ways see New York and Los An­ge­les. We made a con­certed ef­fort at the be­gin­ning of de­vel­op­ment to broaden our lev­els. Seoul came to mind.”

Mun­son found that the city’s sprawl­ing shop­ping dis­trict seam­lessly served as a shoot­ing gallery, and Seoul’s wide streets made for the per­fect spot to un­leash a swarm of en­emy drones 50 years in the fu­ture.

The only thing more chal­leng­ing than form­ing a city in the fu­ture might be recre­at­ing one from the past.

After tack­ling such time pe­ri­ods and lo­cales as the Third Cru­sade in the Mid­dle East and the Golden Age of Piracy in the Caribbean, the next chap­ter of the time­hop­ping As­sas­sin’s Creed saga takes place dur­ing the French Revo­lu­tion in Paris.

The pro­cess­ing power of the PlaySta­tion 4 and Xbox One con­soles al­lowed de­sign­ers to craft a mas­sively dense City of Lights.

As­sas­sin’s Creed: Unity de­sign­ers spent two years erect­ing a vir­tual Notre Dame – inside and out – to scale. That doesn’t mean the game is an in­ter­ac­tive his­tory book. De­spite the fact Unity is set be­fore the cathe­dral’s spire was built, it sits atop the game’s Notre Dame. Like­wise, Bastille is still stand­ing when it would’ve been rub­ble.

“We’re mak­ing art,” said Unity level de­sign di­rec­tor Ni­co­las Guerin. “It’s not a his­tor­i­cal sim­u­la­tion. We still want play­ers to feel like they’re in the Paris they’ve seen on a post­card or vis­ited in per­son, but there’s pres­sure – be­cause many of the de­vel­op­ers are French – to make sure that we ren­der jus­tice to the cap­i­tal of my coun­try, as well as to his­tory.”

The per­va­sive­ness of im­agery and records on­line has made it both eas­ier and more dif­fi­cult for de­sign­ers. The cre­ators of Far Cry 4 found a dis­con­nect be­tween what they glimpsed on their screens and what they ex­pe­ri­enced in per­son when vis­it­ing the coun­try that in­spired their se­quel.

A team of Far Cry 4 de­sign­ers trav­elled to Nepal while fash­ion­ing Kyrat, a fic­tional na­tion in the Hi­malayas en­trenched in a bul­letrid­dled re­volt. The game’s vis­tas mir­ror Nepal’s lush forests that give way to snowy moun­tains. The more dif­fi­cult bal­ance to strike was cre­at­ing a realm that felt fan­tas­ti­cally re­al­is­tic but wouldn’t of­fend folks in the real world.

“We’re in­spired by the lo­ca­tions and cul­tures, but we don’t di­rectly ref­er­ence it,” said Far Cry 4 nar­ra­tive di­rec­tor Mark Thomp­son. “We did work early on to cre­ate a unique mythol­ogy and re­li­gion for Kyrat, bor­row­ing from the themes and sym­bol­ism of Bud­dhism and Hin­duism. At the end of the day, we’re mak­ing a video game. It’s about es­capism and fun.”

Ap­par­ently, there’s still noth­ing like the real thing. – Sapa-AP


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