Q&A

We chat with Joseph Staten, se­nior creative di­rec­tor for Mi­crosoft Global Pub­lish­ing, to dis­cuss Crack­down 3’s am­bi­tious mul­ti­player

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - CRACKDOWN 3 -

This sure has been a long time com­ing!

Crack­down3’ s cloud-pow­ered mul­ti­player was first shown off to the pub­lic in 2015, so why has it taken so long for us to get our hands on it?

When we first em­barked down this path, the ques­tion was whether we could ac­tu­ally, tech­ni­cally do it – cloud-based de­struc­tion. We didn’t know; it was a big tech­no­log­i­cal bet. What we learned pretty quickly was that it was go­ing to take a long time. It was re­ally only in the last year or so that the tech­nol­ogy has sta­bilised, that the de­sign team could re­ally be­gin to wrap their brains around it. We’ve done pro­to­types and play test­ing but it was only in the last year that we could re­ally fo­cus in on spe­cific game modes, bal­ance, map size, Agent speed, all this kind of stuff.

Tech­nol­ogy aside, were there ever any other con­cerns sur­round­ing this big ini­tia­tive?

The other thing we didn’t know at the time was, well, is it go­ing to be fun? Can we ac­tu­ally cre­ate fun game­play out of these fully de­struc­tible en­vi­ron­ments? We al­ways knew that we could make de­struc­tion look great – that it was go­ing to al­ways be a good spec­ta­cle – but what we didn’t know is whether we could also make it fun. Can we make de­struc­tion tac­ti­cal? Does it ac­tu­ally cre­ate in­ter­est­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for the play­ers? The great news is, that an­swer is ‘Yes!’

How does re­veal­ing some­thing as tech­no­log­i­cally am­bi­tious as Wreck­ing Zone so early af­fect pro­duc­tion?

Well, what it does is it makes a prom­ise and it sets ex­pec­ta­tions… but it’s al­ways good to light a fire un­der your own ass! To make a prom­ise pub­licly and then have to live up to it, but I re­ally do think this is one of those cases where we re­ally did take that prom­ise se­ri­ously and hope­fully play­ers agree that we made good on it.

What was be­hind the de­ci­sion to limit the game modes to five ver­sus five, was it lim­ited by tech­nol­ogy or de­sign?

That was a de­sign-led de­ci­sion, it wasn’t a tech­ni­cal con­straint. Five ver­sus five gave us a good bal­ance, es­pe­cially with map size and over­all chaos. Crack­down 3 is very fast; you’re hy­per ag­ile, the world is blow­ing up all around you and if you are sur­rounded by 50 other play­ers it just be­comes much harder, I think, to feel pow­er­ful. This way, you can re­ally stand out, take ag­gres­sive ac­tions and be re­warded for them – you can feel like an Agent. So, re­ally, it came down to de­sign; there’s cer­tainly the abil­ity to have more or less [play­ers] but as we’ve playtested it over the years we just gelled around team-based fivev­er­sus-five ac­tion.

Mi­crosoft is putting its Azure cloud net­work at the heart of its 2019 plans with the launch of Project X Cloud and a num­ber of other ini­tia­tives, has Crack­down3 been po­si­tioned to sell the con­cept and power to Xbox fans, or has it just been a happy co­in­ci­dence?

It’s funny, I’ve never re­ally thought about it in those terms be­fore, but I think a happy co­in­ci­dence is right. Well, it wasn’t com­pletely co­in­ci­den­tal, we’ve been on this jour­ney with Azure for many, many years! But I think that Crack­down 3 is a very clear ex­am­ple of the kind of ex­pe­ri­ences you can en­able when you do har­ness even just a lit­tle frac­tion of this cloud com­put­ing tech­nol­ogy. It was es­pe­cially fun to watch you play to­day, be­cause while you were play­ing on an Xbox One X, with the game run­ning in 4K, there was some­body next to you play­ing on a base Xbox One at 1080p, but the game­play looked the same. Like, you could have the same de­struc­tive ex­pe­ri­ence play­ing on a Xbox One as you could on a brand new Xbox One X – that, as a de­signer, as a game cre­ator, is re­ally mag­i­cal.

Given how much more pow­er­ful the Xbox One X is, as com­pared to the launch sys­tem, it’s kind of amaz­ing to think that that same de­struc­tive ex­pe­ri­ence is seam­less re­gard­less of what sys­tem you have at home.

That’s be­cause all of the pro­cess­ing for the de­struc­tion is hap­pen­ing ‘be­hind the scenes’, in these mas­sive Azure data farms. But that’s a won­der­ful thing! Of­ten it’s the ex­act op­po­site, right? Be­cause we are lim­ited to what’s in the box and you’re al­ways mak­ing these de­sign trade-offs to make a great ex­pe­ri­ence with five-year-old hard­ware, while also try­ing to cre­ate a good ex­pe­ri­ence for the cut­ting-edge hard­ware as well. With Wreck­ing Zone, it’s fun­da­men­tally the same. There is no down­grade of that de­struc­tive ex­pe­ri­ence and I think that’s where as a gamer, not Mi­crosoft em­ployee, I be­gin to un­der­stand the cloud.

Just to set the record straight, why aren’t we see­ing de­struc­tible en­vi­ron­ments in the sin­gle player cam­paign?

Well, fic­tion­ally speak­ing, and just game de­sign-wise, when we thought about it we came to the con­clu­sion that we wanted the cam­paign to be about sav­ing the peo­ple on New Prov­i­dence not blow­ing the whole city to hell! The cam­paign is re­ally about go­ing into New Prov­i­dence and help­ing the peo­ple who are there by tak­ing down this crim­i­nal em­pire.

Any­thing you’d like to add?

Only that I am men­tally and spir­i­tu­ally ex­hausted [laughs]. No, the only thing to say is that I know that it has taken us a while to get Crack­down 3 out of the oven but I’m re­ally happy and proud of all of the hard work that has gone into this game. I’m glad that we’ve been able to take our time with it to re­ally make it the best that it could pos­si­bly be.

“We’ve been able to take our time with it to re­ally make it the best that it could pos­si­bly be”

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