At a recent event for Lair, in which the PlayStation 3’s finer points were put on display for a group of select journalists, Gamasutra spoke one-on-one with Factor 5 president Julian Eggebrecht about the game and its future.
In particular, Eggebrecht highlighted design considerations for the Sixaxis, Factor 5’s discoveries in terms of how to use the PS3’s SPUs and RSX GPU, also hitting on the company’s work on a new entry to the Turrican series.
You're obviously taking advantage of the Sixaxis. Why do you think that hasn't happened so much so far?
Julian Eggebrecht: On the one hand, you have to have the time for it. On the other hand, you have to have the right game for it. Lair was just screaming Sixaxis. As I said in the presentation earlier, I'm a firm believer by now that you really shouldn't force motion control on functionality which it really isn't made for.
So that's why, for example, we switched the ground control back to the stick. Lair just lends itself in so many aspects to the motion control. It actually is better than the stick. For some other game types, there might not be a single aspect which is better with motion controls, so [it would be better to] leave it out.
As I've also noticed with the Wii, sometimes it's a little difficult to know the limits of how far you can turn, for example, in a game with motion controls.
JE: In Lair, we're mapping the level of the controller exactly to the dragon. Basically, if you lean the maximum 90 degrees, the dragon will turn that much. The angle matches perfectly.
We found that very important, because that came after focus testing after TGS. We were watching people fly, and they were having some fun, but they were having more problems than later on, when we made sure that [the controller matched on-screen movement]. Humans seem to have a pretty keen sense for what the angle of something is, and are able to correlate that subconsciously to what's on-screen. It helped a lot.
Did you have to hand-animate the dragons? I saw videos of the mocap that was done for the humans, down at SCEA San Diego – it was really nice.
JE: The dragons obviously have to be hand-animated. There aren't any dragons to motion capture!
You could’ve used a lion or something!
JE: The interesting thing about the dragons is that most of the time they're actually biped. They're kind of dinosaurish. The sole reason for that is that you want to have the front arms able to do something.
We had an early prototype where the dragons were completely four-legged on the ground. It made it way too hard to control. Just spinning on the spot was impossible, so it turned very much into horse-like or tank-like gameplay. That's actually why we raised them up a little and went with more T-rex-like proportions.