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Mercenaries 2 is Pandemic Studios' first next generation project - and also the company's first game to ship since the Destroy All Humans! and Star Wars: Battlefront creator was acquired by Electronic Arts as part of the BioWare/Pandemic acquisition.
In this in-depth Gamasutra interview, Creative Director Cameron Brown lays out a roadmap for the game's development, speaking of how the studio's relationships with EA, its previous owner Elevation Partners, and sister studio BioWare affected development.
He also discusses the travails of developing a next-generation open-world game, and the original inspirations for the series, which was initially published by LucasArts, but for which Pandemic retained the IP - and has now brought to EA.
The game has been in development for, I would say, an extremely long time. Could you first talk about when you initially had planned to ship the game, and...
CB: Yeah, I guess a little bit -- I mean you're kind of talking to the wrong guy. I'm the creative director on the project... so frankly, it's probably my fault if we have been in development for a long time; it's probably because of all the crazy stuff I want to do.
But yeah, I honestly don't remember what the original date we released for the game was. But yeah, we didn't get it finished in time; we wanted to just make sure that the thing was a polished and as cool as we could make it. We felt that, you know, adding in the co-op stuff that we're doing -- obviously, this is Pandemic's first next-gen game, and there was a lot of work... not a lot which we anticipated.
It's just that these are huge games, open world games, and I think if you look at some of the comparable games -- like you're going to see GTA IV come out soon. The number of people, and the amount of time taken to develop these games is just -- it's not literally an order of magnitude beyond last-gen, but it's a significantly more complicated endeavor.
And again, it just takes a lot of time. I can't point to any one thing, you know. I can't point to co-op or to any specific feature in the game that really pushed us out. It's just that we got to where we could move into bug testing, we could get through submission, we could ship this thing... But it's not going to be what we originally envisaged, so we elected to take more time.
You know, it's been an interesting time for Pandemic. As I'm sure you know, during the development of the project, we went through two phases of the company. First of all, working with Elevation Partners and John Riccitiello, as an Elevation studio, which gave us a lot of financial freedom to make those kinds of decisions.
If we were under a more traditional game deal we may have no option but to ship at this point, but under Elevation we were able to go, "Oh, well, we are independently funded, we're able to hold up and keep developing." And I remember this whole big discussion between us and the Mass Effect guys, about who was going to make it first. Obviously they did.
And then once Pandemic was acquired by EA, that was another change, but it also brings a lot of economic backing, and a lot of resource backing to us. That means we really can develop a game of this magnitude. This is not a -- like I said -- this is not an endeavor to be undertaken lightly. It's been a huge and fascinating ride for all of us... the sheer complexity of these games, and particularly a game like Mercs, where you've got -- where we allow the player so much freedom.
You know, we've got all the destructible stuff, we've got just hundreds of vehicles, we've got weapons, we let players approach objectives from literally any angle -- and they could be coming in on foot with a shotgun, or they could be coming in with a tank or a helicopter. There are 18 different kinds of air strikes.
You know, this adds a huge burden to the engineering effort, to the design effort. And then you add in co-op as well, so you're adding another variable to that mix. It's just a huge game! It takes a long time! (laughs)