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How do you find the balance in what you're doing?
PW: Yeah, it's different; absolutely. I think what's important is: is it fun, and does it promote loads of cool emotions? Is it really enjoyable to do? We know, from all of the experiences that we've had play-testing the game and getting other people to play the game and watching other people playing stuff, that it's just as much fun to play on your own as it is to play cooperatively or in versus mode.
Now, the thing is, RPGs don't feel like big action cinema, and yet people have really great fun playing them. RTSes don't feel like action cinema, but they're great fun to play on your own against the AI.
If you think about racing games... Most genres don't bother with that stuff. It really just seems to be third-person action adventures and shooters that are stuck in the mold of constant constraint and removal of player interactivity.
It seems like it's ever edging towards less and less interactivity and more and more on a rail and minecart stuff. It's certainly a good route if what you want to do is give somebody an experience once for nine hours where they sit on their sofa, and that's what they do.
But if you think about the value proposition of a game like Brink, where we're confident that anyone could have fun playing it for a hundred hours, it ends up being like forty pence an hour for entertainment, which just seems like such a better deal for kids over the age of sixteen or whatever the rating turns out.
I don't think Borderlands or Left 4 Dead worry about that stuff; there are plenty of games that don't worry about that anymore.
Absolutely not, but if you look at how Call of Duty and Halo approach it, they do a campaign and then a multiplayer mode. Both are robust, but they're completely divorced.
PW: Right. I think that the thing for us -- because our game is a class-based, objective-oriented, coordinated team play style game -- to play a single-player game for eight, 10, or 12 hours and then start again from the beginning, playing a game where suddenly you're being outflanked and getting headshot, and you don't have any weapons and all of those skills that you were taught in single-player are no longer valid or relevant, it just wouldn't work.
For us, it's really important that, if somebody spent eight to 10 hours playing the game, they are good at the game; if they play cooperatively, they are still good at the game; if they play versus mode, they are still good at the game -- which I think is true of a racing game or a real-time strategy game or anything else, providing the AI is reasonable and that what you've been playing against is a reasonable challenge.
Some of the funniest things, I think, happen when you watch players doing things that are unexpected, and there's this just fantastic online world for people to explore who are often put off by that initial super-hardcore elitist experience when they go online and play online. I think they would not feel this if they were given the correct introduction; if their single-player game was the game that they were going to play when they go online. Also, MMOs don't bother -- so that's MMOs, RPGs, RTSes, racing games... So they're the minority, I think.
It's very true.
PW: I don't think Borderlands worried too much about it, either.
Not at all, to their great success.
PW: You definitely need to be confident in your execution. I think if you feel like you have to play to that market and that's the thing that you are trying to promote, then you wouldn't succeed.
It seems like it's kind of an extension of some of the ideas that went into Quake Wars, and some of it is fresh. I remember when I saw Quake Wars; I was pretty impressed with the attempts to make team play really seamless. It seems like you're kind of going further with that with this.
PW: Right, and to try and make it more accessible, which might not be obvious from your play session. One of the things that we're doing [is] obviously, blurring the lines between single-player, cooperative, and versus mode... [this] means that the player [who] has made an investment in playing without an internet connection, but has been developing a character and investing time in them... Providing the co-op game is the same game, all of those experiences and all of those skills that they've learned immediately translate, with no need for any changes to cooperative play.
When they do choose to go online and play cooperatively, they don't feel like a newbie; they don't feel like they're being insulted by everyone around them. And because they're playing against AI, there really isn't anybody that you have to be vengeful towards; you can just have fun continuing to develop and advance your character.
The incredible thing we've found is that, when you then play versus, it just becomes really fun because of the kind of tactical, sporty challenge of it rather than... 'Cause the game isn't really about vengefully, continuously headshotting the same person over and over again. In fact, one of the things that we reward least in the game is just straight-out kills.
The game, in essence, bribes you whenever you do something that makes the game more fun for somebody else. If you're giving out ammunition, health, buffing people's weapons, laying down defense turrets, repairing the crane, escorting the defuser robot -- whenever you're doing things that make the game more fun for other people, that's when we give you the most experience points.
Those experience points unlock from an array of dozens of cool gadgets and items and tools and weapons and things that then make the game even more fun and add more depth; but the curve is much less steep than it was within Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, which, as everybody knows, was one of the most inaccessible games. I mean, I designed it! (Laughs) I remember.