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How the  Jagged Alliance 2  developers dealt with '90s gun culture

How the Jagged Alliance 2 developers dealt with '90s gun culture

August 27, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

"We'd get mail from people saying, 'Oh man, I loved your game,' and there'd be a photo of the guy's computer with a .45 caliber handgun leaning up against the keyboard."
- Jagged Alliance co-designer Ian Currie reflects on the disconnect between the developers of a combat-glorifying game and the people who play it.

Game industry veteran Darius Kazemi has written a book about the design and development of the turn-based tactical strategy game Jagged Alliance 2 for Boss Fight Books, and today he published an excerpt on Motherboard that offers some interesting insight into how the game drew upon -- and later shied away from -- contemporary gun culture and soldier of fortune fantasies.

"I remember the genesis was Ian being able to get four guys walking around his computer simultaneously," states Jagged Alliance co-designer Shaun Lyng. "I think mercenaries came up pretty quick and shooting came up pretty quick. Something involving a crew of people with guns."

The designers went on to embrace military trappings as a way to make the game stand out. And while Jagged Alliance didn't sell as well as its creators would have liked, it made fans of a number of hardcore military enthusiasts who demanded a sequel that was even more realistic.

The developers indulged them, but Currie made an interesting design decision: he added aliens to the game out of fear that more military realism would make Jagged Alliance 2 less fun to play, then subsequently removed those aliens to an optional "sci-fi" mode to let players customize their play experience.

"You come home from work and you want to play fantasy or sci-fi, right? Who wants to see anything realistic? I mean, playing mercenaries is an escape from your real life," Currie told Kazemi. "But I got convinced that I needed more escapism, and that's what was behind the sci-fi mode."

It's an interesting bit of insight into the development of a 15-year-old game, and remarkably poignant in light of the AAA market's fascination with lionizing modern military culture. You can read the full excerpt over on the Motherboard website, and purchase a copy of Kazemi's book from Boss Fight Books.

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