Wednesday, November 12

Further Notes on A Melding of Concepts

1up has posted an absolutely excellent interview with Prince of Persia devs Benn Mattes (producer), and Michael McIntyre (level designer). The interview is long, but covers a ton of topics, including interesting ideas on co-op design, and offers some truly great insight into the minds of these developers and the philosophy of Ubisoft Montreal. I would highly recommend reading the article. But for my purposes, the developers discuss at length the game's level design, which I also discussed in an article a couple of days ago.

Their explanations differ slightly from my own earlier conclusions, particularly the use of the term "linear," but I think the end result is the same. They explain themselves far better than I ever could, so. . .Commence Quotations!

Ben Mattes:
But not sandbox. We literally tried sandbox and it didn't work. We literally had level design that was fully beautified. It was shippable quality -- we had post effects, and everything was working in it. And we brought it to be playtested, and no one got any flow because they were overwhelmed with choice. You still had the ingredient-based controls: A to jump, B to swing off the ring. And yet they'd jump and land on a beam, and then they would just stop, because they didn't know, "Should I swing off of that pole or climb on that ledge or go over to that crack or climb up that wall or drop down to that beam?" So every step was slow, and we weren't getting that flow through the world that we wanted.

Michael McIntyre:
For acrobatics, we wanted them to be Prince of Persia-like, meaning they require inputs -- different inputs the whole way along, not like Assassin's Creed where you hold down buttons and you just flow and go. As soon as we knew we wanted that philosophy, the idea of an entirely open world wasn't working, so that was where we really had to decide to differentiate ourselves with a very controlled open world with a network of designed paths -- that's when things really started working for us on the design side.

Ben Mattes:
Yeah, when we made that decision to go to the network structure, everything just opened up to us. One of the great things about this network structure is I really believe we found the recipe -- I don't know if it's the only recipe, but it's a really good recipe -- for giving the player some of the freedom of an open world game, i.e., "Do I want to go there first or there first or there first?" putting a little more authorship into the hands of the player in terms of the experience they're going to have when playing the game, while maintaining the benefits of an on-rails, hold-your-hand linear game. Because we can more or less be guaranteed that every X number of minutes, you're going to have a relatively major set-piece type of experience, and you're going to encounter something spectacular, and we're going to push the story forward in an important way because of the way the world is organized.

We really think that fans of Drake's Fortune and God of War and Prince of Persia and all those linear action/adventure games who've never played a sandbox game, they're not going to walk into this game and suddenly feel overwhelmed by possibility, because they're still going to have the benefit of Elika's compass power, and the map structure, and the way the world is organized to have a more structured experience. But people who really like the sandbox games should hopefully feel like they're in control a little bit more, so they kind of get to dictate how the game unfolds -- and hopefully, they'll enjoy that element as well.

Interesting stuff, for sure. Ubisoft's priority was on retaining the spirit of Prince of Persia, which meant creating an environment that promoted acrobatic flow. The game hasn't come out yet, but based on everything I've seen and read, I think their final conclusion on level design will prove effective.

No comments:

Post a Comment