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Spec Ops: The Line Interview: Yager On Call Of Duty & Delays

Simon Miller

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We sit down with Yager's producer on Spec Ops: The Line, Francois Coulon about multiplayer.

Published on Apr 27, 2012

The question for all multiplayer games: how do you compete with Call Of Duty?

Of course we respect them and what they’re doing and what they’re doing is really good. Is it an influence? Of course. Is that a conscious or sub-concious influence? I don’t know this.

We have played it, of course, because those people put it together and took it to that level so there will be a level of influence somehow. With that said, we have to sit down and think what can we bring to the table that’s going to be different.

Obviosuly we have the Dubai setting which can be really crazy and we have the sand gameplay which can really affect things and it’s unique from those other games.

You’ve seen the avalanches and sandstorms and it’s pretty different. It’s also important that it’s four vs four because that was a design decision for a long time.

We wanted to push thie idea of squad based spirit in the multiplayer and, to be honest, I don’t have 31 friends to play with. But four guys I don’t have to play with people I don’t know.

So this is something that is a strong design choice and the maps are a little bit smaller – it stays away from the frustration too. I don’t want to get onto a map with 32 guys and then ‘BAM’. I’ve already been killed by some 13-year old teenager from Florida [laughs]!

I think that’s what we’ve managed to do here: it’s much more intimiate  and there is a low barrier to entry. You just discovered it – it’s pretty easy to play.

That’s what we’re trying to bring: the setting, much more intimate battles and very team orientated. It’s even like turrets. They’re so powerful, but without a guy to cover your back you’re going to be killed. It’s a small thing, but it all adds up.

Can having small squads still attract a big multiplayer audience?

The fact we’ve made it four on four it forces you to be a small group and when you’re talking on a headset to your other team you’ll know who you’re talking to and be able to create those relationships.

We want it to be very accessible so people can jump right in and get that communication and teamwork going and have a lot of fun within that gameplay experience. It feels very fresh when you jump into it because a lot of the games out there have a similar feeling.

There’s that disorientation, feeling a little overwhelmed, being scared by people with massive ranks who are kicking your ass. Even if there are people who are higher rank than you in this game, I feel like it’s balanced well enough with your friends or compete strangers and still compete how you want to. 

What are the benefits of ranking up against keeping the game balanced and accessible?

Balancing just comes from playing it extensively and making sure that as we go forward we support it as best we can. As soon as we feel like there’s an exploit we can just tweak it so it’s really about keeping it balanced post-launch. If we’ve made something too powerful or something like that, we’ll jump in and change it. 

And for the players who are out there that are going to sit up the first few nights and get to rank 45 they will get some cool advantages like an extra perk and unlocked some of the more cooler perks.

There’s lots of stuff like that – you can show up on a different place on the mini-map or run during the sandstorms which you can’t usually so there are little advantages here and there.

In our playtests, though, and we’ll have someone who’s level 45 and someone who’s pretty decent at videogames come in at level 1 or 2 and people able to hold their own.

The options of what they can do are lower, but the way we’ve balanced the amount of damage you take and if someone is really taking advantage of the cover system – which is something we really want to push – they can easily stand their own ground and not get completely destroyed. 

So what about this sand mechanic, how does it ties into multiplayer?

It’s much more than in single-player so here we wanted to push it. It really brings something different and although it’s the same sand mechanics as the single-player there’s much more of it.

One of the things you’ll probably remember from the single-player would be the sand storms roling in and causing crazy destruction and parts of buildings falling apart and that’s all for the big narrative experience.

In multiplayer there are a few things that happen similar to that but we’ve designed in a way that it changes the layout of a map. So it may cut off some paths or open a new area.

We wanted the sand storms to affect the actual gameplay, your accuracy, how far you can see – we wanted it to change the way you’re playing. If you’re a sniper and you’ve only got 30 seconds to complete an objective, you’ve got to charge in and find the guys.

You’ve got take action because you can’t just sit back snipe. You’re useless at that point. We thought integrating that into the gameplay and introducing that in the multiplayer was pretty intrical. 

We always knew the sandstorms were going to change gameplay and we really wanted to push so it would affect your playstyle. You’ve got to change something when it comes and it actually is a lot of fun. At one minute you’re in cover and the next you’re creeping around with people popping out of the sand which is cool.

Is the delay linked to multiplayer at all?

We always antincapted having multiplayer. When we set out to make a game in the military shooter genre it’s pretty standard out there and we felt like we were up to the task.

We just wanted to do something that was a bit fresher and gave you a different feel. From a narrative standpoint, we wanted to bring a little bit fo what we had there into the multiplayer so that’s where the factions come in.

So there’s the Damned – you have John Conrad from the single-player and that’s his batallion from the 33rd – and then you have the Exiles who mutiny against him. And we don’t talk about that much in the single-player. It’s a subtle tie-in. 

Considering it's eight-player, third-person and squad based, is there a sense that you're having to compete against Gears?

There’s always going to be comparisons because of what we are, so there will always be Gears, Uncharted and those games are awesome. We love them as much as anybody else. We just hope people play ours and get as into it as they are with those games. 

 

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