Lead designer/director of development Wojciech Pazdur gives up the goods.
While Titanfall may be leading the charge on story-based online shooting, The Farm 51’s Get Even is looking at a wholly next-generation specific use for the same concept. This isn’t to say it isn’t focusing on single-player, but with a much stronger human element. It’s also mired in a far more grayish reality than your typical shooter experience, with realistic and gorgeous visuals to boast.
GamingBolt had a chance to speak to lead designer and director of development Wojciech Pazdur about the project, including the intertwining of multiplayer and single-player in a way that satisfies both crowds.
Gamers have already labeled the game as a ‘next gen shooter meets Dark Souls.’ What are your thoughts on this? Did Dark Souls served as a source of inspiration for Get Even?
Wojciech Pazdur: It’s funny, but I had no idea about blending of singleplayer and multiplayer in Dark Souls until I started my research on this subject. It came mainly from two sources: first was general idea to play with presence of other players in the game world instead of simply putting them in competitive or cooperative scenario. Second, I was thunderstruck after playing The Journey on PS3.
For quite a long time, prior to playing the game, I’m trying not to read anything about it to not bias my first-look impressions on it. So I didn’t know what the Journey is all about, with exception that there is some unusual exploration, unique art style and experimental storytelling. When I run it for a first time, I saw some characters walking around and after few people I realized: they don’t look like AI NPCs.
They got to be humans – cause their movement is totally unpredictable, they change their mind, they make mistakes, they sometimes get lost and sometimes are smarter or more skilled than you – all of this in something what I considered as story-driven experience. And that was it. I knew that this feeling of second human presence is exactly what we should put into Get Even world, just willing to mix it with more challenging gameplay and more realistic story.
"If you've seen “Source Code” or “The Butterfly Effect” you may know, that by entering your (or someone's) memory you can alter it's outcome. It's part of both storytelling and gameplay blend in Get Even that sometimes when you see the moment which is frozen in time, where one guy is going to shoot another, you can make sure that he doesn't miss by putting additional bullet into victim's chest, stand on barrel's end to get shot on yourself or try to push some other character into bullet's trajectory."
Get Even presents the player with two different narrative directions. Let us talk about the single player experience first. What can you tell us about the story and how do you plan to make it different from other shooters out there?
Wojciech Pazdur: I believe the whole construction of Get Even story is very different from other action titles. We have two story campaigns of two ultimate foes, each of them tells about the same events from the opposite perspective, using other narration methods and disclosing other secrets. Every action has very different meaning depending on which side you’re playing, and moreover, we’re not answering many of the questions directly.
Using interactive, environmental, and gameplay storytelling elements, we have almost no cutscenes. We leave discovering most of the fable pieces to players, spreading clues, story characters and retrospective flashes all around the game and it’s up to player to decide how deeply he wants to dig into someone’s fate and to match all puzzle parts.
Judging the by the game’s summary, the game will offer multiple choices/routes to the player. Can you please explain with an example as to how this will play out?
Wojciech Pazdur: If you’ve seen “Source Code” or “The Butterfly Effect” you may know, that by entering your (or someone’s) memory you can alter it’s outcome. It’s part of both storytelling and gameplay blend in Get Even that sometimes when you see the moment which is frozen in time, where one guy is going to shoot another, you can make sure that he doesn’t miss by putting additional bullet into victim’s chest, stand on barrel’s end to get shot on yourself or try to push some other character into bullet’s trajectory.
And each of these chooses has it’s consequences in alternate version of this memory which is going to be played later. There is not hundreds of these moments in the whole game, but each one is very meaningful.
Get Even will allow other players to jump in the game and act as enemies to the main player. In this case how are you controlling the narrative for the main player and also for the one who appeared all of a sudden?
Wojciech Pazdur: This is absolutely the key of the whole game structure – plot, gameplay, mechanics and even visual effects – they’re all related to the fact, that we have two story campaigns interfering with each other and pushing their heroes into some interactions. So it’s hard to describe the opposite narrative schemes in details without revealing the info about the most important events and gameplay elements. But whatever side you’d choose as an example, it’s main character has certain goal, very personal and very related to the bad situation he’s into.
Unfortunately, his goal is exact opposite of the second campaign objective, as a whole. Or at least it seems so at the beginning. So playing your campaign, you’re supposed to prevent second side from reaching his ultimate goal, and by gameplay mechanics you have to defeat or stop him or disturb him in each episode. Sometimes by combat, sometimes by reaching story objectives that are pain in the ass for your opponent or by discovering the secrets he’d like to keep hidden.
"For me the most interesting experience in this game is coming from the fact that you never know who are you fighting with and what tactics to take. Then the main reward for players, brave enough to not disable the “Allow others to explore your memories” option, is ability to play against the best possible “AI” in the game – the real humans who turned into your story opponents."
How do you plan to award players who will allow other players to enter their realities? I am sure you must be willing to encourage players to do since that is how the game is supposed to be played?
Wojciech Pazdur: By default, Get Even allows others to enter your world. For me the most interesting experience in this game is coming from the fact that you never know who are you fighting with and what tactics to take. Then the main reward for players, brave enough to not disable the “Allow others to explore your memories” option, is ability to play against the best possible “AI” in the game – the real humans who turned into your story opponents. The only good reason to disable this option is willing to make the difficulty level much more flat during the whole game or simply to not be pushed into the demand of showing respect to your enemies.
I love single-player action games, but I played them so many times, that I need only few minutes to learn all patterns that my opponents are using when trying to defeat me. This reduces the adrenaline level, because everything in my approach to the enemies can be somehow calculated or optimized by me, even unconsciously. In system testing theory it’s called “black box” – the user doesn’t need to know how system works internally, but he can quickly guess what to do after seeing it’s patterns. The more repetitive is the pattern, the more our brain tries to “trick it”. Who doesn’t realize after few encounters, that every last enemy in a wave can be taken out if we simply aim 20 cm over his cover and wait until he pops his head above the barrier?
And important thing coming from psychology is that by constant triggering analytical part of our mind we’re reducing the usage of emotions. If game is less predictable, cause the characters are not moving in patterns, we feel presence in the world much deeper, not only because it’s “more realistic”, but also because our brain not tries to analyze the schemes and can focus more on emotional aspects. For some reason, the most ass-kicking moment I’ve experienced when playing last year games was this tiny second, when in “The Last of Us” I tried to nervously reload my weapon, then I heard the empty ammo clip sound and my enemy jumped out of the cover, screaming at me “Huh, click-click?” I was rolled out over the ground by this action as I never expected it may happen. And I believe Get Even, by placing into your game some enemies who can be both smarter and more stupid than you, who may play tricks with you or simply lame, can deliver this kind of feeling at much broader scale.
Am I correct in assuming that the game won’t have a separate multiplayer mode?
Wojciech Pazdur: At this moment we don’s see any need to make typical separate multiplayer mode. I personally think that adding so-called “multiplayer option” to every game no matter what is a real curse of development business. Even if you are a triple-A team and you don’t need to worry about the workforce in the office, it always should mean something more than just making additional content.
You can’t assign half of your team on new gameplay mode without harming the rest of the project – even if your team is big enough, trying to combine two different games into one package always somehow affects each other. And the key problem is not that separate multiplayer can’t be any good, the problem is it can be unnecessary, stealing from your focus, best parts of technology, people skills and so on.
I love playing multiplayer in many games, but there is many titles that simply doesn’t need multiplayer at all – think Uncharted, Dead Space, GTA, The Last of Us – is multiplayer making the core of the game any better? Of course it adds a lot to the value for money aspect of the product, and I’m sure there are players who appreciate having more content or simply getting some fun from this part, but I prefer to either keep 100% of team on making as good main mode as possible (especially when it’s not too simple or straightforward to be made) or to lower the price of final game instead of promising additional modes.
"Scanning of photorealistic environments and characters for games was my personal obsession for quite long time, as a 3D artist I've been trying it more than 10 years ago, starting from analog cameras and reconstruction of 3D meshes from photos by hand or with help of custom-written scripts in 3ds max and Maya. Finally proper tools and software appeared in last years to make possible 3D scanning on broader scale, and with next-gen console platform incoming it became clear that finally there is a moment where we can really think about making the huge art elements out of it."
Photo-realistic visuals is something Get Even boasts of. What can you tell us about the technology and research that is going on into making the same?
Wojciech Pazdur: What we use to build the gameplay, netcode and user interface is nothing particularly sophisticated – we have Unreal Engine with couple of common middlewares, everything proven and stable enough to let us focus on utilizing the most unique part: the visuals and assets pipeline. Having Get Even concept in heads, for couple of years we’ve been looking for the formula that allows us reach the maximum photo-realism and at the same time is flexible enough to be used by not so big team.
Scanning of photorealistic environments and characters for games was my personal obsession for quite long time, as a 3D artist I’ve been trying it more than 10 years ago, starting from analog cameras and reconstruction of 3D meshes from photos by hand or with help of custom-written scripts in 3ds max and Maya. Finally proper tools and software appeared in last years to make possible 3D scanning on broader scale, and with next-gen console platform incoming it became clear that finally there is a moment where we can really think about making the huge art elements out of it.
Mostly thanks to our custom solutions for in-game optimization that makes possible running the computation demanding and data heavy scanned locations even on quite typical gaming platform. Right now usage of 3D scans by us is no-brainer for at least 3 reasons. First, it makes Get Even very distinct, attractive and believable. Second, there is nothing more immersive for virtual reality systems than allowing user to explore the as photo-realistic environments as posible.
And Get Even is very oriented toward VR devices as Oculus, as the game covers the subject of traveling between different levels of reality, including virtual ones. And last, but not least, it perfectly fits the attempts to ask player the question “What is real?” which is the main mystery of the game. We’ve released trailer taglined “What is real?” which has been received as the question about the difference between the CG and filmed visuals, but it reaches much deeper into game structure, cause this is the query that player, his avatar and his enemies will be asking many times during the play.
Talk to us a bit about the weapons and gadgets that players can expect in the game. What kind of customization options are you guys planning to provide?
Wojciech Pazdur: Weapons and gadgets in Get Even are very un-typical and connected to the stories of both game heroes, so we’d keep their description a little mysterious until the key characters will be publicly depicted. Playing both sides you’re going to have quite different experience, cause instead of making weapons and skills symmetrical for equal balance, we’re rather placing the complementary solutions into players hands.
When Black is using corner-shooting weapon to be able to shoot from cover, his Red-controlled opponents won’t be likely picking up the same guns, but instead they have available completely other tools to smoke him out from his hideout. Usually one player fights against many enemies and his arsenal, gadgets and special skills have to support it. Every campaign have certain moments where you can play only by yourself, outside of player vs player missions and mechanics present there are also totally different – you won’t discover them without playing both campaigns.
The game is due only for PS4, Xbox One and PC. Given that PS3 and Xbox 360 have an install base of more than 150 million, what was the inspiration of not bringing the game to them?
Wojciech Pazdur: It’s simply memory and computing limitation – our visuals can work well on 2-3 years old gaming PC in 60 FPS, but they’re too complex for tech capabilities of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Technically we can display them on any hardware, but we’re using so many unique texture data, that on previous generation consoles it would look very ugly or require the disk space not reachable on Xbox 360 DVDs (PS3 Blu-Rays would work, though).
With the resolution/frame rate debates being the hot topic these days and with more and more gamers expecting next gen games to run at native 1080p/60fps, do you think you will be able to hit that on the PS4 and Xbox One?
Wojciech Pazdur: Technology fully allows for it, but I’m not sure if we’ll be pushing this direction. I’ve already played Get Even in 60 FPS even on not so powerful PC rigs, and have to say, that feeling is a little bit… odd. Cause of extreme realism of environments, the final effects leads to concerns similar to high frame rate perception issues in 48 FPS movies or TV broadcast series and makes the scene look a little bit unreal. We have to address it, anyway.
Furthermore, from a development perspective, will it be easier to hit 1080p/60fps on the PS4 compared to the Xbox One?
Wojciech Pazdur: Not sure yet, finally all is going to depend on netcode efficiency and texture streaming which are not being yet tested on new consoles.
What are your thoughts on the PS4’s unified memory architecture? How has that helped into developing the game on the PS4?
Wojciech Pazdur: It’s too early to judge now, at the very beginning previous generation of console seemed to have advantages and bottlenecks in different areas than it finally appeared to occur. And we didn’t test all graphical engine aspects yet, as parts of it are still under heavy construction.
"We have some cool gadgets to play with in both story campaigns, and Kinect looks perfect as an optional interface for controlling some non combat related gameplay elements. But we don't want to make these control schemes too invasive, generally player interface in Get Even is aimed to be as transparent as it can be."
There is a lot of confusion surrounding the Xbox One’s eSRAM. Some developers have claimed that it’s a memory hog whereas others believe that it can be used for texture streaming. How are you guys taking advantage of the same?
Wojciech Pazdur: We hope it will help with streaming, but I won’t sign under this before I’ll see it in action on some huge level with final content in place.
Are you planning to utilize next gen features like PS4’s touch pad Xbox One’s Kinect to further enhance gameplay of Get Even?
Wojciech Pazdur: Yes, very likely. We have some cool gadgets to play with in both story campaigns, and Kinect looks perfect as an optional interface for controlling some non combat related gameplay elements. But we don’t want to make these control schemes too invasive, generally player interface in Get Even is aimed to be as transparent as it can be.
The Farm 51 have always pushed ahead in developing new IPs. Last year’s Deadfall Adventures was a letdown for adventure fans. What kind of lessons have you learned from that and how will that contribute into making Get Even a better game?
Wojciech Pazdur: Deadfall Adventures is very important milestone for our team and company, but of course production-wise and with relation to design we had to learn some tough lessons. And Get Even is a result of them. There is extreme focus on keeping the project scope as tight as it should be, to put the most attention on important quality factors there is no separate multiplayer, almost no cinematic cutscenes, much more effective art production system (with scans in several days we can create things that in classic approach would take a months).
Story and gameplay are being implemented by one team, not via cutscene and design groups separately like in most of modern productions. Fortunately for us, today couple of games already shown, that you don’t really need certain elements that was considered as necessary few years ago when we started working on Deadfall, cause of mainstream and retail market requirements – in 2011 nobody imagined mass market driven action shooter without many multiplayer options, cinematics, epic scripted scenes and lot of character talks.
Get Even moves away from the mainstream, so making it more indie game and orienting it mostly at digital distribution, we can get rid of couple of so-called production values and spend much more time on polishing the basic experience.
When do you plan to show more of the game?
Wojciech Pazdur: As soon as possible. Meaning as soon as next elements can significantly beat up what we’ve already presented. Definitely next few weeks there will be some new cool stuff to share.
Thank you for your time.
Wojciech Pazdur: Thanks!