The Order: 1886, Interview With CEO/Creative Director '' weerasuriya '' - Games Weekly

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Friday, October 31, 2014

The Order: 1886, Interview With CEO/Creative Director '' weerasuriya ''

The interior environments look so incredibly curated and full of detail; that’s amazing to see. What’s the process of building up an average room? Not necessarily a big showpiece such as Westminster Abbey with its ceiling, but just your average room in The Order: 1886 ?

You mean how long it takes? It’s a long process. Pretty much everything we do, exteriors, interiors… We never veer off the same process purely because we don’t want one point in the game to feel less than the other one. As far as the research, and everything, we do research and detail on every environment. I think that Westminster took as much work and time as the hospital. It’s purely because the detail comes in building the place afterwards. So actually, the building time for Westminster was harder for the little things we had to do, but the research leading up to it is pretty much the same.

The half-breed creatures are really interesting because they talk  to you was that driven by the narrative, or was there an effect you wanted to have in the gameplay by having them talk to you?

It’s by the narrative, first and foremost, and it helped the gameplay quite a bit. The idea of the half-breeds are these half-humans; it was important for us to build it in such a way that they felt human enough and you could relate to [them]. They have emotions, but they’re your enemies. There’s no doubt about that. Having them talk gave them an eeriness…

You can do a lot with a character to make them feel scary, but something that is that powerful and speaks to you is often scarier than the most scary thing you can ever do. Like, you know, the power of reason for something that’s at the top of the food chain if there’s something that can reason as well as you do and is as strong as you, it becomes way scarier than anything else.

What’s the lore behind its transformation? We see him initially as almost a recognisable human, and then he transforms in this sort of American Werewolf sequence his arms extending and so on. What’s the narrative behind that?

We talk about two types of lycans. We have the elders, the older type of lycan they have the ability to be controlled about the way they are. The transformation is something the body goes through purely when they need that strength, and they need to be who they naturally are by birth. The interesting thing about the transformation is there are no gimmicks. It’s a one-to-one transformation of the topology of the whole character, which actually transforms from human to lycan and back, if you want. It’s fun to do in games. We couldn't do it in the past and now we can.

The idea behind it is that they show their true colours when they need to, but they’re part of us, part of society. You see these humans. And that human specifically happens to be a half-breed. So it was interesting to see that whole idea of seeing a cannibal eating bodies, and it was feeding itself.

How much did you have to iterate on its design to make it work with the gameplay ?

We iterated quite a bit on it. There were three stages to it: the writing; deciding what our lycans are; deciding what they do and how they behave. Then that writing goes to the concept guys. They do an unbelievable job we went through a long period to build the lycan. We actually got people from outside the team to just input some ideas because we wanted to go all around the place to get as many ideas as possible.

All the while we wanted to make sure that it feels like it’s something that could’ve been real if it existed. Half-breeds are abominations they change like the elephant man. So we went through that whole concept phase of fine-tuning it and finding the thing that fits the narrative.

Once we found the thing that fits the narrative we built it in-game. We started realising what works and what doesn't. Can we really make him, like, 12 foot tall? It’s tough to make it… Sometimes you basically try to figure out where you want to stop.

Luckily for us, because the game was now written completely without thinking what the enemy could be, I was able to at least know at the beginning if the lycans were a certain way. They were first written as nine feet tall, and that’s how they ended up.

It was a cool process, but there were three clear stages: writing, building the first concepts, and building the model and trying to figure out the gameplay with it. It worked out.

You have assassination stealth missions are you always trying to track down a particular target or is it more varied than that ?

 It’s diverse. I can’t give you a single example. Stealth is used basically when you don’t want to be seen in those areas; you don’t want to be heard. You’ll have different ways of using stealth in different missions actually. You can kill people while you're being stealthy or you can try not to; the scenarios are pretty diverse when it comes to stealth.

You're not penalised for killing people rather than sneaking past them ?

I won't say penalised but you have to be careful how you do it. If you go all-out and try to kill somebody you might not be able to finish the game. If you’re found out because you just tried to blast through everything, more likely than not you’ll probably get caught.

Let’s get technical: the lighting looks strikingly different to games we’ve seen before. Has the increased realism [of PS4] changed the way designers used lighting cues? Traditionally as gamers we’ve been directed by a gaudy glowing green light somewhere…

Yeah it has. In so many ways. It changes the way designers also think about the layout of a level. You can’t always just put a beacon somewhere and tell the players that’s where they need to go. You’re going to break that realism that emotion you’re trying to build. And suddenly people are going to be completely out of there…

We tried as much as possible to reduce the number of things we do with lighting, and also UI as well. We try to minimise UI as much as possible in the game. It’s important. It’s changed the way we light. We try to light as real as technically possible, but at the same time keeping in mind when and how we need to go in the game. At the same time it’s collaborative with the designers needing to be smart about building something that doesn't require that gaudy green light. I can understand that in some ways, but I don’t think it’ll work in our game.

It does its job, in other games…

It does its job, exactly… It’s just that we are very different. We’re trying to not break the realism and we try not to break it as much as possible.

The Order has really strong cinematic elements, and sometimes that’s associated with a slightly easier learning curve or a slightly easier difficulty than a game that doesn't have a lot of cutscenes or QTEs. What’s your approach to the difficulty as a whole ?

When you start a game, and especially with a new IP, you have to get people comfortable with what you’re trying to build. You’re not building a one-to-one clone of something. Yes people are used to the analogue [sticks], the way it works, the way the triggers work. At the same time we need to give them a bit of a ramp up.

So when it comes to difficulty at the outset of the game, we try to be a little smart about how we push all the different mechanics on to people. To tell you the truth, you don’t want to make a difficult game for the sake of making a difficult game. You want to make a game that feels right for what you’re trying to achieve. If a kill feels like nothing, like if you run up to it and it feels like ‘that wasn't hard’, it doesn't make an enemy significant enough that you care about it.

And if it’s too hard it makes you feel like you just can’t do it. You have to find the balance in between. I don’t think the cinematics makes the game easier compared to games that don’t have cinematics; I think it’s a question of scenarios and weapons. Because we switch scenarios so often it’s not an all-out shooter and it’s not an all-out stealth it’s not one thing all the way through. It allows us to actually have certain things that some players will find easy. People who love shooting will find those [bits] easy, then you can go into stealth and you have to be more careful.

Then there’s the QTE side. They aren't just QTEs, they are those branching mechanics that become hard because you’re following the action. You’re getting slow-downs, you have to choose your target point of attack…

All of those actually bring a sense of difficulty for each of those missions for different players and that’s the fun part. It’s knowing that no single player well, some guys are good at everything… but every player will find their niche and they’ll be able to experience things very differently.

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