WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank, and occupation!
I'm Pete Wanat, and I'm the executive producer from Universal Interactive Entertainment.
WP: Last time we looked at Wanted, it was a quick, three-level demo. Looks like you've expanded a few things. The adrenaline meter has been tweaked and expanded, and the curved bullets are now not nearly as overpowering as they once were. Can you elaborate a bit about the updates that GRIN has made to the game over the last two to three months?
PW: Sure. I think that when you show any game through the course of development, the game is never stagnant. It's always changing. So when we showed it at the event in San Francisco three months ago, we were in the process of doing focus tests, and we do focus tests in a variety of ways. We do them at the developer, at GRIN in Barcelona, where they bring in people directly there. We do focus tests in Los Angeles, and we do them up in Warner Bros. up in Seattle. We hire people to come in and play the game and write elaborate notes on what they like and what they didn't like, so the game is always a living, breathing entity and changes.
We're always tweaking things. Enemies are too tough, too easy, and we're always dialing back the dial and up the dial and really trying to find that "just right" porridge level so that we know that it's going to be the best possible experience for the player, and we do that in every aspect of the game, from movement speed to the amount of damage to the amount of weapon changes, to the amount of adrenaline. Adrenaline was always being tweaked and sort of going back and forth about how many adrenaline points there should be. There were schools of thought that adrenaline should be a lot harder to build up.
At the end of the day, the reason why we made the choices is always for two reasons. One: We want the game to be playable for the mass market consumer. "I've not played a lot of video games, and I'm playing 'Wanted.'" I want it to be accessible to that consumer. Two: You want to make sure that somebody who plays lots of games, somebody who's got multiple perks in Call of Duty and has played first-person and third-person shooters all the time, you need to make sure that the game isn't too easy for that player. We do that both in terms of the playability of how we ramp things up but also in terms of level difficulties. For instance, we have two modes of level difficulties that you can play right out of the box, and then we have a third, the Killer mode, which is incredibly difficult and really only meant for the most advanced players, and that's only unlockable after you beat the game on Assassin [difficulty mode].
WP: From a developer's standpoint, why make a difficulty level unlockable? If you've got a really hardcore player who's played a lot of first-person shooters and just really wants to get in there and blow stuff up, why not let them choose the challenge level that they want? Why make them step through an easier difficulty level just to unlock the game that they really want to play? After all, it is their $60 that they're putting down.
PW: I totally agree. I don't think that we've had unlocked harder difficulties in other games, but the reason why in this particular game we made those choices is because within Wanted, we're exploring new modes of gameplay. Curved bullets, you've never seen that before. We wanted even the most advanced player to learn how to do those mechanics before we made the game inherently difficult for them. We wanted you to understand how you use blind fire and how you chain cover and go from one object to another at a much quicker rate, so if we weren't introducing new gameplay mechanics that hadn't really been seen before in other games, then I think that argument is totally reasonable. Even if you're a really good player, you're not going to play it on the Killer mode and say that the mode sucks because it's too easy. I think that what you'll do is speed up the amount of time that you play the game and then you can open the Killer mode, and once you open the Killer mode, a lot of Achievements and a lot of other more hardcore gamer things are available in Killer mode.
Those are our carrots as a way to lead you to go back and play the game again. Replay value, going back to play the game, and getting different characters and different skins — we're constantly looking at ways so that if you want to continue to play the game, we're going to give you different ways of doing it so that it doesn't feel the same. We try to do that both in terms of the regular gameplay so that we constantly change up the gameplay for the player, but we also do that in terms of unlockable content as well as Achievements and Trophies.
WP: Wanted: Weapons of Fate is set up as a sequel to the movie, though one of the things that's prominently featured is that you have multiple levels set at The Fraternity in Chicago. Isn't there a worry that you may be retreading too much on the movie if you keep going back to the same locations? Why did you choose to reuse items in the movie instead of keeping the characters but not going back and revisiting locations?
PW: I think we have a number of levels. The majority of levels are unique, new locations. One of the things that we wanted to do was, when we say "going back," we're not going back to segments of time that occur during the movie. When we "go back," we're going back and showing you prequel elements, so when Wesley is talking to Pekwarsky and Wesley has lots of questions. If you saw the movie, you know that Wesley doesn't have the questions answered. What we wanted to do in the game is to provide the answers to those questions that anybody who watched the movie would say, like, "Why doesn't he just tell him he's his dad?"
So what we wanted to do was to answer those questions but do it in an interesting way. We didn't want to do the A-B-C-D storytelling. We wanted to jump around the make it more interesting and more compelling, so when Pekwarsky tells you, as Wesley, "When you were younger, your father did this," instead of just telling you what that was, you get a chance to go back and play as Cross in that section and see how the story unfolded at least in terms of how Pekwarsky is telling Wesley it unfolded.
Instead of just hearing the story, you get to play it, but those elements don't occur within the context of the movie timeline. They occur either before or after. The movie is tremendous, and there's no reason for us to f**k with the context of the movie. We want that movie to sit and stand alone as its own unit. Timur [Bekmambetov, director of "Wanted"] and those guys, they did an amazing job and the film's terrific, but what we want to do is play with elements before and elements after and do it in a unique way that gives those people who are playing the game answers to questions from the movie that they want answered.
WP: You mentioned unlockables. Let's talk briefly about unlockable characters and weapons. What weapons are available from the start? How do you handle graduating the player to new weapons? Can you pick up weapons off enemies? Are they earned? Are they simply given out as the story goes? I know we saw a mini-gun, we used a rifle and handgun, but how does a player acquire those weapons?
PW: One of the things that we wanted to get away from was this traditional weapon tree, where you get a pistol, then a shotgun, then a semiautomatic rifle and then an automatic rifle. What we wanted to do was, in the context of the film canon, the story line, when you get a weapon, that weapon is custom-made for you. One of the things is that as you go through the game, you get different weapons as you play as different characters, but as you advance in the story line, you'll be given new weapons because they're directly suited to that mission you're going on, so you don't "unlock" weapons per se, but you do get handed different weapons as you start new sections of the game because you need to have more powerful weapon upgrades.
There's no reason for us to add an Uzi or an AK-47 when you have the ability to take a pistol and curve the bullet around corners, you now no longer need guns that are that much greater. Pistols will work for you, although there is a section of the game where you play as Cross and maybe again as Wesley with the "Fire-Eaters," which are the dual MAC-10s that Cross uses.
WP: So you don't actually choose your weapon for each level. It's just selected for you.
PW: That's right.
WP: What about characters? We noticed in one of the levels you were demoing, you were playing as the Russian. How do you end up playing as these other characters, and do they have their own side stories, or is it simply a pretty skin?
PW: It's a skin, but the way that you get the skins is killing. Different bosses can be killed, and when you kill them, you unlock a skin from them. There are ones that will be hidden codes from the Blu-ray and DVD so you can go back and watch the movie and find codes from the film. Different retailers will have access to giving out different skins as well.
WP: Shifting a little bit, one thing we noticed is that although Wanted is multi-platform, today you were demoing it on the PS3. It seems to be common for developers to choose the 360 as a demo platform. Why choose the PS3? Is it simply convenience, or is the PS3 the main SKU that you're developing on and then porting to the other platforms? Is there any significance to that?
PW: The main reason why we choose to bring around the PS3 is we spent so much time early on bringing around the 360, and we constantly got questions about, "What are you doing about the PS3? Why didn't you bringing the PS3? Where's the PS3 version?" We're so proud of the way the game looks on the 360, PS3 and PC that we could have just as easily brought a PC build and been just as content showing that today. What we really wanted to do was change it up. We love the 360 and it's an amazing console, but we felt like we spent so much time early on demoing on it that people were asking why we never brought the PS3. For us, it was a matter of bringing the PS3 because nobody else is doing that. We're very proud. GRIN's tech works awesome on the PS3, so why not come out and show it off? For us, we're strutting GRIN stuff. They did a great job on the PS3, so we want to bring it out and show it to you.
WP: Another trend we've been seeing is that a lot of developers have been focusing their demo time on consoles, on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live. The number of PC demos has shrunk greatly over the past couple of months. Do you have any plans to do a PC demo? Is that something that's been talked about internally?
PW: We plan on doing demos for all of our major platforms. How those demos get released, that's more of a marketing call than a production call, but we're very comfortable with our demos on any of the platforms and feel like no matter which platform you choose for Wanted, you're going to get a great experience. We kept it consistent across all platforms so all that content is there, so if you play the PC or PS3 or 360, nobody's going to feel gypped, like they got less of an experience, and actually, I think in a lot of ways, using curved bullets with a mouse and keyboard provides some interesting new twists to that mechanic that maybe hadn't been seen in console. As a longtime player of PC games, I think that it's hardly the case of these new games skimping out on the PC demo; it's just more of the market dictating how people focus their energies.
WP: Is there anything about the game that we haven't talked about that you wanted to add?
PW: The game comes out on March 24, and you should go pre-order it!
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