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Prisoner of War - Facts & Screens

by Rainier on Dec. 12, 2001 @ 11:34 a.m. PST

Scheduled for release in early 2002, the game is currently in development for PlayStation 2, PC and other next generation platforms at independent game studio Wide Games. Gameplay continues to evolve with strong adventure gameplay mechanics making for a tense and suspenseful playing experience.

Set in 1941 across four German Prisoner of War (POW) camps (Salonika, Stalag Luft I, Stalag Luft III and Colditz Castle), players control four Allied Officers (British, French, Dutch and US) captured by the Germans. Each character is an expert escapee - specialising in different fields but all with the same goal.

Characters are controlled independently as they attempt to escape from their respective POW camps before ultimately meeting in Colditz - the Germans highest security ?escape-proof? camp - and co-operate in the most daring breakout of the war.

Using the powerful 3D Atlas engine, Prisoner of War will provide a visual feast for the player, utilising graphics and audio features to vividly recreate the unique nerve-wracking atmosphere of the camps during day and night. Each prison camp will be modelled in unprecedented detail with practically all characters and objects in the environment will be interactive, providing an incredible level of freedom and involvement.

The in-game characters are all specialists in the key skills needed to escape from POW Camps; from athleticism, to stealth, espionage, charm, and linguistics - all vital components of an escape plan and utilised in challenging missions.

The daring escapes feature dramatic action sequences, which can be of the player?s own devising; such as an escape using explosives, or flying out of a prison camp during an air raid in an improvised glider. At other times the drama will be less welcome - get discovered in a restricted part of camp and experience the wrath of the German guards. Even by using stealth techniques, whether in a restricted area or out after curfew, players are under constant threat of capture and punishment, keeping the suspense high at all times.

Work in progress includes a state-of-the-art Artificial Life engine that authentically creates behaviour patterns for the many prisoners and camp guards throughout the game. Created especially for the game, the A-life engine is an advanced potential field steering mechanism, inspired by the seminal "Boids" algorithms developed by the famous A-life researcher Craig Reynolds.

The A-life engine will create natural movement of both individuals and groups and enables the simulation of crowd behaviour that appears incredibly realistic. This is vital for creating a populated environment of believable characters that have to carry out the daily tasks of camp regime while also reacting to any escape attempts the player may take on.

The approach avoids excessive scripting of non-player characters (NPCs), and allows the NPCs to literally observe the environment around them, and react to changes dynamically.

Says Alastair Halsby, the Lead Designer of the game at Codemasters:
“The A-Life algorithms developed for Prisoner Of War are more complex than anything we’ve seen on consoles before – only the power of next generation hardware makes this possible. Our characters are autonomous agents. They sense many independent variables and come up with different, intelligent solutions to an ever-changing world, while reacting to each other as well.

“The end result for the player is the overwhelmingly immersive experience of being inside a dynamic and reactive environment with other characters that are keenly aware of you and your actions – essential for an escape adventure!”

Interestingly, the player’s character will also use the A-life system to work autonomously. If the player leaves the controls alone for a few seconds, the AI takes over and takes the character through his daily routine (eating, sleeping, going to roll-call, etc). This can be a useful mechanism for the player, who can concentrate on watching for opportunities to escape.

Prisoner of War will also use “flocking and herding” A-life, which allows groups of NPCs to move as a group in a believable fashion. The influences on NPCs are not just from static objects; the other NPCs also provide cohesive influences that cause those within a given range to group together. This mechanism leads to flocking behaviour, where the AIs are moving as a group with no fixed position within that group.

The efficient use of flocking AI will also be used to simulate flocks of birds, insects and other small creatures, which add to the overall graphical presentation of a real world environment throughout the game.

Codemasters is promising the “best in-game soundtrack ever” for its World War II stealth adventure game “PRISONER OF WAR”, currently in development for PlayStation 2, PC and other next generation platforms at independent game studio Wide Games.

Set to change developers and gamers’ perceptions and expectations of in-game music, Wide Sounds, the audio division of Wide Games, is using groundbreaking techniques to create the best example of a dynamic, interactive score for Prisoner of War. The tone, timing and style of the score changes and develops at the player’s pace depending on how the game is played.

On PC Prisoner of War’s sound track will be a showcase for how universal technologies, such as Microsoft's DirectMusicTM, can be used to maximum effect. Even more impressive is the proprietary sound engine Wide Sounds has created to emulate the effect on PlayStation 2, making Prisoner of War’s in-game audio adaptive to the unpredictable progress of the player through the game.

Wide Sounds understand that music in games is a powerful emotional and dramatic tool and as important as a soundtrack is to a movie. Indeed, the team includes a composer with experience in scoring movie soundtracks.

A movie soundtrack can be perfectly synchronised to the action because the medium is scripted and wholly linear. Prior to the adaptive systems devised by Wide Sounds for Prisoner of War, this has not been possible in video games. Prisoner of War not only does it, but it is a showcase of technical and creative audio excellence and ties the music so closely to the action that it is as effective as a movie soundtrack.

Prisoner of War captures the intrigue, danger and heroism of Allied escape attempts from prisoner of war camps during World War II, including Colditz - the Germans’ highest security “escape-proof” camp. Gameplay delivers a tense 3rd person adventure game where bravery, stealth and cunning will win the day.


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