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Exclusive 'Die Hard : Nakatomi Plaza' Developer Q&A

by Rainier on April 20, 2002 @ 12:23 p.m. PDT

Yesterday we posted 30 or so screens pulled from the 'Die Hard : Nakatomi Plaza' game we are currently testing ... today we serve up an interview with "Bryan Ekman", the Art Director on the Die Hard project. Bryan seems to drop hints that we may actually expect more Die Hard games ... and plenty more ..
1. As matter of introduction, tell us who you are and what your involvement was in the development of Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza.

Whips out his - "HI! My name is Bryan Ekman"- name tag. From day one I have taken on the Art Director role, overseeing a small yet highly talented group of people. Early on I worked in the trenches alongside everyone else, and for nearly eight months was integral to development. Burdens of management pulled me out ¾ of the way through and I assumed a more director route.

2. How long did the development take and how many people were involved in the creation.

The team has fluctuated throughout the project, at its peek about 16, average 12 dedicated individuals.

3. Right off the bat, you notice that the game has a large amount of in-game movie sequences. Any specific reason why? Also, the extensive footage did not influence the size of the game. How did you manage to pull that off ?

It was a strategic move to maximize the amount of story while overcoming hundreds of gameplay issues involving the player and ability to experience the same content first hand. In the end we struck a balance between gameplay story and cinematic story. The saving grace that allowed us to still include so much actually gameplay was our in house scripting system developed by our lead programmer and executed by our level designers.

4. Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza seems to follow the movie story line pretty closely. Can you tell us a few of your own "additions" (if any) that were implemented in the game, and weren't based on the movie?

I'd say about 60% of gameplay, not counting the cinematics is original content. The fight to save Argyle in the parkade is a great example, and dealing with the SWAT throughout several levels. Even when we're on a floor that has elements from the movie, we've executed them differently for gameplay reasons.

5. The game uses the Monolith's LithTech engine. How did you like working with it? Who decided to go with the LithTech engine and why? Did the engine have any shortcomings or limit you in any way?

We pretty much did anything to get this deal and Lithtech was a perfect match since Fox had a long-term agreement with Monolith. The engine has its shortcomings and strengths, I strongly believe we did the best possible job and made a great game from what was available.

6. Are there any things you would like to have added to the game but didn't make it for various reasons? And what are those reasons?

There are always things you want to add to tweak, that said we're happy with end product. The biggest thing would have been more polish on existing systems. We came to realize our full potential only near the last 6 months of development and we could have easily used more time to solidify individual scenes. But that's probably true for 90% of developers.

7. One of the interesting features in the game is the use of SoundMAX SPX "Animated Audio". Care to explain to our readers what SoundMAX SPX "Animated Audio" is all about, why you decided to use it, and how it's being used in the game?

SoundMAX was a late yet extremely cool addition to Die Hard. The folks at Analogue Devices have created a really amazing algorithm that allows virtually endless dynamic audio content. Die Hard uses SPX for the player's footsteps. So essentially you'll rarely hear exactly the same sound.

8. Apart from the occasional bloodstains on the floor and walls, there isn't a lot of "gore" in the game. The dead bodies and blood seem to dissolve after a few seconds. Any specific reason why? Was it a strategic move to make the game more appealing to a variety of audiences?

Until Chris Miller joined us we had a 'Teen' rating, so no blood, we scrambled near the end to put in as much as possible, but realistically gore is a small part of gameplay. Die Hard is a mass-market game and we constantly thought about hey what's going to happen when my mom plays this game. That held true for swearing, though we let a lot of stuff slip in that's - well right from the film. Disclaimer: It's not our fault if your parents ban you from the computer after hearing Yippy Kay Yay [explicative].

9. Since the game is based on the Bruce Willis movie and endorsed by 20th Century Fox, why don't we hear Bruce Willis' voice as John McClane? Does the game feature any of the voices from the original cast?

Money. Sad but true. Fox has never been able to justify the costs and legal expenses and after hearing the estimated totals we wholeheartedly support their decision. Reginal Vel Johnson reprises his role as "Al Powell", and has done an absolutely amazing job of recreating his performance in the original film.

10. Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza does not seem to have multi player support. Was it not possible, or were there other reasons?

Focusing on single player allowed us to create a much better game overall than splitting our time up with multiplayer. The numbers on NOLF's multiplayer, Lithtech's poor net code and timeframes also played a large part in the decision.

11. Since Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza is based on the first movie of the trilogy, does this mean we can expect 2 more Die Hard games? If yes, when? If no, why not?

Nakatomi Plaza proves that Die Hard is perfect for the FPS genre. We've paved the starts of a road together and Fox will most likely continue down it.

12. Thanks Brian for taking the time to answer questions!

You are more than welcome.

End Of Transmission.

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