The Mexican city of Juarez is getting a bit of attention in games this year. Not only is Juarez the setting of the upcoming modern military-themed shooter Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2, but it's also in the name of the upcoming Call of Juarez, a shooter set in the Old West. The PC version of Call of Juarez has been in development for some time, but Ubisoft and Polish developer Techland are announcing today that the game will also arrive on the Xbox 360 this summer. To learn how Techland adapted this game of six-shooters and gunslingers to Microsoft's console, we caught up with Pawel Zawodny, the development director at Techland and producer on Call of Juarez.
GameSpot: The big news is that Call of Juarez, a game that was originally in development only for the PC, will launch on the Xbox 360 as well as on the PC as an enhanced version. Tell us about how this development came about.
Pawel Zawodny: Call of Juarez is based on the Chrome Engine that has been in development for seven years and has always been a platform for technologically enhanced products. When the Xbox 360 was released, we all quickly learned that it was not only a platform to compete with the PC in terms of technology (performance and graphics) but one with even more graphical potential. Recent first-person shooters released for the Xbox 360 also proved that gameplay on the gamepad can be as smooth and rewarding as with a PC mouse. All things considered, the two platforms that made the most sense for an FPS set in the Wild West were the Xbox 360 and PC.
Call of Juarez, with its "full akimbo" mode, also seemed ideal for consoles because of the two triggers that give you a true idea of what it's like wielding dual six-shooters. With the game nearing completion, it's clear the Xbox 360 is a perfect fit.
GS: What are the primary differences between the Xbox 360 and PC versions of the game? What's in the enhanced PC version of the game?
PZ: Well, almost everything has been enhanced in some way. The biggest difference will be noticeable in the visuals. We squeezed as much as possible from the Xbox 360's vertex and pixel shaders. There's high dynamic range lighting, hardware antialiasing, bump-mapping on almost everything, relief-mapping on many objects, subsurface scattering, just to mention a few technical terms.
Knowing that every Xbox 360 user has the same hardware, with three cores and an extremely fast graphics board, saved us a huge amount of time compared to the PC version. For a single title for the PC, you technically create a number of "games" that are somehow different depending on the user's hardware configuration.
After a number of focus tests done on a PC with a gamepad attached, it turned out that some levels had to be redesigned to better fit the console-style controls. Later tests on the console introduced further tweaks and changes.
GS: Will both versions of the game launch simultaneously in the US? We understand that the game is already available on the PC in Europe; how easy or difficult was it to port to the 360?
PZ: Yes, together with the Xbox 360 worldwide release, the game will also be released for the PC in the US. What is more interesting is that the US PC version will be different than the original release. The biggest change is the optimization for Windows Vista and DirectX 10. Of course, the visuals and performance of the game will benefit from this fact. It is going to be one of the few games to make use of the new platform.
The Xbox 360 is a perfect platform for developers, with its capabilities, performance, and supporting tools. This, plus good design of the engine and many talented, experienced engineers, made the development process easy.
There were many changes done during the development process for the Xbox 360 version. One of them is the animation system, which was built from the ground up because of the console's memory limitations. The new system had been designed so that all-new animations not only fit into the memory requirements but also looked much better and more realistic. A lot of things in the game had to be done completely differently, but almost every change resulted in a huge quality improvement.
GS: How will the 360 version of the game take advantage of the platform's unique strengths? Any plans for downloadable content, support for specific Xbox Live features such as competitive ladders, or anything else of that nature?
PZ: Yes, the Xbox 360's unique strengths are well utilized in Call of Juarez. Of course, the game features full support of Xbox Live for multiplayer, including leaderboards. Downloadable content for the game will include new multiplayer and single-player levels. For those who like challenges, we have also designed a number of really interesting achievements.
GS: Will both versions be identical in terms of content, or will either version have exclusive content? Will both offer some kind of online multiplayer?
PZ: There will be a lot of attractive additional content on the Xbox 360 and exclusive to this platform. We have added two additional single-player modes. One of them currently includes three additional levels, which may in the future be extended by downloadable content. The other is the duel-challenge mode, with a campaign based on dueling only. Both modes are unlocked by progressing through the game.
Both versions offer multiplayer, but on the Xbox 360, the players will be able to play a few additional modes and will be given a number of additional maps. One of the differences in the Xbox 360 version is the ability to ride horses in multiplayer.
When researching Call of Juarez and analyzing Wild West history, we had an idea to use well-known Western events as the background for some elements of the game. Unfortunately, there was no time for that in the original PC release. However, given more time with the Xbox 360 version, we have added a special multiplayer mode based on famous Wild West events, such as the 1899 Wilcox train robbery and the end of the Dalton gang.
GS: If both games have online play, do you have any plans to use Microsoft's Live Anywhere to let Xbox 360 players play alongside PC players simultaneously?
PZ: Unfortunately, no.
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Call of Juarez or about developing the game for consoles and the PC?
PZ: Go and play this game. If you are a fan of mature and ambitious story-driven games, you should not be disappointed. Let's face it, who wouldn't want to put themselves in the shoes of an Old West gunslinger?
GS: Thank you, Pawel.