The silver-screen secret agent known as James Bond has been quashing evil conspiracies, using cutting-edge gadgets, and getting all the girls for decades. And he's headed to a video game console near you in the form of James Bond: Quantum of Solace, a new action game based on the upcoming motion picture starring the latest Bond actor, Daniel Craig. We sat down with Treyarch executive producer Garrett Young to discuss the game from top to bottom as we prepare for its release next week.
GameSpot: We understand that the game is being built using the powerful Call of Duty 4 engine. What has using this technology let you do with the character, setting, and game?
Garrett Young: Yes, the COD4 engine from Infinity Ward served as the basis upon which we built Quantum of Solace. Their game was looking so good early in development that we leapt at the chance to utilize its technology as the foundation for our game.
The COD4 engine gave us a huge head start on development, allowing my team to get our build and test levels up and running very quickly, and allowing us to focus our development time on gameplay iteration rather than the underlying plumbing behind the game. We then created a completely different experience with different characters, all-new environments, AI, and new features like "cover combat" and our "takedown" system. We would not have been able to do it in time without their help.
GS: James Bond is a legendary motion picture character, but he hasn't always done well in the video game world. How are you making sure the game does justice to the reinvented Daniel Craig version of Bond while remaining an enjoyable video game?
GY: James Bond definitely has a long, rich history, and we were all excited to have the opportunity to build the first-ever Bond game for Activision. We've seen all the movies, read all of Fleming's books, and discussed with the filmmakers at length how to most effectively portray this new "rebooted" Bond in our game.
I loved GoldenEye, but I'm not sure why the other Bond games may or may not have achieved great reviews. James Bond is the ultimate secret agent--"the man every man wants to be, and every woman wants to be with." In short, he is the perfect character for a video game.
To me, it comes down to prioritization and focus. We as a team believe in getting the core gameplay experience right first before expanding out. Tactically, that means we knew we needed to nail down controls (shooting, reticule speed, button layout), camera, enemy AI, level design, cover combat, weapons, and the other action gameplay elements before we expanded onto the other features of the game.
Game developers are creative people--we always have ideas, and we always want to implement them all. This team had great discipline in choosing the right things to focus on in this first Bond game from our company.
GS: Give us an outline of the story we'll play through in the game--it's not just a direct translation of the movie, correct? We understand, for instance, that the game will feature areas from the Quantum of Solace motion picture as well as from Casino Royale.
GY: The movie Quantum of Solace is the first true sequel in Bond movie history, as it picks up 15 minutes after Casino Royale ends. Our game covers the story of both movies, so we had a lot of interesting scenes and beautiful environments from which to create great gameplay experiences for the game.
One interesting anecdote: You may have heard that we include a scene in our game that got cut out of Casino Royale (the fight on the train to Montenegro). Since they didn't use that scene, we were able to take "creative liberty" with the actor we used for the boss at the end of this level.
GS: The Call of Duty 4 engine did a fantastic job of rendering intense firefights in a smooth, fluid manner without a hitch, but that game was all about a full-on war. Tell us about some of the gun battles Bond will get into in the game. How big and crazy will they get?
GY: James Bond is an action hero, and this is very much an action game, so yes, our gun battles are pretty intense. As Bond, you are almost always outmanned and outgunned with no squadmates for help. At the hardest difficulties, battles are a serious challenge. You learn to use cover combat pretty quickly.
A large chunk of our team is made up of people who not only love first-person shooters, but also have direct hands-on experience building them. This experience led our team to focus on creating engaging combat gameplay: great reads, solid cover spots for targeting and hiding, interesting engagement spaces with smart AI, beautiful weapons, and of course, big explosions.
GS: Even though Bond is sometimes portrayed onscreen as a one-man army, he's also a superspy who has been known to use stealth and subterfuge. What are some of the stealth options he'll have available to him in the game?
GY: Good question. In our game we provide a balance of dedicated battle spaces with dedicated "decision" spaces. What this means is that players have a choice to go through with guns blazing or take a more stealthy, strategic approach. Both options provide their own unique challenges and rewards.
We as a team chose to go beyond normal first-person gameplay and design these options to give users choice. As the filmmakers told us early on in development, "Bond's greatest weapon is his mind," so we wanted to give players the chance to use their minds when playing as Bond.
GS: Bond is also known for having access to plenty of spy gadgets, either on his person or in a souped-up supercar. Tell us about some of the technological toys he'll have to execute his top-secret missions.
GY: We focused on a small set of gadgets we felt would make sense as realistic devices MI6 would provide its agents in the field. Daniel Craig's Bond character isn't quite as reliant on gadgets as previous Bonds, but with the OK from the filmmakers, we added the gadgets we felt would be fun and that would help gameplay, yet still fit within the world of the new, more realistic James Bond. We included some basic lock-, camera-, and phone-hacking systems in the single-player game, and many deeper gadget perks in multiplayer.
GS: We understand that a big focus of the game will be on interactive environments. How will they work in practice? What does this add to the game?
GY: Our primary focus as a team was to create really solid (and beautiful) first-person and cover combat gameplay, and then immerse all that in the world of James Bond.
One of the design decisions that fit both parts of that goal is the use of what we call "mousetraps." Using the environment to help take down enemies isn't a new convention in video games, but we knew it would fit well into a James Bond game (since he does this so often in the movies). The designers, coders, and special effects guys did a tremendous job planning and creating these options for gamers.
Not all mousetraps are in obvious locations, but they look very cool and really help during combat. I hope players watch some of the videos we have online to get a hint at their locations and devastating effect.
GS: We also remember Call of Duty 4 for its addictive multiplayer experience. What can you tell us about Bond's multiplayer? We understand you'll earn credits to purchase items to equip your character, but surely, there's more of a story here than that.
GY: Multiplayer is definitely important to us as a team, and we think players expect it in a James Bond game with the foundation laid by the Rare guys in GoldenEye.
We had two unique challenges. First, we needed to create a multiplayer experience that was approachable and accessible to a broad audience--people who are Bond fans but may not spend 10 hours each week online playing COD4 or Halo or Rainbow Six with their buddies. Second, we needed to create gameplay modes where people get to play as James Bond, without seeing 11 other Bonds in the game too!
With the combination of the COD4 engine, our developers in Richardson, Texas (Nerve Software), and our multiplayer team here, we feel good about how we handled both challenges. We were happy to see that new players (such as new testers and play testers) were able to jump in and have success within a few sessions. Additionally, we've create two unique new Bond modes--one of which was a huge adrenaline rush during every one of our nightly play tests during development.
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about the game?
GY: Quantum of Solace is a solid first-person shooter with third-person cover combat, but it shines as a game for fans of James Bond. If you like Daniel Craig as a more physical, more cunning, and more dangerous Bond than ever before (like I do), this game is for you. If you like the rich history of James Bond, I think you'll appreciate the sense of immersion and the many subtle references to Bond's past sprinkled throughout the game. We really had fun with it.
This is the first Bond game from Activision, and launching a new franchise is always a difficult challenge. That said, this team achieved remarkable results over the final year of development, had great ideas, made some tough decisions, and really came together as a team. Although we had a lot of late nights, we hope people love playing the game just as much as we loved making it.
GS: Thanks, Garrett.