Armed and Dangerous Designer Diary #2

LucasArts producer Dan Pettit talks about the weapons in the completely insane (in a good way) Xbox and PC shooter.

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"Weapons" or "The pivotal significance of visiting local pubs, Indian food, great white sharks, and game bugs on developing the weapons of Armed and Dangerous."

Dan Pettit
Producer, LucasArts

My name is Dan Pettit. I'm a producer at LucasArts, and I've been working with Planet Moon on Armed and Dangerous since the design phase of the project. If I have to sum it up in one word, then my role is: complainer. As the producer for the publisher, it's my job to ensure that LucasArts puts out a triple-A title, within a set schedule, while staying within the parameters of the budget. So, most of my day is spent reviewing design, juggling design schedules, and sitting in on meetings. Oh, and then I have the great pleasure of "informing" the developer about all the stuff that needs fixing.

Many producers were fatally harmed during the making of Armed and Dangerous. This is one of their stories.
Many producers were fatally harmed during the making of Armed and Dangerous. This is one of their stories.

Seriously though, working with Planet Moon on Armed and Dangerous has been a great experience. They have welcomed our involvement from the beginning and have been really open to our feedback. Heck, they even listen sometimes! In fact, they even have some LucasArts level designers and artists working alongside them at Planet Moon. In my opinion, the most interesting part of the making of Armed and Dangerous has been the weapons development. When we all came to the conclusion that we wanted the game to be completely over the top, it was clear it had to start with the weapons. If we couldn't deliver on some extremely creative weapons, how could we build an extremely over-the-top game? One would think we got together in a conference room and brainstormed great weapons ideas. Well, that's only true if you consider that the conference room was really Planet Moon's favorite local pub. In fact, Planet Moon did their best "research" at the local pub. Plain old dumb luck played a part in weapons development too.

Take the topsy-turvy. Did we spend hours trying to figure out some crazy area-of-effect weapon? Absolutely not. Topsy-turvy was born out of a bug that popped up every time Roman exited a turret, and the whole world started spinning. Tim Williams, Planet Moon's creative director, decided it was a great idea for a weapon--and about an hour later, we had the topsy-turvy. Still had that spinning bug though.

The land shark is another one of those creative weapons the team came up with after long hours of in-depth research. In early designs, this weapon was known as the rabbiter. Eventually we all realized that perhaps a rabbit was not ferocious enough for this particular game. A couple evenings at the local pub (across the street from the Pacific I might add), and Planet Moon brought in the great white shark. It was a big one too--almost didn't fit in their office. We used some high-tech motion-capture technology to fine-tune the grunt-eating animations, and we knew that this weapon was done. I still have fun letting a few of these guys free in the office and watching them go to work.

The team learned many valuable lessons while developing Armed and Dangerous, such as the fact that great white sharks are more frightening than rabbits.
The team learned many valuable lessons while developing Armed and Dangerous, such as the fact that great white sharks are more frightening than rabbits.

There are a bunch of other odd stories about how we came up with crazy stuff, like the Guy Fawkes weapon (it makes the enemy turn on itself), sticky bombs, the gurner, and even those crazy penguins and sheep. But instead of boring you with the details, it's safe to say they all involved Planet Moon's special brand of pub research. We'll just leave it at that.

Coming up with off-the-wall, creative weapons was actually easy compared to the challenge of making action game staples like rifles, machine guns, and rocket launchers as over the top and ingenious as our homegrown weapons. Once again, it took a trip to the local pub, and the next morning, the game had a sniper rifle with a bullet that just would not stop. If you line up the shot correctly, you can take out a captain, three grunts, and a tree in a single shot! Even better than that, if you get two or more kills in one shot, you get a "bonus." The vindaloo rocket launcher (the team has a penchant for Indian food) has two modes: the normal mode, where it fires two rockets at two different targets, or the extra spicy mode, where it launches four rockets at once that will hone in on four different targets--with, of course, a big explosive finish.

Ironically, the hardest of all was spicing up the rifle and machine gun. That's where rag-doll physics come in. We figured if we couldn't make the weapon over the top, then we'd make enemy destruction that way. Hit a grunt in the shoulder, and watch his shoulder get knocked back. Hit him in the ankle, and watch as his knee bends backward and his foot flies out behind him. We used the physics system to help portray the totally outlandish nature of the Armed and Dangerous weapons and destruction. Blow up a building, and watch the bodies fly out, hurtling to the ground. Use the gurner, and watch how an enemy is launched 100 feet in the air and then lands with bone-crushing results. Or, the ultimate combination of in-game physics and explosive action is experienced by sending a few boulders tumbling down a mountainside and watching as they tear through buildings and plow thru groups of enemies.

Another valuable lesson learned by the team as it worked on the game is that blowing things up is fun.
Another valuable lesson learned by the team as it worked on the game is that blowing things up is fun.

In the end, Armed and Dangerous wound up having some of the most intriguing, unique, and fun weapons I've ever seen in a game. I've been playing this game for over a year now, and I still enjoy all the eccentric ways you can blow up a whole bunch of stuff. Hope you do too! But don't just take my word for it. Have a look at this weapons trailer and see for yourself.

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