James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing Q&A
We talk to senior producer Scott Bandy about the upcoming action game starring agent 007.
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James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing is the upcoming action game from Electronic Arts starring everyone's favorite womanizing spy, James Bond. The game is a departure from the last few Bond games in that it will include a third-person view and driving segments that put you behind the wheel of some slick cars. The game is being developed through the collaboration of EA's Redwood Shores and Canada development studios. The two teams are divvying up the development chores, with EARS handling the core third-person game and EAC taking the wheel on the driving sequences. The game features an original story that gets a bit of star treatment, thanks to the involvement of the movie cast, who lend their voice talents, and you'll see some old and new faces. Actress Shannon Elizabeth and pop singer Mya will be on hand to lend their voice to the game, as will old-school Bond baddie Richard Kiel, whose Jaws character is back to cause some fuss. We had the opportunity to talk to the game's producer, Scott Bandy, about how things are going on the game.
GameSpot: How do you go about making a James Bond game?
Scott Bandy: We've been developing Everything or Nothing for over two years now. Our preproduction process was under way when NightFire was being finished, and our team has grown from three designers in a coffee shop to one of the largest teams in the Electronic Arts Studio system working day and night to put the final polish on the product.
First and foremost with Everything or Nothing, we wanted to get the game mechanics right. The first thing we built was a working, in-game third-person Bond, and we've been refining him ever since. Our targeting and camera models have gotten the same treatment, and we've retained this focus on gameplay right through to the finish.
Of course, it's not Bond without a great Bond story. Early on, we brought in Bruce Fierstein (screenwriter for The World Is Not Enough, GoldenEye, and Tomorrow Never Dies) to collaborate with us on getting our fiction authentically Bond. It's always tempting to revisit the classic Bond stories, but for this go-around, since we were bringing the player a new camera perspective--and because we wanted to--we decided to go with an all-original story with all-new characters (save one of Bond's old friends, of course) and had a great time working with the talented actors that brought those characters to life. Bond is a character that is reclaimed by every generation that discovers him, and this generation's Bond is Pierce Brosnan, and we were lucky enough to get Pierce to give us his genuine James Bond voice performance.
GS: How much access do you have to film materials such as gadgets or other things seen in the movies? How much freedom do you have to make up your own?
SB: Our partners at MGM have been very accommodating and were, for example, interested and excited about the idea of bringing Jaws back into the picture. However, we don't want to just give the player a bunch of stuff they've already seen; we want this Bond to be the best Bond game ever, and to do that we had to keep it fresh. Fans of Bond love the characters and gadgets from Bond's past, but they also want something new. They want to see Bond do something they've never seen him do before, and we think we've got that.
GS: Could you give us an idea of the game's story and Bond's role?
SB: Top-secret nanotechnology being developed by Dr. Katya Nadanova (Heidi Klum) has been stolen, and Bond is sent to recover it and the good doctor. As the plot unfolds, it is revealed that a power-hungry ex-KGB-agent-turned-businessman by the name of Nickolai Diavolo (Willem Dafoe) is turning this nanotechnology into a world-threatening weapon. With the help of geologist Serena St. Germaine (Shannon Elizabeth), Bond uncovers Diavolo's South American lair but must race against the clock and around the globe to stop Diavolo from toppling the world order with an unstoppable weapon.
GS: Why did you settle on third-person gameplay for this year's game?
SB: Well, we figure that to be Bond, you've got to see Bond. We felt that the first-person perspective, although exciting, didn't put Bond's full potential in the hands of the player. Bond's hand-to-hand fighting style, for example, is almost completely absent in a first-person experience. Bond also fights smart, using cover and corners to his advantage, and third-person is a much better place for that kind of gameplay, in our opinion.
GS: How has it been developing the game with input from two different studios (EARS for third-person and EAC for driving)?
SB: It's always a challenge for two large groups to collaborate over a long distance like this. But, in this case we've all been through the process before, so we're familiar with many of the pitfalls you hit. In general, this time collaboration has been much less tricky than the past few projects we've shared. Clearly, we're getting better with practice.
GS: What do you think are the key elements a Bond game needs to work as a proper game? How did you make sure you incorporated them and why?
SB: Girls, guns, and gadgets, of course. At the core, Bond is the world's greatest secret agent, and so you've got to hit the beats that makes that fantasy come to life. You've got to have great combat, great movement, great character villains and great enemy AIs to fight, gadgets that give the player the edge over his enemies in a tight spot, exotic locations, and beautiful ladies to "engage" with. All that is at the center of what Bond is about, and it's all got to work together and make the player feel like he is 007. Then, of course, you've got to make a game that is a blast to play, even without Bond in it. You need compelling core mechanics, level design, rewards and scoring, great animation, art, FX, sound, and all the production details that converge to make a great modern video game. It's a huge undertaking, one that we're lucky enough to be given the chance to participate in.
GS: How did the face mapping and input from the cast from the Bond films come about?
SB: We've been experimenting with ways of bringing our actors' likenesses into our games for years now, since a huge part of what makes Bond so great are the actors that have brought Bond's world to life. We used some cyber-scanning on previous titles, but this year we went all out and cyber-scanned as many of our actors as would let us convince them to climb inside the scanning booth. Most of the actors you see in the game were scanned. The scanning, however, is only part of the process. Our character modeling team then spends untold hours working with this data, along with hundreds of reference photos and hours of video and making a viable game model out of it; the models we get from the scan are hundreds of thousands of polygons, more than our entire screen render budget for one model. The result of this effort is, we feel, one of the best realizations of real actors made digital in a game so far. Our character modeling team is world-class, some of the best in the business, and we think their work speaks for itself.
GS: Could you bring us up to speed on where Everything or Nothing is in terms of development?
SB: We're in the final push and expect to be on the shelves by early February.
GS: What has the delay in release allowed you to do for each of the platforms?
SB: Game developers always say at the end of a project, "If we only had a few more weeks to polish!" Well, somehow, remarkably, we got that chance and have been doing everything we can to make the most of the time. First and foremost, of course, we're going online for the PS2 version in North America. Our co-op mode contains 13 unique missions built specifically for co-op, and now players will be able to experience our co-op game online, which we're very excited about. We've also taken the extra time and applied it directly to gameplay polish. Our first priority has always been to deliver great gameplay, and over the past few months we've seen our mechanics settle down into a cohesive and, we believe, very compelling experience. We've also added a few new missions, and some special bonuses, but we're not telling about that just yet.
GS: Thanks for your time.