The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Designer Diary #3
Producer Sam Clifford talks about the adventure elements of the upcoming game from Electronic Arts.
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Designer Diary #3 - Adventure Elements
By Sam Clifford
I work with the systems group for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which handles all game-player interactions that are not level-specific. This means we design and produce gamewide systems such as combat, controls, and interactive objects. Basically we work on game elements that players will encounter repeatedly throughout the game.
The new interactive environments are one of the key changes in The Return of the King that will contribute to the player's overall sense of adventure. For example, right now I'm working with engineers and visual-effects artists to develop an "actionable glow" that will appear on interactive objects found throughout the game. This glow will indicate when an object in the environment can be used by the player. This means that everything from a rope a player can climb to a weapon a player can pick up and use will be clearly marked so the player can make split-second decisions on how to deal with specific challenges.
Both combat and noncombat items will be available for players to utilize in the gameplay environments. Noncombat items are ECSOs, or environmental contact-sensitive objects. One example would be a drawbridge that players could lower to reach a part of the environment they otherwise couldn't reach. We call objects that can be used as weapons CCSOs, or combat contact-sensitive objects. A good example is a war pike players can pick up and throw to impale an enemy. These new interactive objects will really add another exciting layer to the combat.
Everything in The Return of the King is bigger and better when compared with The Two Towers--including, not surprisingly, the technical difficulty of creating the game. For those of us working on the adventure elements, this means even more work on resources and animations for environmental interactions, which can be challenging.
Although the work can be difficult, occasionally we find a relatively simple piece of work to be very rewarding. One example was the development of the war pike. Nothing beats impaling an orc with a war pike. That development experience was greatly rewarding, due to the work of our outstanding combat engineers.
Well, with that, I'd better get back to work. Thanks for your interest in my work with The Return of the King, and enjoy the game.