Walking the Fine Line of Player Choice in Spec Ops: The Line

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Posted by Alex (1823 posts) -

When people tell me they're tired of military-themed shooters, my response to them typically is that I don't believe they're saying what they actually mean. The expression of weariness over the Modern Warfares, Battlefields and, to a much lesser degree, Homefronts of the world has little to do with a genre. When someone says they're tired of military shooters, it's not because they're about soldiers shooting things in first- or third-person. It's because few, if any of these games try to offer anything beyond the basic scope of what we've already seen them to time and time again. We experience the same blockbuster set-piece battles across the same ruined landscapes while the same chucklehead badasses read dialogue that sounds, as Charlie Brooker so succinctly described in his Guardian review of Modern Warfare 3, like it was "discarded from an old-school Schwarzenegger action movie for displaying too much swagger."

You and your posse start out as archetypal military badasses.

Essentially, we are tired not necessarily of games of a specific genre, but games within a genre that refuse to evolve beyond what the basic, accepted paradigm of what that genre currently is. So you can imagine my sense of terror when I began playing a recent demo of Spec Ops: The Line, and within minutes, my cohorts were cracking wise with one another and sharing multiple sentences that began, ended, and included multiple middle-doses of the word "motherfucker," before running into an apocalyptic Dubai and shooting the living piss out of a bunch of nameless "insurgents."

The exact thought that ran through my brain, in fact, was something to the effect of, "Oh, god. Oh no. This can't be what they've been doing for the last 18 months."

Yes, it's been that long since we last heard from Spec Ops: The Line. After an appearance at E3 2010 in which this Alice In Chains-laden trailer dropped, 2K Games went more or less radio silent. This is a circumstance we of the game industry have often learned to signal as impending doom. Either the grim specter of cancellation has begun hovering over a game's head, or the publisher has lost any real confidence in the title, and has scaled back its PR presence in the hope of avoiding any negative reactions prior to the release push. When an email invite to check out Spec Ops in a special two-hour demo crossed my inbox, I had honestly come close to forgetting the game even existed. When they told me I'd be able to play it the whole time, with no developer steering whatsoever, I had the distinct feeling I was being tricked, somehow. Then I started playing, and frankly, I had no idea what to think.

But as time wore on, and I played more and more of Spec Ops: The Line (five full chapters, in fact), I came to realize that my initial fears were mostly unwarranted. It wasn't that I had misjudged these characters--they were every bit the "try-hard bell-ends, desperate to highlight their gruff masculinity" that Brooker described in his Modern Warfare 3 piece--but they weren't that way out of some desperate play to make the player feel more masculine or tough. In fact, they were that way specifically so that they could become the precise opposite of that archetype as the horrors of the game's story unfolded. In effect: these characters suck on purpose, because as the game goes along, the things they will see, feel, and experience will remove any opportunity for snark, machismo, or celebration of heroism. In this situation, heroism barely even applies.

Before I delve too deeply into all of that, a brief refresher on what Spec Ops: The Line even is. The premise of the game has you following a trio of special operations soldiers into Dubai months after a tremendous sandstorm has all but decimated the region. It was a setting well highlighted by the original launch trailer, showing the once ostentatious structures of the city effectively in ruin, while opposing soldiers duke it out with each other, and battle the unstable terrain in the process. The question of why you're in Dubai, and why there are men with guns running around killing each other has only been partially touched upon previously, but in short, a U.S. Battalion known as the Damned 33rd had been sent in amid the chaos of the storms to try and evacuate the population. By all accounts, that mission failed, and the zone was deemed a no man's land--that is, until a transmission from the Colonel in charge of the operation, a man named Konrad, unexpectedly came through.

But seeing the things you see and doing the things you do leads to a dramatic shift away from the typical nonsense of video game heroism.

Your lead soldier has a bit of history with Konrad, having served with him years prior, and the expectation is that you and your two cohorts are there to recon the situation, and rescue any survivors that might be milling around. As it turns out, there are many survivors, but they're none-too-happy to see you.

As I mentioned before, the early goings of the game feature unnamed insurgents, a rag-tag group of men with their faces wrapped who seem especially spooked by American soldiers. There's a good reason for that, as the population has effectively found itself under marshal law, courtesy of the 33rd and Col. Konrad. In an effort to restore order to an anarchic situation, Konrad began torturing and killing civilians to demonstrate power and his own will. Even own members of his Battalion were not spared, should they have defied the will of Konrad.

It's a strikingly dark story that certainly invokes the likes of late '70s and early '80s war films like Platoon and especially Apocalypse Now (not to mention Heart of Darkness, the novel on which Apocalypse Now was based.) According to the game's writer, Walt Williams, that was very much on purpose. "What those films did to kind of rejuvenate the war film genre, we thought we had the opportunity to do the same for the modern military genre," he said. "We're looking to essentially bring consequence, the reality of war, into the interactive part of it, where you really feel what happens on both sides of the conflict. It's a bigger, darker thing than just being a hero and the bad guys disappear as you move on."

In order to achieve this, Williams and the crew at Yager have essentially dug into the notion of what choice in video games even means. Think about what the idea of morals actually means to a video game experience nowadays. Often when a player is presented a choice, it's a binary decision. One choice leads to one path, while the other, another. Choosing one might provide a specific quest line, or bring you toward a specific ending, and on the other side, you might end any chance for that quest line, or simply enact another ending. According to Williams, that's not what Spec Ops is about.

"Instead of creating this kind of systemic, binary system, where the same choice would just be repeated over and over again, with good/bad calculated at the ending, we wanted them to grow more organically out of the narrative, and the moment. We wanted the consequences to be more of an internal consequence on the player. So that maybe, early in the game, a choice a player might make wouldn't be what they'd make later in the game, after they see what the consequences are."

It sounds great in theory, but what does that even mean in practice? A prime example is one particular scenario that played out toward the end of the demo. While walking through a narrow passage outside, your team stumbles upon a trap laid by Konrad. In front of you are two people, bound and dangling from a nearby piece of wreckage. Each captive has two snipers with lasers pointed straight at their heads. You're all but surrounded by Konrad's men, and over the radio, Konrad demands you make a choice. One of the captives is a civilian who stole water, which Konrad has deemed a capital offense. The other is the solider he tasked with capturing the man, who, in a fit of rage, murdered the man's entire family during the arrest. Konrad demands you kill one of them as a test.

The sand-based destruction of Dubai lends itself to some fairly harrowing gameplay situations.

Thinking about this in the purest video game terms, my brain immediately decided to just pick off the soldier, since it appeared I had only two choices in front of me. According to Williams, my choice wasn't wrong, exactly, but those two weren't the only ones in front of me. I could have shot the ropes from which they dangled, or just aimed straight at the snipers and gone into battle. After shooting the soldier, my teammates actually expressed concern and even disgust at what I had done. Thinking back on it, I began to wonder how they would have reacted had I done things differently.

Of course, none of that expansion of choice means anything if there aren't tangible consequences for your actions. According to the developers on hand, the choices you do make do have an impact on the progression of the game, though they were reluctant to reveal any specifics, except to say that multiple endings do exist, and that your decisions will have some impact on the storytelling. By and large though, it's not about just trying to get a different ending, so much as it is trying to make the player think about these decisions in less "right" or "wrong" terms. As lead designer Cory Davis put it, "We feel like that type of decision more accurately reflects the types of scenarios soldiers actually have on the battlefield, as well. Rarely is there 'do a good thing versus do a bad thing.' More often than not it's a grey area."

I haven't seen enough of Spec Ops: The Line at this juncture to say whether the developers have been completely successful in achieving meaning in its moral decision making for the player, but I will say that I was, at the very least, captivated by what I played. Thinking back, I wish I'd had the understanding I do now when it comes to some of those moral decisions, as it might have made me try something different. Then again, in the heat of battle, one rarely has the time to ruminate endlessly about what to do.

And the battle is most certainly heated. As a shooter, Spec Ops is challenging, though not necessarily deep. Mechanically, it's not particularly complicated, with a fairly easy-to-use interface for weapon switching, some basic cover mechanics, and a few minor squad commands at your disposal. Perhaps there is a more eloquent way of putting this, but really, the thing about Spec Ops' combat is that it isn't about doing a lot of things. It's about surviving during frantic, sometimes utterly insane situations that can range from trying to hold out against an entire squad of enemy soldiers by yourself, to dangling off the ledge of a wrecked building while a massive sand pile caves in beneath you, and a whole building's worth of insurgents fire away at your now exposed body. It's nuts, but in a striking, sometimes exciting way.

The notion of excitement derived from combat would seem to belie the notion of what Spec Ops is trying to accomplish, but then again, even the darkest of war stories are meant to be an entertainment. This is a balance that the developers at Yager have effectively spent the last 18 months trying to achieve, the balance between the core bloodlust inherent to the shooter genre, and the more emotional thread line of the game's story. It's a tough one, to be sure. Artistically, the development team has done a great job of turning the landscape of Dubai into more than just a tourist's trip through a disaster zone. The carnage feels like it has real implications to it. When you stumble on piles of charred corpses, there is a story connection to why those bodies are there. It's not merely exploitative rubbernecking--it feels almost vital.

Getting a real "Eye of Sauron" vibe here.

And yet, Spec Ops: The Line is still a game, with waves of bad guys, collectible intel items, and even battles soundtracked by rock music. Thankfully, there is at least an interesting story context for that last one. As I stumbled into one early battle, Deep Purple's "Hush" began blaring over some makeshift speakers that had been hooked up near an old TV studio, and the voice of an insane-sounding man came over the loudspeakers to talk about what was happening right then. This DJ is actually a war journalist, a psychotic, Hunter S. Thompson type who has embedded himself in this carnage to observe, and even participate in what's happening. Williams' inspiration for the character came from an unlikely film: namely, Doug E. Doug in Eight Legged Freaks. He plays a Rastafarian DJ who holes up inside his studio and effectively narrates the death and destruction around him. That is obviously a far campier story than this one, but nonetheless, it's a neat narrative mechanic however you choose to present it.

There are a number of intriguing narrative choices in Spec Ops: The Line. So much of the game is about choices as they exist within the context of this story, versus how they exist within the context of video games as we know them. The idea of choices being left to the player to understand and sit with is a great one that I hope with all hope that Yager and 2K are able to make feel precisely as meaningful as they seemingly want it to be. Likewise, I'm hopeful that Spec Ops' gameplay can be balanced alongside those moral systems, because as we all know, all it takes is one moment of abject badassery or a single repeated quicktime event to remind you that, hey, this is just a video game, and thus, there's no reason to take it seriously. It's a terribly fine line that Yager is walking here. Regardless of their eventual successes or failures, I'm frankly just glad they're even trying.

Staff
#1 Posted by Alex (1823 posts) -

When people tell me they're tired of military-themed shooters, my response to them typically is that I don't believe they're saying what they actually mean. The expression of weariness over the Modern Warfares, Battlefields and, to a much lesser degree, Homefronts of the world has little to do with a genre. When someone says they're tired of military shooters, it's not because they're about soldiers shooting things in first- or third-person. It's because few, if any of these games try to offer anything beyond the basic scope of what we've already seen them to time and time again. We experience the same blockbuster set-piece battles across the same ruined landscapes while the same chucklehead badasses read dialogue that sounds, as Charlie Brooker so succinctly described in his Guardian review of Modern Warfare 3, like it was "discarded from an old-school Schwarzenegger action movie for displaying too much swagger."

You and your posse start out as archetypal military badasses.

Essentially, we are tired not necessarily of games of a specific genre, but games within a genre that refuse to evolve beyond what the basic, accepted paradigm of what that genre currently is. So you can imagine my sense of terror when I began playing a recent demo of Spec Ops: The Line, and within minutes, my cohorts were cracking wise with one another and sharing multiple sentences that began, ended, and included multiple middle-doses of the word "motherfucker," before running into an apocalyptic Dubai and shooting the living piss out of a bunch of nameless "insurgents."

The exact thought that ran through my brain, in fact, was something to the effect of, "Oh, god. Oh no. This can't be what they've been doing for the last 18 months."

Yes, it's been that long since we last heard from Spec Ops: The Line. After an appearance at E3 2010 in which this Alice In Chains-laden trailer dropped, 2K Games went more or less radio silent. This is a circumstance we of the game industry have often learned to signal as impending doom. Either the grim specter of cancellation has begun hovering over a game's head, or the publisher has lost any real confidence in the title, and has scaled back its PR presence in the hope of avoiding any negative reactions prior to the release push. When an email invite to check out Spec Ops in a special two-hour demo crossed my inbox, I had honestly come close to forgetting the game even existed. When they told me I'd be able to play it the whole time, with no developer steering whatsoever, I had the distinct feeling I was being tricked, somehow. Then I started playing, and frankly, I had no idea what to think.

But as time wore on, and I played more and more of Spec Ops: The Line (five full chapters, in fact), I came to realize that my initial fears were mostly unwarranted. It wasn't that I had misjudged these characters--they were every bit the "try-hard bell-ends, desperate to highlight their gruff masculinity" that Brooker described in his Modern Warfare 3 piece--but they weren't that way out of some desperate play to make the player feel more masculine or tough. In fact, they were that way specifically so that they could become the precise opposite of that archetype as the horrors of the game's story unfolded. In effect: these characters suck on purpose, because as the game goes along, the things they will see, feel, and experience will remove any opportunity for snark, machismo, or celebration of heroism. In this situation, heroism barely even applies.

Before I delve too deeply into all of that, a brief refresher on what Spec Ops: The Line even is. The premise of the game has you following a trio of special operations soldiers into Dubai months after a tremendous sandstorm has all but decimated the region. It was a setting well highlighted by the original launch trailer, showing the once ostentatious structures of the city effectively in ruin, while opposing soldiers duke it out with each other, and battle the unstable terrain in the process. The question of why you're in Dubai, and why there are men with guns running around killing each other has only been partially touched upon previously, but in short, a U.S. Battalion known as the Damned 33rd had been sent in amid the chaos of the storms to try and evacuate the population. By all accounts, that mission failed, and the zone was deemed a no man's land--that is, until a transmission from the Colonel in charge of the operation, a man named Konrad, unexpectedly came through.

But seeing the things you see and doing the things you do leads to a dramatic shift away from the typical nonsense of video game heroism.

Your lead soldier has a bit of history with Konrad, having served with him years prior, and the expectation is that you and your two cohorts are there to recon the situation, and rescue any survivors that might be milling around. As it turns out, there are many survivors, but they're none-too-happy to see you.

As I mentioned before, the early goings of the game feature unnamed insurgents, a rag-tag group of men with their faces wrapped who seem especially spooked by American soldiers. There's a good reason for that, as the population has effectively found itself under marshal law, courtesy of the 33rd and Col. Konrad. In an effort to restore order to an anarchic situation, Konrad began torturing and killing civilians to demonstrate power and his own will. Even own members of his Battalion were not spared, should they have defied the will of Konrad.

It's a strikingly dark story that certainly invokes the likes of late '70s and early '80s war films like Platoon and especially Apocalypse Now (not to mention Heart of Darkness, the novel on which Apocalypse Now was based.) According to the game's writer, Walt Williams, that was very much on purpose. "What those films did to kind of rejuvenate the war film genre, we thought we had the opportunity to do the same for the modern military genre," he said. "We're looking to essentially bring consequence, the reality of war, into the interactive part of it, where you really feel what happens on both sides of the conflict. It's a bigger, darker thing than just being a hero and the bad guys disappear as you move on."

In order to achieve this, Williams and the crew at Yager have essentially dug into the notion of what choice in video games even means. Think about what the idea of morals actually means to a video game experience nowadays. Often when a player is presented a choice, it's a binary decision. One choice leads to one path, while the other, another. Choosing one might provide a specific quest line, or bring you toward a specific ending, and on the other side, you might end any chance for that quest line, or simply enact another ending. According to Williams, that's not what Spec Ops is about.

"Instead of creating this kind of systemic, binary system, where the same choice would just be repeated over and over again, with good/bad calculated at the ending, we wanted them to grow more organically out of the narrative, and the moment. We wanted the consequences to be more of an internal consequence on the player. So that maybe, early in the game, a choice a player might make wouldn't be what they'd make later in the game, after they see what the consequences are."

It sounds great in theory, but what does that even mean in practice? A prime example is one particular scenario that played out toward the end of the demo. While walking through a narrow passage outside, your team stumbles upon a trap laid by Konrad. In front of you are two people, bound and dangling from a nearby piece of wreckage. Each captive has two snipers with lasers pointed straight at their heads. You're all but surrounded by Konrad's men, and over the radio, Konrad demands you make a choice. One of the captives is a civilian who stole water, which Konrad has deemed a capital offense. The other is the solider he tasked with capturing the man, who, in a fit of rage, murdered the man's entire family during the arrest. Konrad demands you kill one of them as a test.

The sand-based destruction of Dubai lends itself to some fairly harrowing gameplay situations.

Thinking about this in the purest video game terms, my brain immediately decided to just pick off the soldier, since it appeared I had only two choices in front of me. According to Williams, my choice wasn't wrong, exactly, but those two weren't the only ones in front of me. I could have shot the ropes from which they dangled, or just aimed straight at the snipers and gone into battle. After shooting the soldier, my teammates actually expressed concern and even disgust at what I had done. Thinking back on it, I began to wonder how they would have reacted had I done things differently.

Of course, none of that expansion of choice means anything if there aren't tangible consequences for your actions. According to the developers on hand, the choices you do make do have an impact on the progression of the game, though they were reluctant to reveal any specifics, except to say that multiple endings do exist, and that your decisions will have some impact on the storytelling. By and large though, it's not about just trying to get a different ending, so much as it is trying to make the player think about these decisions in less "right" or "wrong" terms. As lead designer Cory Davis put it, "We feel like that type of decision more accurately reflects the types of scenarios soldiers actually have on the battlefield, as well. Rarely is there 'do a good thing versus do a bad thing.' More often than not it's a grey area."

I haven't seen enough of Spec Ops: The Line at this juncture to say whether the developers have been completely successful in achieving meaning in its moral decision making for the player, but I will say that I was, at the very least, captivated by what I played. Thinking back, I wish I'd had the understanding I do now when it comes to some of those moral decisions, as it might have made me try something different. Then again, in the heat of battle, one rarely has the time to ruminate endlessly about what to do.

And the battle is most certainly heated. As a shooter, Spec Ops is challenging, though not necessarily deep. Mechanically, it's not particularly complicated, with a fairly easy-to-use interface for weapon switching, some basic cover mechanics, and a few minor squad commands at your disposal. Perhaps there is a more eloquent way of putting this, but really, the thing about Spec Ops' combat is that it isn't about doing a lot of things. It's about surviving during frantic, sometimes utterly insane situations that can range from trying to hold out against an entire squad of enemy soldiers by yourself, to dangling off the ledge of a wrecked building while a massive sand pile caves in beneath you, and a whole building's worth of insurgents fire away at your now exposed body. It's nuts, but in a striking, sometimes exciting way.

The notion of excitement derived from combat would seem to belie the notion of what Spec Ops is trying to accomplish, but then again, even the darkest of war stories are meant to be an entertainment. This is a balance that the developers at Yager have effectively spent the last 18 months trying to achieve, the balance between the core bloodlust inherent to the shooter genre, and the more emotional thread line of the game's story. It's a tough one, to be sure. Artistically, the development team has done a great job of turning the landscape of Dubai into more than just a tourist's trip through a disaster zone. The carnage feels like it has real implications to it. When you stumble on piles of charred corpses, there is a story connection to why those bodies are there. It's not merely exploitative rubbernecking--it feels almost vital.

Getting a real "Eye of Sauron" vibe here.

And yet, Spec Ops: The Line is still a game, with waves of bad guys, collectible intel items, and even battles soundtracked by rock music. Thankfully, there is at least an interesting story context for that last one. As I stumbled into one early battle, Deep Purple's "Hush" began blaring over some makeshift speakers that had been hooked up near an old TV studio, and the voice of an insane-sounding man came over the loudspeakers to talk about what was happening right then. This DJ is actually a war journalist, a psychotic, Hunter S. Thompson type who has embedded himself in this carnage to observe, and even participate in what's happening. Williams' inspiration for the character came from an unlikely film: namely, Doug E. Doug in Eight Legged Freaks. He plays a Rastafarian DJ who holes up inside his studio and effectively narrates the death and destruction around him. That is obviously a far campier story than this one, but nonetheless, it's a neat narrative mechanic however you choose to present it.

There are a number of intriguing narrative choices in Spec Ops: The Line. So much of the game is about choices as they exist within the context of this story, versus how they exist within the context of video games as we know them. The idea of choices being left to the player to understand and sit with is a great one that I hope with all hope that Yager and 2K are able to make feel precisely as meaningful as they seemingly want it to be. Likewise, I'm hopeful that Spec Ops' gameplay can be balanced alongside those moral systems, because as we all know, all it takes is one moment of abject badassery or a single repeated quicktime event to remind you that, hey, this is just a video game, and thus, there's no reason to take it seriously. It's a terribly fine line that Yager is walking here. Regardless of their eventual successes or failures, I'm frankly just glad they're even trying.

Staff
#2 Posted by AndrewB (7187 posts) -

hm.

#3 Posted by Knite (138 posts) -

Was this the one with the dynamic sand environment where you could shoot the glass roof of some underground metro station or something and it would just swallow up the entire area?

#4 Posted by supercubedude (450 posts) -

Wow, the developer is the same developer that made Yager, that Xbox flight combat game. That's... I'm not sure what that means.

#5 Posted by Callumrides (357 posts) -

good to hear that this games still about, been really intrigued by the premise of it all.

#6 Posted by Evan_Buchholz (120 posts) -

@AndrewB: Real insight there man I mean "hm" wow all you need to say

#7 Posted by Vexxan (4598 posts) -

I SEE YOU.

#8 Posted by Murdouken (707 posts) -

This sounds excellent. I remember there being something about sand physics in the gameplay demo (or maybe it was a trailer) that they released where you could manipulate the sand and use it as a sort of weapon, ie shooting a glass roof that has a large pile of sand on it to bring it down on your enemies. It sounded neat, and with the whole moral thingy I'm now even more excited for it.

#9 Posted by LoktarOgar (318 posts) -

That all sounds neat in theory, I just wish it wasn't a shooter.

#10 Posted by therealminime (225 posts) -

I really want this game to come out.

#11 Posted by Kazona (3055 posts) -

I hope this game turns out good. It would be great to have a game in this genre that finally breaks the mold.

#12 Posted by Humanity (7938 posts) -

The idea of moral choices that are not directed by get bigger bazooka or longer ammo clip seems great although I can't help but feel too skeptical about it. I remember when Bioshock was touting it's extreme morality system of absorbing the little sisters or not and in the end it wasn't a very gut wrenching decision at all. Having gray area choices seems exciting because I rather choose between the lesser of two evils, according to my own set of values, rather than have the obviously good and bad choice. Just hope the gameplay can support the narrative.

#13 Posted by EatBolt (36 posts) -

Emasculating some these tired, tired male shooter archetypes and "military gruff" would be great. For every player that argues games are art, there's another wanting Modern Warfare 4: Shooting More Shit. Hopefully this does for the shooter genre what "Unforgiven" did for Westerns.

#14 Posted by 1p (760 posts) -

Sounds too ambitious; i'll believe it when i see it.

#15 Posted by moelarrycurly (667 posts) -

Thank goodness someone's making a choice based game where I don't have to choose only up-right to be good or down-right to be bad. Actually really interested to see more of this game... hopefully it'll come out next year? Nice article, Alex.

#16 Posted by billyhoush (1186 posts) -

I am looking forward to this game and was wondering what happened to it. Thanks for the article. Hope this is released sometime soon.

#17 Posted by Gruff182 (847 posts) -

Nice to see Brooker has readers outside of the UK.

Mans a legend.

#18 Posted by Axdemon (66 posts) -

I'm not a big fan of military shooters not because of any gameplay reasons but simply because I don't like playing as a soldier. That being said, if the story is good enough to make people pay attention to it, I might just have to check this out. Nice article, Alex.

#19 Edited by bybeach (4599 posts) -

I'm interested and it is far far too early to judge. But after staring at Price's butt for waaaay too long..to the point that I started playing Fear 2 again for a beak and haven't stopped, I see a flicker of light w/The Line. After all, though not the same as The Line, Fear 1 and 2 appeals to me because it is more than, I am Soldier~>I shoot U. It has a sideways to the action story weaving all through it.

Thank You Alex and I hope this works. That the moral choices are more than simply binary if you think to ask the question..well developers do threaten to do this from time to time, sort of. I thought the Line had disappeared and I am glad it's something else than just a shooter in quasi Afghanistan. I think I can completely agree that I too am glad they are trying.

And hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.....

#20 Posted by RetroVirus (1404 posts) -

I just saw a commercial for this today and was baffled because I thought this was cancelled. Glad to see that it doesn't look like a COD ripoff.

#21 Posted by Oni (2065 posts) -

This is all pretty intriguing. I look forward to seeing how this game pans out.

#22 Posted by X19 (2304 posts) -

Looking forward to hearing more on this game.

#23 Posted by prestonhedges (1965 posts) -

"Instead of creating this kind of systemic, binary system, where the same choice would just be repeated over and over again, with good/bad calculated at the ending, we wanted them to grow more organically out of the narrative, and the moment. We wanted the consequences to be more of an internal consequence on the player. So that maybe, early in the game, a choice a player might make wouldn't be what they'd make later in the game, after they see what the consequences are."

This would mean something if it wasn't what every developer said about every game they were working on. "Yeah, in Dogz for Kinect we'll totally have an organic player morality system where your actions are reflected later in the story. Like if you take a toy from this puppy, it'll be sad about it later on!"

#24 Posted by lockwoodx (2479 posts) -

Sounds like Eternal Darkness the fps version. It could be amazing or a disaster.

#25 Posted by Phyreball (19 posts) -

Thanks for writing this Alex. This game was totally off my Radar and know I am interested in where this game goes. Kudos to them for pushing a stale gameplay mechanic. For better or worse.

#26 Posted by probablytuna (3441 posts) -

I would like to see more developers do this sort of thing for player choice instead of the bland good/evil morality meter.

#27 Posted by CornBREDX (4454 posts) -

Sounds like they're still on track with what they were saying before. That's good to know, and I hope their attempts are successful. I have been intrigued by this game since it was first talked about last year on this site.

@Knite: Ya, that was one of the situations they had talked about before.

#28 Posted by dvorak (1495 posts) -

This is really bizarre, and I'm glad to see this game rise from the ashes one more time. This game is definitely back on my radar, and I'd love to hear a post-mortem on this game after it's out in the wild.

#29 Posted by Jeffk38uk (710 posts) -

Well that certainly made me more interested in the game than before. I thought it was just another regular shooter but set in Dubai with some sand terrain dynamics, but their take on a morality system sounds intriguing.

#30 Posted by Oldirtybearon (4281 posts) -

This leaped onto my radar last year. I'm glad to hear it's shaping up to be something damn interesting.

Online
#31 Posted by rwcohn (130 posts) -

That's funny; the last two games to have in-world narrators (this and Bastion) were both worked on by Greg Kasavin

#32 Posted by Zaapp1 (654 posts) -

Nice writeup Alex. This really got me thinking as a game design student about how I might handle trying to make a meaningful narrative with impact beyond this medium. I hope this works out for them, because it's something we definitely need more of.

#33 Posted by Deusx (1879 posts) -

Great article Alex, I've got to say that I'm fairly intrigued by this. As you said, the developers are walking a fine line here. I just hope they can succed in what they plan to do with their vision of the game.

#34 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

Even if this game isn't particularly good, it really needs to come out. If only to encourage more innovation and bolder moves from even the shooter genre.

#35 Posted by MisterMouse (3531 posts) -

sounds like a really cool game actually... I am looking forward to this.

#36 Posted by Winternet (7935 posts) -

This got me excited.

#37 Edited by Manburger (56 posts) -

Dang! Excellent article, Alex! I feel like you eloquently expressed the general fatigue with military machismo bullshit, and how this game attempts to do something different. Bonus points for Charlie Brooker. This preview rekindled my interest in the game!  I remember being very intrigued by it after hearing good ol' Greg talk about it.
Hope Yager manages to realize their ambitions.

#38 Posted by Adaptor (162 posts) -

Great article! This added layer of morality and consequence is exactly what shooters need.

#39 Edited by Dark_And_Grey (32 posts) -

I played the Beta a few months back on my Xbox and I hated everything about it. Now it being a Beta I understand that there is gonna be alot of broken things but it just sucked.

The control system was really awkward to use (button layout etc) The buttons weren't the usual TPS layout e.g Gears of War. I didn't play much of Army of Two the 40th Day (due to it being terrible) but the controls felt simular to that which again, in my opinion, are not just a pain in butt to use but also cause an extra hindrance that makes the games harder because of it.

The lay out of the enviroment ( quite a small area with some building and lots of sand) which had alot of jumping up, awkwardly, trying to get over an ankle high obsruction to move to a higher part of the level.

I'll quit rambling. Just thought I would share a small personal experience. Obviously that was the beta and online so I didn't bother mentioning hit ditection / awful lag etc. So hopefully the delay has helped it some.

#40 Posted by zoozilla (974 posts) -

Wow. My interest in this game just shot up tenfold.

Developers always talk about "meaningful player choices," so much so that it's hard to believe any game will offer something other than "right" and "wrong." But I'm hopeful about this one.

#41 Posted by cikame (924 posts) -

An example of someone in a game i felt sorry for was Tai in Gears 2, strong willed, caring rock of a dude who got extremely messed up and met an unexpected end.

If this game tries to deliver consequences through the lives of unknown civilians i doubt it'll have an impact on me, i don't care about strangers.

#42 Posted by Hangnail (190 posts) -

Great preview, almost have me sold that this'll be something to look forward to...!

#43 Posted by Philzpilz (225 posts) -

Well ok I'm interested. I remember them talking in the bombcast a while ago about a situation where your teammates start to get terse with you if you do certain things, which would be interesting to see folded into this

#44 Posted by Peacemaker (1099 posts) -

Good preview.

It is kind of funny how many games program me with an A or B scenario mentality. In some ways this forces me to not try and think outside the box. Now that I'm playing Skyrim it is hard for me to break out of that mentality. I can do really anything.

Whether the developer achieves their goal or not, I commend them on trying it. I feel like not enough games take this route.

#45 Posted by DJKommunist (170 posts) -

@Gruff182: He's a beautiful, beautiful man. No homo of course.

#46 Posted by DeF (4688 posts) -

@Dark_And_Grey: just a friendly tip: it's "awkward" not "ackward"

#47 Posted by Dark_And_Grey (32 posts) -

@DeF oooops cheers for the heads up :)

#48 Posted by Sweep (8534 posts) -

Beautifully written, Alex! You have put this game back on the map, for me at least.

Moderator
#49 Posted by Subjugation (4693 posts) -

No matter how this game turns out, I give these guys credit for realizing the genre needs to be shaken up. Oh does it ever need to be shaken up. I hope they are successful and result in more developers following suit.

#50 Posted by MadLaughter (199 posts) -

Great read, Alex. Sounds interesting. I'll keep an eye on this one.

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