Exclusive Interview with GRAW2 Lead Designer Chris Bray

Kirjoittanut: Livegamers


– Interviewed by Markus
1. For starters, could you tell us your name and a bit about your background and your role in the GRAW2 development team?

My name is Chris Bray and I was the lead multiplayer designer for GRAW 2 on the Xbox 360. This means I made a lot of the day to day design decisions on the game, worked on the coop campaign mission designs, feature design, and also general gameplay balancing. I’ve been working at Red Storm Entertainment for almost 3 years. Even before working here I’ve always been a huge fan of Ghost Recon and the Tom Clancy line of games, so you can imagine how excited I am to be working on the design of them now!

2. Our web site is arranging a GRAW2 multiplayer tournament in which the use of first person view is mandatory. The decision to exclude the other viewpoint has raised a lot of eyebrows and caused both positive and negative feedback. The friends of the FPV think the immersion and realism offered by this viewpoint is the most important thing, but those for the third person view claim that GRAW2’s FPV mode is poorly executed.

How do you address the claims that suggest GRAW2’s FPV being inadequate (no weapon in view and no aiming through the ironsight)? Will we in the future see a Ghost Recon game that has been built for the FPV from the ground up?

Customization is one of the things we try to focus on in Ghost Recon, so while we might not have every FPV feature out there, we’re quite happy that we’re able to offer different view options for different types of players (and there’s obviously a split in the community J ). It’s great to see that if you want to go out and play in an online tournament you can find tournaments for both first and third person players. We have a split between FPV and TPV players here in the office as well, so moving forward both sides are definitely heard!

3. The players who have liked the Ghost Recon series from the beginning because of the FPV have criticized the newer GRAW games for being too arcade-like (for example because of the third person view). How would you comment on this? Does GRAW2’s multiplayer also satisfy the needs of a fan looking for realism?

Realism is one of the guiding lights that drive every design decision in Ghost Recon. Any team that communicates and uses a realistic, tactical approach will consistently perform better than those trying to run-n-gun. Just like in real life, there’s nothing stopping someone from running like a madman into a firefight, but experienced players know they won’t get much farther than a few steps.

4. What do you think is the suitable age (i.e. time you play the game altogether) for multiplayer games such as Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 1 and 2? And how do you, as a developer, react to the sequels being released when there are still players playing the previous versions of the games?

It can vary depending on the situation. We took some heat as a gut reaction for coming out about a year after GRAW 1 because people didn’t know if we would have enough new features, maps, etc. Once the game was released players were very happy with the new features such as clan support and the medic ability, and many were particularly impressed with the quality and number of maps we were able to develop. As long as there are fans hungry for more, we’ll try our best to give them what they want.

5. Was the downloadable Chapter 2 of GRAW such a success that we may expect to see something similar for GRAW2 as well?

Chapter 2 DLC for GRAW was definitely a success… what that means for the future, I’ll have to keep you guessing for now.

6. Are there any updates bound for release any time soon? What things do you feel need to be patched the most?

We’re constantly looking at issues reported on the forums and elsewhere, but we try to avoid speculating on specifics until we’ve gathered more information. The Ghost Recon team has a history of listening to the fans and trying to make the experience as fun as possible.

7. Will clans have their own leaderboards?

That would be a specific that I can’t answer at this point.

8. During the making of the original GRAW, there was some talk about improving the map ’Mountain Falls’. Will there to be any other old maps than Embassy made available via Xbox Live later on?

We’ve definitely seen a running theme on a lot of the fan forums that remakes of classic maps are much appreciated. The response to Embassy has also been great, so this is all stuff we take into consideration.

9. Was the choice making both smoke grenades and ordinary grenades available made because of the feedback you received?

It was a combination of fan feedback, consistency with singleplayer, and gameplay balancing in general. It mostly came down to the fact that smoke grenades were a lot of fun to use, and useful in some specific cases, but generally didn’t outweigh the benefits of choosing frag grenades. Because of this we wanted to make them available all the time to expand the depth of tactical options players would have.

10. What do you think are the advantages of the multiplayer in GRAW2 when compared to similar games like Rainbow Six?

I think they are both great games, they just offer different experiences to the player. Since Ghost Recon focuses on larger outdoor environments, there are certain tactics that are more viable than they would be in a CQB game like Rainbow Six. Sniping, concealed movement, and flanking all come into play a bit more in an outdoor environment.

11. How do you react to the protests made by Mexico on GRAW2 allegedly insulting Mexico and portraying United States as ’the good guys’?

I think it’s pretty lame. I personally don’t believe it’s the place of any government of a free society to confiscate works of fiction based on their personal taste. But hey, they say all press is good press… let’s just hope they paid for the copies they took J. This isn’t the first time, we’ve upset a government – we upset Korea with GR2 and Canada with GRAW. It wouldn’t be GR if this didn’t happen.

12. GRAW2 introduced an option to the series to create a clan. How well have people reacted to this? How many clans have registered to GRAW2? What are the plans to develop this aspect of the game?

The response to clan support in GRAW2 has been great. I don’t have exact numbers on the number of clans but it is well in the thousands. Just by playing the game out there with the fans it seems like almost 50% of players have started or joined a clan. Based on this popularity with the community, this is something we’ll be looking at continuing to develop on future titles.

13. Siege has without a doubt been the most played game mode in Finland. Do the tastes of players around the world differ from each other a lot? How has this been regarded in the development of the multiplayer modes of GRAW2?

The gameplay preferences based on country and culture is one aspect of fan communities that can be very difficult to gauge. Tastes of players usually follow the same general trends regardless of location, but there can be differences like those you mentioned. The main way we account for this in GRAW2 is in the number, variety, and customization of game modes and types that we develop. There should be something in there for everyone’s taste.

15. Those fond of the Sniper mode want large, open spaces to play in, while others prefer close-quarter fights which take place indoors. How did you decide on what kind of maps you created for and included in GRAW2? Have any of the maps been inspired by real-life locations?

Variety is the key in what maps to offer. The good thing is that by offering a wide variety of map sizes, we can accommodate both play styles and number of players. Those who like fast paced action and close quarters fights might still get plenty of play out of our bigger maps, but only when playing 8 v 8 games or game types like Hamburger Hill that concentrate the action in a smaller area. The reverse is true for players who prefer slower paced, tactical games. This way, depending on the situation, nearly every map can be enjoyed by all styles of players.

As for the inspiration, every single one of our maps is inspired by real world locations and reference photography. Many of them are pieced together from different locations or geographic features to provide for more interesting gameplay than recreating the exact layout of a specific city block or chunk of forest. For us, realism is as much of a focus in the map design as it is in the gameplay mechanics.

16. Will we someday see any arctic landscapes, that are so close and dear to us Finns who live on this, oh so cold, Northern part of the globe?

We’ve certainly done plenty of cold and snowy locales in past Ghost Recon games, so I wouldn’t rule it out.

17. What is your favorite game mode? What about your favorite map? Furthermore, are there any easter eggs in GRAW2 for us fans to find?

It’s tough to pick a favorite mode… I’m generally switching 50/50 between Team Sharpshooter and Blind Siege (with the occasional Team Domination or Team Mission for variety). As far as maps go, I’d have to say Crash Site… but I’m a big fan of Aftermath and Lagoon as well. We’ve got a bit of a not-too-hidden easter egg in the headgear. If you look through the different hats you’ll see one with the Red Storm Entertainment logo on it (red circle with a white lightning bolt).

18. The ability to choose the time of day was a very welcome improvement! How big a challenge was this effect to create?

We were definitely glad to be able to get the time of day changes in for our 8 ‘core adversarial’ maps. A lot of people think it’s as easy as “flipping a switch” but it’s quite a bit more involved. Not only does a lot of work go into getting the lighting and environmental effects just right (mist over the water in Lagoon Night, etc.) but our sound designers have to create an entirely new sound design for the map to set the atmosphere of the time of day or weather (crickets chirping, strong wind, etc.).

Thank you for the interview, Chris!

– Interviewed by Markus