Ghost Recon 2
We sit down with Heather Chandler, Producer and Christian Allen, Designer of the upcoming Ubisoft title called Ghost Recon 2.
Q: Can you please explain what the story is for Ghost Recon 2?
A: The story of Ghost Recon 2 involves an ambitious North Korean general who is taking advantage of a famine and bad economic situation in his country. He decides to consolidate his power and ends up causing a lot of problems. The Ghosts are sent in to quell the situation from developing into something bigger.
Q: In what ways has Ghost Recon 2 been improved since the last game, Ghost Recon: Island Thunder?
A: The graphics engineers and artists have worked very hard to implement a large number of new features to optimize the graphics and use all the capabilities of the Xbox. The levels look even more richly detailed and naturalistic in Ghost Recon 2. They have dynamic grass, moving water, and gorgeous textures. In addition to that, a lot of effort has been put into improving the special effects, implementing new animation features, and adding destructible level geometry.
The Havok 2 physics engine has been integrated into the game. Using this allows explosions and collapsing buildings, realistic vehicle physics – the tank treads will deform to the terrain, and rag-doll deaths for the characters.
Our AI has also been totally revamped—players will find enemies even more challenging and sneaky then they were in Ghost Recon.
Another change is the focus on characters; both from a graphics and game play direction. The level of detail on the characters is awesome, and the use of normal mapping really brings out their details. The way that mission briefings are given is also radically different (we don’t want to give it away quite yet), allowing you to get to know your team. The sound and voice work that has been done gives each character their own presence, instead of a host of more generic soldiers.
Q: Why is there a new point of view in the game? Can you explain more about the new third person view? Do you think that veteran players of the series will be satisfied with a new viewing mode?
A: Red Storm implemented the OTS (over the shoulder) view as a way to increase the player’s immersion in the game. The player can actually see the character he is playing, Captain Scott Mitchell, react to things in the game world. For example, the player will see Captain Mitchell react to fire, use hand signals to order his team, and reload or switch weapons. The player will enjoy looking at all the cool weapons and seeing the awesome new animation system in action.
The OTS view offers new options for the player. We’ve done a lot of play-testing with this view and feel that players using this view will enjoy their experience.
However, that the fans who want to play in the original mode will still be able do that. We are doing play-testing on the User Interface so that the game is equally enjoyable in the new mode and in first person view. Of course in Multiplayer, the host will have the ability to lock out the first person or OTS view, so that everyone is playing the same way.
Q: What new weapons will the Ghosts have, and will our heroes from the first games be back for more?
A: New weapons will include variants of the Army’s new M8 assault rifle, as well as a slew of other high-tech infantry weapons, from the SPR marksman rifle to the M320 grenade launcher. Fans will also be able to play with the latest versions of their favorite guns from the series.
While we wanted to focus on a new group of Ghosts for GR2, at least one GR specialist will play a prominent roll in the game’s campaign.
Q: The missions from Ghost Recon, especially in Island Thunder where extremely compelling. Do you use any real world situations to fuel the missions for Ghost Recon 2?
A: We spend a lot of time making our missions as compelling and exciting as possible. We looked at the types of missions that real-world elite teams undertake, and we incorporated them into the campaign to provide a range of experiences. These experiences include classic Ghost Recon style missions to others that are more frantic and action packed, with tension at its peak. For example, in one mission, you will move in behind enemy lines and laser designate a vital target for an precision air strike from a mountain cliff, and then make your way to an active helo extraction through an area crawling with enemies. You can choose how to move through it: slow and stealthy or fast and lethal. The core mission design team who worked on the Xbox version of GR:IT also worked on the missions for Ghost Recon 2, so you can expect the same level of detail in the missions, with a new emphasis on immersion in combat.
Q: Which high definition TV resolutions will Ghost Recon 2 support?
A: While you can play Ghost Recon 2 on any type of television, including High Definition, we do not include specific engineering support for the High Definition resolution.
Q: What surround sound modes will the game support?
A: We are supporting Dolby Digital 5.1 and also support Dolby surround and DTS. Jeff Wesevich, our award-winning sound engineer, has added further enhancements to the sound engine so the player really feels part of the action. Bullets will whiz by the player’s head, mortar barrages will be going off in the distance, and the firefights will sound better then ever.
Q: Has there been any improvements made to the artificial intelligence of the enemies? Will they be more cunning or fierce in their methods to defeat you?
A: The AI in GR2 is both smarter and more realistic than we have seen in the past. Team and Platoon level AI has been improved with a new terrain analysis and assault system to make them more challenging than ever. The individual enemy AI will utilize cover, lay suppression fire, and work with their teammates to try and flank or overrun the player. We have also integrated a new combat model for the AI, who will use a different system from the player, which provides a more realistic combat experience that takes into account cover, skill level, and other factors. This gives the enemies a more realistic feel when they are engaging you.
Q: Will we continue to use the familiar stat point system and special mission goals to unlock alternate content for the game?
A: Actually, we are implementing a score based unlocking system for the Xbox. This scoring system will integrate with the LIVE leader boards, so the same system that will allow you to show your skill online will let you unlock extras.
This time around we will be including content to unlock that may include “blooper” movies from the game, interviews with team members, or other types of DVD-style content.
Q: What kind of online improvements have been made in Ghost Recon 2?
A: We are integrating LIVE 3.0 features such as Teams and Competitions. We have also re-examined our existing multiplayer game types and have revised them to enhance the LIVE experience. One cool new thing we’ve added is the ability for players to pick from a selection of skins/uniforms offered by each server.
In addition, we will be including downloadable content, LIVE leaderboards, and splitscreen over LIVE and link-play.
Q: How many players will Ghost Recon 2 support online?
A: We are still in the process of determining the final number of players that can be supported online. We did implement new networking code to optimize the bandwidth usage, so players of the original Ghost Recon will see a noticeable improvement in their LIVE game play experience.
Q: Will any of the older maps ranging from the first two games or the maps that where able to be downloaded be included for online play in Ghost Recon 2?
A: We plan to. We have a lot of fan feedback on what the favorite maps are. We plan to choose some maps that will give the GR fans a chance to experience them all over again.
Q: Do you feel it's getting harder to make a game like Ghost Recon and keep it completely separate from the Rainbow Six world? And, what are you doing to keep the fans aware that Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon are two completely different games?
A: Ghost Recon 2 really stands on its own from the Rainbow Six series. Rainbow Six focuses on intense situations on a small scale, such as rescuing hostages and taking out terrorists. Ghost Recon is all about near future warfare, where the player handles high tech weapons and has to eliminate enemies on a larger scale. The levels are expansive and outdoors, which give the players a lot of tactical options when completing missions.
Q: Is the Ghost Recon franchise here to stay? Will there be more Ghost games in the future, and will you continue to provide support for Ghost Recon, and Island Thunder by means of downloadable content?
A: Ghost Recon 2 will increase the popularity of the franchise and we definitely think it is here to stay. Our strong LIVE presence has not diminished even though the original Xbox version of Ghost Recon was released 2 years ago.
Of course, we can’t comment on any future plans for the franchise. :)
Q: Are you using an entirely new game engine for Ghost Recon 2?
A: The game engine is based on the same one used for the original Ghost Recon. We have optimized the graphics engine to use the Xbox’s full potential. We have re-worked the networking code for an enhanced multiplayer experience. The animation system has been completely re-done for awesome looking animations and character interactions. We are using the Havok 2 engine, which gives our engineers more time to focus on doing cool things with the physics and objects in the level.
Q: What do you think the key selling point is for Ghost Recon in a market that is starting to get clustered with military shooters?
A: Ghost Recon 2 for the Xbox builds on the realism and depth of the Tom Clancy franchise. The player is immersed in the experience of fighting on a modern battlefield with cutting edge weaponry. Varied game play is included that will appeal both to fans of the series and to new players. Gamers can look forward to an experience that is tense, exciting, and realistic; while still being accessible and, overall, fun.
Q: How much of a learning curve is there in Ghost Recon 2? Will it be similar to the first two Recon games?
A: One of the goals for the Xbox version of GR2 was making it more accessible for players new to the franchise. The game menus are easier to use and navigate, and we’ve streamlined the HUD to make it more intuitive and easier to use.
Ordering your team is more intuitive, which allows the player to fully utilize his teammates in tactical situations. Although the system is easier to use, it retains the tactical flexibility in the original Ghost Recon, which allows the player to layer orders in order to defeat the enemy.
For example, if you have a group of enemies holed up behind cover, you can layer your team orders to have your team hold their fire and flank the enemy. Then, when they are in position, you give a suppress order, and your team lays down suppressive fire while you move up to pick off the distracted enemies. Dynamic orders are also available that allow your team to do almost any action you can do, from placing demo charges to manning fixed machine guns. It is awesome to lay cover fire for your team while they plant charges on a target, or to order your team to hit a tank and watch them move to a position and take it out.
Q: Will System Link and split screen game play return in Ghost Recon 2?
A: Both of these options will be included in Ghost Recon 2. We are also supporting split-screen play for LIVE and System Link, so more players can enjoy multiplayer experiences on a single Xbox.
Q: Have you improved the night vision mode in Ghost Recon 2?
A: Our improved new night vision mode is based on how an actual night vision system works. The brightness and contrast are enhanced on the screen in a way which closely mimics night vision. The image detail is increased, as opposed to the old system, which often decreased visible details.
It’s also worth nothing that when night vision is used on daytime maps, the system blinds the player, in a way similar to real night vision, and prevents its use from being a balancing issue.
Q: Have you worked or continued to work with outside resources, such as military specialists to improve the authenticity of Ghost Recon 2?
A: Many members of the development team have military experience (Christian is a former Marine). We also work closely with several consultants in various military services to make sure that GR2 provides an immersive military experience. For example, we used actual members of the Special Forces (based out of Ft. Bragg) for all the motion capture in the game. In addition we are working with members of the military from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom to ensure that game’s depictions of their equipment and gear is accurate.
In addition, we spent a lot of time talking to the teams in charge of designing and implementing the next generation of U.S military equipment, so the gear you see in Ghost Recon 2 is on the cutting edge of military technology.
Thanks guys for your time.