Friday, June 02, 2006
Pre-E3: Red Steel exclusive
Here is a story I still owe you people with a few interesting infos thrown in. In early April, I was exclusively invited to Ubi Soft Paris to test Nintendo´s upcoming console and Ubi Soft´s ambitious shooter Red Steel, formerly codenamed Katana. There were only a handful of other media people attending, since this was meant to be a ´Game Informer´ exclusive. The German magazine ´Game Pro´ managed to squeeze into the deal too. And that magazine was kind enough to put me in touch with Ubi Soft when I found out that they were onto a big exclusive. But let´s get to the good part first: here are the four high-res screenshots, as well as the nine low-res ones, straight from the press kit:
At the lengthy introduction, the similarity of the DS and Wii strategies was stressed numerous times. Asked about the Wii´s tech specs, the developers replied that those for the DS were never released, either.
As to the development of the game, Ubi Soft learned about the controller design in late June or early July. In early August, they were shown a prototype by Iwata and received the first technical info. Later that month, they received Gamecube dev kits with wired Wii controllers. They had only just received Wii dev kits when we visited in April. All the content we played (which was a shooting range level) was running on the Gamecube kits, while we were shown some levels on a high-end PC, ready to be ported to the Wii dev kits.
The Red Steel development team is split into one team for ideas and design and one for engineering. At the time, the entire team encompassed 85 people and counting. They were assembled from various teams, most notably Ghost Recon 2, Rayman, BGE, Prince of Persia.
They correctly pointed out that old controller types spawn gameplay that is about timing, i.e. pressing and holding buttons. Now, it was about movement. The challenge was to balance big, strong movements with subtle and more relaxing challenges. From a development point of view, the challenge is to organize the player´s 3D space. All different moves have to be different enough not to be confused by the sensors.
As Red Steel is about exploring Oriental culture from a Western perspective, the inspiraton for the game lies within movies like Kill Bill, The Last Samurai or Batman Begins - not martial arts movies. In most movies, however, swordfights are portrayed at epic lengths, while real Katana fighting is very short-lived. The game will opt for the more realistic portrayal, instead. Hence, about 70 percent of the game will be spent using guns, only 30 percent will be sword action. 30 percent of the game will take place in Los Angeles, 70 percent in Japan.
My first impressions of using the controller were that it takes only a minute to adjust to. Then you are raking in the kills. At first you think you are just getting lucky a lot. Then you realise it´s not luck. It´s experience, since we have pointed at things a million times before. You get the feeling of suddenly sitting down and playing the piano beautifully when you have never had a lesson in your life. It´s almost like discovering an unknown power in you.
We got to play a shooting range level, which was well animated and had good level design. Nevertheless, it got boring the third time round. Yet I continued, because the controller method is kind of innately fun. It seemed just so original. The cable connecting the Wiimote and nunchaku attachment is sufficiently long for shooting. It may be different for swordfighting. The development team was hoping that the length would be extended.
An interesting point mentioned by the team was that conventional controllers only enabled fairly flat level design (with enemies standing roughly at the same level). Coordinating two analogue sticks in full 3D (front/back and left/right, as well as up/down) was just too difficult. The Wii controller truly enabled the team to place enemies on different levels. Also, the player can target and move faster with the Wii´s controller.
My first impressions of the graphics were that they were certainly sufficient. As the entire level was still running on the Cube kits, the final graphics would look even better.
Prior to the trip, I had to sign an NDA that expired May 10th. Unfortunately, I was unable to post all this info then because of time constraints. Hope you enjoy it nevertheless. As far as I know, there is some fresh info here, if only in the screenshots.