Recently I had the chance to chat with the design team of the highly anticipated No One Lives Forever 2. Being a sequel to a game of the year winner sets a high standard for the team to follow, and they were kind enough to take a break from saving the world to answer some questions.
GVK: What new features will be available for the game?
Brad Pendleton, Lead Engineer: A major goal for the team was to add more interactive and realistic environments. Not only can you hide in the shadows to avoid detection but also you can create them by unscrewing light bulbs. You can open file cabinets, turn water faucets, flush toilets, and ring wind chimes. Many times, this interactivity will alert nearby enemies, but some of it is just for fun and realism. The AI is more realistic, as well. They make their own decisions based on hints in the level so scripted scenes in the game are less necessary. The engine also has been enhanced to give us 30x more detail than we had in NOLF. The worlds look even more realistic with the addition of environment mapped bump mapping, cubic environment maps for reflections, projected shadows, falling snow and waving grass. Our sound support has also been updated to support hardware acceleration and EAX 2.0.
GVK: What is the setting of the game and what sort of weapons will be available?
David Longo, Art Director: The game takes place during the late 1960’s in locales scattered around the globe: India, Japan, Siberia and then some! The player will have weapons authentic to the time period and a few that are unique to each area visited. For instance, you will be able to use a shuriken in Japan or a tulwar in India. In addition to the more common weapons, the player will be outfitted with gadgets befitting a super-spy like Cate: a mini-camera disguised as lipstick, a compact code breaker and a robotic kitty to distract foes.
GVK: Going into this game, what were the main objectives you wanted to achieve in regards to content and gameplay?
John Mulkey, Lead Level Designer: One of the main objectives for the game content has been the creation of believable, real-world environments. We constantly strive for realistic scale and convincing construction for our locations. This can be more difficult than it seems, as no one can easily say that your doorways don’t look realistic or that the scale of your room is incorrect. In games, these are the kinds of details that can eliminate the sense of realism and player immersion.
When it comes to gameplay, we have also put major effort into designing the levels in a very open ended fashion. Which to complete each gives the player objectives to accomplish, obstacles to overcome, and various means. The player’s ingenuity determines how they decide to play each level.
GVK: What were the biggest obstacles and success stories that you encountered in creating the game?
Samantha Ryan, Producer: Every project has its share of ups and downs, but we’ve been incredibly lucky that almost the entire team from NOLF is back to work on the sequel. There is a great deal of mutual respect between team members, which has enabled us to weather the inevitable hurdles that arise during a project of this scope. The cohesiveness of the team is part of what has allowed us to make the huge technology and aesthetic strides in the sequel within essentially the same amount of development time as the first game.
GVK: Are vehicles part of the game?
Craig Hubbard, Lead Game Designer: They were in the original, so they just might show up in the sequel.
GVK: It has been said players will be able to work with one another for the story part of the game. How many players will be able to play at one time in this mode?
Samantha Ryan: Cooperative multiplayer missions will allow up to 4 players to work together against AI opponents using an assortment of gadgets and weapons from the single player game. However, it’s important to note that these missions are separate from the single player game. That’s about as much as we are willing to divulge at the moment!
GVK : What forms of multiplayer are available for the game?
Samantha Ryan: Single player with Goal-based AI system, and probably deathmatch and CTF.
GVK: How has the new game engine helped with the creative process?
Wes Saulsberry, Art Lead: There are some big changes in the LithTech Jupiter System. Most noticeable to the gamer is the world render pipeline. During the development of NOLF 1, our artists and level designers were constantly straining BSP technology by creating large, open areas within our levels rather than the more confining corridor style construction the engine was originally built to accommodate during Shogo. The new Dynamic Occlusion system has made it much easier to build the more realistic settings that people expect in the NOLF universe.
In building these environments, we also now have the ability to seamlessly import and export fully textured world geometry between LithTech and other 3D packages like 3Dstudio Max and Maya. This gives the artists and level designers access to more powerful modeling and texturing tools, as well as complex animations in the case of key framed world models.
GVK: Aside from Cate, how many returning characters are in the game?
Samantha Ryan: Bruno Lawrie, returns as Cate’s mentor and friend, but the rest will have to remain a secret for now.
GVK: Some have said that Cate is the new Laura Croft, what would you say in regards to this?
Craig Hubbard: I’d like to think there’s enough room in the marketplace for both of them.
GVK: Do you find the pressure greater to deliver on this title due to the success of the original?
Craig Hubbard: Actually, the pressure on NOLF was probably worse. We were still trying to live down the stigma of Blood 2. We had a lot to prove, both to ourselves and the gaming public. This time we just have to make a fun game that capitalizes on NOLF’s strengths without reiterating its weaknesses. Besides, it’s much easier to stay motivated when people are looking forward to your product.