We're all games players ourselves. We're all playing the latest stuff. We know what the latest fashions and fads are within games. We know what we like in games and what we don't like, the sort of things that work and fail in some of the bigger titles. So, we learn a lot of lessons from other people's mistakes and are able to incorporate our findings into our own projects - Sniper Elite 2 lead producer Steve Hart.
Steve Hart: We're all games players ourselves. We're all playing the latest stuff. We know what the latest fashions and fads are within games. We know what we like in games and what we don't like, the sort of things that work and fail in some of the bigger titles. So, we learn a lot of lessons from other people's mistakes and are able to incorporate our findings into our own projects.
But also there are other methods for us, like focus testing, like beta testing, getting it out to either fans or specialist companies that can give you a heads up on how you might review and what mechanics are preferred and what stuff isn't.
And how is the feedback from all of that for this game?
Steve Hart: It's been positive, yeah. We did it at the right time in development where we were able to make necessary changes to address what could have been negatives. I'm certainly happy with what will be released into the public, for sure.
How long has it been in development for?
Steve Hart: It's about 20 months.
How do you feel about that? Is that a long enough time?
Jason Kingsley: 20 months isn't very long at all. Most of the annualised games are done by two or three teams. They typically take two-and-a-half, three years to make.
So how did you find the 20 months then?
Jason Kingsley: It's always nice to have more time. As a creative team, there's always practicalities. There's a bit more you'd like to do if you only could squeeze a bit more cycles out of the computer. If only you had a few more days to work on that bit of the graphics, you could make that bit a bit better. But one of the troubles is we're constrained by business. At the end of the day we've got to get as many people as possible buying the game so we all get our wages. So there some practicalities in it.
But I think we've had a decent run at it and it's very exciting. I've played the game through. It took me 22 hours.
Why did it take you so long?
Jason Kingsley: Because I play it very slowly, and I was playing it on a fairly modest difficulty level because I wanted to play it as if I didn't know where everybody was. The guys were all laughing at me, going, 'you must be bloody useless!' And they're quite frankly, not wrong. I miss quite a lot, which is always embarrassing as an elite sniper.
The game isn't designed to be an easy, run and gun shooter. It is supposed to offer you a challenge. It seems to be it's designed to work differently to other shooters.
Jason Kingsley: Yeah, without a doubt. We tried to model it on as much reality as you can get in an entertainment product. So, if you do run down the middle of the road, you get shot, quite sensibly. Quite frankly, if you do get surprised by a soldier who's got a machine gun and you've got a pistol, well, you lose. That's how it works in real life and that's what we tried to do in this game.
But the reason I played it slowly was I was savouring the atmosphere and exploring. I've heard somebody say they can play Skyrim in three hours. I've heard somebody say they can speed play Skyrim in three hours, because they've played it several times. They know what the core story is. They know where to go, what to do. And then you think, that's absurd, but of course you can speed play something quickly.
But with Sniper Elite you've got to take your time. You've got to measure. You've got to look at what's going on. And quite frankly, if you don't take your time it's that much harder.
Steve Hart: It's one of the things we worked really hard on. Way back when we were putting together the brief for the game and how we were going to tackle it, we were talking about a thinking man's shooter, right back then. And that's what we've had to do.
As a gamer it's a natural fit for you to pick up a joypad and just run at the enemy and try and mow them down. We've had to try and re-educate the player in this game that, actually, that's just going to get you murdered very quick. You have to find yourself a vantage point, then secure it, then observe what's all around you before, finally, going loud and trying to take them out. Otherwise you'll get flanked. The AI are bright enough to figure out where you, get into the building you're in, up the stairs, to your room, then they're behind you and they're going to murder you.
These are the sort of things we've looked to reinforce, the mechanics we've concentrated on, in order to slow the pace down and get people thinking exactly how they want to tackle every single situation they're presented with.
Jason Kingsley: It's incredibly satisfying to do all of that, when you do take your time, and you do plan and you do prepare, and then you pull off a great shot. It's somehow more rewarding because you've put more effort in to solving the problem, rather than just running and gunning.
Some of the run and gun games are obviously awesome and we love them, but, we're trying to deliver something else for the player. It's really important to emphasise that. If people are expecting a game that's going to take them five hours and lots of explosions and lots of machine gun action up close, well, that's going to be on the receiving end of the machine gun action up close, if they do it that way.
The game is out soon and thoughts turn to the future. What are your plans for post Sniper?
Jason Kingsley: Obviously we're very keen to do a sequel, very very keen to do Sniper Elite 3. We've got some early plans for that and the team's very keen to move on, which is great. We haven't got any more details we're willing to share at this stage on that, apart from the massive enthusiasm for it.
We're self funding the PC version of Sniper Elite 2. So we're going to continue to support that over the next year as we supported the original game. We maintained all of the servers for the fans for five years with our own money, because we wanted to keep the fanbase alive and show them the respect that we obviously want them on side.
We're also expanding into other areas. So we're doing a little bit of self publishing. We're looking at iOS titles. We're looking at the free-to-play world, taking our advanced technology for ways of making games and trying to get a bigger worldwide audience for our games more directly. Judge Dredd vs. Zombies, which is our first iOS title, which is out. We're looking at other platforms for that.
So, we know the industry is changing. I love big games. I've always loved PC games myself. Bizarrely enough now I play a lot of games on PC myself. And then when I'm at home I play games on Xbox and iPad. I've been exploring the iPad world, and there are some really great novelty titles there. There hasn't yet been a game that's drawn me in like Sniper Elite or Aliens vs. Predator in the same immersive way. It's a wider, more expanding market.
What's particularly exciting is we can address the hardcore gamers, who are our typical fans, but also we can look at games for a broader audience as well. I don't know there are going to be many mums sitting at home who will be playing a game like Sniper Elite. It's not the demographic we're going for, the soccer mums. We're targeting proper gamers, the traditional gamer demographic we as a company have always worked with and for. But we're also looking at games for a wider audience, for people who are maybe more casual, who don't self identify as a gamer. It's something they do but they wouldn't say, 'yeah, I'm a gamer. That's my hobby.' So all sorts of challenges. But the industry is in a bit of a whirl at the moment.
Do you intend to continue with 505 Games for Sniper Elite 3 or will you self publish?
Jason Kingsley: We've done a half self-publishing and a half working with 505. They're very keen to work with us. We're very keen to work with them. But nothing is decided. We haven't even decided when the game's going to be set. What we have decided is we really want to come back to Sniper Elite.
Do you intend to release it for PC and current-gen or PC and next-gen?
At the end of the day once we're creating commercial products we've got to sell enough to keep everybody making cool games.
Jason Kingsley: Don't know. Definitely PC. We've always tried to do PC versions and PC specific games. I love the PC, so PC will definitely feature in there. What other formats we use? It'll be based on timing at the end of the day. It'll come down to practicalities. What dev kits are available? What scale of development availability? Market share? At the end of the day once we're creating commercial products we've got to sell enough to keep everybody making cool games.