page 2 - THE BIG DAY
ROGUE AGENT COMMUNITY DAY @ EA LA
FRIDAY, JULY 23, 2004
Well the alarm works! I shut it off and 5 minutes later I awake to a wailing kid in the next room. I'm grateful for the somewhat unconventional snooze button otherwise who knows when I would have woken up. Just enough time to review my list of questions which has turned into a real scratch pad at this point. I just hope that the questions I have aren't offensive to the producers! Five minutes with each of them so I need to be ready.
I get down to the lobby of the hotel and have a chance to sit and chat with Jon Long. He is the Community Manager and is the reason I'm attending the event. Everybody makes it down to the lobby on time! I imagine that I'm not the only one who's pumped up for the day we're about to have at EA. [VIDEO CLIP]
I found out the night before that we will be playing in a Rogue Agent multiplayer tournament! One strike against me winning is the fact it will be on a PS2 but apparently I've got company in that department. Knowing my lack of expertise, I see Medal Of Honor on PS2 in the lobby while we were waiting to go for breakfast. So you know where I bolt. Keep practicing I tell myself while the others are sitting around talking! What a sneaky bastard I am....but will this practice session pay off?
Moments later we're off to breakfast in the EA cafeteria. We aren't paying for the meal, so you can just imagine the food on some of the trays! I must confess that I didn't hold back, but hell I was hungry and I wanted to be on the ball. Sorry, but how much did that bill come to? Every breakfast item that you could think of was available, provided you could find room on your tray to put it.
Time for the tour of the facilities! Surprisingly right beside the cafeteria was the gym. Amazing facilities and equipment but I must say it looked awfully new, if you know what I mean. We toured the different floors of the facility where GoldenEye, Lord of the Rings, and Medal of Honor are being developed currently. What an amazing place. Big plasma screens all over, artwork galore, museum displays from World War 2, mini kitchens, meeting rooms, and of course cubicles dominating the landscape. For obvious disclosure reasons we couldn't take photos and I can't really tell you in detail what was in progress at the studio. I must say the fellow giving us the tour was informative, entertaining and knew his way around the maze like he spends 15 hours a day there.
So from the studio tour to our next activity which is a presentation from Executive Producer Patrick Gilmore. He started by speaking about the concept of a rogue agent, and why you play the villain instead of James Bond. I like the fact that he talked about the original GoldenEye game and how MGM was unhappy with how the character in the original GoldenEye was so unlike James Bond. Guns? Shooting with reckless abandon? MGM didn't think it was a good idea to have James Bond portrayed in a video game like that. This might give some insight into why the EA Bond titles have mixed various elements such as driving instead of having a straight up shooter bond game.
Patrick also made reference to the fact that they really have brought the best of the best into the development of GoldenEye: Rogue Agent. Ken Adams was the production designer for the bond movies and he designed much of what you will see in this game.From what I saw of the game on this trip, I can say impressive job for sure. Other big names include Dan Orzulak (Halo), Kym Barrett who designed wardrobes on Matrix films, Titan A.E. and Christopher Lee (original voice of Scaramanga). EA began talking with MGM about having a straight ahead shooter game, in the vein of the original GoldenEye. When the idea of playing an agent gone bad was discussed the doors opened up for the concept of this game. It makes sense that a rogue agent would be aggressive and enjoy killing!
Perhaps the best feature of this game concept is being able to introduce the many Bond villains into a video game. Patrick made the point that here we have a game where the villains are the stars, which is a situation that wouldn't likely happen. James Bond taking the back seat? Yep it's true. I had a chance to ask about the violence issue and how that affected EA's relationship with MGM. Did it mean that MGM has to see the game and approve of the content before it can be released? Well, ESRB ratings was mentioned and Patrick said this game is about a 9 with 10 being the difference between a mature rating versus a teen rating. He said (and I agree) that the bond games really aren't about the blood and guts which most of the "mature" rated games are. EA will ensure this game has a teen rating. That's good with me because from a competitive standpoint there will be more players to beat.
Also during his presentation he gave background information on various levels and locations found in the game. On the big screen was a slide show which featured impressive concept artwork. If you're a big fan of the movies then this game is sure to blow up your skirt.
[CLICK HERE FOR SAMPLE]
Next up is our first look at the game. Senior Producer Chris Plummer will give us a walkthrough the third level in the game which is Hong Kong. We head into one of the team meeting rooms which or course has huge dual plasma screens and sound system with speakers everywhere including the ceiling. In addition he will give us an overview of the game mechanics. Perhaps it was the cheats that he was using, but after playing it I realize this guy makes it look easy! From the opening menu you could choose one of the following: Campaign, Competition, Online, A/V, and Extras. If you don't know the many features of the game I suggest you take a peek at this page HERE
for an official EA overview of the game.
First impression after he started playing? Simply incredible graphics and environments. The detail of the level was top notch and the weapons looked brilliant. He was talking to us while playing so that we could get a good idea what was happening. The AI looked tough as they were really using the abundance of cover throughout the level. As you may have read on the internet already, this game demands that you take cover. However if you prefer to be riddled with bullets then just hang around out in the open somewhere. One observation I made was that to interact with the level such as taking a zip line or climbing a ladder, you simply had to press "X" button and the action would happen without having to fumble around with the controls. Quicker gameplay and who really needs hassles like lining up a ladder to climb? I liked that feature of the gameplay for sure.
Chris was showing us the many ways of taking down opponents and I particularly enjoyed the human shield. To me that was worth the price of admission. It's an original concept also. The melee system in GoldenEye: Rogue Agent allows one hit to stun an opponent and two hits to kill. When you stun an opponent you can grab them and use them to block bullets! Nice. On your HUD display you see the levels for your hostage and it drops as he takes hits, eventually falling when the meter expires. That's okay you can always get another one! You can skip ahead to the SUMMARY PAGE where I give the complete detail package on the gameplay if you prefer.
I asked whether or not there was going to be Bots in multiplayer and Chris said no, but there will be a scrimmage mode instead. He explained that you can play multiplayer with AI, but they don't behave like typical Bots. I'm a bit unsure of the differences but the bottom line is you will be able to play multiplayer by yourself against AI opponents. Sounds good to me!
Chris finished his presentation with a sampling of multiplayer in the Uplink level. Yes this is the Cradle location from the GoldenEye movie. Did it resemble to Cradle from the original GoldenEye game? You be the judge. [SCREENSHOT A] [SCREENSHOT B] Chris talked about the additional elements into multiplayer which includes the use of deathtraps. In this particular level there are switches that trigger a trap door in the floor which will send your opponent flailing off the cradle to their demise. An annoyance I found was the AI helicopter flying around the level that would be shooting at you throughout the game. I just prefer to be the only one responsible for taking out my opponent! Yes you could take out the helicopter but it does regenerate as we were told. This level is small by design and is specifically for two players. A great element is that you can shoot away at sections of the railing which stay removed for the duration of the game. This means you can make your own path to an area of the level to grab a good weapon. In this case you needed to shoot out a piece of the railing to get the Rocket Launcher. There are also panels on the outer railing so that you can actually knock a player flying off the cradle without wings.
If you're eager to read ahead for the detailed gameplay features and my impressions of GoldenEye: Rogue Agent then take a look HERE.
As with everything so far on this trip, I wasn't disappointed with the lunch. Sandwiches so thick they brought new meaning to the phrase "deep throat". My god these things were crammed with meat. Pop and drinks all around. At this point my mind is on the multiplayer tournament and the interviews. I take a bit of time to review for one last time my questions for the producers of the game. Sure, these will be fine questions I keep telling myself. Did I mention that the interviews are going to be taped and we get a copy? I'm not sure that I'll be able to watch myself without hiding under the table. I'm sure it will turn out fine....
Next up is a presentation by Dan Orzulak (Halo) who is the Lead Designer for GoldenEye: Rogue Agent. Same meeting room as before with Chris Plummer but something is different. Wait, there are a bunch of PS2 consoles and televisions here now. Soon we shall play! But first we hear from the very informative Dan Orzulak.
Dan starts work at 7am and finishes around 2am. How do I know? Because I asked him!! I wish I loved my job that much. Anyway, we were treated to an inside look at how this game was put together. He showed a White Box level which is a stripped down level used by programmers to test every part of the game like weapons and AI. He gave some impressive information about the mindset of the AI in the game and explained that they will do things on their own. Once the AI knows their surroundings they will move and act accordingly. In other words these guys are smart! They use cover extremely well and work together to take you out. Their decisions are based on their actual site lines. Essentially Dan explained it like an AI with a brain of their own. There are an impressive number of AI agent types with specific characteristics and Dan said that the programmers themselves don't even know what these baddies will do!
I was eager to ask Dan a lot of questions. The subject of movement speed was discussed because like many shooters today I found it to be sluggish. He explained the actual in game speed in feet per second and that was quite a revelation to me. But still after hearing that I felt like the game was holding me back. Also Dan explained that when you take damage and carry larger weapons you have your speed decreased even more. Yuck. I liken this to when I was younger at the dinner table and my mother would say, "Graham dear, you must eat those peas. You can plug your nose if it makes it easier, but you must eat them before leaving the table". In this case I am forced to like realism because it's the best thing for me...damn those peas.
I must say that Dan is one of the coolest guys I met on the trip which is saying a lot. He told me how many calculations that go into something such as Armor or the characteristic of the weapons like the accuracy and muzzle velocity. I suddenly realized that all the digits that GameShark hackers mess with like changing the number of bullets or accuracy of a weapon alters the work of guys like Dan! So of course I asked him if he hates GameShark hackers because bastardize his work. His response? No way, whatever gives people enjoyment from the game is good with him. He doesn't mind that hacking at all. Interesting perspective I thought.
Now the moment we've all been waiting for! We get to play the Hong Kong level which is the third level of the campaign mode. Because of this, the AI was a second level difficulty. Now let me explain at what stage in development the game is at. We've been told a number of times already that the game is still rather "alpha" and will be seeing changes and improvements before its release. These type of issues I won't bother mentioning here. My total play time was around 30 minutes so keep that in mind with some of my observations. One controller configuration was available to us but Dan told us that eventually there would be many different available configurations. I'm told there will be a configuration like the original GoldenEye game. Not sure how that will translate onto a dual analogue stick situation or if it's that same GoldenEye configuration like in Nightfire. If it's like Halo then cool with me.
More players than controllers so I do a bit of watching while biting my nails. Assertive, I must be more assertive I tell myself. Oh yes, Dan was cool enough to hang around with us while we played and was answering whatever questions we had and giving tips. A controller becomes available and I get a try!
As I made my way through the level I realized that I needed to deal with the enemies before passing them otherwise I'd be taking bullets in the back. Tremendous amounts of cover available which is useful while reloading or figuring out how to pass a difficult point. I tell you the AI is incredible and we're dealing with only second level baddies. They were yelling, throwing grenades at me, you name it. Aggressive they are but smart about it.
At one point I was taking a lot of bullets but I didn't care, I was going to take a hostage! It wasn't simple but once I had the human shield I was loving it. You have to crank an enemy with the melee once at close range which stuns them. At that point you can grab them. If you hit an opponent a second time after they've been stunned, you will kill them. Of course movement is very slow once you grab on but you don't get hit! What a great concept and I loved it. When you have a hostage there is a display bar which indicates their remaining health and once it depletes, they will drop to the ground.
I also experimented with the GoldenEye feature which had only two of the four functions working for us. The shield or human toss. You can activate these functions by using the digital pad, then pressing the L2 button to trigger the GoldenEye. There is a power bar on your HUD display that will deplete as you use it also. The power is replenished over time but if you are on fire and make lots of headshots or make special kills with deathtraps, it will be increased more quickly. Nice to be rewarded for kicking ass. The human toss feature is when you could grab and rag doll enemies and throw them in any direction. I was sketchy on the tossing, but it worked even though I really wasn't sure which wall they were going to bounce off! If you're good with the controls you have the option of throwing the enemy over ledges or into each other. Impressive. The shield feature will bounce projectiles away from you. Apparently the deflecting bullets can even come back and hit the enemy! I used this GoldenEye feature a lot of the time since I was taking hits on an all too frequent basis.
A feature of GoldenEye: Rogue Agent is being able to have double weapons. If that wasn't enough you can even use two different weapons at the same time. If you don't use double weapons, you can use your spare hand to toss grenades. Because of the double wielding, you have two fire buttons, L1 and R1. Understand that I'm not an expert with the PS2 controller in a shooter situation but having two different fire buttons was difficult to keep track of. For example, you are holding an automatic in your left hand and the default pistol in your right hand. If you can imagine holding down one button while remembering to tap the other button at the same time. How long would it take to master this I'm unsure of, but I can honestly say that I was overwhelmed. When combined with all the other functions and attacks available I think it detracts from the overall enjoyment of the game. After all you've also got kick ass melee and GoldenEye functions at your disposal!
Obviously I had only a short time playing the game but it is a cumbersome firing system in my opinion. While I was playing I found myself forgetting to press one of the fire buttons even though I was carrying a weapon in that hand. There was just so much happening at any given time, I was struggling to keep up with it all. In general I pick up new games very quickly so I don't think the problem was me so much. Perhaps having this many features will make for a deeper game requiring more hours to master all the controls. I'm not sure. I can tell you though the PS2 controller has the most buttons so the developers will be getting very creative to include all the buttons on the other two consoles. Chris Plummer made mention of the fact that using two different weapons at the same time was a recent decision. Strictly from a simplicity standpoint, double weapons of the same type means either you're tapping both buttons or you are holding down both buttons. I would have preferred the double weapons of the same type.
During the hands on time playing is when the interview process with Patrick Gilmore and Chris Plummer began. To be honest the interview portion of the day has been on my mind a lot since it's rather new to me. I wasn't in the first batch to go down so on with the playing!
I give a more complete rundown of the gameplay HERE if you want to skip ahead.
Multiplayer tournament time! I forgot to mention earlier that there is going to be a special prize awarded to the winner of the tourney. Before the final though, single knockout and the first player with 5 kills wins. My first opponent was Mike from BondMovies.com and he assured me that I would have no problem beating him. He wasn't comfortable with the PS2 controller but I've learned from experience that you should never underestimate your opponent!
As mentioned before the only level we'd be able to see or play is the Uplink level. Let me tell you it was small! That isn't a bad thing but it's rare to see small multiplayer levels like in the original GoldenEye. Anyway, play was a bit scrambly to start. The level consisted of three levels with a small shed on the bottom. No doors to open aside from trap doors. From the top level you could access the almighty Rocket Launcher. You have to shoot out one panel and then navigate the narrow ramp to reach the platform without falling off. Falling off you say? Yep it's a bit of a tight wire act getting to the pickup but at least you don't fall off the level entirely. During the game you could hear bullets ricochet all over as the AI helicopter was buzzing around trying to take us out. I wasn't a fan of AI interference such as that. But back to our game!
I had a lead throughout the match but certainly I didn't feel solid enough in my skills that the game was over. In fact Mike made a comeback as I stalled and he made it 4 to 4. Oh boy this isn't a good feeling. I made no predictions about my success in this tourney because I knew better. Did I win? Yes I cut him to shreds on the last kill. Mission accomplished!
I'll give a more complete explanation and review of the multiplayer HERE.
Okay, in between my matches I get the nod for the interviews. Down the elevators and into a waiting room. I can see the bright lights from one of the two small rooms where Patrick and Chris were sitting. EA was cool enough to supply us with the tapes for recording the interviews. Just a quick look over my questions beforehand. My strategy was to keep the more general style questions for Patrick and the more gameplay questions for Chris Plummer since he's the guy I've seen on the video clips on the web. Well there's a problem with one of the cameras so I'll only be getting a chance with Patrick Gilmore for now. Okay! I sit down pass him a business card and 007 pencil just to let him know what I'm all about. I tell him my interest in the original GoldenEye and about our crazy 4 television setup that we use. He seems genuinely interested. Anyway, on with the interview! At this point I'll leave you hanging since the actual interview is being made for us by EA. I'll make an announcement when I have that up for viewing. I just worry if my questions are a bit stupid or not!
Back up to the multiplayer tournament in the meeting room. I see that a lot of the games have taken place already and they are waiting for me. My next victim is going to be Mike from XGPGaming.com! It was over pretty quick and I was slaughtered by a score of 5-2. Oddly I wasn't that disappointed in the result. My dreams of collecting the winners prize are dashed! Damn. Little does Mike know that I'll get my revenge with him online!!
The two finalists were Daylon Furlough from XGPGaming.com and Jarrett Lantz from CGNO.com. I certainly wasn't surprised to see Jarrett in the final as he seemed like a kick ass gamer.
We are told that there is a GoldenEye: Rogue Agent development team meeting happening in the theater room and we are going to be attending. The two finalists from the tournament will be playing in front of everyone on the big screen also! After making our way into the theater I was amazed at the crowd of people. Wow are all development teams this big?
The first order of business? The final match of our tournament of course. These guys seemed quite well matched and they both wanted that Rocket Launcher badly. It was exciting having the applause of the entire team as kills were made. In particular the battles with one player shooting through the flooring at the player above was great. One feature of the Uplink level is on the lowest level there are a series of trap doors that open randomly (I think) sending players dropping to their death. You know if Perfect Dark when you fell off the level and died? Same type of feature in this level. It happened a number of time during the finals and the laughter from the room erupted. I'm not sure how these falls are calculated in the scoring of the game. I'm sure that aside from the random nature of the drop doors opening there are switches around the level when you can drop an opponent. Back to the final. Like I said it was a back and forth affair and once Jarrett had 9 kills, Daylon made a bit of a comeback. The final score was Jarrett 10 and Daylon 8. As a prize, they both got a limited edition spectre ring!
Following the final, Patrick Gilmore showed a new video of the Hong Kong level which was stunning up on the big screen. The graphics and environment detail first class. After the video presentations were made to acknowledge the outstanding work that individuals made on the level. Nice rings were the handouts.
After the team meeting wrapped up I hoped to get the interview with Chris Plummer. I was a bit worried that I may miss the opportunity because he seems really busy right now. Moments later I'm told to head off to the interview room. Cool! Same bright light and I start off by passing a business card and 007 pen to him. Before we began rolling tape I talked to him about the game speed and what I thought about it. He genuinely was interested in what I was saying. We were told on a number of occasions that we should communicate our thoughts on the game so I didn't feel that my comments were out of place. The interview went well although on one question about post game statistics I was looking for the multiplayer stats and not the post campaign type stats. I will hopefully do some follow up on this with Chris provided he has time to reply. Stay posted.
Sadly the day and trip has come to an end. Off to the airport and back home to Vancouver. I have put together a complete rundown of the game after seeing it and playing it. Please read on...
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