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AusGamers Sleeping Dogs Developer Video Interview
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 11:25am 23/02/12 | Comments
AusGamers was invited out to a special presentation of Sleeping Dogs in Hong Kong and caught up with Senior Producer, Jeff O'Connell, to talk about its transition from True Crime: Hong Kong to Sleeping Dogs. Read on or watch for the full interview...

Watch the full video interview embedded above, or click here for a direct link.

AusGamers: Welcome back to AusGamers. You are here once again with Stephen Farrelly. We’re out in not-so-sunny Hong Kong at the moment -- it’s a bit chilly here. But it’s not so chilly at the moment because we’ve just seen a pretty amazing game.

This is Jeff from United Front Games. You guys might have heard about a little project they were working on a while ago -- which was called something else [True Crime: Hong Kong].

Jeff O’Connell: It was called something else.

AusGamers: So that’s as good a place as any to start. Let’s talk about the tumult that you guys went through and I guess the resurrection.

Jeff: Yeah, it was challenging like you said, and I think resurrection is a good way to put it and Square has ended up being the perfect partner for us. They saw the game and right away just said to us “this thing is fun, it’s solid, it’s amazing and we love it and we’d love to work with you guys”.

And for us, we were very confident in the game when we started building it and confidence was a little shakey obviously, so to have Square give us that vote of confidence it really helped bring us back into the black to show you the game here today and I think the reception has been rewarding as well.

AusGamers: From a legal standpoint, was there much of an issue in getting it from one camp to the other in the state that it’s in now?

Jeff: I’m not a business guy, so I can’t really comment on that. I can say that it seemed fairly easy in terms of that transition -- working with Square; meeting the team; working with them, in particular the production and design crew who had just come off Just Cause 2 and previously Arkham Asylum -- those guys just have so much experience and they really understand the development of open-world games.

So meeting those guys initially, for us on the dev side, was a really seamless process and it was just like meeting old friends -- it was very, very easy.

AusGamers: Now you talked about having been a little bit shaken up in the confidence department, but I will say that I saw the game quite a while ago in Vancouver and it’s been a fair amount of time since and it’s looking ten times better than when I saw it way back then.

So for you guys internally -- despite what happened -- was it always just a process of “You know what? We’re just going to keep our heads down; we’re going to keep working on the game” and how much did you change content-wise once you did have to leave the Activision umbrella?

Jeff: For us these games... we’ve worked on a lot of these games -- we have very experienced staff and we knew that these games take a long time to come together in the end because they are so complex. They’re system-driven and the system is essentially building a world simulator and that doesn’t really play nicely together until near the end when all the systems are in place. The thing about Square is that they kind of understood that and they understand about how these game come together.

As you said, you saw it a while ago and it looked like one thing; you saw it today and it looked like an entirely different thing and part of that is just a maturation process of these systems as they get developed. And you try and get that out there too early and the game isn’t going to work.

So with Square coming along and understanding development, that’s really given us the support and confidence to do what we always wanted to do with the game, which was have the game in Hong Kong, be an undercover cop and offer people the deepest mechanics that they’ve seen in an open-world game. And for Square, that proposition was exciting for them. They said “First time in Hong Kong; sounds amazing”. There’s not a lot of cop games, so the original in that respect sounds amazing. And the guys that came off Just Cause and Arkham and saw our mechanics, they loved that as well. So for them, there wasn’t a whole lot of need to change elements.

AusGamers: Now you are talking a lot about mechanics and systems and it is an open-world game -- there’s combat that’s heavily... well not heavily, but borrows in the correct way from Batman -- which was a ground breaking combat system in and of itself. The driving which I actually got to get hands on with before feels fantastic -- it’s among the best that I’ve played in that kind of game.

For you guys internally, was it too many eggs in one basket when you’re trying to create all these different systems? Did you rein it in? What was the process? Was it going: “here’s an open-world game, but we need to have certain things that feel more solidified in their mechanics than other open-world games”?

Jeff: For us, the cornerstone of the game is the fun piece. You can have a great story and you can have a great city, but unless the game is fun, it’s just not great. And we put together an experienced team of people who worked on a real cross-section of open-world games with strong mechanics. Obviously you mention Need for Speed; games like Bully. We’ve got guys from Skate, we’ve got guys from Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and Prototype. So bringing those guys together; having them talk about creating that seamless system that makes you feel like an action hero, we feel like those guys have managed to create it.

And I think the hands on today, you see people going back and forth between fighting, shooting, vault-shooting, getting on a bike as you saw in the demo and shooting,all of those things don’t seem modal, it seems natural -- that ability to seem like a Hong Kong action hero -- and have a very, very short learning curve. You saw in the demo today that within ten minutes, people are having a blast and playing it just like we’re playing it when we were demoing it and I think that speaks to how easy it is to pick up and play the game and how accessible the mechanics are.
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