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Old 08-25-2002, 12:25 AM   #1
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Andre Emerson Interview on Dead to Rights

Via XenGamers

With each new title, video games inch closer to becoming fully realized interactive movies. Game developers are recruiting more Hollywood talent to script their stories, compose their music, and provide voices for their characters. Dead to Rights is Namco's stab at creating an interactive movie featuring the classic loner hero, a film noir style plot scripted by Hollywood talent, and intense action sequences inspired by Hong Kong films. Recently XenGamers had a chance to ask senior producer of Dead to Rights, Andre Emerson, a few questions about the development process and about the finished product.

XenGamers: Xbox owners will get to play Dead to Rights this summer, but GameCube and PS2 fans will have to wait until the end of the year. Why the decision to premiere on Xbox?

Emerson: Premiering on Xbox was a business decision. Although from a development point of view, the system is very powerful, so getting it up and running was fairly straightforward.

XenGamers: What was your overall impression of working on the Xbox? Were there any unexpected difficulties or advantages? What about GameCube and PS2?

Emerson: Well, the hardware is very powerful and we tried to take as much advantage of it as we could. DTR started on PS2 and the game was nearly complete when worked started on the Xbox version, so naturally some roads were already paved. Xbox gave us some cool visual effects, 5.1 audio and the added horsepower to up the already high body count.

XenGamers: Emulating films is quite common for video games these days -- how far do you think video game makers have come as storytellers, in terms of scripts and using visuals to advance a story and creating compelling entertainment?

Emerson: It may sound cliche but the lines are blurring further with each passing day. With an increasingly heightened focus on production values, including the use of signed bands, famous actors for voice work, the hiring of professional screenwriters, established licenses, etc., the industries are coming together. Dead to Rights is a story based action-noir game, we feel we walked a fine balance of hardcore action and narration.

XenGamers: Dead to Rights reminds us of many Hong Kong action films -- are there any movies Hong Kong or not that you and your team used for inspiration, say, for specific character moves or fight scenes?

Emerson: It's quite a long list actually. Some of the more obvious films include Hardboiled, The Killer, A Better Tomorrow I & II, Payback, Last Man Standing, Die Hard. We also took inspiration from lots of classic film noir for more of our narrative. These great films include, Brute Force, Out of the Past, Killer's Kiss, The Big Combo, DOA, Kiss Me Deadly, Murder My Sweet and tons of other great tough guy films.

XenGamers: Will Dead to Rights take advantage of the Xbox hard drive in any way?

Emerson: We use it for all of the game's save data, but our programmers did an amazing job of all but eliminating load times, so we can keep the experience flowing without any annoying loads.

XenGamers: It's mentioned in the press release that your team approached the development of this game as one would a movie production. How did this help the overall development?

Emerson: I worked with screenwriter Flint Dille in preproduction for many months on the story with the design being created in parallel. One advantage this gave us was having key plot points and scenarios well in place to keep DTR's very large scope 'glued' together without ever being too restrictive. While the story was finalized fairly early on, the script wasn't recorded until later in the project. This ensured the necessary flexibility to have the story/game compliment each other throughout development. We also placed a very high priority on production values. Hiring accomplished film composers, writers, sound designers and wire stunt talent.

XenGamers: What led to the creation of Shadow?

Emerson: We wanted to punctuate Jack's loner persona in an interesting way that hadn't been done in a game of this type. Jack isn't the type to have a human partner so when the idea of a K9 partner came up during brainstorming, it just clicked and we never looked back. Shadow helps define Jack's character and is a kick-ass smart bomb that kills on impact and retrieves the enemy's weapon.

XenGamers: The control scheme employed is very complex for an action title. How do you think this will be received by gamers?

Emerson: The core gunplay mechanic in Dead to Rights involves locking-on to an enemy with the right trigger, then pressing "A" to shoot. Many of the other features (human shield, disarms, throws, etc.) are mapped to a single context sensitive action button. Ulimately, you will need to learn how to use cover objects and how to use the slow motion diving to your advantage as you face tougher enemies. There are scenarios early in the game that allow you to experiment with the game's great diversity with little penalty. I recommend spending time in the nightclub interior where the bodycount is high, and the enemy firepower is moderate.

Dead to Rights isn't about run-n-gun all the time. You have to keep an eye on your life and armor and pick your spots to go Chow Yun-Fat on the enemies. Our goal was to create a sense of tension and anxiety during the many gunplay scenarios. When you're crouched behind a parked car and bullets are whizzing by your head, your going to feel far more gratified when you lunge out, disarm an enemy, dive at another shooting his comrades along the way, only to roll to your feet and take yet another as a human shield, it feels damn cool... DTR isn't a dumbed-down shooter.

XenGamers: Japanese gamers have always seemed puzzled by western games, especially concerning the graphic depiction of violence. Will you try to release this game in Japan, and if so how do you think gamers will respond?

Emerson: We plan to ship DTR in Japan, but honestly my expectations are low. Considering that it is a western developed game and that it's extremely violent, DTR has limited chance of success over there. We knew this from day one and targeted Dead to Rights at North America and Europe specifically.

XenGamers: How do you feel about the finished product? What will make DTR stand out amongst a sea of Max Payne clones?

Emerson: DTR separates itself from the class with a huge number of unique features that you only see in action movies. DTR's strong narrative combined with cool features such as the unlockable disarm sequences, human shields, flammable toss-n-shoot objects, hand-to-hand fighting, action movie-inspired boss rounds and tons of other activites, gives Dead to Rights a true action movie hero experience.

XenGamers: If you had more time to work on Dead to Rights, what would you change/include?

Emerson: We're a passionate group, so given the time, we'd probably touch everything to some extent. Specicially though, we probably would have added more ambient animations and effects to the world, and spent more time tuning and tweaking gameplay balance. We also wanted difficulty levels for XBox but they didn't make it in. Quite honestly though, you can nudge the numbers around for eternity. We're excited now to get it into the hands of the gaming public and start gathering feedback.

XenGamers: And lastly, do you have any future projects you can tell us about?

Emerson: Well I'd love to do DTR2. We already have planned features and a cool storyline.

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Old 08-26-2002, 02:25 PM   #2
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I know DTR has received average/semi good reviews, but I really like the game so far on my Xbox. It has yet to get boring and the gameplay changes up to help it from becoming repetitive. I hope DTR sells well, I would love to see a sequel. DTR is a blast to play, it is like being in your own Dirty Harry movie, very cool.
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