“Third-Party” is a collection of columns where developers talk about specific games, mechanics, levels and more. This week, Andrew Haining, code lead for No Code (“Observation”), writes about the pace and influences of “Ghostwire: Tokyo”.
To their credit, these games were far more successful than other companies’ clumsy attempts to add multiplayer components to single-player games a decade earlier. I suspect it was more of a gentle nudge from the publisher than a mandate that gave the studios freedom to explore how the games they were developing could be better suited to the mass market. That theory is speculative, but I believe it’s true, and I believe that unlike the other studios, Tango decided that multiplayer just didn’t suit their games.
Ghostwire: Tokyo (PC) for 29.99 euros instead of 59.99 euros at MMOGA
It is also clear from his interviews that Mikami wants to continue his career in a way that gives him creative satisfaction while protecting the future of everyone who depends on him. He initially handed the reins to Ikumi Nakamura, who directed the first half of development. I think she put a big stamp on the game. Given Mikami’s recent comments that he still wants to lead another project, I think he doesn’t consider the process complete and the release of Ghostwire: Tokyo a complete success.
The interesting thing about the two leading characters in this game is that they have an artistic background that is reflected in the final product. There’s a strong sense of visual style. That carries it far, but I think as a result of the many competing influences – the two directors, Mikami’s legacy, and the publisher’s gentle nudges – the game mechanics feel like they’ve been overhauled too many times.
In my opinion, one of the most important tasks of a game director is to give the rest of the team a clear idea of what the game should be. For example, I have a theory that Kojima is so successful at connecting his narrative themes to game mechanics because his writing is so childish that it’s impossible for the team to stray too far from the thematic context of characters named Porter Bridges or Quiet to remove.
It’s a game that comes highly recommended. It reminds me of the first “Assassin’s Creed” – a first attempt at a recipe. It’s impossible to know what comes next – and I suspect there won’t be a sequel. But if they did a sequel, it would be built on a very strong foundation. Tango has the potential to create something extraordinary.
Deathloop (PC) for 25.99 euros instead of 59.99 euros at MMOGA
One of the hardest things about game development, in my opinion, is pacing. Unlike the movie industry, where you tend to film a lot and then perfect the pacing in the editing room, games don’t have that luxury. We can’t just cut sections out of games, move them around, go back into production and make some new ones like post-shoots do on film. With games, you have to constantly monitor the tempo during production and cut it on the fly. This is very difficult at best and doesn’t fit the concept of a strict schedule at all. If you’re not careful, these decisions will result in slow development.
Nobody wants to work on the same game for seven years. Everyone wants to see their creation get into the hands of users. Not all genres lend themselves to this idea. This is probably most pronounced in the open-world genre, and Tango didn’t quite nail it here. In this game, the user should develop their skills and advance the story enough times to keep them engaged. Tango comes very close to that, but the “caretaker of cards” stuff is a little too dense and movement through the world isn’t quite as engaging as in a purely open-world game. Combat is the other important component. Also, he doesn’t have the depth of the titles he emulates. Ghostwire: Tokyo’s real strength lies in its visual design and narrative elements, but it squanders its ammo too early instead of firing it consistently throughout the game.
Modern game development in the West is in an age of enslavement to reality. This often has a negative impact on the experience, such as with Red Dead Redemption 2, where there were frequent complaints about the slow pace of the game because every action of the user had to be carried out in minute detail. There were also times when the trend reversed. For example, first-person shooters have become faster and faster because users tend to equate their power in a world with the quality of the title. This quickly led to a massive increase in player power, which in turn encourages boring game design. You have to counteract that.
Finding the balance is crucial. Over-reliance on animation can negatively impact a designer’s ability to iterate and has an effect on the pacing of the experience. No pauses in player input can result in a breakneck pace like StarCraft, where success is literally measured in clicks. The right balance depends on the experience you want to create and the need to iterate to find something you’re happy with.
Dishonored: Complete Ed. (PC) for 19.99 euros instead of 69.99 euros at MMOGA
I believe that the recent Japanese zeitgeist of intentionally shifting first-person works away from realistic animation towards simpler and faster movements is a very good piece of design work. Ghostwire: Tokyo has found an excellent place on the spectrum where it doesn’t detract from immersion at all and the gameplay is kept at just the right pace to suit the game.
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