Besides being a video game producer who has worked on titles like The Matrix, Bruce Lee, and ER (woah now!), Universal Games' Nick Torchia is also a self-proclaimed, extremely fervent fan of Joystiq. In fact, during the Wanted press event we attended, he excused himself to go refresh the site and read up on whatever he'd missed. He even has Ludwig's highly-collectible rookie card -- in mint condition. That's street cred right there.
We spoke with Nick about Wanted: Weapons of Fate, and he spilled the beans on a possible sequel, in addition to talking movie-based development and bullet curving (an essential survival technique). Check out the full interview after the break, but please note: there's a spoiler or two lurking near the end. Don't worry, we'll give you fair warning.
What's been happening since we saw this game previewed at E3?
Well, we have been spending most of our time polishing the game and fixing issues -- we were given an extended development period so we wanted to make sure we used it. If you look at other great games, they always seem to be delayed to make them better, and it turned out that we were given the same opportunity so we took the time to add to and tweak the overall gaming experience. Game play, graphics, sound, level design and just about all areas of the game were retooled in some fashion.
"Bullet curving is a different mechanic that no other game has done."
Bullet curving is a really fun and different mechanic that no other game has done to date. That, plus our cover system that is super fast and agile, come together to create what is essentially a new gaming experience. With GRIN behind the helm, we feel we have something fun and original for players to enjoy. Some of the complaints about the Resident Evil 5 demo is that you can't move and fire at the same time, which isn't an issue with our game. The player is always in constant motion. It seems like there is never a dull spot in the game, with lots of enemies and action all over the place.
Any multiplayer plans?
No, we kept this game a single-player experience. There are several reasons for this but the main one is that adding multiplayer seemed almost like a waste of time. If you look at current multiplayer games that are out, there are only a handful that people actually play: Halo, Gears, Call of Duty and Left 4 Dead. That is it. You tell me one person who is playing Stranglehold or The Darkness MP. Those were super solid games and fun but the time wasted just to add what amounted to a marketing bullet point was enormous in my opinion. Look at Bioshock, no multiplayer there and I think that game did pretty well in sales and ratings.
Weapons were a big part of the Wanted film. How many are in the game? And is there anything besides guns, or are there any bizarre/cool guns?
I wouldn't say that we have immense numbers of weapons -- there are about six main guns. We didn't go down the path of having tons of weapons because players tend to stick with the weapons they like and rarely use all of them. I think most players stick with the assault rifles and shotguns. In the Wanted film, pistols are used to curve bullets, so they are a major force in the game, which hasn't really been done before.
How necessary will it be to curve bullets in the game?
If you don't do it, you won't get very far. It is a crucial mechanic in the game and if you don't perfect it or even use it, you will die pretty fast. We wanted to make the player use the curve mechanic in various forms and fashions so they can have fun with it.
Are you all treating this as if it might become a franchise?
"We didn't just rush the game out with the film. It needed time to cook."
Yes, we certainly are. That is why we didn't just rush the game out with the film or the DVD. It needed time to cook so we wouldn't rush out something that is raw. Putting our best foot forward was important to Universal Pictures. Very few companies have the balls to really do something like we did – wait until after the release of the film ... and then after the release of the DVD ... in order to create something better. Will it pay off? Only time will tell, but I know we did the right thing to try and break away from the overall trend of shit movie-based games. We hope this will ease the pain a little.
Will the character take the healing wax in suppository form whenever he gets hurt?
Haha ... we don't do that because when we had that in earlier in the design; we felt it broke the pace of the game. There wasn't a simple way of having the wax baths, but if we do a sequel we have a cool idea how to use it. We stuck with the self-generating health scheme that most games do these days. It was better to go in this direction and not break the mold too much for our first game.
After watching Wanted, what did you want to change to avoid some of the criticism of the movie? To make it stand out?
That is a tough one to answer because it is hard to try and fix a movie that did 350 million dollars worldwide at the box office. But we did want to better tie-in some of the comic elements with the film elements to create a unique combination for the game. That is why we have the suit which is inspired by the comics. That was a nice tether from the comics to the game so it would help ease any issues some might have had that the film was not enough like the comics.
-- SPOILER ALERT --
The voice talent announcement just came out, and we thought the leads from the movie (McAvoy, Jolie, Freeman) might contribute to this. Was there an effort to get them? Even though two out of those three got killed in the movie?
For obvious reasons, Angelina is not in the game, but we do have the likeness for both Sloan and Wesley. We decided to expand on the film story so we spent more time on Cross (Wesley's father in the film) and Pekwarsky (played by Terrence Stamp).
What other elements are you incorporating from the movie? The Loom?
Yes, you will see the Loom in the game and you also revisit some of the film locations such as the Fraternity and his place of work. So we do a nice job of going back to some film locations while introducing some newer ones as well.
Do you ever feel hemmed in by the fact that you'd working on a movie-based title?
Sometimes I do. For me it is more psychological, because you know in the back of your mind, no matter how cool the game is or the amount of hours the team pours into making a solid game, it often won't be good enough for reviewers. It sucks but that is the nature of the beast in a lot of ways: movie-based games typically don't get a totally fair shake.
But at the same time I take it on, and I like a challenge. The goal is to try and make something that is solid and fun, to break that curse of sub-par movie-based titles. We set out to make an awesome third person shooter with unique mechanics and new, fun elements. Oh, AND it already has a back story written for us! That's really how you have to look at it – you're making a great game here, not a marketing tool for a movie sequel.
I think if more studios take the time to try and make a better product – basically, a good "GAME" first -- the stigma of movie-based games will be broken. Of course this won't happen over night, but a few solid games might start a trend. Universal Pictures has been at the forefront of this for years. Most people remember their amazing movie games like The Thing and Riddick.
This past year, Universal funded the Nintendo DS version of The Tale of Despereaux in order to do something a little special. The ratings have been really solid for a kids DS game, so it can be done with the right time, vision and team.