EV: Emmanuel Valdez - Game Director of The Bourne Conspiracy
CCC: Cheat Code Central
CCC: And there's parts from the other mediums that just won't presumably work. In the book, Bourne is a linguistics professor.
I thought about that - maybe it could be interesting. In Ultimatum [the book] he's a fifty-year-old professor. In the movie…I guess that could be fun a little bit. It'd be like watching Indiana Jones in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Definitely the movies are so divergent from the books. It's the same challenge we have. The main concepts and principles of the character are still true: he is a superhuman assassin; he has these great abilities, but he's not quite sure how he obtained them; he has a nemesis that's equally trained; he's up against an organization that's always after him; he's always on the run.
As much as we're saying there's a lot of limitations, there's a lot of freedom at the same time. He doesn't shoot a lot in the movies - that's not the resourcefulness of this character; it's too easy for him. In our game, we have a lot of shooting because players' expectations are, if you do an action game and you have hand-to-hand fighting, you got to have shooting to balance that. I think in five minutes of our game he shoots more than he does in all three movies. Even though we're working within boundaries, there's a lot of room for creativity as far as where we create gameplay experiences with the kind of missions that you will have, and how you blend all the different features.
CCC: How did you balance the camera work in keeping things non-static? That's a big part of movies - he's always on the run; there's a lot of fast cuts.
We actually had a dedicated camera crew that created camera logic - basically camera A.I. There's different strategies per situations. In a traditional hand-to-hand fighting game, your camera would be on the side, but ours is pushed in a little bit closer so there's enough room so we can see if you throw a kick attack. It communicates what's going on in the scene - what kind of attacks are being thrown, but it's still all under player control. The player starts controlling the camera, and it swings around. We wanted to create really dynamic camera angles. We also wanted to keep the character a certain way. If an object gets in the way, the camera pushes in a little bit. There's all this logic for every type of situation. Even when you take cover, the camera is positioned so that you can see people who are firing at you. But, if a guy starts firing at you and destroying your cover, the camera is reacting as a camera man, and there's a little bit of a delay.
It's really an expansion of the cam in Gears of War, and some of the work they did in Shadow of the Colossus - great cinematic touches. We've taken it to a new dimension. They [the camera angles] come in different forms and strategies. Real time cinematography isn't just cameras, it's editing. It's how you approach a scene. For instance, our takedowns look very much like the movies because of edits and cuts and their combination. The idea came when I was watching the Bourne Supremacy making of - specifically, Jeff Imada coaching Matt Damon. He started showing some of his fight moves and I thought, "It doesn't look that powerful or fast, but they're shooting it in real time. There's something different." I realized the editing does magic. Editing is what makes the movie - the basic idea at the end of the day.
I did an experiment where I took a radiator takedown where Bourne slaps a guy in the face to distract him, grabs him, and then throws him into a radiator and it busts - the guy falls down. It looked like everybody would love that one - it's pretty visceral. To the animator's dismay and my poor camera girl - who set up all the camera cuts - I started stripping out frames. What if we just cut to the guy getting hit in the face, he's grabbing him, and next thing you know he's in the radiator? I stripped out 50 percent of the frames. When I played it back we thought it felt more cinematic. What's different? I over-cranked here, I stripped out this frame - people know how to connect the dots. They don't need to see, "I grab him, I move him over here, and then he's going across the span of this room, the radiator explodes, and he falls down."
It's action cinematography. The combination of all those elements really created this new, unique experience. People watching the game are going to be entertained in a different way than you might see in other games. I play games now and I'm missing that. I feel slow - there's something missing: it's the language of film.
CCC: When you watch a movie you have those rapid cuts. A movie - say an action scene - doesn't have just one angle the entire time. The key seems to be execution.
You throw in how you do the camera work. In the Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum, Paul Greengrass has all that hand-held cam stuff. It's a distinct visual style. That was a big, huge influence. It's not just the camera cuts. It's how it moves. It's how it's cropped. Then it's how you edit it and sell the experience.