ROBOCOP - TITUS - INTERVIEW
Interview with Robocop titus game producer Jean-Benoit Silvestre. [Source: www.computerandvideogames.com ]
Interview by: Gareth Ramsay.
Monday 9th September 2002
After almost ten years spent in gaming purgatory after seeing off the Terminator on Mega Drive and SNES, officer Murphy is returning to his console stomping grounds once again. Breaking away from the 2D, third-person styling of previous titles, the French developer has brought the might of New Detroit's finest not only into the third dimension, but into a first person shooter.
Taking the first Robocop movie as its inspiration, the story revolves around a new drug in town - Brain Drain - and the kids are causing havoc for an armful of their next hit. Taking on the city's main supplier, Robocop finds a conspiracy that stretches to the top of the OCP and beyond. This is not your usual drug, and this is certainly not Robocop's usual adversary.
And how long has the game been under development?
Silvestre: I would say it's been about two years since we really started the game and about two and a half in total, since we spent about six months gathering information, seeing what we could do with the engine, watching the movies and seeing what ideas we could get from them and so on. But we consider the game under development for two years.
How did the deal with MGM come about?
Silvestre: Well, I think Titus was looking for a strong licence and it was the time when the PS2 was announced, and [Titus] realised that with a strong, new platform it was going to be able to make a strong game and looked for something that people liked. Usually it's a game based on a movie with a strong character. And with Robocop you get a strong character, a character that people like and a character that has never been done in 3D...
...and it's the first time Robocop has been played in the first person...
Silvestre: Yes, our goal in the game was to make the player feel that he is Robocop. That's why the game had to be first person. First person also gives us the HUD [Heads Up Display - Ed], which is where you get new information and objectives written in the screen, and the targeting system - just like in the movies. So we couldn't do it if Robocop was seen in the third person. I think it is weel suited to that kind of game.
You've also chosen to base the game on the first movie. Why was this?
Silvestre: Yes. To be honest, this was part of the deal we had with MGM. We have a very good relationship with MGM, they've been very co-operative. It's been a pleasure working with them. The deal was we can do anything we want, but try to focus on the first two movies. And the designers agreed that the first movie was the best, so we focussed on that.
Do you think MGM realised this, too?
Silvestre: Well, I can't speak for them, but why not? Everyone knows that the best Robocop is the first one. Personally, though, I like the second one.
The first movie's fifteen years old now and isn't shown much anymore. Do you think that you might have a bit of an uphill battle on your hands with gamers who only really know Robocop through the TV series?
Silvestre: This can be an issue, but I don't think it will be the case as Robocop is too well known amongst gamers. People who are 20 / 25 years old possibly had a SuperNES or Mega Drive console and there was two or three Robocop games on those platforms. So people who were kids or teenagers maybe five or ten years ago will know Robocop. And the younger ones? Well, why not go to the DVD store and buy the DVDs?
You're going to have to have a strong plot to go up against the first movie. What have you planned for Robocop?
Silvestre: Well, the game starts out as Robocop is called out to a disturbance in the street, but it turns out to be a lot more complicated than that. You realise that there's actually a drug smuggling business in town; the drug is called Brain Drain. It's not a regular game, but rather a drug that takes control of your brain through an electronic system.
An electronic system?
Silvestre: Yes, there's actually a tiny chip in the syringe. You discover that there's this guy called Nex who is distributing the drug and trying to take control of the drug business in the town, but there's someone else trying to stop him - so you've two bad guys. About half-way through the game you manage to arrest Nex, but that's not it as there's someone else... well, actually something else, because it's something. But I'll let you discover that. On top of all this there's the OCP. The OCP is trying to use Nex to discredit the mayor...
This is one of the sub-stories?
Silvestre: Yes, and it serves the story because at the end of the game people will say that Robocop actually tried to kill the mayor, but of course it's not Robocop; someone is trying to put Robocop in to a bad position...
How is the narrative told throughout the game?
Silvestre: There are many ways we immerse the player in the Robocop universe. At the beginning of each level there are police bulletins; you have primary and secondary objectives, but during the game objectives can be changed or modified. In the first mission, for example, you are just there to check out the situation and restore order but you find out there is a drug shipment which has been hijacked, so you go and investigate. You didn't know this at the beginning, so the objectives have been changed. Then we have TV flashes in a similar style to the films. The information about the new mayor of Detroit, when Robocop arrests people - this is all covered in the TV flashes. Before each mission you have a briefing in Robocop's lab in the police station and this updates you with what you are about to face in the mission you'll play.
Can you outline some more of the missions we'll play? There's more to them than just shooting, isn't there?
Silvestre: Well, in the second mission you have a call telling you that some people have been kidnapped. You have to head off to the City Dump and be careful not to kill them while freeing all the hostages. The third mission is where you have to go after Nex; you have a clue from the second mission telling you that he is the one to arrest.
So there's quite a variety in missions?
Silvestre: Yes, and this is one of the strongest points of the game. And you'll also never see the same scenery twice because each mission is set in a different place.
How many different enemy types are there?
Silvestre: About 30..
... and how do they vary?
Silvestre: You have three categories of enemy. First you have the humans; the humans can be wounded, they can be killed if you are too aggressive. If Robocop is shooting at one and [his HUD display] turns blue you are supposed to arrest them. If you shoot at non-aggressive people you will get some in injury points and Robocop's view will go blurred. So don't shoot innocent people and don't shoot enemies that have surrendered!
Next you have the Cyborgs. These are not humans - you can kill them...
Are these the creations of OCP?
Are they Robocop v2?
Silvestre: Well, actually they are the creation of the real bad guy. It's a thing called The Mind, a huge computer that has been made by the OCP, but they have lost control of it. The Mind now tries to use the Brain Drain drug to take control of the people in the city. So The Mind has started creating its own Cyborgs; they're very strong and move very fast and can be really harmful to Robocop.
And the third type of enemy?
Silvestre: Robots. There's the old ED209, the new ED1000 and, of course, The Mind itself is a robot. And there's a few other ones...
You've only included six weapons in the game. This seems very few. Why is that?
Silvestre: Some people might argue that it's not a lot, but in the movies Robocop only has two weapons; he has the Beretta handgun and he gets the big gun in the first movie. We felt that people are used to seeing Robocop with only two weapons, but it means one thing: Robocop is very strong himself, he doesn't need huge firepower. We chose to include the weapons in the story; that means that Robocop won't get to use any weapon, they're all part of the scenario. We have seen many games that feature lots of weapons and we felt that too many weapons may be a good thing to put on the box, but that's it. I can only speak for myself, but I played Return To Castle Wolfenstein and I only used two weapons in the game and there are maybe 15 or 16 weapons.
So what are Robocop's six weapons?
Silvestre: You've got the handgun - you always have this - the one he has in the movies; you have a gatling gun which Robocop attaches to his left arm. This is very powerful but it's not very accurate, but when there are many, many enemies to shoot at it's very useful; you've got the laser, an energetic weapon; you've got an ion gun; the grenade launcher and the missile launcher. The grenade launcher works by throwing a grenade and you just wait for it to explode. The missile launcher is much more accurate.
What about gadgets?
Silvestre: Yes, you've got the zoom. The zoom helps you in sniping missions and when the enemy is hidden. You can zoom and aim for the head if you want to kill him...
... and you can use that at any time?
Silvestre: Yes, basically we wanted to keep it for some weapons, but then we thought it's Robocop, so Robocop has these features all of the time. It's not dependant of the weapon he's using. So there is two modes of zoom - 50% and 100% - but the counter-effect is that it is not that easy to aim when you're on full zoom, so you might want to reduce the zoom and get a better control.
The second gadget is Robocop's thermographic view, which shows reactions to heat. You can spot enemies behind walls, behind cars and it's also very helpful for seeing where the hostages are.
What sort of replay value is there in the games?
Silvestre: Well, you've seen that there are primary objectives and secondary objectives. Well, you can go to the next mission if you complete the primary objective. If you don't complete this you have to start the mission all over. If you don't complete the secondary objective, you can get, I'd say, about 80% of the game done, and you can then do it again because you didn't get the secondary objectives.
Then there's the secrets. There's one in mission one; there's many ways you can end the mission. If you choose to help another police officer who is in trouble, you will get extra stuff - ammunition and energy - and you'll start the second mission from another location, so you don't start with all the enemies waiting for you.
But we notice there's no multiplayer...
Silvestre: We focus on the storyline of Robocop. There are many great games that offer multiplayer - Quake III and Unreal Tournament - that are great because they concentrate on multiplayer only. I think it is better to have a great storyline and focus on that. And there's another thing... if we were to design a multiplayer game in Robocop - Robocop versus who? Another Robocop but in blue? It can be fun, but I would say we didn't have time to make a great first person game that has a multiplayer mode included. It was a design choice. But why not for Robocop 2? Why not?