Interview / Treyarch’s Garrett Young talks Quantum of Solace

In case you haven’t noticed there is a certain writer here at TVGB who is slightly obsessed with James Bond. I won’t name any names here, but you can see whose written most of the stories on the upcoming Bond game Quantum of Solace. So when we got the chance to talk with Garrett Young, the Executive Producer on the Treyarch Bond Team, the excitement level of said editor was pretty darn high. Luckily all gushing and guffawing over Bond was kept in check and Young was able to respond to our questions about the game.

As fans of the series we really wanted to go past just the gameplay, which you can read about everywhere, and find out how the game was going to capture what makes Bond Bond. Young and his team seem to be going head first at capturing the the very essence of the films, but how are they accomplishing it and where do they see themselves taking the Bond games? As a reinvention of the series, this game has a lot to stand up to. Does Young think they can do it, and more importantly who is his favorite Bond? Read on.

Matthew Razak (TVGB): In discussions on Bond there are many theories on why the character has lasted so long, but they all seem to end up claiming that the Bond films just have a certain je ne sais quoi that makes them Bond. The games have seemed to have trouble capturing this. What are you doing to capture that Bond je ne sais quoi in the game in order to truly get that unique Bond feeling?

Garrett Young (GY): James Bond is an icon. The character and his world were well written by Ian Fleming, Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman did an amazing job bringing him to the Silver Screen in the early ‘60s, and Cubby’s kids have kept him cool over 40 years later. It’s a rich history, and we’re happy to play a small part in it.

Daniel Craig is a more physical, more cunning, and more dangerous Bond than ever before. He uses his mind when approaching a situation, then attacks it head on. He relies on very few gadgets. This is the Bond we bring to life in Quantum of Solace.

Personally, I’m a big Bond fan. I’ve seen all the movies (of course ;-) and I’ve read all of Fleming’s books. I read Cubby’s autobiography, and I even went and saw MI6 and Ian Fleming’s old home when I was in London earlier this year. Though our game is focused on giving gamers the true experience as this new James Bond, you may still see some nods to the history of Bond in the game.

TVGB: What gameplay mechanic are you most excited about and which one do think is the most “Bondian?”

GY: Hmm, this is a good question. I am probably most excited about the seamless transition between normal first-person gameplay and third-person Cover Combat. This feature allows gamers to take a smarter approach to a situation – rather than run in guns-blazing – and provides a wide variety of options in battle. As the filmmakers told us, “Bond’s greatest weapon is his mind,” so during the course of development we looked for ways to allow gamers to use their mind during gameplay.

My other favorite features in the single-player campaign are the weapons, the fast-paced action, and the immersion in the Bond world. The first time I heard Judi Dench talking to me, it sent chills down my spine. I definitely felt like James Bond.

TVGB: The new Bond films aren’t as solely focused on action (though the action is still there in spades), with more attention going towards the character. How are you tackling this in the game?

GY: Actually both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace have many great action scenes. Remember the chase through the Shanty Town and around the Construction Site in Casino Royale? Or the Airport scene? Or the race through the sinking house in Venice? Quantum of Solace will have just as many fun action sequences.

Our game is an action game, because we believe that’s the part of the Bond universe that gamers want to play. There is dialogue in our game, but we’re not focused on making a dialogue-heavy Bond experience.

TVGB: Why did you decide to bring Bond back into first person (for the most part) after Everything or Nothing and From Russia with Love somewhat successfully delivered Bond in the third person?

GY: We see Quantum of Solace as the re-launch of James Bond as a videogame franchise. Though we learned from prior Bond games, we didn’t want to be constrained by choices that were made by other teams in the past.

In re-launching this franchise, we asked gamers what they wanted in a Bond game. When asked about in-game camera perspective, roughly two-thirds of them said they wanted to “Be Bond” – to play in a first-person camera. The other one-third said they wanted to see Bond on-screen (third-person camera). Thus, we decided to give them both.

When navigating normally through the game, they play in a first-person camera. When taking Cover or kicking off a cinematic event (eg., takedown, big jump, ledge crawl, etc.), they see Bond on screen in a third-person camera.

We think this blend of first- and third-person perspective really works for our game and gives players the best of both worlds.

TVGB: Have you found it difficult to work within the license or have you been given room to roam? And within that, how closely have you been working with both Casino Royale‘s and Quantum of Solace‘s filmmakers?

GY: We have a great relationship with the people from Danjaq and EON Productions. They invited us out to the set three times to see filming in progress, we got weekly updates to the Quantum of Solace script, and we scanned and photographed all the major actors and wardrobes from both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace — we even scanned Director Marc Forster! It’s been a great relationship.

We also had the opportunity to show Daniel Craig the game. I had read that he’s a gamer, but I found out how true that was when I met him. Instead of the normal demo I normally give, he jumped right in and grabbed the controller! He picked up the first-person control scheme immediately, and then started learning our Cover Combat system. I was even more impressed later when I heard he regularly played Guitar Hero in his trailer between shoots. He’s a cool dude.

One of our company’s great strengths at Activision is how well we work with the creative forces behind big movies. That close relationship played a big part in helping make this game great.

TVGB: The CoD4 engine is obviously a great engine for an FPS. How have you improved on it for this game and how well is it working with third person shooting?

GY: The Call of Duty 4 engine is probably the best engine for first-person gameplay. It is amazing technology, and the tools and content pipeline allowed us to build levels and iterate much faster than if we had built our own engine.

We added a persistent character for third-person Cover Combat, all the environments are brand new and very different, and we spent a lot of time building more “villainous” AI. And of course, being immersed in the world of Bond is very different than the war-zone of a Call of Duty game.

Combining James Bond with the CoD4 technology is a match made in heaven. We think gamers are going to love the results.

TVGB: GoldenEye’s multiplayer is still popular to this day. What are you doing with Quantum of Solace‘s multiplayer to make it stand out from the crowd?

Rare’s Goldeneye set the standard for first-person shooters on the console back in 1997. All game developers making FPS games today owe them a big debt of gratitude for the trail they blazed – us included.

Our game supports 12-player online play across different game modes that gamers will recognize right away. We also have some exciting new modes that let you play as Bond. We have a ton of weapons and “gadgets” that you can upgrade over time, and we have some very fun levels for MP, including very cool extensions of the levels you play through in Single Player.

Our multiplayer game modes are accessible and fun right from the beginning – it’s an easy pick-up-and-play multiplayer experience, and everyone who plays it has really enjoyed it. The guys over at headquarters even told us that the biggest problem they found during their multiplayer testing is keeping the testers from playing it all the time!

TVGB: We’ve heard a lot about the 360/PS3 version of the game. Can you talk a little about the DS and Wii versions? Specifically how will the Wii version be different and what we can expect out of the DS version.

GY: Unfortunately I can’t say much about these versions, other than we have strong developers working on them, they had excellent reference to build from, and they have a very cool character at the core of their game! ;-)

TVGB: Now the really important question. Who is the preferred Bond over at Activision?

GY: We are fans of all the past Bonds but we definitely prefer Daniel Craig!