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Interviews

Max Payne 3 multiplayer: competing with Gears, rebuilding Bullet Time

Rockstar talks taking Max online

Mass Effect 3's Galaxy at War component might be more hotly discussed, but Max Payne 3's decision to enter multiplayer waters is arguably the more hair-raising endeavour. Screw adding co-op to a story-driven franchise - we're talking about a series that trades on the ability to fight in slow-motion. Cue obvious time-keeping problems when it comes to pitting groups of players against one another.

Rockstar's solution is bizarre but startlingly workable. if you're looking at somebody when they trigger Bullet Time, you'll be caught in the effect. If you aren't, you'll be able to run and gun at normal speed. For more on the consequences, check out Matt's preview in issue 82. Before you do, though, here's a chat with lead designer Charlie Bewsher.

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You've got Bullet Time in multiplayer, and it works. How on earth did you manage that?

It was difficult in every stage. First of all we had to come up with an interpretation of how we were going to do it. We had about a dozen concepts, all widely different ways we could do it. We immediately ruled out a "bubble lock" Bullet Time, and we ruled out having it affect everybody on a map as well. We had a lot of different solutions to this and we boiled them down, and went for the line of sight version.

Implementing that is very hard because there are two time sequences running in the game: people out of Bullet Time and people in Bullet Time, and people in Bullet Time have slow animations, slower physics, slower particles, slower bullets - everything's slower for them but it's all running at the right speed for everyone else. It's very difficult getting those two time phases to work in the same map.

Once you get it in with the line of sight stuff, it's then just polishing and balancing and tweaking until it feels right. I would say we've spent as much time balancing Bullet Time as we have on every other weapon put together - it's been a long balancing process, from concept to implementation to balancing.

For me, the bursts are what really set this apart.

Well Max Payne is obviously a cop who shoots, so Bullet Time is his thing - it's what he does to make shooting better and easier. Gang Wars is about a whole load of different characters, so when we were researching who those characters would be - the dealers and snitchers, cops and gang leaders - we wanted to find characteristics that we could emphasis and push, and so we developed these burst concepts.

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We've got guys who can make a team betray itself, or a guy who can deal weapons to your team, or double-deal weapons to your team. There are a lot of burst moments that are derived from the characteristics of the factions in the gangs. It's been a very enjoyable concept to come up with, finding a lot of different ways in which we can affect the tempo of the game.

Everything can be locked down for a moment and you think you're winning and then a burst comes on and you're not quite sure what's going to happen. That's what the bursts are all about, changing the pacing and the tempo of the title.

There don't seem to be as many support-type perks as you'd find in similar shooters. Was that a conscious decision?

There are (maybe not the ones you saw today) a lot of support characters. It was much easier to come up with support powers - we actually had to move away from that and create some deathmatch-orientated ones for people who were just playing deathmatch and weren't interested in their team.

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