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Cloud castles: Irrational talks next gen costs, Bioshock sequels, and educating Call of Duty

An enormous chat with level designer Shawn Elliott

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Instead, we want to take things that still resonate through time and across different locations and say "this is a great vehicle to look at larger questions, to ask larger questions". And the fact that it's removed a little bit can make it a little easier for people to deal with, you know? Because... certainly if you had a scene that's labelled "Questions of Race" and it was set today, in some office, it might be a little bit too close and people might shut down rather than acknowledge it. "This is bullshit... this is, you know, this is an extreme case." Having enough of a remove there lets a greater range of people engage with the idea.

You poke fun at the fact that games expect players to make choices, too - like the bit where they toss a coin and you have to call it. I'm looking forward to finding out what happens to those two characters.

Yeah, they're crucial you know. It's very important to us that we keep certain secrets and we've been, you know - thank God we've been very good about that. We've introduced the characters there, we know them as "Le Teste" twins, and as you've seen, a few things are suggestive about them. Especially if you look closely. We're getting certain information out there you know, we're bread-crumbing you along to wonder more and more about them. Hopefully we will resolve and answer those questions to satisfaction by the time they've played through to the end.

And is that Close Encounters of the Third Kind you're referencing with the bells at the beginning?

Look at Ken, he's a great lover of good movies! When you're developing the game everything's in your face, and you see the incremental development process and you're so used to the gradual change, that you can never appreciate the transformation that anything undergoes, you know. It's kind of like watching your own child grow up, and then you have your relative that only sees them every five years, and they're like: "wow! Is that the same person?"

So for me, most of the stuff that I'm directly involved in, all I can see are the flaws because I always know what it looked like when it was basically the roughest, crudest of sketches. But the audio is something that comes in a big flash - I'll hear the place-holder stuff, and then the next time I play the audio is where I'm like: "oh, wow, like I can appreciate this."

And as soon as I heard that scene you're talking about, that was the first thing that I thought of - because I grew up with this Close Encounters toy, you know, a rubber toy with a wire frame inside so you could bend it and pose it, but if you bent it too hard you'd have a lethal wire sticking out.

My dad's a huge fan of Close Encounters, but not so huge a fan of videogames. I think Infinite could help with that.

Yeah, just show him that moment. Don't even tell him anything, just show him the card and put him there and say "Hey, ring these bills for me," and turn up the volume.

I think he would see the point of that scene. There's talk lately that the contemporary shooter setting is going out of fashion, while sci-fi and fantasy are on the march. Do you think that's true?

Sure, it's possible. Clearly, there's a tremendous market for that setting, and I think if people make a great game, people can make great shooters in that environment. I'm a fan of DICE's work - I play Battlefield, predominantly multiplayer, and it works for me - but it's probably also true that you stay in the game with novel context, provided you can convince someone to try it in the first place.


Maybe that goes back to what we were talking about: if someone bought our game thinking it was one thing and they experienced another, I'm fine with that. I'm not trying to say that I want to mislead, but provided that they walk away from it and they say "Hey I'm really glad that I tried this." I like unusual comicbooks, and I share them around sometimes, and as long as the person comes back to me and says "do you have anything else like this?" and I feel like I didn't waste their time...

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