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The Man In The Mirror

In the next issue of Play (#168, on sale July 10) we’ve got an exclusive interview with Owen O’ Brien, in which the senior producer of Mirror’s Edge talks about what to expect from DICE’s “first-person movement” game beyond a really cool looking main character and lots of running about. By way of a taster, here’s a chunk of that interview that we didn’t have space for in the mag…


Play: What sorts of problems did you run into building a first-person game with such a fast-moving, agile player character?
OO: There were lots of little problems. We put a lot of work into the rig [the ‘skeleton’ on which your first-person view is mounted]. It’s not as simple as just putting a camera onto a third-person mesh. We’ve also had to overcome problems with simulation sickness, disorientation and things – keeping it ‘clean’. Maintaining a clutter-free HUD. So yeah, no big problem, just lots of little victories.

Play: So what’s special about the rig?
OO: We built a very particular rig. If you were to look at our rig in Maya [the 3D modelling application in which the rig is built and could be seen ‘naked’] it looks like something from Dead Space. Basically, all the limbs are detached from each other. The head’s detached from the torso, and the arms and legs are actually quite far out. So the legs are kind of popping up into your field of view, but if you were really doing these moves in strict first-person you would never see limbs in those places, only in your very peripheral vision. So a lot of stuff is kind of faked to make it seem real. It’s very hard to describe. Like, when you’re vaulting, normally you wouldn’t even see your hand plant, but when we do it we’re bringing up the legs and arms – we’re faking peripheral vision to give you a sense of where you are in the world. It’s what you would see in real-life versus what you need to see.

Play: But Faith doesn’t actually look like some kind of massively multi-jointed freak though, right?
OO: One of the things that’s interesting is when we do have reflections, we’ve got to have a completely different mesh in the reflection. If you had a strict reflection it would be like, “What the hell is going on?”

Play: We think the version of Faith seen in reflections, and in all the game’s artwork looks pretty cool. Where did the idea for the character come from?
OO: Faith is a character, actually, who just emerged one day. It’s strange, we were actually building another game, a different type of game completely. That game had a group of Yakuza in it, and we needed a Yakuza ‘fixer’, which is basically a hacker character. And when we saw the concept of her, it was like, “Okay, that’s our character. That’s who we should base the game around.” A lot of the game and the art style and everything else grew out of that initial concept of her, and is based around her. I’d love to say that we’ve had this very clear vision in our mind but sometimes you just stumble across stuff and you go, “Okay, that’s it.”

Play: She’s clearly some kind of free runner, or parkour traceus. Have you done a lot of research into that kind of stuff?
OO: It’s certainly becoming more popular. It’s moving into the mainstream as well with the Casino Royale chase and District 13 and all these sorts of films. We didn’t actually have any parkour guys have mo-cap or anything like that. We just watched them doing it. We didn’t want people to think that this is a parkour game because it’s not. In the same way that James Bond and Jason Bourne aren’t parkour films. It’s an element of something that we do, but the whole game isn’t about that.

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