Thursday, 12 February 2015

Exclusinterview: Dan Marshall (Size Five Games)

After being left alone for a while, Size Five Games' next game, The Swindle,  is back in business, and is currently aiming to release in Summer on PC and consoles! The Swindle, in case you don't know, is a procedurally-generated cat-burgling game that has stealth and action elements, and I've managed to get an interview with Dan Marshall, also creator of Time Gentleman, Please!, to give you more information...

GAK: So you've admitted before that you don't really like stealth games, yet The Swindle is partly a stealth game. What have you done to make the stealth mechanics unstealthy enough for you to like them?

Hah, there’s a lot of stuff. I guess I just like the idea of Stealth games more than I really actually like how they tend to be executed – waiting for a baddy to finish his patrol, ambiguous “you can-or-can’t be seen” stuff, guards having boring conversations I feel obliged to listen to, it all just sort of adds up to this kind of weirdly dreary experience. I guess what I’ve tried to do with The Swindle is distil what I *love* about stealth games into this kooky 2D experience. So, it’s dead clear when you can/ can’t be seen. The enemies are varied but predictable, so they never just suddenly turn round on an AI’s whim, you know? It’s about being in the right place and dealing with stuff as it happens, rather than sitting planning and worrying about what’ll happen if you don’t pull it off because of any one of a million factors. 

Most importantly, I’ve tried to make it feel like getting spotted isn’t failure, per se. You don’t have time to wallow, there’s no return to this weird state where the guards have sort of forgotten about the alarms – the game switches to being an action game, and you’re kind of against the clock trying to salvage whatever you can and running away before the cops show up. 

It’s a lot of stuff, really. But it’s making about making the stealth clear and distilled and fun.

GAK: In The Swindle, you can catburgle a house more than once: how does the game change and adapt to previous playthroughs of the same house? (Edit: I got this one wrong!)

No, each house is totally unique now. The old version of the game had you returning to the same place, and the idea was this AI Director would beef up security, forcing you to find other ways in. It sounds great on paper, but it just kind of didn’t work.

So, every level is now procedurally generated, every level is different. When you screw up, that’s your lot, you need to make the most of it and move on!

GAK: Why do you think that procedural-generated games are becoming so popular, and why was it a good fit for The Swindle?

I think PG is a really interesting way for games to go, I’d like to see more done in AAA. I think it keeps the experience feeling fresh and exciting, you know? This isn’t scripted, this is all for me. There’s something about procedurally-generated games that just add a wealth of exciting content.

As far as The Swindle’s concerned, it just means the game is that bit more unpredictable. Every house is a new challenge, every room feels like a little puzzle – there’s Baddy Type A and Baddy Type B, and I have one bomb left and only Tool C to take them out with and how am I going to do that? It just keeps every heist feeling different.

GAK: Would you say that The Swindle requires a lot of thinking to play, or can you just wing it and win?

Uh, I’d say it requires a lot of concentration. As soon as you get cocky and start to wing it, that’s when you slip up and set the alarms off. If you take things really steady and carefully, you can ghost levels just fine. It’s when you get complacent things go awry. Just like with real burglars, I guess.

GAK: Last of all, since you're the creator of the Ben and Dan series of games, what is your favourite pair of gaming protagonists (e.g Ratchet and Clank) other than Ben and Dan?

Oh, man . I dunno. Off the top of my head, I really like Drake and Elana from Uncharted, I think they win. There’s something about the acting and chemistry that makes their cutscenes really interesting to watch. That’s probably a boring answer because Uncharted isn’t called  The Drake & Elena Adventures, is it? It should be, those two are the best

The Swindle is set to release in Early Summer 2015 for PS3, PS4, PS VITA, Wii U, PC and Xbox One!

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