Yahoo! interview with producer, Jeff Nachbaur, of 300: March to Glory

Category: 300 News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: February 7, 2007 | Publication: Yahoo Video Games | Author: YVG Staff
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Yahoo! Video Games: You mentioned that one of the biggest pitfalls in making a "beat-'em-up" is repetition. How does 300: March to Glory avoid that pitfall?

Jeff Nachbaur: Good games are about engaging the player with meaningful choices. Most beat 'em ups feel repetitive because the combat system is overly simplified or superfluous to your combat goals. For instance, many games will tell you that you have combos and then allow you dispatch most foes by just pushing a single button.

We make combos necessary. We make sure that you need to accomplish something specific. Enemies have conditions to beat and we give you the tools to do it. Then, the player needs to make choices on whom to attack first, what they want to do to the enemy, and then, pile on some other choices regarding health management and your rage. So, very quickly, you find that all your choices are meaningful. If you make the wrong one, you can very easily fail.

This requires the player to constantly think and consider what choice is the best choice and this engages the player. He is no longer thinking about "how many more enemies until this level is over" but more about the moment to moment decision he must make and that really is the key. If the gameplay requires the player to be smart about his choices, the feeling of repetition quickly dissipates. You're too busy taking care of business to get bored. YVG: How much of a stand-alone game is 300: March to Glory, as opposed to a game designed to appeal to fans of the movie?

JN: It's definitely a stand-alone game. It has to stand on its own merits. We designed it so that if you never saw the movie or read the graphic novel, you'd be just fine. But, we also provide a storyline that complements both. We also provide some extras for the movie trailers, film stills, and a four part interview with Frank Miller. But we're definitely a game that stands on its own. YVG: What games served as inspiration for the developers of 300: March to Glory?

JN: We sampled a lot of games in the genre as you always do when you start off on a new game. Spartan Total Warrior and EA's Lord of the Rings movie games were the first on our list. We also checked Samurai Warriors which at the time was the only PSP game in our genre. We also looked at the Mark of Kri and Rise of the Kasai series, both of which I'm a big fan. All of them deal with the genre is different ways and it was really evaluating what they did right and wrong and then finding what applied to us that helped us refine exactly what we were going to do for 300. We're definitely very different from any of the games above, but we have our share of inspiration from each of them.

YVG: Which enemy do you hate the most?

JN: My personal non-favorites are the Primitives. These are tribal-inspired Persians that only make a background appearance in the film. Collision made them highly evasive and agile which is a real challenge. You need to resort to a lot of tricks to really be effective against them.

YVG: Can you tell us what, if anything, was left on the cutting room floor at Collision? Were there any skills or powers for Leonidas that didn't make it into the final game? JN: We really were trying to think outside the box when it came to even basic game elements. Originally, we were going to have health pick-ups... little first aid kits that you picked up to replenish health. Ultimately, this didn't seem like an interesting choice for the player and seemed outside to realm of what we were trying to accomplish. Then, we considered using something called "rally points" where Leonidas could gain health back. Basically, the idea was to stand on a platform and repeatedly press a button to gain health... all the while, Leonidas would be screaming and pumping up the troops. All this rallying would increase your health. When we tested it, it just didn't work the way we had hoped. It was too hard to balance where to place them so that they player wouldn't get frustrated. We also considered a Tetris-like approach to the phalanx sections and some other wacky ideas. Ultimately, we kept a couple, but only the ones that worked of course. YVG: Is it more difficult or easier to make a game based on a movie and comic with such a distinct visual style and why?

JN: It's more difficult in the fact that you have meet a visual target and with a property like 300, you're going to have a very rabid fan base that will rip you apart for not getting it right. This can be very nerve racking, but it's good because it pushes you harder to achieve something beautiful. A good thing though is that you always know what your target is, which can help when you are producing the assets. There's always something to compare yourself to judge whether or not you are doing a good job.

YVG: You mentioned that 300: March to Glory is based on both the movie and the comic. Can you give us examples of parts of the game based on the movie and parts of the game based on the comic?

JN: We bridge the two more than pull specific bits from both. The movie is very true to the comic so if we adhere to one, we are basically adhering to the other. However, the movie definitely adds some stuff and we have that too. What we do is provide a middle ground between the two. Our color palette is a bit more broad, closer to the comic than the film, but our visuals on average are very movie based. Our cinematics are comic depictions of film assets. We also didn't go for actor likeness with many of the character but stuck more to the comic roots. We always lay between the two stylistically, so that's how we are based on both. YVG: Have either Frank Miller or Zack Snyder seen the game and, if so, what were their reactions?

JN: Zack has played the game on several occasions throughout the development process. He really pushed on the visuals and the last time he played was very impressed by how far we had gone. He was very honest through the entire process, so when we shared a near final build of the game with him, we were very happy when he said it was cool and fun. Frank hasn't seen the game yet, other than screens and the like, but our Creative Advisor Flint Dille, who worked in his stead, played it for quite a while and called Frank from my office, letting him know that it looked and played fantastic. Hopefully, our players will think the same thing.