We managed to corner Pierre de Margerie, who runs the 3C team working on the upcoming Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, at a certain event and wring a little information out of him regarding Ubisoft’s newest cover-based shooter, the Kinect-powered Gunsmith feature and a few more things besides.
Pierre: It’s basically coordinating the work of… we’ve got two animation engineers, six programmers, three animators and two designers. It’s basically…the purely animation system part of it is basically providing the tool to the team for both main characters and NPCs to be able to have smooth movement, orientations and whatnot, the best possible animation quality.
I just want to hear a little bit more about Future Soldier, what is it going to be?
Our aim in my group was to make the best third-person cover-based shooter out there. So a huge focus was cover: how you interact with it, how you move in and out of cover and of course how, when you’re away from cover, how you interact with the environment. We believe that now we’ve got a cover system that is extremely comprehensive, very reactive, and very easy to use and which has features that you don’t see in other games. You can peek around cover, you can peek about cover, you can cover swap from point to the other and its all super-smooth, extremely reactive and very fun to play with.
Are you limited to what you can take cover against or is it pretty much anything in the environment?
Well, pretty much everything in the environment that is a smooth enough surface but you can actually take cover on trees and stuff like that so you can take cover on a lot of stuff. It just needs to be high enough above ground so you can crouch behind it and be hidden. The idea of cover is to be safe.
Yes, we have destructible cover so basically when you take cover against… behind some wooden planks for instance; you know that you’re not going to be 100% safe. Maybe some high penetration bullets will go through them and hit you and if an enemy throws a grenade it’s going to blow your cover away and you with it. So you’re not always 100% safe with cover but you just have to analyse the type of material you’re covering behind and if you’re behind a thick concrete wall, you’re pretty safe.
And has the cover mechanic carried over to multiplayer?
Completely. The core gameplay of how you control your character is shared between single player and multiplayer and the multiplayer is very much cover-based. If you don’t use cover you will get fragged by people who are actually in cover with a lesser signature and who can get back to safety really fast by just releasing a button.
Are there any interesting gadgets or technology that you can reveal?
Of course. That’s the second part of our gameplay loop. The first part is the core shooting and cover mechanic and then there is a whole gameplay about intelligence, which is knowing where your enemies are, what types they are. So every Ghost has a built-in augmented reality interface in his helmet which allows him to see additional information on the field. And that information can either be provided by teammates via the attachments on their weapons or via some equipment like the UAV drone which is basically a drone that you throw in the air that flies around and allows you to get a vantage point on the battlefield. And when this drone spots enemies you get intel points on these enemies that are shared throughout the team.
You lose the intelligence.
So it won’t give you a last known position?
No it won’t.
This is sort of an off the wall question: in your opinion how close are we to seeing some actual Ghost Recon equipment being used by military?
I’d say over 90% what we’re showing in the game is actual equipment that is being researched and developed by the US Army. We have an optical camo, which basically… it’s not that it reflects light; it takes the information on what is behind you and prints it on your camouflage. So essentially if you’re standing by a wall what the enemy will see will be an image of the wall on you. You’re not 100% invisible but its much more discreet. That’s used in the game, both single player and multiplayer. In multiplayer the Scout class has an optical camo. Drones of course are used by the US Army, we have EMP grenades [in Future Soldier] which disrupts the electronic equipment of your enemies which is also technology that is being developed. Apparently it exists.
Yeah, Gunsmith is the interface which lets you customise the weapons in the game. And that something we found out when we prepped the game in the conception and pre-production phase, we worked with consultants who are ex-Special Forces people. And one of the things they told us is that Special Forces operatives customise their gear in and out. They like to go into missions with exactly the type of equipment that they want. So they’re going to stick the type of grip they like on their gun, they’re going to get the optic they want, they’re going to have the gear on them that they find most useful and so that’s something that we’re translating into Gunsmith, which allows you to take the over fifty weapons in the game and customise them down to their inner parts. That means we’ve got fifty weapons with ten different parts you can modify: the gas system that will shoot the bullets, to the length of the barrel, the camo pattern, to the type of optics you’re using so, in theory that makes you over 20 million unique combinations of guns if you combine different paints and different optics.
And the only part of Future Soldier that will be compatible with Kinect will be Gunsmith?
Yes. Kinect was implemented as a way to give a different [method] to interact with the Gunsmith that is more accessible and that you can use with voice control. In Gunsmith all the commands that you can use with gestures you can use with voice as a shortcut. You can still use Gunsmith with a traditional controller and you can use it in both single player and multiplayer.
I’ve got one more question: do you have a favourite weapon combo for Gunsmith?
I like using optics so I usually favour the TAC scope. We’ve got bipod attachments which let you put your weapons on cover or when you’re lying prone, put your weapon on the ground for more stability. There are plenty of different attachments… I usually go for bigger magazines to be able to shoot a lot of round without having to reload. I usually go for long barrels to have better precision and there is another very useful piece of equipment which is the [inaudible, sounds like NoTR] scanner which you put on the side of your gun and it lets you see when an enemy is actually targeting you. So when you’re getting aimed at you see a blue laser coming from your enemy to you so you know you’re in big danger and you’ve gotta get the hell out of there.