X10 Interview: Ken Lobb Talks Perfect Dark in Perfect English
Written Friday, February 26, 2010 by Dan Webb
You can tell how much of a big deal Perfect Dark is to us and the Xbox community round these parts, because it's not very often we cover arcade games to the extent where we provide an interview as pre-launch coverage. In fact, it's pretty much unheard of in these here parts of the internet. It does help that the game in question was a classic back in the day and that it was being shown off by legendary game designer, Ken Lobb, at this year's X10, so it was a double win for us.
Lobb, who is now General Manager for Live and Creative Director for Microsoft Game Studios, worked on the original back in the day, as well as classics like Banj-Kazooie, Killer Instinct and Goldeneye so if anyone's qualified to sing the praises of the remake, Ken's the man!
So we have here, Perfect Dark. It’s a remake from the N64 original. We’ve ported the code and used the original geometry, but we redid all the textures, all the character models, redid the gun models and redid the sky-boxes.
Everything that was in the original is in this game. Now it’s 1080p and 60 frames a second. Also, all the multiplayer games from the original; co-op, counter-op, challenges and multiplayer are all playable now on Live. In fact, multiplayer we now have support for 8 players on Live.
Is there anything new you’ve added to the game aside from the visual upgrade?
So the 8 players is new. The other thing we've added is something called awards, which are kind of like super hardcore achievements. We also brought back – in the original Perfect Dark, inside the Carrington Institute, there was the original Goldeneye weapons in shrines; we allow you to use those weapons in multiplayer.
Yeah, I love Live Arcade. I’m a huge fan, as well as liking it as part of our business. It does give us the opportunity to bring back things that might not make as much sense on disc. You know, a 10 year old remake, that’s interesting, but on Live Arcade, it makes perfect sense. There are lots of players that love nostalgia; you can look at stuff like Street Fighter HD or even Battlefield 1943 which is based on some of the Battlefield stuff from the past, the Doom games have done well, Pac-Man, etc, etc, etc.
So being able to have a market that is looking for both fresh gameplay – just look at Scrap Metal and Toy Soldiers, we’re showing stuff that’s new – but also sit nicely next to something like this [Perfect Dark], which is a 10 year old nostalgia play.
It depends on the game. I think interestingly there’s things in Perfect Dark - I was the Exec Producer for Perfect Dark on the N64 - like the challenges, I expected everyone to copy and no-one’s ever done it. Counter-op has never been done, so there’s still things in this game that are fresh today.
The other thing that I think is interesting is, it is just a first-person shooter so obviously we have first-person shooter fans on the box, but there’s something that makes it different... It’s part of the speed of the analogue. It’s part the way the auto aim works, but it’s a game that’s designed to sprint. You know, to do speed runs, to be stealthy when you want, but to just drive forward, so although people that liked it back then, people will have that good feeling of nostalgia – they want to get together with their mates, drink some beer, play some PD – but it’ll be interesting to see what a Halo or Call of Duty fan thinks, I think they’ll enjoy it like they enjoy Battlefield.
Which do you think they’re going to enjoy more; the single player or multiplayer?
As before, I think it’s the multiplayer. The single player game is a blast and going through the different difficulty levels, unlocking all the cheats, is super fun. There’s a lot of people that love it, but the reality is that Goldeneye and Perfect Dark were multiplayer games, that’s what made them so popular back in the day. That’s the strength of the game we have today as well.
I wasn’t surprised. It was something that I kicked off and we did it as a prototype, just to see; “what would Goldeneye play like?” Then when we got around to trying to get the business to work... There’s too many license holders is the reality and so we couldn’t do it, right? But no big deal, we used it as a prototype, “okay, this works, let’s just do Perfect Dark instead,” so it all worked out in the end.
So that was a leg-up for Perfect Dark?
We probably would have done it anyway, maybe not right away. Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to bring Goldeneye to the Xbox Live Arcade, but I’m not sad with this [Perfect Dark], the game is phenomenal.
Again, realistically, like a lot of “sequels,” Perfect Dark was a “sequel” to Goldeneye. There’s a lot of stuff in Perfect Dark that wasn’t in the original Goldeneye and when you’re playing it strictly for multiplayer, this game is way better! I mean, just the fact that you have the sims, you’ve got the better weapon set that will all have the secondary functions and the challenges really made multiplayer special in Perfect Dark.
I presume they were built on the same engine then?
Yeah, back in the day it was the same. It was basically the sequel.
And it’s exactly the same engine now?
So this engine is a rewrite; a port. It’s not an emulation of the N64 game, so it’s a different renderer. The code is ported and is nothing like the N64 game, but it plays exactly the same. We took the control scheme from it exactly.
Live had to be written from scratch and it helped us in the port that we were doing Live. It would have been difficult to do a port through emulation. It wasn’t hard to start from scratch and go, “okay, this is going to be a Live game now.”
Perfect Dark is out March 17th on the Xbox Live Arcade for 800 Microsoft points.
X10 Interview: Ken Lobb Talks Perfect Dark in Perfect English
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