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X10 Interview: Ken Lobb Talks Perfect Dark in Perfect English

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!

Can you talk about what you’re showing here at X10 today, what aspects of the game and such?

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.

You guys must be pretty happy that you're able to use Xbox Live to bring back some of the classic franchises and tap into people’s nostalgia.

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.

Do you think tapping into the whole nostalgia emotion is dangerous as games rarely live up to the feelings that were evoked by the original games when they were top of their field all those many moons ago?

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.

Were you quite disappointed to hear of the licensing issues that cropped up when you tried to get Goldeneye on the service?

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?


If Goldeneye would have happened, would Perfect Dark have still come to the service?

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.”

Check back for part two of the interview tomorrow where we talk about the Xbox Live Arcade in general.
Perfect Dark is out March 17th on the Xbox Live Arcade for 800 Microsoft points.

User Comments
Comment #2 by callmeclean
Friday, February 26, 2010 @ 11:47:25 PM

very interesting, can't wait for the actual game

Comment #3 by Old King
Friday, February 26, 2010 @ 11:56:50 PM

Man this is gonna be great

Comment #4 by Its Fooga
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @ 12:02:25 AM

Not sure if it'll beat 1943 in top downloads but it will come close.

Comment #5 by StolenPaper18
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @ 12:12:51 AM

Sooooo damn excited for this to finally drop.

Comment #6 by MoldyPond
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @ 12:40:40 AM

Out of all the #1 reasons for me to buy this game again, one of the reasons is: Xbox LIVE Counter-op with friends in party chat. No more screen-peeking whilst counter-opping.

Comment #7 by Patto
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @ 01:21:28 AM

How many license holders could there possibly be for Goldeneye?

Comment #8 by rad fad
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @ 01:23:39 AM

does anyone know what time on wednesdays that arcade games are released? as soon as it hits midnight or what?

Comment #9 by Krog
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @ 02:02:12 AM

Friggin' awesome.

Comment #10 by Emfulz
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @ 02:20:35 AM

I wish this game was the first in the Block Party :)

Comment #11 by Tyger7
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @ 02:30:50 AM

Who asked these questions in the interview?

Comment #12 by Untitled Agent
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @ 02:56:15 AM

guess now we definately know that the leaderboard award achievement requires more than just getting one of each of the 4 medals in the combat simulator.

Comment #13 by Aussie27Legend
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @ 04:09:57 AM


March is gonna be awesome: Bad Company 2, FF13, Just Cause 2 and of course Perfect Dark =D

Comment #14 by Mattymace666
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @ 04:58:41 AM

*epic OMG face*
Can't wait!

Comment #15 by PolaSoup
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @ 05:21:48 AM

So excited!! Probably the most excited I have been about a game in ages!

Comment #16 by Gearbolt
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @ 06:59:53 AM

A bunch of good games coming out in March, PD being the one I'm waiting most for.

Comment #17 by Incompl33t
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @ 07:06:55 AM

Cool interview, learnt a few things. Can't wait for March 17th.

Comment #18 by Tim 13
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @ 08:04:43 AM

One thing worries me; the only note they made of the controls was that controls were lifted from the N64 version. We're not going to have to try to readjust ourselves to single-stick control for an FPS, are we?

Comment #19 by Epic Debaser
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @ 08:56:08 AM

could some of the "awards" be avatar awards?...that'd be cool :)

Comment #20 by Bleeding Star
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @ 08:58:57 AM

hoping this will be as good as its made out to me

Comment #21 by SuperWoody64
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @ 09:10:55 AM

Making this game 800msp is idea of the year! It's going to sell like gangbusters. (we're sold out of gangbusters)

Comment #22 by PaidByTheKill
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @ 10:03:56 AM

Can't wait! I mean don't get me wrong I would of loved Goldeneye, but the companies need to get their financial differences settled. Lol and if it was Goldeneye I would wreck sh!t online.

Comment #23 by Webb
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @ 10:27:58 AM

@#11 - We did =P

Comment #24 by Fata1Stryke
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @ 04:16:21 PM

@#18 I saw in another article that they added Spartan and Duty Calls control schemes for those who don't want to kick it retro.

I started gaming on the 360, so I'm glad for this too, although it wouldn't make much sense not to include the option IMO.

Comment #25 by MakoBallistic
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @ 07:06:46 PM

bring on the shooting range!

Comment #27 by Sinsko
Sunday, February 28, 2010 @ 12:02:43 AM

Im scared about how much hype is behind this game. How many of you actually played the N64 version of this within the last year or two? Its absolutely terrible by today's standards.

I loved it at the time, but for now? I'll keep my fingers crossed. I'm very scared we might have another Turtles In Time on our hands.

Comment #28 by Sinsko
Sunday, February 28, 2010 @ 12:03:54 AM

Also, does anyone remember PDZ? :( :( :( :( VERY SAD!

Comment #29 by Protagonist.
Sunday, February 28, 2010 @ 12:22:27 AM

I've been playing PD for a couple years now since I picked it up on ebay (I had it long ago but stupidly traded it all in to gamestop). The game it still a ton of fun. Out of all my games there isn't anything more fun than PD for 4 player splitscreen. The only thing I would consider "terrible" by today's standards is the framerate.

I have also played Turtles in Time recently and that game is still excellent. The reason these games are such classics is because the gameplay is so good. Re-shelled is very different from the original and much worse in my opinion.

You also mention PDZ, which of course I remember. Again, not nearly as good as the original. I could go on & on about that. Do not make the mistake of judging Turtles in Time because of re-shelled or judging PD because o

Comment #30 by CheckNorris
Sunday, February 28, 2010 @ 03:04:34 PM

Im totally sure PD will be the most selled arcade title from day #1 :D almost, at least...
and will generate most revenue even if its just 800MS, or just because of that. For 800, practically EVERYONE will be gettin it

Comment #31 by SICMAGGOTS4LIFE
Friday, March 12, 2010 @ 07:25:17 AM

I hope somehow, some way, some day Goldeneye will be able to be released on XBLA!

March 17th is going to be a very EPIC day for me, it's a dream I thought Would never come true.

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