The Order 1886 is coming exclusively to the Playstation 4 this week, and I was lucky enough to sit down with game director Dana Jan and programming director Garret Foster to talk about where they started off, what they hope to bring to gamers with their new, original IP and some other fun nonsense like competitive Street Fighter II and MechWarrior!
Ready At Dawn…is this your First Studio?
Garret Foster (GF): So I was at EA before Ready At Dawn in Los Angeles, before that I was at a company I don’t think exists anymore…
Dana Jan (DJ): Haha! You have to say the name!
GF: …well it’s called Black Ops Entertainment
Xenojay (XJ): Oooo! Before the Black Ops (Call Of Duty) game?
GF: Well before that. It was…I don’t think they’re alive any more. It’s been awhile. Yeah, but I’ve currently been at Ready At Dawn for over 10 years
DJ: When was your start date then??
GF: Mine was November…20th…2003 or 4…
DJ: Oh okay…so you’re ahead of me by almost like…6 months…a little over 6 months!
GF: Yeah, so Dana and I started working together on Daxter, so we pretty much went through everything at Ready At Dawn with the exception that neither of us worked on Okami, otherwise all the God Of Wars and all the ports…
XJ: I love how prolific Okami became because of the watermark! And I gather you guys never hear the end of it!
DJ: We didn’t even work on it!
GF: So we didn’t make the cover, and so you know when the cover comes out it’s all Publisher-side and Marketing and they just put it on there and we were like “Good job guys…”
XJ: What was great though was that you guys had Capcom take that title away from you with Resident Evil: Revelaitons, instead of Revelations!
DJ: A spelling error is possibly worse…well actually no, they’re both equally bad…
When it comes to this game, The Order 1886, what are you guys looking forward to the gamers experiencing?
DJ: I’m excited to see people play the whole adventure and the story that we’ve put together, with all the crazy action moments and the suspense and the drama and you know, the crazy shoot-outs and just kind of put them on that ride and see how they come out the other side of it and whether they enjoyed the whole experience or parts of it, or if they have questions about the game.
I think that’s what’s really exciting about it, is that the game itself is more than a game. It’s something that you play but it’s something that you really experience and I really hope that people come away from it enjoying their time in this really amazing world that we’ve crafted, and just want more of it
XJ: What I love is that you guys made it about the single player experience, that was the core of the game, and you didn’t want to falter and put in a multiplayer experience because there’s so much demand out there for it.
I like that you guys have done that, and a comment a friend made when he played the demo was that it feels like a game his girlfriend could join in on or watch
Was that something that you guys focused on? (Single Player)
GF: We focused on the single player because we knew that we’re not a 1000 person team, we’re just a shade over 100, which sounds like a lot of people, but in game developer terms it’s tiny
DJ: Yeah, a lot of those teams are 500 plus…
GF: A small team now is around 150 so we’re even smaller than that.
Off that note, is this game using your Engine that you built?
GF: Yeah, it’s all built internally so, we started in 2010 developing our own technology
DJ: It’s based off the stuff that we built
GF: We had our own technology for the PSP and that evolved over time fairly naturally. We actually started with the PSP Engine which had a lot of advantages going that way.
The PSP was fairly limited in terms of power and so everything had to be extremely optimized, and we took a lot of that with us.
What was it like upscaling your PSP God Of War titles for the PS3?
GF: That was actually pretty cool! A lot of the team upscaled the assets and on the programming side, that was a lot of fun because we wanted to do everything in a single frame.
What I mean by that is while we’re doing the gameplay for the current frame, the last frame is drawing.
Every game does that so what we wanted to do was, we could remove latency by another 16 milliseconds if we do it all in the same frame. So we do everything in a 16 millisecond window from the moment you push a button, to the processing of it to all of the A.I and action, to drawing the polygons and outputting it, we did it all in that one frame and that was a lot of fun to make the lowest latency we could on that console
I’m going to bring it in now to you guys, your current favourite games?
DJ: Right now I’m playing Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare, and I like it. Just straight off in the very beginning, I thought “Oh, it’s just Call Of Duty” until I got to the part with the Jeep ride and you get out at the ATLAS compound, where you go into this huge room and they’re showing you guys climbing in the suits and guys fighting each other and I thought “I can’t wait to do this!”. So yeah, that game so far is pretty cool and I like those kinds of games anyway, so right now I’m enjoying it
GF: In the last year, the most memorable game I’ve played is FTL (Faster Than Light), and that game for whatever reason, I just got hooked. I probably put over 200 hours into that game. Working 80 hours a week and I’d get home and just “DUH DUH DUH DUH!”…I’ve unlocked every ship and every path and I don’t know what it was about that game, but it just hooked me!
I’m not sure why and I don’t think you can really recreate the magic that it is, so that was probably the most memorable game I’ve had last year
Do you guys have a best game of all time? That one game you can always return to?
DJ: I play Street Fighter II all the time. Since 1992, I’ve not stopped playing that game. At work we play at almost every lunch. We have an arcade cabinet in the kitchen with an original arcade board and we play it competitively still
GF: My go-to for that question is always Super Mario Bros. 3, but I think now, in hindsight, I think MechWarrior 2 might have been one of my favourite games…
DJ: You do talk a lot about MechWarrior
GF: That game I think changed my life in a way, because that was the first time I saw a game and thought “I want to figure out how that’s made” and kind of dive into it and go “How is that made?” and “How did they do that?” and it just drew me into it and that’s the reason that I started programming because I thought “Oh! I want to make that” and it led me down a dark path of game development…
At this point we all collectively lost it. Moving forward though, I had to ask…
With that, would you guys ever try to fight for that IP? (MechWarrior)
Because online there are always people excited for more of it
GF: I would love to! If I could, I would but I don’t think…it’s just one of those titles where they have a weird setup with their licensing and who runs it, and it kind of moved around, but I would jump at the opportunity if I could work on it, that would be great.
You would be like that too, with Street Fighter, if you could
DJ: No…no…I would never work on that…
What do you think of the latest Street Fighter titles then?
DJ: I’m not even sure what the new one’s number is! You know, I played it once before and it had some lasting appeal but then it just petered out and I went back to II, haha!
GF: These guys almost played it every day for like a year!
DJ: I’m more excited personally about the new Mortal Kombat, I play tons of Mortal Kombat as well and that game is just over-the-top ridiculous and we’ll literally train and get good at it too! Like, competently good at the game but still, we don’t take it seriously.
But we go and play Street Fighter and we’re like, serious competitors
GF: See, I got into Tekken a little bit, but I was never a big fighting game fan…
DJ: Think of it this way, when I was a kid and I’d go and play Street Fighter II, all the quarters I could carry would go into it
GF: You were like a bully!
DJ: Yeah! Because if I put those quarters in, it was like a huge investment, and if I ever ran out I’d have to ride my bike home, so I had to be good at it to get it back!
GF: I was just pumping quarters into Gauntlet…
DJ: That’s a really dumb and expensive game to play!
XJ: I remember, in New Zealand we barely got any of the amazing arcade cabinets you get in America, but the time I went over when I was a kid, the one that stuck with me was your Paperboy cabinet with the handlebars!
GF: /DJ: OH YEAH!
XJ: I just thought “This is so random but so awesome!”
DJ: That game was so fun! That game was super hard too
GF: Oh yeah, that game was super hard!
DJ: Did you ever watch that group Mega64, their Paperboy video?
DJ: Jot that down! “Watch the Mega64 Paperboy video”!
XJ: I feel like I’m gonna link that in the article
DJ: Merry Christmas, early!
On that note, I finish a fantastic interview with 2 very smart, funny and interesting game developers with the Mega64 video, Paperboy: