Spec Ops: The Line Interview (Xbox360)

We were just talking recently about what had happened to Spec Ops: The Line. The last we saw the game it was GamesCom 2010, and after that not much else was heard from it. Now it’s resurfaced, and we sat down with the Lead Designer to find out where they had been.

Strategy Informer: I believe the last time Strategy Informer saw this game was GamesCom 2010, however not much has really been seen of the game since. What have you guys been up to?

Sean Frison: Honestly, more than anything, the game has stayed pretty much true to what it was originally and we’ve been working on making it better, raising the quality bar. There’s definitely been more focus on really nailing the narrative. But more than that, these things take time.

Strategy Informer: Being a very story-driven game, it’s mostly up to the narrative to keep gamers interested. What have you done in Spec Ops that you think will carry players through the entire experience?

Sean Frison: We also have multiplayer, we’re just not talking about it. But there are a few different things… I mean some of it is just the setting we choose, we’re really happy with it and we think it’s really cool. We take this huge beautiful city with all its wonderful and weird architecture and then we just wipe it out.

I also think it’s a reflection of what we do in the narrative to. We have this bunch of guys who start out good and are trying to do the right thing, but in doing that they end up doing some pretty awful things and go down this dark spiral.

We’re also really proud of our shooter mechanics, and our sand mechanics, and everything there.

Strategy Informer: You had a multiplayer beta also in 2010, how did that go?

Sean Frison: It went pretty well – at that point we thought we were going to release a lot earlier, so timing wise it doesn’t make as much sense now as it did back then. However the multiplayer has completely changed since then.

Strategy Informer: So it would be fair to say to anyone who had played that beta that it’s going to be a completely different experience now?

Sean Frison: I think that’s pretty safe to say. It’s a different game now.

Strategy Informer: This is the first Spec Ops game in nearly 10 years or so, do you see The Line as a reboot, or a last hurrah?

Sean Frison: I would say more of the former. We’re actually doing this as kind of a reboot of the series. It doesn’t really have any connection to the old stuff – apart from the fact that it’s a military shooter about special forces guys, we really wanted to something and different and that you don’t see a lot right now.

Strategy Informer: If you were to go on to do sequels then, would you follow these characters again? Do new characters with a new story?

Sean Frison: There are ideas that are floating around, but nothing’s been pinned on yet, so who knows… but stay tuned.
Strategy Informer: Your depiction of Dubai in the game got The Line banned from sale in the United Arab Emirates… I don’t suppose you’re losing too much sleep over it?

Sean Frison: Yeah, you know it’s a pity of course – I would have been really interested in seeing people’s reactions over there when they play the game. I don’t think we’ve done anything disrespectful with the city or anything, but yeah… it is what it is.

Strategy Informer: Why choose Dubai as a setting? Out of curiosity?

Sean Frison: It’s a few different things, architecturally, it’s a city where we can have one setting and have a distinct feel to it, but also have a wide variety of environments. We also like the verticality of it, all the levels possible in the gameplay.

We also just like the over the top luxury of it, we thought it played well with the whole hubris of humanity theme we go with.

Strategy Informer: How have you balanced the squad mechanics in this game? Playing through it, it seems a lot like you could almost ‘solo’ if you want, and not bother controlling your squad?

Sean Frison: What we wanted from the beginning was a squad mechanic where you could basically choose a play style, and if you wanted to you could just not use the squad. One thing we talked about that people get frustrated with is that, you play a game like this and you’re a bunch of elite delta force operators, so you shouldn’t have to nursemaid them all the time. But at the same time you have that option if you want to be more effective, especially at the higher difficulty level.

And that’s the reason the controls work the way they do. We wanted something that was more accessible and contextual instead of more detailed.

Strategy Informer: Who should the player root for in this game?

Sean Frison: That’s something you really have to play to find out, but I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say there’s no clear good and bad guy. There’s some pretty messed up stuff going on with both sides.

Strategy Informer: Is The Line a game that lends itself to DLC? Even though it’s very story driven?

Sean Frison: I think you definitely can do that, we’re not talking about DLC right now, but there are other stories you could tell if you wanted to.
Strategy Informer: Was it you guys who asked for more time or was this a decision handed down from on high?

Sean Frison: I think everyone agreed that it would be better to have a high quality game that released later than to just push it out the door. I think the track record for studios that do that is a lot better.

Spec Ops is back, and it means business. We’re really excited to see how well the game turns out.


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