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Once in a High Moon

Posted on Monday, June 2 @ 16:44:13 Eastern by
Well, there goes another week of a podcast no-show... but at least this time, I have a very good, reasonable, expensive, and envious reason for it. High Moon Studios, with their June 3rd release of The Bourne Conspiracy for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, invited me along with a throng of other editors and all-around nerds to their homebase in San Diego. Free. Of .Charge.

Oh, but I also signed a death waiver. You know, the kind where they're not responsible if I get a "bodily injury, disease strains, fractures, partial and/or total blindness, heart attack, death, or other ailments that could cause serious disability". Err... what exactly was I getting myself into?

Of course, wonderful images immediately popped into my head - jumping out of planes, suiting up in bulletproof vests, and sprinting through an obstacle course while being shot by trigger-happy Navy SEALs. Anything to have a first-hand experience at being a (bruised and mangled) Jason Bourne. Unfortunately, the most dangerous activity on the trip was possibly missing the shuttle bus or fainting at the sight of ten Xbox 360s and six PS3s each hooked up to their own 32" LCD screen. I want one.

Actually, the most exciting part of the trip was staying free of charge at the Hard Rock Hotel, in a posh double room all to myself. A bathroom with a glass shower with two shower heads, a white bed with white linen and eight white pillows, a 42" plasma, a great view of the city, a complimentary strawberry rock-candy lollipop - what else could I ask for? Well, okay, the tempting drinks weren't free and there were so many rock references in the hotel that I felt Guitar Hero should have been waiting at my bedside. In any case, every piece in the hotel's decor reminded me that I was missing a Guitar Hero: Aerosmith event for this trip. This better be good...

Still in my first year as editor, I am experiencing lots of firsts - and this was no different. I had never visited a developer studio for such an in-depth tour of the premises, but I wasn't surprised to find it to be just a brighter, more offbeat office warehouse. Hidden amongst a corporate complex comprised of many other companies, High Moon Studios was carefully disguised by simple landscaping, a white stone facade, and red-and-white plaid tables. There was something about the building winning awards for architecture - a semi-half-pipe resting mere inches from the ceiling, slanted triangles representing the peaks of a mountain range, and a cool-toned pastel Southern California palette, and a trophy case with a strangely high number of awards for Darkwatch... whatever... that's cool...

The basketball court-sized one-floor space, housing about 150 employees, is almost haphazardly separated into each department - the producers, designers, "war rooms", marketing, PR, visual programmers, sound engineers, animators, even a motion-capture room (seen below) with plenty of weapon props. Taped to the walls was concept art for The Bourne Conspiracy as well as some hush-hush titles in pre-production. In fact, the entire operation tittered on an organized mess that confusingly made a lot of sense - just the way I expect a video game to be made. (How else can something like Carmageddon exist?)

Interspersed throughout our day tour, I had the chance to speak with Director of Product Research Meelad Sadat, V.P. Creative Visual Director Farzad Varahramyan, and Chief Creative Officer Emmanuel Valdez, all of whom were eager to share some of the game's development. A main subject at hand was recreating a believable Jason Bourne without the likeness of Matt Damon, who chose not to take part in the production of the video game. Supposedly, his mom is an education professor that is "wavy of violent violent games", though his rejection of a video game role likely stems from his lack of interest in working in the field. Either that, or he's just really, really nice person that kills people in a world based on something I like to call reality.

Whatever the case may be, a lot of attention was made in creating an original character that still moved and felt like Jason Bourne, an assassin who is able to blend in any environment but will always complete the mission no matter the situation or the odds. Also in capturing the feel of the critically acclaimed action series, the behind-the-shoulder camera shakes whenever Bourne moves, as if being carried by an real cameraman. Every level either pays homage to a scene in The Bourne Identity or introduces a backstory event to when Jason Bourne was still a Treadstone agent.

I can't divulge my impressions of the game too much, and since the review for Bourne Conspiracy should be up within the next few days (unless someone has leaked my real...), you'll know soon enough. Let's just say it's better than I thought it would be.

And now, a Pacman flan!

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