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- Due Process
Many films have taken liberally from John McTiernan’s classic film Die Hard, but few have probably taken from the oft-forgotten arcade game as liberally. Due Process, an upcoming competitive shooter, is taking from that obscure title but not in the ways you might expect. Vincent Grubbs, lead designer at developer Giant Enemy Crab, spoke to us about those inspirations at PAX West 2019 as well as how the game’s approach to procedural generation is going to not only make it different every time you play, but also how essential it is to the game’s DNA and overall goal.
GameRevolution: You described Due Process as a game where you have to learn tactics and not maps. Can you explain that philosophy even more?
Vincent Grubbs: Essentially, I’ve been playing first-person shooters for two decades now and one of the big cores of any FPS you play is mastering the map. A lot of maps feature these “gotcha” places where there is this little peek here where you can get a headshot or there is a really strong angle that you have to deal with. And we really wanted to make a game that focused on the tactics of breaching a room. Because unfortunately, if you have a static map, you tend to focus on static community strategies that they develop because they are effective. And this becomes known as the map meta.
We really wanted to make a game that pushed away from that direction. And the reason we wanted to make that game is we wanted to focus players to communicate and talk about how they were going to execute a plan. The only way we could pull that off was to push away from the map meta and use procedural generation.
GR: There are a lot of hardcore elements to it. Can you speak to those aspects? Because you don’t want to scare away new people but you also want depth.
VG: In order to make the procedural generation work, we needed to have flexibility to how you analyze the map. So we needed a resource system. If you have static [regenerating] resources every time, it would be easy to determine the strong-arm strategy to the map. These are the exact charges we are going to use [every single time].
We needed a combo having strategic elements that stretch what you want to do based on how much you want to spend to win over three rounds. If we didn’t have limited resources, the procedural generation wouldn’t give us exactly what we wanted. We needed both angles. We wanted you to decide what you’re spending and well as seeing something unique and new so you could figure out how you’re going to spend it.
GR: The maps that you can draw on and bird’s-eye view of the game in real time are mechanical realizations of you wanting the players to play more tactically. How did that all of that come into play?
VG: The map drawing was one of the earliest things we put in. It immediately revealed that we needed procedural generation. You put in the map drawing and you have a static map that a level designer made, and immediately after four or five rounds, you see no reason to draw because you know exactly what you are going to execute. The map drawing pushed the necessity of if you’re going to draw a unique plan every time, the map has to be unique every time.
It’s a really good tool to communicate to your team that this is the door we are going to take, these are the areas that the enemies will likely be, and so on. The map drawing ties together the strategic and procedural elements to make a coherent plan.
GR: The art style is unique. It’s like a colorful PS1 game but with modern tech. How did you land on that art style?
VG: We like to refer to it as a late ‘90s arcade [sort of style]. That’s where a lot of our inspiration comes from. If you look at games like Time Crisis or House of the Dead or the Die Hard arcade game, they have advanced graphics for that time because they had fixed perspectives and they knew exactly what they were going to have on the screen. That is the style we wanted: the advanced graphics of the ‘90s.
You only really saw those in the arcade machines because the PS1 and N64 couldn’t handle it. That’s essentially the style we stole. You didn’t see them in consoles but in arcades.
GR: But this is way more colorful than those games ever were.
VG: Yeah, we’re actually using an advanced lighting model in order to achieve dynamic darkness. So it’s a low-poly game with advanced lighting.
GR: People don’t usually talk in random competitive games. And you said that was a big goal for Due Process. How do you get people to pipe up and speak?
VG: The biggest main pillar that we had in this game was how do you get every player, not just high-end players, to talk to each other and communicate a plan, even if it’s a bad or simple plan. The goal is to get them to want to coordinate. We’re tapping into the verbs that players who’ve played FPS games know in order to achieve this soup of loosely trying to figure out how we’re going to defend this space.
When you watch high-level players in Siege or Overwatch, you hear them talking and using specific callouts and giving certain information to their teammates so they can make good decisions. A big part of that is that they are responding to what the enemy team is doing. A fundamental problem at the low level for most players is that the easiest way to play is to fall into the meta. Once you have a meta, players don’t really talk about what they are doing, they just follow the meta. And for FPS games, that is the map meta. You don’t talk about the map because you’ve seen this map a hundred times.
So we determined that the angle we wanted to take to attack this problem was procedural generation. We immediately realized that when players haven’t seen a map before, they are forced to figure out how they are going to defend this space and use the resources at their disposal. They’re not only encouraged to talk to each other, they are deeply rewarded by just having a tiny bit of coordination.
GR: Apex Legends seems to have wanted that too through the pinging system where players are encouraged to easily communicate.
VG: Apex is great because it takes away a lot of the benign communication that you had in something like PUBG where you’re like, “Here’s a level three backpack” in VOIP. In Apex, you ping it and your team can determine if that backpack is important to them and you don’t have to do this verbal communication for small actions.
We have a lot of tools that we want to implement [in that same vein] to take away from the overhead of planning. The map drawing is part of that. They can see I have a clacker and a door charge. They can infer what I am going to do. That gets around the unfun details of planning and get to the big plan.