Today we have an exclusive to XCN (Xbox Community Network) Q&A session with Jeronimo Barrera, VP of development for Max Payne 3.
Read on to learn more about the behind the scenes development process for Rockstar’s latest highly acclaimed title.
1. How difficult is it to take a property that had a certain direction under a different developer. Do you try to keep the tone of the original titles, or flip it up with your own spin and flavor?
We wanted to do both, by taking all the classic elements of a Max Payne game and moving them forward in a direction that was logical for the character while still creating new opportunities for story and gameplay.
From a story perspective, there was very little creative opportunity left in keeping Max in New York after the events of the first two games, Max was certain to be off the force. A job working private security in South America is exactly the kind of work that an older, washed up ex-cop might take.
From a gameplay perspective, our goal was always to live up to the heritage of the series and make what we thought a Max Payne game should be in 2012 – basically the most sophisticated and seamless, cinematic action shooter we could make on every level, from the weapons and targeting to the animation to the A.I, to the way that we presented the story through to the story itself. We used all the technology we had at our disposal to push the fundamental elements of Max Payne gameplay forward, whether it’s by expanding the range of ways that we used Bullet Time, or by making Max’s movement more lifelike, or by using brand new editing techniques to make both the gameplay and cutscenes flow together seamlessly.
2. This is the first Max Payne that will not be developed by Remedy Entertainment or written by Sam Lake but from Rockstar Studios instead. May this be seen as a chance to renew or experiment something new?
We have a long history with Remedy, so it was important for us to treat the character and the franchise with respect – this is the same Max Payne that people know from the original games, we’re just visiting him in the present day and exploring what his life is like now, as an older ex-cop, who’s never really shaken off the tragedy of the first two games. So even though Max is off the force and looking to take some security work in Brazil, the story progresses in a very logical way from the events of the first two games, and that will reveal itself as people play through the story.
Adding multiplayer to the series for the first time was a big step for us, but again, the goal was to do this in a very natural and logical way, incorporating the same gunplay, story elements and presentation as the singleplayer game, but making something very deep and accessible at the same time. And of course, implementing Bullet Time in multiplayer which is something we’re really proud of.
3. The new bullet-time and 360° animation system looks very cool. How does it work? Can we use it in every situation?
Bullet®Time and Shootdodging are Max Payne’s signature moves and they have evolved massively for Max Payne 3. You build up your Bullet®Time meter by killing enemies in real time, and it’s now skill-based, so shots to vital areas will full your Bullet Time meter more quickly. It won’t last forever, soit pays to use it wisely. Max’s classic shootdodge is another way to use Bullet Time, helping you get the jump on enemies and making you much harder to hit. Once you land on the ground after a shootdodge you can now remain prone and shoot in full 360 degrees, while staying on target at all times. We wanted to deliver the precision of first-person shooting while still allowing people the opportunity to see their character move beautifully and realistically, one of the great advantages of third-person games.
4. With the introduction of a multiplayer mode, Max Payne 3 is going to explore a completely new field for the series. How do you think fans are going to react to this choice? Do you think Max Payne 3 can compete with huge multiplayer games like Gears of War or Call of Duty?
That’s for players to decide, but we were never going to release a multiplayer component that was there to simply tick a box, or to copy something else that was already out there. Max Payne 3’s multiplayer had to feel distinctly like Max Payne while also offering the gamer something new. We wanted to take everything that makes Max Payne 3’s singleplayer campaign so groundbreaking, and translate that directly into multiplayer. That means extremely precise and fluid targeting, fantastic animation and the ability to use Bullet time in a multiplayer environment.
5. In previous Max Payne-Games there were passages where we had to play under the influence of drugs and nightmares. Will we see something like this again in Max Payne 3 as well?
We wouldn’t want to give too much away, but Max has spent a lot of the time between this game and the last two drinking and taking painkillers to try and forget the events of the first two games. It’s safe to say that he’s seeing the world through the influence of one substance or another, and his life is starting to resemble a nightmare of its own. As we jump back and forth through time in the story, you’ll see Max trying to make sense of how he ended up so far from home, in over his head once again, with enemies who just want to see him dead.
6. Seeing the game’s cinematics, how close to an action movie do you think Max Payne 3 is?
We’re not trying to make an action movie, but we are trying to make an intensely cinematic action game. We want the game to be a non-stop experience from the very beginning, so there are no load times in the entire game, and we’ve done a lot of work to completely blur the lines between gameplay and cutscene to keep the player glued to the action. We are using editing techniques that have never been seen in games before to constantly push the player forward and the motion-comic cutscenes edit gameplay on the fly for a distinctly modern approach to Max’s classic graphic novel cutscenes. We’re blending a highly cinematic approach to things that only games can do. Watching Max fire multiple rounds during a kill-cam and watching an enemy react realistically to every shot as you slow each bullet to a crawl is something that never gets old.
7. At The Gathering last year we got to see Max Payne 3 for ourselves and it looked extremely promising, it was said to be a non-linear game with the player choosing what they want to do and where to go but the demo itself seemed very linear, will it be an open world affair or is everything scene scripted?
Max Payne 3 is not an open world game like Grand Theft Auto or Red Dead Redemption, it’s a narrative driven, third person shooter. The freedom comes from the strategies you have to approach each engagement. In Max Payne 3, the enemies are extremely intelligent, and no encounter will play out the same way twice, as enemies will respond differently to your actions each time. This unpredictability always keeps players on their toes and makes every location immensely replayable, and this is only magnified as you tackle the game on harder difficulty settings.
8. Is it necessary to have played the first two games to fully enjoy Max Payne 3?
Not at all. If you’re a fan of the series, you will instantly recognize Max and his story but newcomers to the series will be able to pick up Max and his character very quickly. While the bulk of the game takes place in Sao Paulo Brazil, a large chunk of the game also takes place in New York as max reflects on the events that took him to this foreign and extremely dangerous place.
10. Any interesting anecdotes from the development?
It was great having James McCaffrey back as the voice of Max, but things had changed a lot in the way that in-game performances are captured between this Max game and the last two. We did a lot more performance capture using live actors, and having McCaffrey working together with the other actors gives the entire game a very natural look and feel. Of course, part of that meant McCaffrey had to do some of his own stunt work, so this time, the voice and face of Max was literally, jumping and diving in Max’s shoes.
Thank you for your time Jeronimo. We wish youself and Rockstar big success.