Excerpt: How the designers of GoldenEye 007 used “Anti-Game Design”

In this excerpt from her forthcoming book, writer and historian Alyse Knorr talks about some of the design decisions that made Tourniquet 007 stand out from other first-person shooters of the 90s and why this design lives on to this day. The book is currently seeking backers on Kickstarter.

When [game designer David] Doak joined the team in late 1995, golden eyeLevels were just rudimentary architecture – no objectives, enemies, or plotting. After designing the watch menu, he and [game designer Duncan] Botwood began creating a single-player campaign which followed and expanded golden eye the narrative of the film – a difficult task, considering that the film’s dialogue about the traitorous Cossacks of Lienz and the Kyrgyz missile tests went over the heads of quite a few 12-year-old children. Doak and Botwood’s job was to tell this complicated story using rudimentary pre- and post-mission cutscenes, pre-mission briefing materials, in-game conversations with NPCs, and mission objectives, has proven to be the most powerful way for players to experience the story. themselves.

<em>GoldenEye 007</em> by Alyse Knorr, excerpted here, is <a href=
Enlarge / GoldenEye 007 by Alyse Knorr, excerpted here, is currently accepting pre-orders on Kickstarter.

The biggest inspiration for golden eyethe objective design of wasn’t another first-person shooter, but rather Super Mario 64. “I tried very hard to learn what Nintendo was,” [game designer Martin] Hollis said in 2015 of his years at Rare. “I played Link to the past from start to finish – I got all the hearts and quarter hearts but two. I could write a thousand pages on this game. So [an early version of] mario 64 appeared during the development of golden eye, and we were clearly influenced by this game. Ours was much more open as a result. Hollis took Super Mario 64 the idea of ​​including several mission objectives within the same level. For example, in the Control level, the player must protect Natalya, disable the GoldenEye satellite, and destroy some armored mainframes.

golden eyeMission objectives add variety to what a player has to do beyond just shooting people and blowing things up. Sometimes you have to rescue hostages or steal secret documents, and other times you have to disarm bombs or sneakily infiltrate a base. The game’s instruction manual clearly explains how golden eye treats its goals of other games of the era: “Unlike other first-person perspective games”, it reads, “the goal of the game is not necessarily to destroy everything or everyone you enter with in contact. Some people or objects are needed to complete the mission. Shoot the wrong person or destroy the wrong computer and the mission could be a failure. Be sure to read the list of objectives for each mission. The fate of the free world depends on it!

Emotional drama in games is best structured by carefully tuning the highs and lows like a roller coaster, with brief lulls after big bursts of action. Doak and Botwood established a rhythm for the missions so that fast, action-packed levels like Dam and Runway were followed by quieter, stealthier levels like Facility and Surface, respectively. To vary the pace of each level, the two designers brainstormed a wide variety of creative goals. For example, instead of just collecting keys – the already well-established formula for first-person shooters that id Software established in Wolfenstein and Loss-in golden eye, the player uses more interesting Bondian riffs to find keys, such as pulling a lock on a door or meeting an undercover agent to receive a door decoder. Level designers even tried goals that turned out to be technically unfeasible. For example, they originally wanted players to ride a motorcycle through the Runway level, chasing the plane down the runway like in the original movie. When that proved too difficult to pull off, the bike was turned into a miniature model on a desk in one of the Surface Level cabins.

The motorcycle wasn’t the only thing the developers couldn’t adapt to. The team originally wanted to include another level between the Jungle and Control missions called “Perimeter”, but the level never made it past the early blocking stages. Another level cut from the game was a Casino mission in keeping with the movie – in fact, the game ROM still includes money, a casino chip and a gold bar. In the end, Botwood later said, “there would have been so much work to create a good casino fund that we decided against it.”

Enlarge / Stealth levels like Facility (and its “facilities”) helped break up the game’s action-packed levels.

On street level, the team originally planned for the player to chase the evil General Ourumov through the streets of St. Petersburg, just like in the movie, and they even modeled Bond’s BMW Roadster and Ourumov’s ZIL car. of the movie. But after that proved impossible, the workaround they chose was to have Bond navigate in a tank through streets full of mines, patrolled by guards with grenades and grenade launchers. During our interview, Doak showed me a hand-drawn map of development-era streets. “God, that’s an absolute embarrassment because it’s just shonkily thrown together,” Doak chuckled. “In the film, it’s an incredible scene, full of stunts. But then we got the idea that the tank could run over people and it’s funny. We’ve always joked about the tank – it’s like Bond has turned into a giant car”, due to how the first person perspective doesn’t change at all when using the tank.

The most famous of Golden eye’Scrapped design elements remain visible to players. The Dam mission is home to one of the game’s most tantalizing mysteries – a remote island visible through the scope of the sniper rifle, impossible to access but seemingly so intentional that it left a generation of gamers wondering. Botwood and [programmer Mark] Edmonds said they originally planned to add a boat that would allow you to travel to the island to complete a mission objective.

“If I did today I would probably have a check for an open water outlet pipe that was blocking Bond’s [bungee] jump over there, so you’ll have to go there to shut off the water,” Botwood later speculated. “I think the original plan was to have a building there to go investigate, with armor as a reward. That would have meant a boat ride had to be coded, and some landscapes had gaps when viewed. of the island, so it was too much work. By the end of development, it was much harder to remove something like the island than just leaving it in, [scenic art director] Karl Hilton told me.

Looking back on it now, Botwood considers the island a mistake. “I should never have put it there,” he told me. “It’s visual discomfort.” But messy things like the island add to golden eye‘s mythology – they add life to the world and give players something to theorize about and are some of the best examples of how well crafted gaming is.

For Harper Jay MacIntyre, Double Fine Content and Community Manager, Dam represents the kind of implicit promise of 3D spaces in the late 90s. [felt] so much bigger,” MacIntyre told me. “golden eye the levels are quite short, but the first time you play them, especially back then, it’s easy to get lost, and it’s really intoxicating to think that secrets are waiting for you. Even – or perhaps especially – if you can never reach them.

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