24: The Game Interview

Mark Green, the Studio Communications Manager at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe’s Cambridge office was interviewed by IGN to fill everyone in on the details of 24: The Game.

IGN: One of the most significant aspects of 24: The Game is that it’s set between Seasons 2 and 3. Why was this particular timeline chosen?
Green: If I’m entirely honest, it’s because of the way that they write the TV show. I didn’t realize this until I met up with them, but they only write five episodes at a time. So when we first got in touch with them [about the game], they were partway through Season Three. We knew we were going to come out about now, and we were saying, wouldn’t it be great to write the story that’s going to maybe come out after Season Four. And they were like, hmm, we don’t know how Season Three is going to end yet. But they said they left a gap between two and three and they’d love to write what happened there. So that’s what we ended up doing.

IGN: Seeing as regular “24” episode writer Duppy Demetrius was involved with the writing of the game, how much of his writing had to be “adjusted”, if at all, to fit within the confines of the game? Did anything have to be compromised, so to speak?
It wasn’t really that way. What happened was we went out there for a whole week and sat there with him going through possible story lines and how they would fit in the game. Duppy’s a gamer as well, so he understood that side of things. What we ended up with was a basic structure that was going to work and he wrote the script based around that. The only stuff he ended up having to rewrite in any way was the interrogation scenes. There are interrogation bits that took him a little while to get his head around because there are all sorts of branching dialogue that’s dependent on your actions within it, and it was something completely different from anything anyone’s ever done in TV before.

IGN: We were introduced to quite a few new characters in Season 3. Should we expect to find out a lot more about their history and background through 24: The Game?
I think so. When I started watching Season Three, I was asking questions like, what happened to Palmer; he seems fine now. And Chase Edmunds, how come he’s Jack’s partner. Where did Chloe O’Brien come from? You discover that Chase was a CTU agent over in Washington D.C. and what he was up to there and how he got to meet Jack in the first place. It explains quite a lot about what happens and who appears in Season Three.

IGN: Set the events up in 24: The Game for us. What is Jack up against this time?
Around the beginning of the game, Jack and the CTU receive a tip-off that there’s an illegal arms shipment and bio-toxin on a ship at the docks. The game kicks off with you leading a CTU SWAT team into the ship to stop the bio-toxin from being released into the water and to seize the arms shipment. In typical fashion, not everything goes as planned. You manage to stop the bio-toxin, but the arms shipment has already been off-loaded and has disappeared. And meanwhile, over in Washington D.C., Chase Edmunds is undercover with a terrorist unit there and he’s actually discovering that there’s going to be an assassination attempt on the Vice President in L.A. In typical 24 fashion, everything intertwines and double-crosses and leads you all sorts of ways.

Jack Bauer in 24: The Game
Jack Bauer in 24: The Game

IGN: One thing that’s been pretty neat about the “24” universe is that some terrorist threats are tied to others through the same foe. Can we expect that the same for 24: The Game?
I don’t want to go into too much detail on that, but if you’re a fan of the TV show then you’ll probably read more into what’s going on and recognize more people involved and why they’re doing it, the history of it, if you like.

IGN: When the story for 24: The Game was being drafted, what factors were considered the most important to get across?
I think there were a number of things from the TV show that are critical in the game and have to come across. Time pressure was really important. The multi-threading story, I think, is just “24” through and through. Perhaps the hardest thing for us to do was to get all the elements that make up “24”: When you watch the show they have shoot-outs, driving, gadget sections, interrogation bits; it really was a big job for us to put all those bits in one game rather than just [doing] 24 in one style. It’s all in there.

IGN: The obvious selling point of TV and movie license game spin-offs is the expansion of the license universe. In what way do you think 24: The Game augments the existing “24” universe?
One of the hardest things to do in games is to get that emotion across in the characters you’re creating. Conversely, on television and film, it’s one of the easiest things to do. What TV struggles to do is to put the action side of things in; they always have a limited budget. It’s not like a video game where you want to blow up another helicopter? Fine. Smash another car? Fine. The game becomes the no-budget limit version of the TV show.

IGN: Can you give us a bit of teaser info on the game, something that fans may want to know about or may not be expecting?
CTU actually does get taken over, and most of the people there are taken hostage by the terrorists. Kim and Michelle become the characters you can actually play at that stage. You have to, from the inside of CTU, which is held by terrorists, help to recapture the place. We’ve haven’t admitted it this far, but Kim and Michelle become playable.

IGN: Give us an overview of the game elements. How are players involved in 24: The Game?
The game is maybe 50% shooting, 30% driving, and then the other 20% made up of high-tech gadgetry, sniping, and interrogation. There are number of different types of game play in there.

The on-foot sections are the predominant part. It’s not a stealth game, but it’s not a game where you just run and gun. You’ve got to make use of the cover; you’ve got to be Jack Bauer. He doesn’t just run in a blow people away: he hides around the corner, has a quick look at what’s in there, then dashes in, takes out a couple of guys, heads for a bit of cover, comes out from under the cover and takes out another couple of guys. It’s all action, but it’s being sensible about what you’re doing.

The high-tech gadgets is something we felt was kind of unusual to stick into a game of this sort, but it’s such an integral part of the TV show that it couldn’t be missed out. An example that’s been used a lot is, when the Vice President is about to be assassinated, Jack discovers this and the route of the motorcade and that there must be snipers around to take out the VP. So while he’s on the roof to try and get a good position, back at CTU, you as the player are looking at satellite images linked with heat source information to find out where the people are in positions that would have a view of the VP’s motorcade route. Once you’ve got the information, it’s then fed to Jack and you then resume playing him, only now you’ve got a better idea of where the snipers might be. We tried to interlink everything in that way.

Perhaps in terms of game play, the interrogation section is probably the most unique. Interactive torture is just not acceptable [in gaming]. In the show, Jack does some quite horrific things. The show gets away with it for a number of reasons, one being they can cut away when it gets too gory. Perhaps most importantly, they can put a moral weight on what Jack’s doing, and they can ensure that there are consequences quite obviously linked to what he does. In a game, I think we’re getting there, but I think we’re still a long way from making that obvious to people. Nobody wants to just give people [license to murder indiscriminately] without there being consequences to it. For the interrogation mini-game, we had to devise another method for it to work and that involves a rhythm action game where you choose to be more aggressive or coaxing or calming depending on the brainwave state of your subject, if you like. There’s a vast array of game play in there, but that’s personally my favorite.

IGN: Can you tell us of anything that was originally planned for the game that didn’t make it to the final version?
To be honest, a reasonable chunk of the game! When you asked me earlier what were the elements that we felt we had to carry over from the TV show into the game, I think if you asked most people the first thing they’ll say is, “Oh, 24: Real-time!” And that was obviously one of the first things we looked at and we did a lot of work in going down that road. But it just wasn’t working. If you imagine the TV show, they’ve got the benefit of commercial breaks, so if they’ve got some boring travel time to cover, [they can] nip off for a commercial break and they’ll come back when Jack gets there and the action starts. In a game, you haven’t got that luxury. So while we originally were looking at real-time 24 hours, it just wasn’t very exciting, so we had to take out the less exciting bits and make sure that we kept all the action-based sections that drove the player and the story and the excitement onwards.

IGN: At the end of the day, what is the most important thing that you want for players to walk away with after being in Jack Bauer’s shoes in 24: The Game?
I guess that depends if they’re “24” fans in the first place because if they’re fans, I’d like for them to go away having felt as if they’ve been Jack Bauer; but most importantly that it was just like a season of “24”. That it fits within the “24” universe and they see it as a valid day in the life of Jack Bauer. For people who are not “24” fans before they start playing…I think a lot of people don’t watch “24” because they don’t like the show, but because it takes a lot of dedication to actually remember to watch it, or to get the DVDs and sit for an entire 24 hours watching them through, whereas game players tend to do that sort of thing when they’re actually playing the game. So hopefully other people will actually get to see what 24 is all about when they get to play the game.

Source: IGN Games