x360a Special - Kane & Lynch Interview
Written Wednesday, November 07, 2007 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Yesterday started just like any other, well except for the fact the temperature was -1 and the moon and the stars were still out when I left the house, but that didn't seem to matter because in a matter of time, I'd be in London with Geoff (Minty) seeing what all the Kane & Lynch hype was about.
The events kicked off in one of London's swankiest hotels just after mid-morning. First things first, we were given a pretty indepth introduction to the game by one of the lead developers, Morten Heiberg, setting the scene, introducing the characters. Before the event, I personally was under the understanding that Kane & Lynch were just two badasses out on a wanton path of destruction but it appears I was off the mark slightly and the two are habouring some emotional pain from years gone by. More on that in the "Single Player Hands On" that you guys will see later though. After all the introductions, we were set loose on both the multiplayer and the single player which will be included in two separate articles due to be published later, so keep a look out for them.
As the day went on, we actually got chance to sit down with Morton Heiberg of IO Interactive and throw a few questions his way which he gladly answered. Look out for the off topic discussion of Hitman 2, the new Glacier 2 engine and confirmed Kane & Lynch downloadable content.
x360a: Right, if you could just introduce yourself to the people at home and your role on the team please.
MH: My name is Morten (Heiberg) and I am a programmer on the new Kane & Lynch, which I am very excited about. I have been doing some game programming- I have been responsible for the crowd technology and some of the vehicles, and have been wrapping up the PC version for release- that’s been my main area.
x360a: We may as well jump straight into the game. It’s quite unusual for a game to be taken from the perspective of a bad guy. What was the inspiration behind that?
MH: I think we all love heist movies and movies with complex characters that are not necessarily likeable, but that are interesting and you end up caring for. Movies like Scarface or Unforgiven where the characters are definitely not somebody you want to know or hang out with but you end up caring for them anyway. In any ways it’s the complexity and the bad traits that make them interesting.
x360a: You’ve mentioned a few films already. The opening of the movie has been compared to Heat by a lot of people- was that an inspiration for it?
MH: (laughs) I think we all like the movie and its flattering that people are making that comparison- it’s obviously on the list with a lot of other movies that have been inspirational to us- another could be Man on Fire or Collateral.
x360a: Did you sit and watch a lot of films as research for the game- just sitting in the office chilling with some beers?!
Yeah, I think a lot of people went through their movie catalogues and reviewed a lot of their own favourite heist movies, and generally movies involving bad guys.
x360a: You talked earlier about how it was either his (Kane) families life or his life. How does that go into the ending of the game, as apparently K&L 2 is in production?
MH: So they tell me! No, it was actually announced a short while ago that we are doing a sequel. Well, obviously we need Kane and Lynch to survive- that’s the basic requirements for a sequel!
x360a: You’re using the Glacier engine from the Hitman series. Did you take any techniques/integrations that you used in Hitman?
MH: No, most of our technology was lifted from the engine as it was when Blood Money went out of production, and a lot of the gameplay specific stuff was taken with us from Freedom Fighters. We revised them and rewrote them in many ways- so it’s a game that draws from both Freedom Fighters and the latest installments of the Hitman series.
x360a: Were you ever tempted to change and use the Unreal 3 Engine. The graphics don’t seem to be pushing the 360 and PS3 as far as some of the other games out at the moment.
MH: Well it’s definitely a challenge to have your own in-house engine and develop it, but I think it gives you a lot of advantages as well. We have a very close link with the engine guys- you are their most important customer and can basically get to decide what the engine should be good at, so it has a lot of advantages. Obviously it has been considered by someone at somepoint, but the conclusion has always been that it’s such an asset for us to have our own engine that it’s not something that we would like to give up.
x360a: Will you be pushing the engine into the next batch of games that you are putting out?
MH: Well there is a major rework of our engine on the way; we are working on what we call Glacier 2, which is basically going to be a complete rewrite of our technology, with Next Generation platforms in mind.
x360a: Will that be used in the new Hitman game for the 360?
MH: Yeah, that’s going to be the first game using the revised version of the engine.
x360: When can we expect the game?
MH: (laughing) Time will tell I guess.
x360a: Is it next year, or 2009?
MH: I really don’t know, they are working on it and its coming along very nicely- but the exact date I'm not too sure about.
x360a: So the multiplayer; were you worried at all not to have the straight up deathmatch component that every game seems to have these days, or did you want to do something different?
MH: Well we definitely wanted to do something different and that’s one of the reasons we haven’t included the death match and capture the flag etc, we saw the single player component of the game as being a playable heist movie, and wanted to take the concept of the heist, the loot and the loot disputes, and the fragile bonds that people in these heists together and se what gameplay mechanics we could turn that into, and it turned out to be Fragile Alliance.
x360a: And it is brilliant- its great fun and very addictive. With the emphasis these days on online co-op and your conscious decision not to have it in the final product- was that thought out properly?
MH: Of course it’s a big thing to give up on, I don’t think anyone would have had anything against online co-op, but it would have cost us to miss our street date- and we wanted to be out in time for Christmas. In the end we chose to focus on the splitscren co-op, and to actually do some things with it that are aimed specifically at you having your friend sat beside you playing it. You get to see the world through Lynch’s eyes, and experience some of his little hallucinations, which is kind of fun to watch when your partner in crime suddenly goes nuts and starts killing civilians and insists that he was seeing something else.
x360a: Can we expect it in the next one?
MH: Well I don’t think anything has been written out at this point, so perhaps.
x360a: How far through production did you get with it before it was decided to scrap it? Was it a last minute didn’t quite finish it or did you stop in the early stages?
MH: It was pretty clear to us that we shouldn’t pursue it too far if we were aiming for a street date this side of Christmas, so there wasn’t really a lot of energy put into it. It actually took a lot of effort for us to get Fragile Alliance up and running- obviously its IO’s first multiplayer game so its not technology we've had before, so we wrote it all from scratch and that took a lot of our resources.
x360a: You mentioned that the co-op got cut from the game to make sure it was out for Christmas, did anything else get left out?
MH: No, no, that was the one thing- we chose to go with split screen co-op rather than online. It was easier to get working with the technology we had available and within the timeframe we had, and allowed us to do all these things, like pitting these two against each other- the split option co-op. These guys never like each other, and whenever there apart it’s an opportunity for them to betray or deceive each other, and that part of it becomes more useful when you’re sat next to the guy I think.
x360a: Which is your favourite character and why?
MH: I actually think Lynch turned out the more interesting of the two. Perhaps it’s because he is not the player controlled character, so it’s possible to inject a little more personality, and I think he’s the more likeable of the two. Kane is in a pretty bad position, and he is forced to make some bad choices, but he by and large put himself into that position. He is quite ruthless and professional in the way he goes about things. Lynch on the other hand, it wasn’t really his fault, he just got sick and probably held a normal job. Some of the guys think he was a teacher, but I’m not really sure if we have a specific job of what he used to do. He had a wife and a regular day job, until he became ill and started to try and self medicate and that didn’t turn out so well. You kind of feel sorry for him.
x360a: Do you have any plans for Downloadable Content for the 360?
MH: We do actually- for all platforms.
x360a: Any details?
MH: Well, we’re still looking into how much we can cram into a pack. Don’t want to give too much away, but some new levels might be in store for us.
x360a: Single player or multiplayer?
MH: Multiplayer. How many and when and so on, I can’t really say at this point.
x360a: The multiplayer is completely new, something that’s never been seen before. Is that what you’re most proud of in the game, or is there something else?
MH: I think it’s probably the one thing that’s going to stick with people for a long time – it’s quite a new take on multiplayer. Were really looking forward to seeing how people react to it.
x360a Well, we’ve been playing it for the last two hours, and time just flies- its great. Single player’s great fun as well. Anyway, thank you for your time.
MH: Thank you.
The audio version of this interview may find its way on to the podcast this week depending on how the quality turns out, there may be issues with surrounding waterfall features coming from the pool we were sat next to. Hard life eh? Ha.
Anyway, look out for the single and multiplayer hands on which are going to be put up today sometime and just a quick thanks to Eidos for their hospitality. Kane & Lynch's street release couldn't come quicker!