High Moon Studios recently shipped Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Conspiracy for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. When asked about its critical development decisions, the studio said the first step it took in bringing a virtual Bourne to gamers was licensing Unreal Engine 3.
“Unreal Engine 3 brought a decade of development in tools which allowed content creators an unprecedented level of control and power,” said Clinton Keith, chief technology officer of High Moon Studios. “Not only was the team productive from day one, but we all learned better ways of creating games as well.”
Keith added that although this was the studio’s first time with Unreal Engine 3, the support services that Epic provided were a great resource during and after the climb up the initial learning curve that the introduction of any new technology brings.
“Apart from the tools, the benefit from having the entire pipeline working on day one was huge,” explained Keith. “While you may develop your own engine, there is always an overhead of problems and constraint on how many resources you can dedicate to solving those problems. By using an engine from a company that has a support business model, you get the benefits of having more resources dedicated to solving problems.”
High Moon worked with Oscar-nominated screenwriter Tony Gilroy, who wrote the three Bourne films, as well as Jeff Omatta, the fight choreographer, to bring the cinematic style and tone of the Bourne universe to consoles. Sean Levatino, High Moon’s senior technical designer, said that using Unreal Engine 3 allowed the team to focus on new gameplay elements right out of the box.
“Epic provided us with a robust suite of tools that allowed our artists to start developing the game from day one,” explained Levatino.
“The Kismet system is a programming language, but it’s very visual. It allowed designers to create complex setups basically on their own without requiring programmer intervention.”
One key gameplay feature in The Bourne Conspiracy is the ability of Jason Bourne to turn any object and any environment into a lethal weapon. He doesn’t use guns as the hunted Bourne, which means injuring enemies must be done creatively. As a result, there are over 300 takedowns in the game in which the environment is used to eliminate threats.
“Kismet allowed us to create the takedowns and the fighting system,” explained Levatino. “We have hundreds of iterations of certain assets in the game. All of our props are destructible, and everything in the environment can be used as a takedown. Unreal Engine 3’s prefab system helped immensely with that.
“Kismet really changed the way we make games. Tools like the animation system, the character system and the package and asset pipeline have all been good for us.”
The Bourne cover system was based on the Gears of War cover system, but High Moon modified it to fit the tone and pace of the game. “All of the takedowns work through the cover system,” added Levatino. “We recognised early on that all of our takedowns are based on walls or something waist-high like a desk or railing. The cover system detects what type of object you’re against, and it allowed us to tag these takedowns across every square inch of a level.”
Unreal Engine 3 also enabled High Moon to gear up development for a simultaneous release for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. “Launching simultaneously across platforms is always difficult no matter what your platforms are,” added Valdez. “Unreal Engine 3 certainly made it that much easier to do. In addition, 99.9 per cent of the assets in the game are exactly the same on both consoles.”