Mirror’s Edge was a hit. An unexpected first person journey through the eyes of Faith, which players learned not just who the character was, but the rules of the world, and that games don’t need guns to be visceral and enjoyable. DICE has big plans for Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, follow up to the free running bonanza, and Senior Producer Sara Jansson spoke exclusively with examiner about Faith, the city of Glass, and what changes are in store for old and new players alike.
“We see the city of Glass as a character of its own,” Jansson said of the city itself, “It has its own character, personality and history. When designing it, we were focusing a lot on gameplay.”
Jansson continued saying the team built the city in a “white box”, adding “We have two architects on the project and one of them is a concept artist who modeled all of the buildings in 3D to get all of these interesting shapes into the city. The other guy is a level designer, who used to be an architect before.”
Jansson added that having the city up and running in a white box allowed the team to see how shadows felt and played in the space, as well as when the team felt they were in a good spot to “introduce more advanced movement.”
While Jansson said that there are certainly different sectors and districts to Glass, the player will “never have to stop for a loading screen”. This will go a long way to keep the fluidity of Faith’s movement and traversal through the world going, and Jansson adds that each district will “feel different” as well as there will be chances for the player to climb skyscrapers or descend into darkened tunnels underneath the city for a different atmosphere.
Add this with the fact that a day/night cycle is included in the final product, and Glass becomes a living, breathing entity all on its own. “…nighttime has a different type of atmosphere than the daytime,” said Jansson, “There is rain in the game but only during specific missions, not dynamic that is changing while in free-roam.”
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst will focus on pillars according to Jansson, which each have their own unique effect on gameplay and the design. Jansson said,
It’s not about mini games, but more so about building on combat, movement and hustling in the environment.
“An example is you see a big billboard on a skyscraper and you can hustle your way up to it, so it’s more about figuring out how you get up there and once you are you can hack the board and display your tag,” said Jansson, “Another one is a dash, which is about going from point A to point B in the most efficient way. Then there is a delivery mission that is about delivering a message, but on your way you will run into security and you’ll have to fight your way through them.”
Faith will have a journey of her own through the game, experiencing her own evolution says Jansson, and going through a bit of a personal transition throughout the events of the game.
“At the beginning of the game, she’s going to be more of a carefree spirit that just wants to do her thing and she’s even sometimes reckless,” Jansson said, “She does a few things that will start a chain of events that trigger a lot of actions that cause a series of events for the story.”
Jansson added that Faith’s reckless behavior is part of the titular catalyst, which spins the events in the main story up. Jansson said,
Her recklessness causes everything that happens afterwards and that’s when she understands that there is something really bad going on in the city. That will make her grow up quite a lot and make her start caring about the bigger picture.
Jansson explained that Faith and her story, as well as the overall narrative will “play on themes that are relevant today,” adding that identifiable themes like friendship, loyalty, freedom, and individuality will certainly be mainstays in the campaign.
Jansson also added that the team at DICE has implemented a totally new AI system, commenting that it works in concert with new movement and combat systems to prove a full eco-system, saying “it’s more about tactical AI.”
To cope with these new AI changes, the team has also improved the movement and combat Faith is capable of.
“All of the basic movement you recognize from the first game is going to be available from the start, but that doesn’t mean that we teach from the start,” said Jansson, “New players might not even know moves are there, and we are not going to force you to use them early on.”
Jansson explained that while new players might not necessarily know all the moves at Faith’s disposal right off the bat, they’ll be taught – while players familiar with Mirror’s Edge and Faith will be able to use all the moves at their disposal immediately. Jansson admits this means veterans might be able to “take other routes that new players can’t” but concedes that they’re doing their best to spread the wealth.
Jansson detailed, “We then try to make sure we spread that out a little bit more, so we don’t push all of the new moves on the player in the first couple of minutes in the game.”
Faith will also be able to upgrade her glove, not just the thing that helps her grip, but grants some abilities that might not be available immediately to the player.
“There will be upgrades for you but they will be more related to your glove,” Jansson said, “. That is more about expanding your tools so you can reach new areas of the city.”
Continuing, Jansson explained that this is how Faith and the player get to more areas within the city of Glass. Jansson wasn’t about to shy away from the bread and butter of the action in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, the combat – and how that interacts with movement from the start.
“Then we have the combat, which is a greater extension of the movement, so you’re going to be able to learn more new moves and attacks over time,” explained Jansson, “At its core the combat is about how you combine the use of the environment with your momentum, your moves and with attacks, but gamers are also going to be able to expand those attacks that you have.”
Combat, while better avoided for a character like Faith who doesn’t use firearms, is an integral part of her journey. She’s undoubtedly going to run into sticky situations, and Jansson explained how the progression and combat has been revamped for the upcoming freerunner.
“We’re going to do the same thing with combat as with movement. We’re going to start by teaching you the basics, but as you progress through the game, it’s going to get more and more advanced,” Jansson said, “[Combat] is so dependent on the environment and is also how many enemies there are, but also the number of different enemy archetypes.”
Enemies, Jansson explains, will come in multiple varieties, and will get tougher over the course of the story,
In the beginning it’s just melee grunts and then we will have the enforcers that are shooting at you and then there are the heavies, so it’s really a progression with the combat as well.
Also getting a change is the Runner Vision, since no game mechanic is off-limits for a touch, it’s getting a few well-deserved improvements as well.
“In Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, you’re going to be able to place your own marker on an objective or anywhere you want in the environment,” Jansson said, “Runner Vision will dynamically lead you to that objective by highlighting a path in the world, but if you take another path, then the highlighted path will change.”
This highlighting and GPS-like feature allows the player to cut through Glass in their own way, and create new or more challenging runs through the environment. Jansson also stated that Runner Vision can be shut off for a greater challenge, or less encumbered experience.
When creating a new city, new story, and new Mirror’s Edge game, the team at DICE wants to not just iterate, but innovate on the already heavily innovative formula. This time around, with an open-city, Jansson says that the design from day one was focused on making it fun to get around.
“I think the biggest thing is it’s more about creating a space that is going to be fun to traverse in a bunch of different directions,” said Jansson, “That was never really the case in the first game, it was more about going from here to there.”
Jansson also explained that players can go from the free-roaming jumps and slides of the city, to the interior – a more confined and paced traversal.
“Players also go from the free-roam into a building and while there is a lot of fluid movement when you’re on the rooftops, when you go into a building it becomes a little bit slower and more costly to figure out a way to get up or out of it,” Jansson detailed, “This makes players adapt to the structure of the game.”