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Making Spec Ops: The Line's antagonist work

In a new Gamasutra feature, narrative designer Richard Pearsey writes how he and the creative team behind the acclaimed shooter changed the story -- to allow room for character evolution.
In a new Gamasutra feature, narrative designer Richard Pearsey writes how he and the creative team behind the acclaimed shooter changed the story -- to allow room for character evolution. "The original plot called for the Delta Squad to be sent to assassinate a Colonel Konrad who had illegally led his battalion out of a war in Iran and was looting a recently destroyed Dubai," writes Pearsey. "This is a perfectly serviceable setup, and a good shooter could well have been made from it, but for a number of reasons this setup was not compatible with our goals." The main issue, he writes, is that this narrative didn't allow the game's characters to grow, and left little room for interpretation on the part of the player. "The final backstory became: Konrad and his men were in the UAE for joint training exercises when the storm hit. They volunteered to stay behind and help. Dubai is wiped out. All are thought lost. Months later, a stray radio signal escapes the storm, and the squad is sent in to investigate," writes Pearsey. "The idea was to start small, convincing players they are playing one type of game, and then pile horror upon horror until at the end the game is very different than the one they began." The original version of Konrad was "megalomaniac with messianic delusions", but this changed to a "rather sad and tortured figure" in the final version of the game. Pearsey writes that "Konrad is not [BioShock's] Andrew Ryan. He did not set out to build a utopia. His world is improvised and reactionary. He stumbles onto a vision of what he believes is necessary to achieve his goals and in doing so creates a violent, savage dystopia," and this is key to his character in the final version of the game -- and the player's interpretation of events. The full feature, live now on Gamasutra, delves into the process and decisions of the Spec Ops team.

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