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Interview: Rebellion's Guy On Reinventing Rogue Warrior

Gamasutra talks in-depth to Rebellion's Aeron Guy about starting Rogue Warrior over for Bethesda, and working with "Demo Dick" Marcinko to create a virtual representation of the real-life SEAL.

Chris Remo, Blogger

June 30, 2009

7 Min Read

Rogue Warrior, based on the personality and exploits of real-life Navy SEAL Richard "Demo Dick" Marcinko, has had a long, twisted development history. Originally announced by publisher Bethesda Softworks in conjunction with Seattle-based Zombie Studios, little was heard about the game for several years until Bethesda recently re-announced it as being developed from scratch by the UK's Rebellion Developments (Aliens Vs. Predator). Rebellion redesigned the game from a tactical first-person shooter to a hybrid first- and third-person shooter that aims to put Marcinko's outsized personality at the center of the experience. The studio has been working on Rogue Warrior for over a year, using its own internal Asura engine (a version of which also powered the company's Rogue Trooper, no relation), and plans to ship it in the fourth quarter of 2009. Gamasutra sat down with senior producer Aeron Guy to discuss building the game from square one, working with Marcinko to create his virtual representation, and using Marcinko's own battle philosophies as guiding principles for the game's design. This game was previously in development by a different studio. How long has Rebellion been involved, and what's been going on? Aeron Guy: We've been working on it for a year now -- we completely wiped the slate clean. We've completely started everything from scratch. New story, new models, and everything. We'd been giving a complete fresh start with this IP, completely focused on the personality of [Dick Marcinko]. He's a Navy SEAL, a highly decorated guy, with incredible stories to tell. He's written 16 books, a massive reference for us. We've been purely focusing on that, making a really exciting, gritty, violent, personality shooter. How much back and forth was there with Bethesda on the redevelopment process? This seems like a relatively unusual situation. AG: Not at all. We weren't hindered in any way. The development process is like it always is. We pitched for it, we put together a concept document, and it got expanded from there. We had a lot of meetings with the man himself, Marcinko, talking about how we get across some of the pillars that we've put forth for the game: violence of action, personality, and targets of opportunity. One of the real big things is the idea that no plans survives contact with the enemy -- Murphy's Law, all that kind of thing. It's trying to get some of the idea that the brass is not quite understanding what's going on in the ground. They give you your orders, and you've got to follow them, but generally following them to the letter of the law isn't the best thing when you're actually in the thick of it. It's been a really interesting thing to try and work into the game. It's quite unique, where you have two different play styles, and the player can control that and go about it as they want, but they have the most enjoyable experience if they can try to be stealthy as much as they can and do the kill moves -- try to hold off the hordes before they get into a real bloody firefight, which eventually they will. How have you approached that from a design perspective? Is the player encouraged to push out from what's strictly prescribed by the mission instructions? Are there multiple options implied? AG: What we've done, essentially, is [this]. Each mission is made up of a series of encounters. In the earlier missions of the game, for difficulty balancing as well as the difficulty curve of the game, you get to be stealthy a lot more. Then, as you go through the game, you're going to find it harder and harder to do that. That's kind of the tipping point. We'll have three or four encounters which may go through a fairly large part of the level, through which you can choose to [be stealthy]. You can go through most of the game as you wish, but you will get penalized for it if you try to go in loud from the beginning. It's a tricky thing to try and balance out. We think we're doing a pretty good job with that. That's an interesting gameplay curve. So you start out being heavily stealth-based, but then as the situations progress, you're less able to use those more intricate maneuvres? AG: Slightly. You can still use the stealth moves. One of the things that we worked on was that you can do these kill moves and the stealth tactics -- it's not stealth in the way of some other games, where you have to sneak up on guys. One of Dick's things is creating panic amongst the ranks. If you catch a guy by surprise, he may be alerted to you, and you can kill him or you can charge him. If you charge a grunt, they'll get scared, and there's a certain chance they'll melee you back, but there's also quite a high chance that you'll be able to kill him. For that whole thing -- setting off explosions near enemies and stuff like that -- we've got a whole panic-state AI system to get across that system and allow the player to take advantage of it. How much and in what ways did you work with Marcinko on the game? AG: We've met him three times now throughout key stages of development. Early on we talked to him about the mission statements. We talked about how we get across this personality. We talked about his kind of violence, and the ways he would go about killing if he didn't have guns on hand. There were some interesting stories about the way he would stick a piece of wood in someone's ear and things like that, which was pretty gruesome. Then we talked to him further about the actual story. That evolved into something we were happy with, and we got more of his advice with the locations and the models and the different ways of approaching things. Certain games have a very clean way of stacking up on a door to breach it. It's a very by-the-book way of doing things. He never operated like that. He threw the book out the window, day one. He does things in much more of a rough and ready kind of way. He uses very dirty tactics. In the game, rather than door breaching it, he's going to kick the door in by charging in there or shoot off its hinges and charge in. It's a different type of tactic. It's not such a stealth tactic -- more of an alarm tactic. Is any of the story based on anything his books, or things that happened to him? Or is that material just more of launching point for the tone and character? AG: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of his stuff is classified, but he's done a lot of books based loosely on things he's actually done. He has a book about North Korea. He's a pretty informed guy about what's going on in the world, and it kind of makes sense that what's going in North Korea currently is quite topical. The overriding focus has been on the mode of operations -- no plans survives contact with the enemy, and these kinds of things -- trying to weave those in, more than any direct copying of operations he took part in. This seems to be in between an original IP and a licensed game. It's not really a licensed game because it's not based on a specific fictional work, but it is based on a somewhat fictionalized version of a real person. But Rebellion has also made games that are more directly licensed. Do you have any thoughts on kind of how that has affected development at all? AG: It's an interesting place to be. As with anyone real, you need to glamorize it. He doesn't need a whole lot of glamorizing because he's a hell of a character, but we had to almost Hollywood-ize his personality and the kind of situations that he gets involved in. As I said, it's based around his experiences more than the specific things he's taken part in. I think it's a very strong IP, a very interesting IP, having a shooter based on a real guy. Hopefully, people will be interested in it. They'll get a feeling for what it was like to be him and go around those places and do things in the fashion he did.

About the Author(s)

Chris Remo


Chris Remo is Gamasutra's Editor at Large. He was a founding editor of gaming culture site Idle Thumbs, and prior to joining the Gamasutra team he served as Editor in Chief of hardcore-oriented consumer gaming site Shacknews.

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