Travis Steiner, lead game designer at Zipper Interactive, chats to eu.playstation.com about the latest outing of SOCOM on PlayStation 3.
Can you give us a brief introduction to SOCOM: Special Forces?
The SOCOM series has always been based on three main pillars: team-based gameplay, authenticity and innovative multiplayer. In SOCOM: Special Forces, we're building on these as well as introducing some key new elements.
For the first time, we've got a main character and we're putting a lot of effort into high fidelity, cinematic storytelling. All of our cinematics are rendered in real time and, with the help of a Hollywood cinematographer, everything was captured with the attention to detail that you would expect from a top-notch film.
Enemies now behave as squads rather than as individual, scripted entities; they have a leader and they exhibit squad behaviour such as flanking, bounding and providing covering fire for one another. The game's about how good a leader you are in the field and how can you use your teammates tactically to create interesting and dynamic gameplay.
Finally, we've aimed for quick, contextual commands for the team leader, so that even the most casual gamer can pick these up easily and use their own tactics.
What is the story in SOCOM: Special Forces?
The story takes place over a six-day span. You play the role of a NATO Operations Commander and you find yourself on a secure detail in South East Asia when a violent coup erupts.
Local revolutionary forces are trying to overthrow the government. Most of the NATO forces in the area are decimated and all that is left is you and your small squad. It's up to you to prevent global catastrophe.
The game is centred on international special forces, which is a new direction for SOCOM; there are 12 international forces featured, meaning that depending on which language you select in-game, your player character and two of your teammates will be localised.
How is PlayStation Move incorporated into the game?
The game supports both the wireless controller and the PlayStation Move motion controller. With PS Move, we wanted to make the entire game work with it, not just a little bit here and there.
PS Move works really well with SOCOM, the key reasons being the precision and accuracy of the motion controller, both of which are key for a competitive game such as this. Ultimately, using PS Move is the most fun and immersive way to play SOCOM: Special Forces.
We focused most of our efforts on moving, shooting and lining up targets. When it comes to the gestures, we've spent a lot of effort on the knife swipe, where you jab the motion controller towards the screen to execute this.
PS Move is also great for commanding your teammates; if you're caught in the middle of a firefight, you can order your team to move to certain parts of the screen by pointing the motion controller in that direction and pressing the directional buttons to bring up the commands.
Either way, whether it's with a wireless controller or a motion controller, we've concentrated on making the inputs quicker and easier to access: for example, we now have a dedicated grenade button which we never had before.
How do people react to playing SOCOM: Special Forces with PS Move?
There are definitely some subtle differences in the way people play [compared to using a wireless controller]. Generally, they lock onto targets more quickly because of the accuracy, meaning there is a lot of long range precision shooting.
There's always a bit of a learning curve when people get their hands on a new controller; however, we've found with PS Move that players pick it up relatively fast. Within minutes, you see people that have never played shooters having a lot of fun with it.
How do you balance making the game more accessible with keeping the core audience of SOCOM engaged?
We want to do both; that means that any implementation of PS Move in SOCOM is done in a way that our loyal followers are going to want to play.
The key is the development team at Zipper are all SOCOM fans too. The series is dear to our hearts and we want to see it be the best it can be and we want our fans to be excited about it too.
Keep an eye on eu.playstation.com and PlayStation.Blog at blog.eu.playstation.com for more details on SOCOM: Special Forces in the run-up to the game's launch in April 2011.
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