MARK-ing New Territory - Part Two -

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MARK-ing New Territory - Part Two

We talk shop with the team behind THE MARK OF KRI

By James Stevenson     July 18, 2002

© 2002 Sony

Last week, CINESCAPE presented part one of its profile on Sony's team behind the upcoming action-game THE MARK OF KRI. This week, we'll look at the puzzles (or lack thereof) in the game.

In THE MARK OF KRI, gamers will frequently find themselves using the brand-new combat system to fight off hordes of enemies. But while most games take the route of presenting puzzles between groups of bad guys, these designers took a slightly different route. To tie the fighting together, Rau can send his bird companion forward to scout out the upcoming terrain, and give the player a better idea about how to approach the situation. We asked the design team why the bird was added to the action.

"I think [the bird] came out of necessity. When we first designed the game, we wanted the focus to be absolutely on combat. We didn't start looking into puzzles as being a mainstay of the game, we wanted it to be all combat," says Jay Beard, executive producer. "What we found is that going into these combat situations unprepared, it watered the game down, it felt like something was missing as you just wandered from group to group."

Wandering from group to group slaughtering unassuming enemies was actually much harder than it would seem before the addition of the bird.

"We found a lot of things in the game were just too hard because the player would wander into an area without knowing what he was up against and would end up being killed," explains Tim Neveu, producer.


"We wanted to give the player a way of figuring out these puzzles from a distance rather than just throwing them in there. Now there are some areas in the game where we don't give the player a bird perch so you kind of have to figure it out on the fly and that's just how we ramp up the difficulty."

But while the overall difficulty decreased, the bird did add depth to the game.

"By adding the bird we allowed a whole strategy of planning that allowed us to add puzzles into the game that are based around combat," says Beard. "We initially we just thought 'wouldn't it be cool if you could just see ahead and think about how you were going to approach the situation based on using the bow or stealth or whatever.' The bird evolved from that."

In THE MARK OF KRI, the bird can fly to certain perches and land. But why not give gamers the ability to freely control it, and do a little exploration?

"There wasn't any need for the total freedom of the bird," explains Beard. "One of the things we tried to do throughout the game is keep the player absolutely focused on combat.


So we really didn't add any puzzles in the game where you had to rearrange sliding blocks to make the door open or anything like that. We felt that to free fly the bird around would fall into the area of 'we don't really need it'. Allowing Rau to wander around aimlessly in a world and every once in a while come across combat didn't work either. We wanted to lead him down a linear pathway so that he never had to look for the combat. Our basis for this game was definitely the arcade. It was arcade driven, the bird wandering around and Rau wandering around would have probably been too RPG for where we wanted to go with the game."

"I've been watching hundreds of hours of focus testing and watching how each of these guys, each person differs on their approach and their favorite weapons and techniques and strategies," says Beard. "That's really satisfying to watch."

Be ready next Thursday for the third and final part of our profile, where we discuss the animation and the biggest challenges that came up in development.

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