Shane the Gamer was invited to a exclusive media evening where not only’Dark Water was on offer but also the developers from L.A.’s Ready at Dawn showcased as yet unreleased gameplay footage of The Order: 1886.
The following day we had some one on one time with the developers at PlayStation HQ, in Auckland, New Zealand.
Sitting down in the media room, I began a chat with Garret Foster, the Technology Director at Ready at Dawn.
Shane: Hey Garret, welcome to New Zealand! Let’s start with a brief overview of your role and how this fits into the development of The Order: 1886.
Garret: Yeah sure, so I’m the Technology Director at Ready at Dawn, what that means is that I oversee all of the different technology groups. So it’s kinda an elusive thing to alot of people, and a bit hard to explain, but what we do is make sure that all of the people who are creative types have the necessary tools in order to do their jobs.
So that’s the more tech side, and then there’s the gameplay side, where we have gameplay engineers who work and they are kind of half designer and half engineer and they work with the design team to build all of the game mechanics.
It covers both of those efforts.
Shane: Ready at Dawn has produced the portable versions (PSP), and The Order: 1886 has apparently been in development since 2011, so, was there a Kratos influence, or did the studio aim for something totally different than what they had been doing previously?
Garret: Whenever you’re doing something, whether it’s artistic you are building off past experiences in some form and it’s impossible to ignore that past experience. So, there’s God of War in there, but also Daxter too, that’s an older throw back to everything that we used to do.
There might not be tangible, direct copies of things there but you are influenced by everything so it’s impossible to not have that carryover.
For us, you know, I think it was the story telling elements, that we tried to push into Ghost of Sparta [but] with The Oder, we really took it to a new level. Really defining in the characters, make it a little more complicated, because nothing is really black and white. Nothing is really good and bad ever, there’s a;ways a grey area, there’s motives for why people are bad and there’s motives for why people are good, so it was [for us] trying to understand the human element of it all.
Alot of that came from God of War too but it’s not necessarily a direct rip off but you can kinda see the seeds of it there and [we] obviously took it to a different level. When we play this game it doesn’t feel like God of War but it was also impossible not to be influenced by it.
Shane: Had The Order: 1886 always been slated for PS4 / ‘Next Gen’?
Garret: Yes, it was always a PS4 title. We started development before we knew what the PS4 was. So that was kind of a challenge developing the engine for the game, we had an idea of what it was going to be like, we had an ear to the ground but Sony’s pretty tight lipped when it comes to things that are still in development, so it’s not like we were privy to any information or anything.
You can take a look at technology trends and see where things are headed. And you do your best to see over the next 10 years this is where hardware is going and so we just kind of aligned ourselves with that. For us on the tech side, we are always working on the long game, like, 10 years out [from now] and try and plan, like, where’s the engine going to go over the next 10 years. Things are so big and complicated now that you just cannot not do that.
Luckily we were pretty much spot on, just a little shy, there were some things that were a little different here and there [on the PS4 hardware] but it was pretty much what we predicted so that was good.
We got lucky.
Shane: The Order: 1886 is the story of man vs. Half breeds and centuries of war between the two factions, set within the Victorian industrial revolution era. Where did the inspiration come from for the story?
Garret: I wasn’t involved in the story creation but how I understand is that we knew we wanted something in Victorian London and we knew that we didn’t want it to be real, but plausibly real and so that’s what we are kinda calling it ‘Neo-Victorian’, like if at some point because of the war with the half breeds, technology advances at an exponential rate during the wars so it causes a split, and what would happen, if that split occurred.
And so there was this catalyst of a human divergence, what would the war be like and what would humanity do to ensure that they can fight against that and protect themselves. There was also, during this point that we wanted it within the Industrial Revolution, where everything was booming at the same time. So you had this really interesting mix of social problems, cities were starting to become a staple, you have a technology influx and a whole sense of enlightenment there.
It was a really interesting time period that was kind of the catalyst for that and we knew that everything could grow from out of that.
Shane: The Order: 1886 is built on the ‘RAD Engine’. An internally developed game engine from studio Ready at Dawn. What was the reason for using a home grown game engine for the game as opposed to an out of the box one?
Garret: For us, when you use something from out of the box… well, we already had an engine to begin with, so we were used to working a certain way. So that was the biggest motivator to keep developing our own technology. There was also alot of things that we saw that no one else was able to do or has done before, so like our lighting and material model no one else does that right now.
How we construct the materials, with a relatively small team, you know we are not a thousand person team like you see with other publishers, we are just over hundred people at Ready at Dawn and so we have to pick and choose our battles.
Where we can help out, say, the Art team with technology, we do and so we could have taken something from out of the box and crafted it, but for us we had an engine, we had a way that we liked to work so we said, lets develop off that and keep going.
It’s not like the other engines are bad, or anything like that, it just suited us at the time and still suits us now.
Shane: I realise it is early days, the game does not release until the 20th of this month, however is this the first chapter in a series? Can we expect more – and, what do you want PS gamers to take from The Order: 1886?
Garret: I hope it is. I don’t have an answer to that, but I do hope it is because I really really enjoyed this game. You know, you’re working on a game and sometimes you get lost, like the expression ‘seeing the forest in the trees’ and so for us we were always so close to it, our faces so close to our computer screens, it wasn’t until I finally got a step back from it and saw it all I was so happy with what we were able to achieve.
So pumped by it. Really happy how the story came together and it’s such a rich Universe that it would almost be a shame to not do something else with it.
There’s nothing really planned right now, but I would love to work on it further.
For me personally, I got into making video games because I loved video games. As a programmer I could’ve gone in a number of different directions, I could’ve gone into banking software and had a very good life and gamed all the same and all of that. But for me, I love video games, so I just hope that everyone can just sit down and get lost in a world and have fun, lose themselves for the duration of the story and enjoy the game. Just take it for what it is; a great story driven video game.
If I was to hear from someone, that they sat down they played the game, they forgot what time it is, I lost myself, then we did our job.
Shane: Bonus question! What was your favourite toy as a kid?
Garrett: Favourite toy… oh my goodness. I had a little Transformer but it wasn’t actually a Transformer, it was a knock off Transformer that turned into a jet. And I was so obsessed with jets as a kid because of Top Gun (movie). And so, I don’t remember the name of it, I tried to look it up recently…
Shane: I actually had something similar, I think they were called ‘Machine Men’ a rip off of Transformers. They released at around the same time.
Garret: Yeah possibly. They were totally a knock off and totally my parents style; ‘yeah that’s cheaper’ we will get one of those. But for me it was the greatest thing. It’s a robot and then it’s a freaking jet, it can fly it can do everything! I’ve always been a huge fan of like, mechs and robots.
Shane: Well, thank you Garret for talking to us here at Shane the Gamer. Really appreciate it.
The Order: 1886, developed by Ready at Dawn Studio, is there first major console release and is out on 20th of February, 2015 in Australia and New Zealand.