Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice: Interview
How movies and forum posters helped make the Pursuit Force sequel a better game.
Picking up the pieces is no fun, something lead designer Chris Whiteside and the rest of the Bigbig team know all too well.
Bigbig is the creator of Pursuit Force, a cops-'n'-robbers game for the PSP that kept the action on the streets. With Capital City overrun by the Convicts and the Warlords, vicious rival gangs, the city's mayor turned to the motorized Pursuit Force to keep the peace.
After finishing their debut PSP game, the Leamington Spa natives at Bigbig took a break. When they came back, they braved the message boards at places like IGN and GameSpot to see what real gamers thought of their action-slash-driving game. Then they took all the comments they could find, distilled them, and spent the next fortnight going through the noxious elixir.
Turns out the comments were generally positive (more so in the US, but more on that later), even though there were definitely issues people had with the game. But destruction is necessary for rebirth.
"It's quite a painful experience," Whiteside says of the message board scrape. "You've got to look at it professionally. Initially when you see things, and you're so close to the project, you hope that everything's perfect. Sometimes that isn't the case."
From that research, the principal creators put together a document. At first it was dozens of pages long, then later it was concentrated into a three-page document to deliver the message to the staff as immediately as possible. And then the design team got involved.
"We've made a conscious decision," Whiteside says, "not to begin production of any new stuff until we'd gone through and worked out plans for fixing the existing thing."
The Golden Rule document (later to be condensed further still into the "X sentence") was sent out to the staff, to remind them of what not to do next time, whether that's putting in 90-degree turns or keeping control from players at key moments.
The more story-focussed ideas have to come from somewhere and Whiteside makes no bones that the team is heavily influenced by movies. They now consider them not just entertainment but also wellsprings of ideas. "It becomes a job watching a movie," he says.
While prepping for Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice, the PlayStation 2 and PSP sequel to the 2005 original, the Bigbig team watched a lot of movies. "The most exciting thing about it was that we realized quite quickly that to deconstruct and then reconstruct into our medium wasn't that difficult, once you have a basic understanding of how they do things," Whiteside recalls.