While the gaming industry tends to be a very open one when it comes to marketing and hands-on time for titles, but not with Rockstar Games. The developer purposefully keeps its projects under wraps and lets out info in small organized chunks, but it’s all part of the grand strategy.
“It’s really important to us that the games (feel) kind of magical,” said Dan Houser, VP of creative and co-founder of Rockstar. “It might annoy people that we don’t give out more information, but I think the end point is people enjoy the experience. The less they know about how things are pieced together and how things are broken down and what our processes are, the more it will feel like this thing is alive, that you are being dragged into the experience. That’s what we want.”
A notable issue with Rockstar’s upcoming Max Payne 3 is that the last entry released several years ago, meaning that there’s a competition with rose colored glasses much as anything. “I think the challenge of nostalgia is a profound one, because one thing about videogames is your memory tends to remove the horrendous,” Houser says. “(The games) become these great, perfect experiences. It’s definitely a challenge to get the right pitch when you want to appeal to the fans of the original and bring in a new audience.”
Houser is the lead writer on Max Payne 3, which has a story where Max finds himself embroiled in a kidnapping scheme in Brazil. “If games are to be the next major form of creative consumption, art, cultural expression or whatever the correct term is, then strong narrative has to be part of that,” he says. “If the mechanics are fine and the story is ridiculous, the experience is much diminished.”
With notable exceptions, multiplayer modes tend to exist outside of the realm of the main single-player story, but Houser hints that may not be the case with Max Payne 3. “We wanted to put some elements of single player into the multiplayer so the multiplayer will have a lot more detail and have elements of story in it and have a sort of an immersive quality,” he says. “We think that’s something that is under-explored in multiplayer.”
As always for Rockstar, both realism and attention to detail are important. “We are building a film set, but it’s a 360-degree film set that has to join together and feel real,” he explains. “Some of the stuff we end up being most obsessed by are the things that join between walls. And where a lot of other games fail is their models may look great, but they don’t sit together very well.”
Despite the similarities between Rockstar’s approach to games and movie studios, Houser isn’t eager to jump down the 3D rabbit hole. “I don’t think anyone has solved the riddle of how you make 3D an integral part of the gaming experience,” he said simply.