Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is a sequel that's taking on a lot of changes to its predecessor's formula. The original game wasn't that well received, and all hands are on deck at IO Interactive to improve the action and fidelity of gameplay.
Key to these improvements is the multiplayer aspect of Dog Days
, which is being led by mode director Kim Krogh. He has a vision for online connectivity that mirrors that of the visual style of the game - tense, hurried, and homemade. This is represented in the use of social networking and revamped co-operative play.
SPOnG was able to have a chat with Kim about the state of the Kane & Lynch
franchise, the new elements of the multiplayer mode and the philosophies behind the design.
SPOnG: The Fragile Alliance mode was one of the defining elements of the original Kane & Lynch. While reception to the game in general has been mixed, how do you think players have reacted to this particular mode?
We had a lot of super positive feedback on Fragile Alliance. The fact that it was different from the usual deathmatch and team deathmatch "shoot anything that moves" gameplay seemed to go down really well. There were flaws and room for improvements but the overall reaction was positive and showed that players appreciate original ideas, particularly when it comes to multiplayer shooters.
SPOnG: How have you tweaked the Fragile Alliance mode to make it feel more intense?
We changed a lot. We kept the core concept intact, ironed out the problems we could identify from the first game and are currently fine tuning the game based on the experiences from our exclusive demo.
We added a few systems to the PvP fight, focusing on the skills when killing another player, and made sure you can defend yourself. It does prolong the fight somewhat, but it makes the PvP shootout quite intense.
We changed a few things to the traitor system, focusing on risk and reward. Traitors cannot see anyone else’s Gamertag, but everybody can see the traitor, making it more dangerous to be a traitor. At the same time it makes it that much more rewarding and intense.
In level design, OSD, characters and mechanics we focused on the team feel, making it easier to follow other players and single out traitors and enemies. It makes you a lot more aware of the other players; where they are, what their intentions are and if they are helping for example.
You're constantly changing objective as a result, and that is really what creates unique tension in Fragile Alliance. All the levels are designed specifically for multiplayer, which gave us the opportunity to control the flow and make sure that the escape area plays like a super intense deathmatch area.
SPOnG: What particular balancing changes have you made to the player vs player betrayal system that will make it more challenging to turn traitor?
In the first game it was easy to turn traitor, and it was nearly impossible to defend yourself. I therefore said that whatever feature we add, it must give players a second chance to defend themselves.
We added two important features. One is called “Yellow card” - when you shoot at but don’t kill another player you get a yellow card that allows them to kill you without becoming a traitor themselves. We also have “Down-Not-Dead”; when another player shoots you, you go down instead of dying, which gives you a chance to kill the traitor before he kills you.
Instead of the usual grenades and close combat knives we added explodeable canisters and human shields, which gives players a chance to defend themselves while fitting in with the game concept and characters. These features are currently being fine tuned based on the experiences from our exclusive demo.
We also took out respawn for traitors, making it even more intense and dangerous to betray.
SPOnG: The co-operative campaign mode is a new feature, isn't it? Why was this not present in the first Kane & Lynch?
Co-op is not exactly new in Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days
, as we did have offline split screen co-op campaign mode in Kane and Lynch: Dead Men
. Online co-op is new.
In the end it always boils down to project risk and cost. Fragile Alliance was our first multiplayer and first online project. To be totally honest with you it was too risky to bet on online co-op while trying to get Fragile Alliance to work. We kept the offline version for Kane and Lynch 2: Dogs Days
simply because we still think it's fun to sit on the couch and play together with a friend.
SPOnG: We've seen how the new visual style will make the single-player action feel more engaging. How does the documentary film and user-generated content style lend itself to the multiplayer modes?
It lends itself perfectly. We have a steady cam option but I never use that, because the game feels less intense without the shaky cam.
The idea behind the camera is to make the experience feel more real and less staged – adding a Fragile Alliance multiplayer heist to that is like a double up for me.
We use the exact same camera effects and filters for the entire game. The funny thing is that some players feel we turned it up in multiplayer. The fact is that you get (more easily) distressed and tolerate fewer effects when playing multiplayer. We therefore made the rule that the camera could never get in your way and the post filters should not give any player a disadvantage at any time.
But then again the whole idea of Fragile Alliance is that you think twice before you pull the trigger, which allows for a less perfect, in the sense of dull, camera.
SPOnG: With Dog Days set in Shanghai, how have you approached map design for multiplayer - and to an extent, the single-player mode too?
We wanted to find unusual locations for a shooter, like a sweatshop where women are still at work sewing jeans. Kane and Lynch are hiding and trying to escape so we wanted to use low key environments for low key criminal hideouts in the multicultural and extremely hybrid Shanghai.
That was the feel we also wanted for multiplayer, and avoided the grand heists. We tried to find realistic locations where low key criminals would deal diamonds and do unusual heists, and for that purpose we used inspiration from real life heists for the multiplayer stories.
For the multiplayer map design, it was very important that we supported all game modes, and especially the flow in Fragile Alliance; greed in the beginning and (it being) easy to follow each other, betrayal in the middle, spread out the players but not more than everybody can follow each other, and betrayal in the end with respawn just before the escape area, and a deathmatch design for the escape area ramping up the tension towards the end.
SPOnG: Some games are starting to come with Facebook and Twitter functionality integrated into the software. With Kane & Lynch 2's visual style, will you too be adding this kind of social networking, and in what ways?
Social networking has become an integrated part of games in general. My main goal was to create stories for the game and give players something in return, not just a Facebook functionality.
We do collect a lot of metrics from the game and use them to post stories about the game on Facebook, Twitter, on forums and in-game. Stories like: “To date more than 27 billion dollars have been stolen through successful heists. That’s approximately 161 million dollars laundered every hour during the first 4 days of the exclusive demo”.
Game information can also appear on the Infocast system we have running in the menus. And we use the Infocast system to tell players if a friend beat their hi-score in the Arcade Mode, we use metrics to create challenges in-game and on our web site, and use metrics to create stories about the Kane and Lynch
community. We also have a new approach to heat maps.
We have more information coming about all this around launch but the main purpose was to create stories to give players something in return, and not just add a feature that everybody else has for the sake of it.
SPOnG: How important do you think user-generated content has become in recent years? Its rise has created the field of citizen journalism and introduced film fans to independent productions. Do you think it is all positive, or is there a negative too?
User-generated content is here to stay simply because it involves fans and communities. Of course, the nature of it is very different for each medium, coming from the different demographics purposes for each.
We have had cheap cameras for decades, and have had TV programs with home videos and cool low budget movies from wannabe film makers. Today we have an extreme amount of stuff on Youtube.
If you look at games, we have had the demo scene around for almost as long as we have had computer games. The tools are just getting better and more user-friendly – for developers as well as the end-user. We will continue to see more user-generated stuff for games and will see more games centred around user-generated functionalities.
I think that is all very positive. It’s hard to predict where it will take games in the future but I don’t see any negative to it, over the next years it will find a natural balance between unique new games and user generated content.
SPOnG: Thank you for your time
Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days
is hitting the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on the 20th August.