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PDZ.com interview with Duncan Botwood

Original interview transcript from PerfectDarkZero.com.

Duncan Botwood has been designing games professionally longer than some Operatives have been playing them. His impressive credits include Perfect Dark and GoldenEye, and now he's orchestrating the design of the multiplayer aspects of Perfect Dark Zero. Read our Operative's exclusive interview with Duncan!

ID Confirmed: Begin Transmission

Operative: Botwood, D.
Classification: Senior Designer
Team: Rare
Mission: Perfect Dark Zero
Mission Parameters: Multiplayer Design
Mission Hot Zone: United Kingdom

Duncan Botwood has been designing games for as long as some Operatives have been playing them. His impressive credits include Perfect Dark and GoldenEye,  and his current assignment is to orchestrate the design of the multiplayer aspects in Perfect Dark Zero. Our Operative infiltrated the heavily-guarded Rare compound in the United Kingdom and, at great personal risk, obtained the following interview with Duncan.

MGS Operative: Hello, and thanks for granting us this interview. Please tell us a little about yourself, your role at Rare, and your work as the Perfect Dark Zero  Multiplayer Designer.

Duncan Botwood: I’ve been at Rare for over ten years now, and I’m a Senior Designer at the company. I was part of both the GoldenEye and Perfect Dark 64 teams. What I’ve been doing as the Multiplayer designer on PDZ is: making the initial background models for the multiplayer levels then passing them over to an artist for the graphics pass; setting the levels up for players; and writing many, many (many) design documents covering all aspects of the multiplayer side of things. I also did some placeholder voice work for both in–game and cut-scene speech… I hope nobody from Scotland ever hears my attempt at Daniel Carrington’s voice.

MGS Operative: It’s no secret that Perfect Dark Zero is one of the most anticipated titles this year—heck, in several years! And everyone wants to know all about the game’s multiplayer modes. We’ve heard some rumors about PDZ offering up to six variants of two very different modes. What can you tell us?

Duncan Botwood: There are two different modes: DeathMatch and DarkOps. In the PD universe, DeathMatch is a virtual combat arena, a creation of the dataDyne Corp. When you die, you respawn and come straight back into the game. DarkOps is more tactical and cautious – players play over a number of rounds but have (in most cases) only one life per round. More than that, at this time, I can’t say.

MGS Operative: What gameplay innovations will we see in PDZ multiplayer?

Duncan Botwood: Base-camping in multiplayer games is a problem, so we came up with a way of evening the odds: Team Spawn rooms. These are remote locations where members of the same team can kit themselves out with weapons and then jump into the main level using the teleport in the centre of the room. There are also advanced teleport locations at strategic points around the map which can be hacked by teams. Once hacked, these locations are linked in to the Team Spawn room and appear as secondary teleports to the sides of the main device. Entering these will allow the player to jump to that new location.

One of the most fun elements of the original Perfect Dark was the secondary function of the guns. In Perfect Dark Zero we paid close attention to the secondary (and tertiary in some cases!) functions of the weaponry, and chose the default sets with care. We’ll allow the players to go in there and mess up our hard work by making their own sets too!

MGS Operative: Can you tell us something about how the Xbox 360® platform has influenced the design of the PDZ multiplayer game?

Duncan Botwood: The Live service is one of the jewels in the crown of Microsoft Game Studios, and the new platform allows greater integration of the Live service into the game. It should make everything that bit more convenient for the player, as well as providing a better matchmaking experience.

MGS Operative: Will the single player campaign and online multiplayer be very different types of games? How did the two evolve together?

Duncan Botwood: At their cores they carry the same mechanics, the same weapons, but the fundamental difference is that in multiplayer, you will be playing against other humans. This adds an element of uncertainty to your opponent’s actions. The multiplayer levels do not use graphics taken directly from the Story mode, but they share many of the same textures and where possible are themed on the Story mode levels to provide that visual link. We did experiment early on with using the Story mode levels, but the time taken to adapt these for use in multiplayer was longer than it took to make a new multiplayer level from scratch.

MGS Operative: Can players choose from different multiplayer character types?

Duncan Botwood: Current plans are for the players to be able to pick one of the multiplayer characters as their Profile character for free-for-all matches, and have the player who is setting up a team game select Team Identities for the teams in those games. Team Identities are sets of characters grouped by their association within the Story mode, divided into hero characters and grunts. The hero model is given to the top-ranked player on the team so they are easier to identify.

MGS Operative: Everyone wants to know about the PDZ Multiplayer maps. How many there will be, and how many players they will support? Will the maps feature vehicles? What can you tell us?

Duncan Botwood: There are six basic maps that each have multiple variants – the layout changed based on which areas we open up or close off. The Desert map that we showed at E3 has areas that cater to four to eight players, and larger variants that are suitable for 32 or more players. Some of the maps will feature vehicles, but not all.

MGS Operative: Finally, could you describe an ordinary day at Rare for us? What’s your typical day like as the Multiplayer Designer?

Duncan Botwood – Get up at 6AM, in work for 7AM, have some breakfast, read a news site, check my bugs, scream, fix some bugs, have lunch, fix more bugs, see if other people in the team need me to do anything for them, be about to go home then see that MGS in Seattle has woken up and is sending me more bugs, go home, eat, sleep, repeat. It’s a bit busy right now!