PSLS Presents – Ollie Barder, Senior Designer at doublesix
The Top Gun movie helped define the late 1980’s, with the blockbuster hit becoming an instant classic. With Top Gun the game, Burn Zombie Burn! developer doublesix has brought some of that big-screen cheese to the PlayStation 3, with the title giving fans a chance to experience the thrill of the Top Gun franchise once again. To talk about the game, the struggles of developing for an existing IP, and more, PlayStation LifeStyle chatted to Ollie Barder, Senior Designer at doublesix.
Hi Ollie, could you start by introducing yourself and telling us about your work at doublesix?
My name’s Ollie Barder, I’m Senior Designer at doublesix and I worked on the mission scripting and balancing on Paramount Digital’s PSN game Top Gun, and ending up doing a lot of the lead work towards the end. So in the game, I think I’m actually credited as co-lead designer with Jim Mummery.
And what else have I done here? [Laughs]… Burn Zombie Burn! for PSN, South Park for XBLA and a bunch of other stuff, which I’m not allowed to talk about. But yeah, we’re finishing off Top Gun now, so it’s all good. That’s basically who I am and what I do.
How much creative freedom do you have with what is an already established intellectual property?
In terms of how we approached the main core Top Gun game, what normally happens is you pitch to a publisher, and the publisher goes “Yeah, that sounds really cool, go and make it”. That’s kind of where we were coming from, but in terms of keeping it true and having F14’s, making it set in Miramar and the Indian Ocean, that is something we do have to kinda keep to, and also, the integrity of the film, y’know, we have to keep to the spirit of the film, definitely.
Has this slowed you down at any point, or forced you to cut content you otherwise would have kept?
No, in terms of this project, it was very productive, we weren’t really held back. The only thing that did change, was that we already had the mission scripting done, and then Jack [Epps, writer of the Top Gun Movie] came on board, and once that was kinda in place, from a story point of view it was kinda added in later than we would normally have done. But it didn’t really cause any problems and he kinda gave it a really good 80s cheesy feel.
But no, there wasn’t anything that the licence really restricted because we picked a genre that we knew would work really, really well with this kind of game. So we made sure we were pointed in the right direction to begin with.
And, speaking of budget, can you talk about that?
[Grins] Not really no, I mean, lets put it into perspective, I mean, Ace Combat would have had a big team for a boxed product, and a pretty big budget, us? A fraction of that, a relatively small team compared to them. And compared to what you are getting, something visually quite similar, and tech wise, the handling is also very similar. But this is still a big downloadable product with 3 single player modes (Flight School, Campaign Mode and Horde Mode) and online multi-player for up to 16 players with five multi-player modes (Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Top Gun (choose your wingman and compete against enemy pairs), Bombing Run (defend and attack mobile bases) and Capture the Flag. It’s incredible value!
Can you talk about the timing?
About a year or so, it took, a bit less than a year actually.
And with Epps’ input, how much of the game is based on scenes from the movie, and how much is entirely new?
Well the new stuff is specifically the boss fights, and also how the bombers work, for example you have bombers which jam you etc. So in the film, Tom Cruise doesn’t take out any ships, whereas, you take out a lot of boats and turrets, or tanks and AA guns. So there is a bit of deviation in that sense, but in terms of narrative we don’t have the love story or anything, but it’s pretty close.
Can you tell us some of the different locations within the game?
They are all based on the movie, except for the horde mode, which is set in the Himalayas with the Aurora Borealis in the background. It is basically Miramar and the Indian Ocean. Indian Ocean has two areas, which is a coast line and the dock, and the other one’s out in the open sea with oil rigs, so there are two areas in the open sea. And you have different time of day, so you have morning, sunset and night time as well for all the levels.
And multiplayer works in all the levels?
Yes, multiplayer you can play in all the levels.
And the Horde mode level?
No Horde mode is only on the mountain level.
And, are you planning on adding Move support?
No, not for Top Gun, I’m afraid. Unless, well that’s more of a Paramount question, if they want us to patch it, that would be great.
Top Gun, the movie, was released back in 1986, and there have been several Top Gun games, so why did you decide to make the title now, nearly 25 years on?
That’s more of a question for Paramount, they were interested in making the game, and we just pitched for it. Unlike Burn Zombie Burn, which is something we published ourselves, Top Gun is the more traditional ‘work for hire’ from a developer point of view, so the publisher (Paramount Digital) has a concept, and we the developer pitched for it and won.
Telltale Games are making titles based on ‘Back to the Future’ and ‘Jurassic Park’, and Piranha Games are making a ‘Days of Thunder’ title. Why do you think that we are seeing a revival in late 80s, early 90s movie based games?
Coming from that generation, cause I’m in my Thirties now, I grew up with Transformers, Thunder Cats, Days of Thunder, Top Gun, and I think a lot of the people grew up watching it as kids and are now old enough, with a disposable income. So, I think, maybe a lot of marketing people have looked at the age brackets and gone: “This is what they liked as kids, lets go after that”, so it might be that.
Are you planning a Top Gun Home Space?
No, there isn’t a Top Gun Home Space as far as we know, although I have heard some rumours of Home activity coming, but there will be Top Gun Home outfits, shirts and stuff. I think if you buy the game you will automatically receive an exclusive Maverick Flight Suit for your Home avatar
So will there be DLC for Top Gun?
I don’t know. At the moment, no. I don’t think so, but we will see.
It’s a PS3 console exclusive, and will also be coming to PC and Mac, what was the reason behind this decision?
That was a Paramount thing, I don’t know, originally we were planning on doing a cross-platform and Paramount were very keen on doing it just PS3.
And PC and Mac are coming later?
That’s coming later, yeah.
I don’t know, actually, that’s a Paramount question, I think.
PlayStation LifeStyle would like to thank Ollie Barder and doublesix for taking the time to hold the interview. For more interviews, reviews and news, stay tuned to PlayStation LifeStyle.