by John Gaudiosi
On the heels of their success with the original, critically-acclaimed Army of Two game, Electronic Arts’ Montreal Studio has returned to the battlefield with a sequel, Army of Two: The 40th Day. Like the first game, the sequel is powered by Unreal Engien 3. Reid Schneider, executive producer on the Army of Two franchise – a Hollywood movie adaptation is also in the works – has been working with Epic’s game technology for years.
“Many of us first started using it when we were at UbiSoft Montreal working on the Tom Clancy Splinter Cell titles,” said Schneider. “Also, since we shipped the original Army of Two on Unreal Engine 3 we had experience with their engine structure, shader/rendering pipeline, and animation system. We have a great relationship with Epic, as well. They have always been very helpful to us. I think the core benefit of using Unreal is that so many artists/animators/engineers have experience with it now. This means the ramp-up time to become effective is minimized when they start on the project.”
Schneider said his team has always been focused around building content, rather than developing technology. They like Unreal because it’s a very solid cross-platform solution and editor. The team has also done an extensive amount of optimization work on the engine since the first game, so using it for the sequel just made sense.
“When we started on the original Army of Two, we had to figure out everything because it was an original IP,” said Schneider. “We were not starting with a universe, but rather crafting one. I think the main difference of the development from the first game to the second was that we really kept the team focused on features that would end up in the final product.”
For both Army of Two games, EA Montreal used all the tools available in UE3. Schneider said his level designers do almost all their scripting in Kismet. He said this was especially useful for setting up triggering-events since the game is relatively linear. They also used Kismet for the morality choice moments, as well as pre-combat interactions with the NPCs.
“We used Matinee extensively for two types of cameras in the game,” added Schneider. “We had ‘focus cams’ where the player would see what civilians were being held hostage. We also used Matinee for our ‘Destruction Cams,’ and regular cinematics. We spent a lot of time blowing up buildings/structures in this game and needed great camera work to show it off.”
Schneider said that Army of Two: The 40th Day was influenced by Hollywood films like Die Hard and Cloverfield. In this game, the goal was to make it a personal story where the players have to “get out alive,” rather than focusing on globetrotting and political conspiracy. The team was able to utilize Unreal Engine 3 to build environments that accentuated the danger that surrounds the players at all times.
Players now have two co-op choices within the Army of Two franchise on the gaming side, and Schneider said Universal Pictures is developing a feature film based on the games. When gamers pick up the latest game, the expanded customization options and destructible environments that they’ll fight through were all made possible with Unreal Engine 3.