Good to be Bad

Good to be Bad
Playing as a True Predator

Shannon Drake | 31 Oct 2006 07:02
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To contrast it with the Ecco games, he says, "It was a rule in the Ecco games to not feature humans. In Jaws, eating humans is one of the most important features, so we worked a lot to make it as satisfying as possible. Because of the close interaction with the human world, from the beginning of the project, we decided to extend the game territory from underwater-only to above and below water, so the player can meet, attack and destroy different kinds of boats, machinery and buildings in a variety of ways." Kadosca acknowledges that "it's [something] of a guilty pleasure to play as Nature's most feared predator. That's most likely because people are afraid [of], yet fascinated by, sharks.

"Combine that with the uniqueness of playing as an animal in a mature videogame, and it's easy to understand why the concept itself is so compelling." Elaborating, he says, "We like rock bands, action movie heroes, etc. Being a 'bad guy' in our imagination is tempting, because of the many rules that control our life and behavior. Playing as the bad guy offers gamers a way to 'break the rules' in a game the way they never could in real life. During our focus tests, the players were really excited about playing as the shark for the entire game." Indeed, among those who've seen or played Jaws Unleashed, the reaction is half-horror, half-starry-eyed 5-year-old-boy "Coooool."

I asked if the team felt the need to try and make something compelling story-wise, or if they thought swimming around and eating people would be enough. "The game primarily focuses on the giant shark that eats people," Kadosca said without a hint of irony. "But there are also many side challenges that provide ways for the player to try out the shark's various capabilities. There is also an underlying story that plays out via Story Missions: Environplus is disturbing the ocean life around Amity Island with the vibration of its oil drilling machinery. This makes the sharks more hungry and aggressive." Jaws is an environmental crusader, eating people to save the world. "The player faces more and more powerful enemies as he advances in the game - police, coast guard and harbor patrol show up to hunt the shark, depending on how destructive Jaws has been."

As for designing the mechanics of the game, where Jaws can eat people in various fun and creative says, he says, "the game was created for mature gamers, so it made sense to deliver an experience that played off playing as a true predator. Victims can be torn apart, and there are special moves like 'Surface Throw and Catch' or the 'Corkscrew' move that more advanced players can earn after completing story missions and side challenges." One of the hazards of working in a killer's mind is that it can prove to be a little too engrossing. I wondered whether any of the developers got a little too into the design process, and he was quick to assure me that "none of us dropped by the pool to bite people's legs. The fact that you play the game as an animal and not as a human being helped keep things in perspective."

The game's perspective is unique, allowing the player to explore the ocean through the "lifeless eyes" of a true predator and a perfectly evolved killing machine. For the team at Appaloosa, it was a very different experience, but one they seemed to enjoy, and now Jaws swims the oceans once more. Swimmers, boaters, oil drillers and cute bottlenose dolphins: Be on your guard.

If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find him, maybe you can hire Shannon Drake.

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