The Godfather was a bold franchise for EA to take on a few years ago, both in terms of its subject matter and the reverence with which millions of people treat the source material. Although it wasn’t perfect, The Godfather: The Game proved to be an entertaining romp through “the family” and introduced some fun “negotiation tactics” into the gameplay. EA is now hard at work on The Godfather 2 for PS3 and Xbox 360, with the developers taking a few moments of their time to write diary/blog entries to keep would-be fans informed of their progress. The next official blog entry goes live on Monday, but EA has sent it along to DailyGame a bit early so our loyal readers could get a sneak peek:
I’m Robert Foster, game play engineer on The Godfather 2. One of the things I’m responsible for on this game is the Artificial Intelligence (AI) vehicle behavior.
Game play engineers write the code that controls the behaviors for almost everything you interact with in the game. We have to write the code for how characters walk around, what animations to play when you hit someone with a car, how objects roll around in the world, etc… It may sound like playing god for the game, getting to write how everything behaves — but it’s not a free-for-all. Usually there are plenty of meetings deciding on what people want interactions to be like. I write it up and hand it to the designers to see if they like it. In summary I take the design specs from the customers, work, and hand them to the designers. I’m a people person, damn it!
A major challenge we encountered with the vehicles was to get intersections working correctly while looking realistic. A top priority in creating the vehicle AI was to ensure that the vehicles did not get into wrecks and to keep the flow of traffic moving smoothly in the background. In real life, merging lanes and turning left at a big intersection can cause backups and congestion. Figuring out how to avoid congestion in the game is difficult considering we haven’t figured out a foolproof way to avoid it in real life. But being in the game, we can make up rules that wouldn’t apply in real life. So one of the rules I made up was cars can’t turn left at all when there is a lane in the opposite direction. I made the left lane cars go straight and the right lane cars go right. So far this has worked out fine, except the poor characters driving the cars have a hard time getting to the grocery store if it’s on the left side. I should run for city planner, no more traffic jams and no more left turns…. Woo hoo!
One of the complaints about the vehicles from The Godfather 1 was the windows were all black, so you can’t see inside…. Yes, this means that we actually DO read the forums and listen to what you guys have to say. One of the many improvements to the cars was — you guessed it — windows that you can see through. It was fun programming the characters in the cars to drive and react to the world around them. One such reaction is when a character realizes the player is in a huge gun battle with a local racket and trying to decide whether to drive away in a panic or duck down in their seat hoping no one sees them in the car. Although the best thing is shooting through the windows and watching the driver slump over onto the horn as he dies. Sick and twisted? Probably, but it’s one of my favorite things to do in the world.
Programming crazy traffic rules isn’t the only thing that happens at work. As a stress relief I like to dominate co-workers in a friendly game of dodgeball. This year the dodgeball team I was on happened to win the EA Redwood Shores championship. Two out of the three years I’ve played my team won the championship, I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Dodgeball Champion is good leverage when ‘negotiating’ in gameplay design meetings.
I hope you enjoy the game when it comes out. Just remember after robbing your local bank, weaving through traffic and blowing through intersections, I’m the guy who made the pursuing cops execute a PIT maneuver that ruined your perfect getaway. 🙂