Born To Run: Mirror’s Edge

By Kieron Gillen on January 11th, 2008 at 12:55 pm.

What fortuitous timing. I was going to link to Edge’s extensive piece on DICE’s (i.e. The BF2 Guys) shooter when Eurogamer lob up some actual screenshots found by fansite. So now we can start with a picture…

BOOORRRRRRRRRRRRRRN TO RUN!!!!

Before going to give some choice cuts on why this Le Parkour-influenced FPS is – for me – the most exciting looking first-person game of the next twelve months.

Mirror’s Edge is about something quite simple – movement. It’s about trying to make a game where you have a sense of a player’s physicality work in First person. This is an enormous challenge, and that someone is putting it right at the heart of the game… well, this could be good. It’s something which I sense First-Person developers have to wrestle in – perhaps the thing about Bioshock that made it feel most old was how the character moves. If Mirror’s Edge changes this, it changes everything in a first-person game in a paradigm-twisting way that no-one has since… well, I suspect Half-life.

Okay, choice quotes from the article to get people talking.

There’s always been a lot of focus on the gun in firstperson games,” says producer Tom Farrer, ruefully. “No one puts that much focus on the movement; how you move around the environment. We wanted to capture a real sense of physicality. Games like Unreal Tournament have movement – double jumps, rocket jumps – but it’s very abstracted. We wanted to place you in the world and convey the strain and physical contact with the environment.”

“The first thing we wanted to get was the feeling of actually sprinting, to get a feeling of speed and momentum in the game,” says O’Brien.

And, well, it works – and this is before motion-blur or any other full-screen effects have been added to accentuate the feeling of movement. But it’s not only the contact with the environment and the audiovisual feedback that makes the player feel so coupled with the avatar – crucially, DICE has nailed the sense of acceleration and deceleration. The latter is particularly obvious if you hit the crouch button while moving at speed – the avatar throws herself into a slide, feet outstretched in front (useful for evading slowly descending garage doors, for example), and, skidding to a gravellysounding halt, the viewpoint skews with plausible imitation of naturalistic head movement. It’s all suggestive of a friction with the surrounding world that is simply absent from other firstperson games – and perhaps it takes an effort like DICE’s to recognise that there even was a common disconnect occuring in the genre that needed to be addressed

“A lot of the moves you do are parkour moves,” says O’Brien. “We decided fairly early on in development that we wanted to do a game that was based in an urban environment, positioning it away from military and war and the big open spaces of Battlefield. We started off prototyping in Battlefield 2, and we found that one of the things we wanted to do we couldn’t, which was to move around the city on foot – we found that vehicles were quickly abandoned. In the narrow city streets people drove them for ten yards, jumped out of them again and ducked down an alley, or ran up stairs or ran into the subways. We’ve got a very vertical world, and found that people wanted to move around that quickly on foot.”

The game clearly isn’t about dispatching endless thousands of bad guys, however – your enemies represent a real threat, and one that, for the most part, you must outrun rather than outgun. “One of the conventions we were interested in breaking was never putting enemies behind you,” says Farrer. “Other firstperson games often have you moving towards your enemy, and clearing the threat. We wanted to give this idea of chase. The enemies aren’t there for cannon fodder; they’re frightening and powerful.”

But the fear of such authoritarian government is really a fear of that power being misused, as O’Brien explains: “Like any utopia, if you scratch the surface things start to fall apart. It’s being run by a coalition of corrupt politicians and police, controlling the citizens for their own means. For me, this is the core of the game and the message, if it has a message: the greater good has come at the expense of personal freedom. It’s what’s happening around the world a lot. How much personal freedom are you willing to give up for a comfortable life? That’s the crux of the game. A lot of people in this city don’t even realise they’re kept.”

“If you look at thirdperson games there’s been a lot of evolution there,” says Farrer. “We haven’t seen that in firstperson games.” O’Brien continues: “I think what we’re doing is cool and innovative, and we’ve broken a lot of taboos and overcome lots of problems – but I also think it’s the next logical step for firstperson. Like most great ideas, once you’ve done them everyone goes: ‘Well, yeah, why doesn’t everybody do that?’”

There’s lots more, clearly, and think it’s all worth reading but…

Think they can pull it off? And can it be even a fraction as fine as Pinball Dreams?

, , .

51 Comments »

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  1. Theory says:

    I hope so. I’m drawn to games about movement and positioning already, but they’re all military: Red Orchestra, Day of Defeat, anything RTT…

    I’ve been waiting for a gunfree game like Mirror’s Edge for a while now.

  2. Thiefsie says:

    Sounds very interesting in deed, sound a bit like Call of Cthulhu Dark Corners of the Earth which had some truly terrifying moments when you were trying to outrun people coming after you.

    This as a game on it’s own doesn’t really excite me but just think of the possibility of say putting this into BF2, then you have something a bit more substantial and potentially new to the FPS conventions. – as long as it isn’t handled as poorly as dolphin-diving it might actually give movement foreseeable, both positive and negative consequences for an FPS for once, whether timing etc come into it for getting behind cover etc etc… or just sliding under a log blocking the way to outrun a jeep, let alone the free-range parkour stylings of Crackdown thrown in for vertical pleasure.

    Exciting!

  3. Kast says:

    Can. Not. Wait.

    I am very much looking forward to all the free-running games that seem to be in development. It just seems so much more fun than blowing stuff up – as insane as that sounds.

  4. Kieron Gillen says:

    That running away could be awesome was drilled into me in Thief – when you’re unskilled enough to fuck up and then run across the city is gorgeous.

    KG

  5. Theory says:

    Is anyone else getting a Portal vibe from that screenshot?

  6. SwiftRanger says:

    Interested but “running away” all the time doesn’t seem my kind of game, at least call it a Runner instead of a Shooter then. :) But the real problem is that apparently this isn’t coming to PC (hence the console control scheme talk in the preview), even the first announcement of the game lacked any mention of a PC version.

    That “no evolution in the FPS genre” yadda-yadda is getting a bit stale as well, it gets even worse when Edge tries to chime in. “Mechanical evolution”, what the hell is that supposed to mean? Is Mirror’s Edge gonna ship with a special controller or something? Or are the devs and Edge trying to say to us that FPS’s didn’t get any extra movement and gameplay options since Marathon? I guess they stayed on Mars all those years then. Someone needs to fire up AvP for these guys.

  7. Yann Best says:

    This game’s sounded interesting for a while, and as always I find myself wondering about the control system. Are the developers intending for the standard to be ye-olde WASD + mouse combo, or are they thinking that joypad controls are more suitable? Personally I’d go for the latter, because I’m unimaginative and imagine it’d be easier to make the game-taking-over-head-motions for different actions feel natural when you already have a relatively limited control of your head movements, rather than mouselook with its inherent focus on Total Control(probably tm some company, somewhere).

    Which would be more than fine for me, as I’ve found that twitchy mouselook distances me from games a little – I believe it was a major obstacle in my enjoyment of the Half-Life games – a series which in many ways hides its ‘gaminess’ (no cut-scenes, HUD explained in-game), the clearly gamey control mechanism helped keep me aware that I was playing a game. Ironically, Halo, while spinning a particularly daft tale with moronic characters, was able to draw me in more thanks to the more natural feeling of motion (I’d describe it as ‘weighty’, but for the fact that the Master-Chief can leap about a storey). So, yes, I naturally assume that a game centred on ‘feeling’ right would use the same mechanism, but perhaps the team have something entirely different in mind. Whatever the case, I look forward to finding out.

    (Of course, the 360 and PS3 versions seem ever-so-slightly likely to use joypads for their primary control system, but the developers must be aware that fewer PC gamers own such gubbins, not to mention the strangely rabid ‘mouselook or death’ crowd of FPS players)

  8. Yann Best says:

    Note to self: lengthy quotes are still but quotes: read the original article to check whether your questions have already been answered. Gah. So yes, analogue sticks are the default.

  9. Nuyan says:

    A game like warsow has cool (and quite hard to learn as well) movement, it’s a bit like Quake and UT, but more extreme.

    I do like the thoughts of O’Brien though, this could actually have a real interesting storyline.

  10. Sub-Kamikaze says:

    It does sound great, but there are two fears I have that I hope to God are completely unfounded. The first is a concern over level sizes – with such an emphasis on speedily vaulting obstacles and climbing, the levels will have to be positively huge if they’re to last more than a quick 15 minute stint.

    The other worry is that with the focus on movement, I hope they implement some sort of melee attack (apart from being able to grab an enemy’s weapon as they claim ), even if it is reduced to kicking a foe off a building as he climbs a ledge beneath you. It would be quite jarring to have such a well realised ‘physical’ presence with tonnes of fluid moves at your disposal with which to navigate the game world, only to be denied nteraction with the NPCs.

    I love being wrong though. Massively.

  11. Kieron Gillen says:

    SwiftRanger: You’re mistaken. It’s announced for the PC. It says so in the only press-release.

    KG

  12. Piratepete says:

    Le Parkour

    A man who can translate potential and kinetic energy into something that looks death defying and beautiful.

  13. SwiftRanger says:

    Then I stand corrected, KG.

  14. roBurky says:

    I like running away. I wish Half-Life 2 had let me run away more often.

  15. Sam says:

    Sub-Kamikaze: Indeed, you’ve just managed to remind me of the generally-overlooked mostly-melee-range third-person “FPS” Oni, which I always thought had promising ideas about this kind of thing.

  16. Simon says:

    First Person Assasin’s Creed?

  17. MCHN says:

    I still play Pinball Dreams all the time using an emulator. Particularly the Nightmare table.

  18. Pidesco says:

    This sounds positively awesome. Body awareness in FPS games has always been something I’ve been wanting to see done well, and this game really seems like it could pull it off.

    I always thought Pinball Fantasies was better than Dreams, though.

  19. Joonas says:

    I am so enthusiastic about this, especially since DICE hasn’t fumbled before. The one thing I find very lacking in Half-Life 2, for instance, is movement. There’s just no sense of mass or solidity.

  20. Del Boy says:

    Looking at that picture, what other FPS’s have been set in a busy city in broad daylight?

    I may be horribly wrong but I can’t think of one.

  21. Meat Circus says:

    I hadn’t heard of this.

    And now I have.

    This makes me happy.

  22. yns88 says:

    I just realized that this is exactly what I’ve always wanted in an FPS.

  23. Reko says:

    There was an FPS called Breakdown (on Xbox I think) which did a quite good job of giving a sense of actually being present with amixture of unarmed and gun combat. It was quite quirky and weird too, if just a little bit bobbins in general.

  24. J. Prevost says:

    I think that if done right, this game will succeed mechanically for the same sort of reason that Portal succeeded. (Speaking purely of game mechanics, not of the story, which was another big point in Portal’s favor.) When you’re trying to do something new with game mechanics, it’s good to really mono-focus on it.

    If you make a game where a new feature is one of about umpteen things going on, it becomes a novelty, like the gravity gun in HL2. It can be a really neat novelty, but it’s still sort of a side aspect to gameplay. There are times in HL2 when you really want to use the GG because you’re out of ammo. There are times when you use it because it’s fun. There are times when you use it because it’s the way you solve energy ball puzzles. But the device doesn’t really work everywhere you want it to—it’s not an integral part of the world. Except for the puzzle sections where you have to use it, it’s a toy, and you can use it or not, it’s up to you. Because of that, its interaction with the world wasn’t taken to extremes. You quickly learn that there are some things the gun works on and some that it doesn’t. Even in the powered-up portions, this is the case—especially when you think about what cool things you could do with novel interactions like pulling yourself toward things instead of pulling them toward you.

    In Portal, the new device was very much the focus of the game. Everything in the game is about making and using portals to get through various situations. Things that portals don’t work on are the exception, unlike the GG where it’s the other way around. You’re explicitly introduced to kinds of surfaces that portals don’t open on, and then that distinction becomes another part of the game. Since you’re not running around shooting things with bullets, the portal gun has to work perfectly, and in a wide variety of ways.

    In short, because the portal gun was the focus of the game in Portal, the game physics of how portals work was fine tuned to a far greater degree. Even though it was basically just two new verbs (make orange portal, make blue portal), it opened up a huge variety of interactions.

    And, well, that’s what I hope for from Mirror’s Edge. If it does things right, then the whole game is going to be about movement. It’s going to make the verbs of motion really really cool. I mean… how exciting does it sound to get from point A to point B? But that’s exactly what you do in any game. It’s just that in most, the whole point is shooting things along the way, and here, the whole point is in the going.

    So: I have high hopes for this. From everything I’ve read, I think the developers have a similar understanding to what I do. There can be combat, sure—but combat should be like the gravity gun: a novelty used to spice up the real game of getting from place to place.

    (And final note: This is why I don’t really think of this game as an FPS. Same thing as Portal: it’s got an FPS interface, sure, but it’s not about shooting things. It really has more in common with puzzle adventures, as does any game where the obstacle in getting to your goal is not frequently “there’s a guy with a gun standing in the way.”)

  25. Theory says:

    Ta-da!

    http://on-mirrors-edge.com/

    I love how the site design echoes the city design. It even looks a little like a corporation homepage. :)

  26. drunkymonkey says:

    Yeah. I’ve been looking forward to this since the EDGE article. DICE are good at scale, so they’ve already got that nailed down. I can’t wait to see a hands-on to figure how the damn thing actually plays, but for now I’m just gawping at the lovely screenshots and artwork.

    Me wants desktop wallpapers!

  27. Zeno, Internetographer says:

    Though I’m sure everyone will hate me for saying this, this reminds me, in concept, of the old Sonic games, which were on the cutting edge of movement physics at the time.

  28. Nick says:

    Shame it’s made by DICE and will likely be a buggy mess really.

  29. Muzman says:

    I might be being a fanboy (I usually do), but the game to name check here isn’t Half-Life, surely. Ok it was huge, but it was Doom with a decent narrative. The game where perspective, controls, environment and sense of environment mattered like never before was Thief. Ok, granted the point being made is probably that Half Life was huge and great and changed everyone’s idea of how it’s done, but I still saw echoes of Thief all over the place in the years following it (usually in one game characteristic at a time; be it, lighting or sound or AI or level design). I don’t know if it was directly influential or just got there first.
    At any rate I’ll be really interested to see how they handle the controls for this and what kind of ‘feel’ they make for the player. Thief again is still my winner for really feeling the interface, for want of a better word, and nothing has quite matched it since. The FOV, the headbob, the walking, the way physics are applied to the character etc all created an amazing sense of control and added the (dare I say it) immersion, all with just a keyboard for the buttons, no pressure sensitive malarkey. Some people think none of that matters a whit and wish you could scale it all back to skateboard-cam because it makes them want to puke, so I dunno really. But it’ll be interesting to see how they balance a sense of freedom and this desire to feel the movement. A more automated context system like Assassins Creed sounds like it has must be tempting. And working it with the keyboard will be interesting too.
    The use of Body Awareness (as Deadly Shadows folk know it: where you can see all of your character in first person) ought to be cool to. It didn’t do much for me in Deadly Shadows but in Dark Messiah (what little I’ve played of it) it was quite disconcerting how much it added to getting smacked down onto my arse. I think Bioshock could have benefitted from it immensely.

  30. Sören Höglund says:

    Anything that brings more parkour and vertical movement into games makes me smile.

  31. Sören Höglund says:

    Ok, granted the point being made is probably that Half Life was huge and great and changed everyone’s idea of how it’s done, but I still saw echoes of Thief all over the place in the years following it (usually in one game characteristic at a time; be it, lighting or sound or AI or level design).

    Of course, that influence wasn’t always for good. Remember the Obligatory Stealth Level that infested every fps for a good while? I wish I didn’t. :(

  32. Hypocee says:

    N

  33. Muzman says:

    Of course, that influence wasn’t always for good. Remember the Obligatory Stealth Level that infested every fps for a good while? I wish I didn’t

    Based on the usually crappy level design and simple AI and stealth mechanics employed therein I think most of these were aping Half-Life with these sections. (I’m not entirely joking with that one. Also Sin presages many a terrible stealth level. But denial may indeed flow though my lounge room.)

  34. Bobsy says:

    Now this looks exciting. No video though? Boo!

  35. Seth Tipps says:

    Yeah, this may be combine with portal to make FPSs a bit less senseless. It’s a small wonder that the screenshots look a lot like the portal labs; both are set in an artificially sterile, restrictive environment. This, quite simply, looks awesome.

  36. Andrew Doull says:

    There’s a great (long) article on movement in a military game called Tactical Gaming Done Right that’s well worth reading for how movement in a military style game should work.

    For me, the game that nails it is Red Orchestra. If you go prone while running, you dive to the ground ahead of you.

  37. roryok says:

    this is so wierd…

    about 4 months ago i had a vivid dream i was playing / inside a game SO similar to this one.

    It was set in a dystopian san francisco, and I/player was on the run from corrupt police. There was a big focus on running, jumping and parkour style climbing, and the last bit I remember before I woke up, involved me running through the top floor of an abandoned skyscraper being shot at by a gunship, pretty much EXACTLY like the bloody screenshot above.

    That is just freaking me out.

  38. Leeks! says:

    While playing Chronicles of Riddick, I remember thinking “man, the way this character moves is awesome.” It actually felt like you were a physical presence in that world instead of just a floating camera. I really hoped developers would have picked up on it, but alas, even starbreeze’s latest, The Darkness, had it dialed way back.

  39. Optimaximal says:

    Just for the record – register and post on the forum and you could win a copy of the game for your desired format.

    SCORE!

  40. grey_painter says:

    One of the main problems I always had with half-life 2 was that you only saw your hands when you first put the suit on and when you held guns. I always felt it broke the immersion to see Gordon drive a car by moving the steering wheel with his mind or looking down and not seeing anything but a shadow. Hopefully this game will encourage developers to move from physics making your invisible body knock over a table to making your visible body brush past the table.

  41. Andy Johnson says:

    A visible body is all very well as long as it’s carried off well enough. As in, not like the horrendously silly looking legs you have in Crysis, where when crouching, it sometimes appears as though you could accidently knee yourself in the face.

  42. Muscrat says:

    Reminds me of Dark Messiah.
    You actually felt the weight in your movent ect.

  43. StolenName says:

    Ahh yes. I recently started looking around for this game after making a list of games to keep track of 08 that may not get too much media coverage. Missed this bit of info though!

    Glad for the read. God, I remember when vaulting obstacles was introduced in the opening scenes of Killzone and I though “wow.” It’s nice to see a new look at parkour – I practice it myself (when time allows) – and have been looking for a “decent” game including it’s flowing movement.

    Bring it on :D

  44. AbyssUK says:

    This is going to be different, I like different.

  45. dr_demento says:

    I read the original article in Edge and wanted to show it to everyone I know. Unfortunately I lost the mag… also, why hasn’t next-gen put up the pictures Edge used? For me, the concept of the detective who’s after you summed up so much about the game. It was even the Edge back cover for that issue…

  46. Carey says:

    Can someone who still has access to these things find out if DICE know about TrackIR? I’d kill to be able to use mine in this. Pity a poor disconnected ec-hack, still thirsty for info…

  47. Kim says:

    Interresting that they are really pushing the first-person view for this. If they do it right, it could be very absorbing and not have that detached feeling you can get with 3rd person. I like the thought of a game or even a ‘toy’ that you can just run and jump around at your own leisure. Creating your own personal challenges with the obsticals you’re presented with, in this case a city :P

    Hopefully it won’t turn out to be a Tony Hawks game without a board…

    I’m also curious how they are going to simulate Le Parkour, without confusing and disorientating the player when they jump through / over objects and so on.

  48. Nallen says:

    Don’t be absurd, nothing can be as good as Pinball Dreams. Save perhaps Pinball Fantasies.

    Or Space Hulk.