Ask Us Anything, part 4!

Hi everyone, and happy Monday!

We continue our Q&A series with a few more of your questions - you can also check the previous posts here, here and here!

Have a question of your own about Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, The Chinese Room, game development or virtually anything else? You know the drill: post it in the comments below or get in touch via Twitter (or Facebook)!


How do you set Trophies and Achievements?

So, I have an admission here - I was really wrong about trophies. I came into Rapture hating them and everything about them, I thought they were crass and stupid and irritating. I still think they can be stupid, crass and irritating, but I’ve also discovered that trophies are really important to some of our biggest fans and it was narrow-minded to write them off completely.

So my golden rule is that trophies should NEVER intrude on the experience for those who are not interested in trophies. Rule 2 is that there should be some spread of challenge in them, which is actually really tough to achieve in a game like Rapture, as there’s a limited amount of scope for challenge in the system. Rule 3 is that they should be fun and respond to the experience. We opted for ones in Rapture that made us laugh and we thought would make trophy hunters laugh as well, so gently poking fun at how serious the game was, a reward for having completed it, but that also sat in world. So you got things like looking through all the caravan windows, or moonwalking for 50ft, as well as more challenging ones like getting through the game without triggering a passive scene. The important thing is that you are very unlikely to trigger a trophy unless you are hunting them - so they are there for the trophy hunters, but they respect the experience of people who aren’t interested in them. It’s going to be easier to manage the trophy experience in Total Dark for sure, because it’s a much more mechanically complex game.


What’s with the save games in Rapture?

There are always compromises in game development, and usually at least one instance of the lesser of two evils being opted for. In Rapture’s case, saving the game data caused a hitch of nearly 2 seconds. Stu and Maarten (our programmers) managed to screw this down to around 0.2 seconds, which was a feat of programming on an epic scale, but it was still jarring the flow of the experience. There were a lot of long and heated discussions with Sony about it, and the compromise was to reduce the overall number of save instances to just the critical tilt scenes, rather than risking that hitch happening every few minutes where it would be a really distracting and crappy intrusion into the immersion. In a perfect world, we’d have autosaved after every scene, but it’s not a perfect world, so that’s what we ended up with.

Quite a few people have asked why we couldn’t just have manual save. If this was a real option, believe me, we’d have done it. The problem is because Rapture is one world, one level, one timeline, every single thing in the game is interrelated and tracked. This means you need to save a hell of a lot of information every time you capture the world-state (hence the hitches). The issue with a manual save is that you’re running a high risk of a save being triggered part-way through one of thousands of potential events, many of which cause cascading changes elsewhere in the system on completion. So then you’ve got the decision of when to delay or block saves to avoid this causing all kinds of horrible messy interdependency errors in the system – so then you’ve got to communicate to the player when and where they can save, and so on, and so on, and the whole thing is just a huge snake's nest you’d be trying to inject into an already immensely complicated system (and making Rapture look as simple as it does is part of why Andrew is such an amazing designer, believe me) – it just doesn’t stack up.

Ironically, when Martin joined the studio a couple of months after Rapture shipped, he came up with a brilliant solution to save games, by allowing the player to trigger a save when they reached a "You Are Here" map, which is really elegant and simple and one of those instances where you bang your head against a wall thinking “why the fuck didn’t we think of that!”. Unfortunately, to fix it, you are back into unravelling the snake’s nest, pulling apart a ton of interdependencies, rebuilding the world, repositioning all of those points, re-pacing it all, going back into another lengthy round of QA... a couple of months' work minimum, and a pretty heavy risk attached to it. It’s filed under the "live-and-learn/next time" tag, particularly as, like I said earlier, it’s not actually our game, so not our call as to whether that kind of additional investment is made.