The wait has been almost unbearable, but the re-imagined GoldenEye 007 is practically here. Eurocom were given the unenviable task of updating the pioneering console FPS to modern day standards in gameplay, story and multiplayer. As a huge fan of the N64 original and a longtime fan of James Bond in general, I was eager to get the background intel on the new GoldenEye. Associate Producer James Lodato provided a detailed debriefing on the game’s development, deftly answering my interrogation with one of our most extensive interviews yet. Mix yourself up a vodka martini, shaken not stirred, and sit back for the full report on GoldenEye.
Could you introduce yourself and talk about your role on the project?
This is James Lodato, Activision’s Associate Producer on GoldenEye 007.
The original GoldenEye has become a classic in the minds of most gamers, what elements made the game so special to you? What things did you feel that you had to preserve from the original game?
I completely agree. GoldenEye is the foundation on which many gamers build their console FPS experience, and so there are certainly key pillars that the team felt very strongly about maintaining in the current experience, one of which is player choice. The team has made sure that all combat engagements have multiple choices as to how they can be approached, which includes both physical routes in the game world, as well as the ability to play either covertly or as an all-out firefight. It was really important to make sure that the players understand that they can assess a situation before going in - after all, James Bond is a secret agent, not just a soldier. Overall, we wanted to recreate the same sense of diversity and replayability in the single player experience offering the player a number of different difficulties and objectives. For instance, when you’re on the easiest difficulty, you’ll have say five objectives for any given level. However, when you’re in the harder difficulties you might have 10 or 12 objectives. Those objectives would include your primary objectives, but also a series of secondary objectives as well.
In addition to those single player features, we wanted to preserve the great multiplayer that the first GoldenEye had to offer. We did that by having not only online multiplayer, but also multiplayer split-screen, which is all but extinct in today’s market. We really felt that having the GoldenEye on the Wii really fed into that social gaming experience that you can really only encounter during a split-screen match.
Years ago Nintendo offered a new and updated control scheme for their N64 console with the addition of the analog stick. Now with the Wii we have another truly innovative input device. It was really exciting to take advantage of that as well.
Conversely, time seems to sand the rough edges off games in the mind of gamers, what flaws in the original game did you find that you fixed in the new game?
The N64 version of GoldenEye was a truly fantastic game, however there were plenty of opportunities to modernize the GoldenEye experience to meet the expectations of today’s gamer. We honestly didn’t think, and still don’t, that creating a step-by-step recreation of the N64 version would have given people the experience they were hoping for. There is an inherent thrill in discovering things for the first time. Because of this, the whole game has been conceived, designed, and built from the ground-up. It’s an entirely new ‘GoldenEye’ experience with nods to the original game, although putting the need to deliver a AAA Wii shooter experience before anything else. As this is a reimagining, rather than a remake, this means that there was nothing to fix, really. The underlying mechanics are designed for the current gaming audience. Needless to say, the graphics have been brought up to 2010 standards. I think you will be hard pressed to find anything that looks this good on the Wii. It is amazing.
As a re-imagining of the N64 game, how much does the game incorporate from the original level design, and what kind of changes have been made? Will GoldenEye veterans who have memorized every inch of the original levels feel at home and nostalgic with this new game?
GoldenEye for 2010 is the GoldenEye story; make no mistake about that. A lot of things have changed in video games in the last 15 years, however. Gamer’s expectations are different these days. The game now has additional mechanics, supports new and diverse controllers (Wii Zapper, Wii Remote/Nunchuk, Gamecube controller, Classic Controller and Classic Controller Pro), all of which are designed and optimized to give the best play experience possible. This absolutely requires the world space to be built around those mechanics and as such people who’ve memorized the original game aren’t going to have any advantage over people who’ve never played a ‘GoldenEye’ experience before. And deep down, we really think most people need and expect something new. After all, this is not a video to watch on the Internet of ‘what if GoldenEye were re-imagined’ - it is an all new game to be enjoyed all over again. That being said, there are countless nods to the original throughout the game. Nostalgia is everywhere.
The Dam level starts off pretty explosively with that truck chase, but we’ve heard that levels can be played stealthily too. Is it possible to sneak through that sequence, and what stealth options are available in other levels? Are these two separate paths in the game or just different approaches to the same level? How did you balance between the two styles of game play?
That sequence in particular is designed to throw the player into a high-octane encounter. As touched on earlier, player choice is one of the key pillars for GoldenEye though, and although the player sometimes finds themselves in sticky situations like this, in the majority of them, the player is given the choice as to whether they play covertly or as an all-out firefight. I say “majority” here because levels like the Tank Chase are always going to be all-out action. James Bond would not be sneaking through the streets in a top secret heavy armored weapon while chasing Orumov - he’s going to get the job done! In the end, the balancing act was pretty easy; let the player choose how they want to play, covertly or as a firefight. The goal is to always have them both.
We’ve seen that Scaramanga’s Golden Gun is back, and renaming the infamous Klobb after SPECTRE agent Rosa Klebb was a stroke of genius. Will we see other classic guns return, like the golden PP7 and Moonraker laser? Were there weapons that had to be changed because they created balance issues or just did not work with the new game?
Daniel Craig brings a refreshed view of James Bond so, no, there will not be a Moonraker laser in the game, but there will be quite a few other recognizable weapons. The key is to allow player to pick their own favorites not based on a namesake, but on how much they actually like a weapon. There will be some blasts from the past in there for sure but we want players to have the ability to define new favorites for themselves. They will have no shortage of choices I can assure you.
Classic cheats like paintball mode or the “big hands” mode that replaced big heads have shown up in the new game as multiplayer options. Will the new game have dedicated unlockable cheats like the N64 game, or are you working most of those into clever options and easter eggs like the ones we’ve seen?
The multiplayer experience has been of the utmost importance to the team. No one was under any illusions that the multiplayer game could be anything short of exceptional. Between the unique game modes for both online and offline gameplay, in addition to all the different modifiers that can be enabled, there are literally hundreds of different game types to create and choose from. That being said, there are a few ‘locked’ modes that players will have to discover for themselves through ranking-up online. There’s a lot of cool stuff in there.
What is the multiplayer map selection like? Are classics like Temple, Complex and Stacks returning, and what kind of new maps can we expect?
There are 10 online maps and 10 offline split screen maps. As I mentioned before, which I think is particularly true for multiplayer, the experience has to be fresh or people return to their old habits. This can lead toward unfair and unnecessary advantages. There are no classic maps from the original game. All the maps needed reimagining for the new locations, the new controls, and game mechanics. The team really wants everyone to re-experience GoldenEye again for the first time. This game isn’t nostalgia for the sake of nostalgia. It stands on its own two feet.
Is there any hope of seeing the fabled “all Bonds” mode that was cut from the N64 game, which would have let you play as the various 007-portraying actors in multiplayer?
There’s not - it would just be stretching the fiction a bit too far, really, and it’s really not our place to say who would win in a Bond v Bond scenario. Some things are sacred!
It’s great that Bruce Fierstein is back re-working the script he originally wrote for the 1995 film. Can you tell us some of the ways the story and characters have been modernized to fit the Daniel Craig era?
Bruce was intent on retelling the GoldenEye story for the year 2010, so what he mostly updated were the locations, motives and some of the more dated themes. The character arcs actually stay quite true to the original story - as people they have all been updated, however. The Producers at EON - Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson - were personally involved with the casting of the actors to ensure the most authentic GoldenEye experience. The only characters that really remain unaltered are M and Tanner.
In terms of locations, Bond’s adventure now takes him to more modern locations relevant to the narrative arc including Dubai and Nigeria, as opposed to places that were relevant back in the 90’s like Cuba. Thematically the whole story has been updated with the Cold War being less important, and financial greed playing a more important part in the overall drive. Another aspect that we were all lucky to have Bruce participate in was the rewriting of the actual game dialog, so now we have updated interactions for all the characters. To a large extent the tongue in cheek lexicon of the 90’s is gone; in, is a new slick and controlled dialog, which is more relevant and appropriate today.
Graeme Norgate’s soundtrack for the original game is still pretty recognizable to gamers who grew up on the N64. Is David Arnold’s score in the new GoldenEye a throwback to his score for the 1995 film, or is it more in line with his music for Daniel Craig’s movies?
I agree that the original soundtrack was absolutely amazing. Bringing David Arnold, an incredibly talented, Grammy awarding winning composer, into the mix - the very first video game that David has ever been involved with – was a really big deal, and I don’t think that anyone was of the opinion that David Arnold should be told what to do. This is what he does best. So the score has been conceived from the ground-up, reflecting his approach to cinematic orchestration and building on the direction he took in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, yet with motifs from the original. The team took complete advantage of the opportunity to work with David and created a fully dynamic soundtrack that changes as the player works through the games, responding to covert and firefight gameplay.
How does the general gameplay, structure and level design of the DS version compare to the Wii game? Is it a largely similar game or more of a different experience unto itself?
I don’t think it is any mystery to gamers out there that the Wii and DS are very different systems with very different capabilities. There are obvious similarities between the two but each console really shines at what its best at. The players will certainly be able to play through the same beats on each but in a unique way.
Screenshots from the DS version have shown the classic curved health and armor bars from the N64 game, while the Wii game has a recharging system similar to Modern Warfare. What’s the difference between these two systems, and is it possible to switch to the “classic” health bars in the Wii game?
Yes the Wii and DS version are different but similar in this respect. On the DS version the player can find armor pickups throughout the game on all difficulty settings. The Wii version has incorporated something a bit different. The Wii version features 4 different difficulty settings, Operative, Agent, 007 and 007 classic. The first three settings increase the challenge by not only increasing the damage the players takes, as one might expect, but also adds additional objective that have to be completed. At each increased difficulty level there are more, new objectives the player has to discover. On the final difficulty setting, 007 Classic, the player has to complete all the objective but now without regenerative health, just like you mentioned. The health and armor arcs are back. Body armor is introduced and hidden throughout the levels. This mode is really cool and truly difficult for even the most veteran of player. We love it.
That golden classic controller looks very slick and I can’t wait to try it out. Will the DS game have any special bonuses or bundles as well?
The Golden CCP will be sold as a bundle unit exclusively with GoldenEye 007. The controller is being made by Nintendo so should feel great to everyone. We are all really happy that Nintendo was on board to help create this peripheral. We want everyone to be able to pick this game up and have an amazing time with it. This golden CCP bundle pack is a great way to bridge that gap for people who might refuse to believe that the Wii can have an exceptional FPS. However, as I said this will be exclusive to GoldenEye on the Wii so there are no bundles to the DS.
I’m very excited to get my hands on the new GoldenEye, for both the Wii and DS. As a retro gamer, though, I have to ask: how likely do you think it is for the N64 original to show up on the Virtual Console at some point? What’s the biggest holdup?
You’d have to ask Nintendo that question! If you really need to get your 64bit fix, you’re could always dust off the old console and dig out a cartridge…….
The hardest thing for gamers when they see a classic game re-imagined is managing their expectations, what would you tell gamers to help level set their expectations?
You’re kind of in a no-win situation here – trying to appease those people who think it should be a re-skin of the original is practically impossible. As I said earlier though, as fans of the original we always set out to make a game that stands on its own feet, not on the shoulders of someone else’s work. GoldenEye is an amazing game. Let’s be clear that it is not just “an amazing re-imagined game” it’s not just “an amazing Wii game”. It’s an amazing game. People buy tons of games with preconceived notions of what a game is going be - sometimes they’re right and sometimes they’re wrong. What I can absolutely say that with all of the people involved from EON/Danjaq to Activision to Eurocom, this is the most authentic re-imagined GoldenEye experience that you could hope for. We are all really excited for everyone to get to play the game in November.
I'd like to thank James for taking the time to answer our questions as well as Wiekbe who coordinated the interview.