Below is an interview with Dan Sochan, a producer on Sleeping Dogs
1. How did the publisher issues affect the development cycle and morale of the team?
Working with Square Enix has been great, and the additional time has really allowed us to polish Sleeping Dogs. Open world games are big, by their very nature, so it takes a lot longer to fix bugs and tune the final experience. With Square Enix’s experiences working on Open World titles, they recognized the need for us to have extra time to get it done right. We took this opportunity to re-focus our efforts, cut some of the extraneous and add in exciting new features, like the player Upgrade System and the Online Stats Challenges.
2. What went into testing the driving controls? It seems extremely hard to get driving controls correct in an open world game but you guys managed to do it.
We’ve had a dedicated group focused on the driving since the beginning stages of the game. They’ve spent years working on the controls, AI and partnering with the art team to make exciting race routes throughout the city. As well, we drew from the experience of our team members who worked at Black Box on Need For Speed. All of this effort came together to make the fun, arcade race experience in the game – whether it’s street racing or just cruising around the city.
3. What was the inspiration behind the narrative in Sleeping Dogs?
We wanted to tell a gritty, crime drama – one that delves into the experience of being an undercover police officer. A cop who struggles with the morality of what he’s forced to do to stay undercover, a story of betrayal and conflicted loyalties. So we looked at films like Infernal Affairs, Donnie Brasco and The Departed. We also did a lot of research about triads and met with some former undercover cops while in Hong Kong.
4. Why the name Sleeping Dogs? How do you guys think that directly correlates to the game?
The name Sleeping Dogs comes from the expression “Let sleeping dogs lie”. In the game, this relates to Wei and at which point should he stop his investigation before putting himself or friends at greater risk. We liked the name because it feels more cinematic than a typical video game title like “Undercover Martial Arts Cop VI”. It reflects the emphasis we put into the story and how that will be a driving force in the game.
5. How did you capture the streets of Hong Kong so perfectly? Any people on the development team from Hong Kong?
We have a few members of the team from Hong Kong and we also did several research trips to take tens of thousands of photos and hours of video footage. We tried to capture the essence and culture of Hong Kong – a unique mix of eastern and western influences.
In addition, we hired a couple of writers who were born and raised in Hong Kong, to review all of the dialog and signage in our game to make sure it was translated properly and was authentic.
6. How exactly do you go about acquiring the music for your in-game radio stations? It’s an odd question but I’ve always been curious.
For the licensed music, we send a list of all the music tracks to the publisher that we think best suit the game and the radio stations. The publisher then works with an agency to attain the rights to use the songs. Some songs may be unavailable for use or too expensive, so we’ll revise the list with some new requests.
7. What went into doing all the fighting animations? I’m assuming actual members of the triad came in and beat up testers?
No testers were harmed in the making of this game – although they did work really hard and put in some long hours! We have a core team that was focused on the combat system, with the goal of making it deep and yet intuitive. Within the “Fighting” group, we’ve got a few martial artists who would spar by their desks to work through moves and figure out ways to transition into another seamlessly. To ground the martial arts in authenticity, we have thousands of moves motion captured across a variety of martial art styles, and worked with Georges St. Pierre (MMA Welterweight champion) as a consultant.
8. How many people work at United Front? I assume you guys have been simultaneously working on Sleeping Dogs and LittleBigPlanet Karting?
At United Front Games, we’re around 120 full time employees, and have two core teams: Sleeping Dogs and LittleBigPlanet Karting. Vancouver is rich in video game talent, so we’ve been fortunate to bring in a lot of amazing people throughout the development cycle to help get the games to where they are today.
9. When did development officially wrap up on Sleeping Dogs? When did you guys step back and say to yourselves “Yea, we just made a kickass game”?
The development hasn’t wrapped up quite yet, as we’re still working on the Japanese version of the game and supporting the PC. Recently we started working on six months’ worth of DLC, which has been really exciting! We’ve spent a lot of time brainstorming, as well as listening to the fans, to come up with some DLC that we think players will really love.
10. Where does United Front Games go from here?
Things are still busy at United Front, wrapping up LittleBigPlanet Karting and the Sleeping Dogs team focused on DLC. As a company, we want to continue to make fun games that people love to play!