A rather animated Abboud was only too happy to talk with us about cramming what amounts to a full 3D sandbox game into the DS, releasing said game on the system in a post-Chinatown Wars world, and the recent trend of DS cop games. He started by giving us some insight into the game's title.
Noredine Abboud: COP: The Recruit. COP being the title of the series, and "The Recruit" being the first one.
Joystiq: So you see this as a series?
Hopefully. You never know, but yeah, the goal ... like Nintendo said this morning, it's a new franchise, but in the end, it will depend on how the gamers will like the game. But we have the feeling that there is possibly something to be done around this theme, mainly on the fact that you are playing a guy who is on the good side of the law, but it doesn't mean he doesn't have access to a lot of possibilities, like he can stop any car as a cop, he can use the city's network to control the city, he can send SWAT teams... so we think it's interesting to have an open world game on the good side of the law, but he can access all the means... this will be the basis of the franchise.
Have you worked on DS titles before?
I've already done DS titles, but the key to this title is that it's the most technologically advanced title, and the tech team who coded the engine at the beginning of the project -- because basically the project was in two phases, we've done first the engine, and then developed the game around it. So the small team who coded the engine, it's an outside studio called V.D. dev, it's a small coding team, and they've been doing Nintendo games on the Game Boy and Game Boy Advance for years. They came to us with the idea of setting up the most technologically advanced engine, and once it was ready we built the whole gameplay around it. The dev team has a lot of experience with the technology, and that's why we're able to push the boundaries of what is possible technologically.
Did you choose the DS specifically because you see because it's not being served by this kind of game?
Yes and no. Yes, the reason why we've decided to bring this game is that we get the feeling that we're doing something that has never been done before. I wouldn't comment on the competition or what other games are available. What is sure is that we wouldn't have chosen to develop this sort of game on another console where there's already a lot of me-too products, so we had to feel that we were going to do something new. On the other hand, we have the feeling that when you are playing the game, the main concepts of the game are strong enough to have been possibly brought to any console. The big thing that is really specific to the DS -- I wouldn't say it's about the lack of service, it's really that we are using mainly the stylus. For us, like I said you're a cop having access to a lot of elements like the power of the force, but this is, according to us, very fun when you can do all those things with a stylus. So for instance, you can set up an attack plan for a SWAT team, with the stylus. You can choose routes with the stylus. You can enter secret codes in the game with the stylus. At one point in the game, you learn how to set up blockades and each time you want to set up a blockade you have to go to a specific place and type this code. So all these things, according to us, were only possible on the DS. Mixed, on the other hand, with the classic open world gameplay, which has never been done at this level on the DS.
Have you seen the recent competition? There are a couple of cop games that are new on the DS.
Can you give me an example?
Well, Atlus has Tokyo Beat Down, which is a brawler, and Hudson's got Miami Law.
So, to be fully direct, we've been working on this game for a few years, so of course we wouldn't foresee what would be happening in those years. And it's true, when we heard about Miami Law, we thought, "Oh, that's funny, it's also about a cop and everything." The only thing I could say is of course the themes are the same subject. So I guess that you might be interesting in these other games if the theme appeals to you. However, up to now I've never seen something so state-of-the-art on the DS. For the gameplay I can't comment, because I haven't played the games of the competition, but again, unless I'm mistaken, there's no other game on the level of open-world gameplay that we have here. While you're playing it, there's no loading time in the city, you can play outside, you can play inside. It's not a set of minigames; it's a full -- I would say console-quality experience.
Do the sales of GTA on the DS concern you at all?
So, the main thing is, you know, that we make games. The reason we are in this business is that we want to bring games to the table that we think are reflecting our imagination, our talent, and everything. So does this impact our everyday work? No, because then we wouldn't be game developers, we would be game sellers. Of course, there's people who have to sell the game, but for me as a producer and my team, we're focusing on the game and it's quality.
However, it would be a lie to say that we are not in a business environment, and we were not thinking about how the sales of GTA would have impact on us. However, I'll say two things that we had in mind from the very beginning. First thing, I'm not sure that you noticed when you played it, but one important concept: because of the nature of it where you're playing a cop, of course you are undercover, of course you can commit some small crimes, however, you're still on the good side of the law, and this means that our game is more open to the teens. For the rating, we're probably on teen or 12+ or these sorts of ratings, so hopefully we'll be able to reach a larger audience. And the second thing, and this is more about what we have to offer -- it's never good when the studios comment for or against each other's work; however, I think the gamers are going to ask themselves, would they prefer to play, like the sort-of 2D open world with the camera from the top, or do they prefer to have the full 3D open world experience? And this, let's see what the gamers are going to decide.
Thanks for speaking with us! We hope E3 goes really well for you.
I hope! We're very excited.