The Getaway: Black Monday has been two years in the making and hasn't been without its ups and downs, high points and pressure moments. A designer, senior programmer and lead cinematic artist detail the creation process behind a high profile title, the long nights of pizza blow-outs and where "Get in there, it's not f'n Narnia!" figures in all this...
Developer diary: Rob Heald, designer
I start work with the design team. I'm responsible for five of the game's interior levels, including the first and the last levels. All the basic planning has been completed by this stage and artwork for each level is in varying states of progress - some areas are practically finished visually, while others only exist as rough sketches and source photos. My predecessor has only one definite stipulation - namely that, when the police break down the false back to a wardrobe in the council estate, the first level of the game, there should be a reference to Narnia. I promise to do my best.
After three months, I've had a good opportunity to get to grips with the tools used to create the game. The designers and the artists both use the Maya modelling program, although we use a smaller range of its functions and have an additional set of tools for manipulating AI, character paths and scripts. Maya is also used for basic modelling of the environments, which are then passed on to the artists. At the moment, the fourth level of the game, a rescue mission set in a derelict office block, exists only as a series of brightly coloured blocks and passageways but it's enough to be able to see how each area will work and to be sure that the level will flow smoothly from one sequence to the next.
The revised AI system designed by Steve Jopling is now in place. The first game had a fairly limited system of movement for NPC characters but, under the new system, the NPCs use a network of paths and are able to select the most appropriate cover points depending on how the battle is progressing. It's great to be able to replay the same sections several times over and see the combat turn out differently each time - and that's all down to the greater leeway given to the NPCs in their AI. OK, so some enemies are still shooting at the player through walls but we'll get round to fixing that soon.
A narrow escape - it's announced that the level that's going to be shown off at E3 isn't going to be one of mine. Lots of work and late nights for the designer and the programmers involved, while I make steady progress with my levels. On the other hand, I don't get to go to E3, so I console myself with a couple of weeks' holiday instead. Then it's back to finalising the gameplay for the last, climactic level of the game - a complicated task as there are several possible endings depending on the player's choices earlier in the game and the final level will be different for each path.
Everything's coming together as we hurtle towards our beta deadline. It's immensely satisfying to see special effects being added to the levels (walls collapsing, for example, or moving machinery parts) and to get a better sense of the whole story as cutscenes are finished and added to the game. Dialogue is also in, which adds massively to the atmosphere and the believability of the NPCs. Even the wardrobe sequence in the council estate has made it in - hang around for too long and you'll hear, "Get in there, it's not f'n Narnia!"
After lots of very long nights, the main European version of the game has been mastered and sent off for duplication. There's still work to do on the US version of the game, released after Christmas, but otherwise we can begin to relax a little and get reacquainted with the world beyond The Getaway: Black Monday. Catching up on all the new games I haven't had time to play yet is going to be near the top of the list...