“I saw this movie at least 60 times before I even worked on the game.” This was one of the first phrases spoken by the creative director of developer Illfonic, Jared Gerritzen, in an interview with NUpgrade. Others, repeated countless times during the conversation, demonstrated the size of the happiness that it was to develop Predator: Hunting Grounds, for him and others involved in the project. And halfway through, he still had an appointment with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The actor played soldier Alan Schaefer, the Dutch, in the original 1987 film. Now, 33 years later, he returns to the character, albeit virtually, for a DLC released in late May for the game. Not only did he become one of the Predator’s fighters in the Hunting Grounds jungle , he also had a whole history added to it, revealing what he has been doing in the more than three decades since his first encounter with the alien hunter.
Unlike the high bar that an encounter with the actor demanded, and the fact that they were working with an “untouchable” character from the franchise, the idea of adding story to a multiplayer game sounds like the easiest part of that job. “Gameplay is gameplay. And anyone who wants to know more about Dutch can do this in the menus while waiting for a match to be created or want to take a break, ”explains Gerritzen.
Tapes found on the battlefield are transformed into audio data that can be accessed through the menus. Thus, Illfonic has escaped the pitfalls normally found in multiplayer games that try to add some story to the games, with players having no time or willingness to read or talk while the action is taking place. “It is important to have a story, even in a game [online], to understand what is going on, what the players are doing and where they are inserted”, completes Chuck Brungardt, CEO of the developer.
The treatment gets touches of luxury when the company reaches what, for many people, might seem impossible: bringing Schwarzenegger himself to interpret Dutch. Even in an audio conversation, you could see that Gerritzen was smiling, happy, as he related to the NUpgrade report the moments before the meeting with the actor and the moment he entered the room for the first time.
“It was very surreal, after all it was Arnold Schwarzenegger in front of us”, he explained, showing surprise that it only took half an hour of conversation for the interpreter to love what the developers were doing, get into the character and start delivering the speeches with absolute fidelity to a character who, it is worth remembering, was played by him more than 30 years ago. “I was chilled. It was a childhood dream happening there before us ”, added the creative director.
The work was so agile that the recordings ended before the scheduled time, giving those involved a second golden opportunity: chatting informally for a long time with the actor, who also ended up being a huge fan of the Predator franchise. Backstage stories from the recording were shared and some of them, even, should help in the development of future content for Hunting Grounds .
Hunting Grounds Expanding the hunt
As stated, the introduction of Dutch in the game is not just about bringing a familiar face to a game – something that, even, was cited as one of the defects of experience. Illfonic’s desire is to go further and expand the story not only of the protagonist who survived an encounter with the Predator, but also to take the franchise itself forward.
The fact that this is a game made with fans helped to find the necessary consistency between the different stories, respecting the canon created over three decades and four films, as well as books and supplementary material that also carry the plot ahead. It helped, mainly, the idea that, despite all this, Dutch’s later story had not been explored, which made him an ideal vector for the first major plot introduction in Predator: Hunting Grounds .
“We tried to understand the universe outside the movies from the beginning and, from there, imagine what Dutch would have been doing all this time,” explains Gerritzer. The new plot was created in partnership with Fox, currently responsible for the rights to the franchise, something that helped with the consistency of the work and that makes the plot developed in Hunting Grounds become part of the official canon of the Predator series.
Taking this into account, the question of course comes: who else, among the survivors of this decades-long interplanetary hunt, can return? It’s easy to think of recent names like Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook, from the recent The Predator ) or Royce (Adrien Brody) and Isabelle (Alice Braga), from Predators. Or, still, what might be the biggest dream, to bring back Lieutenant Mike Harrigan, played by Danny Glover in the second film in the series, from 1990, whose later story even pitted him against a Predator in Rio de Janeiro.
Of course, the developer cannot say anything, but a roadmap of new content for the game expands until at least August, with monthly deliveries of news for Predator: Hunting Grounds . “We are working on a lot of content that should please fans. We want to bring as much material as possible into the game and the franchise as a whole ”, adds the creative director, increasing curiosity about a return of classic characters.
Working in a multiplayer game, however, is not just about creating content and expanding the universe. With each new addition, it is necessary to do a whole homework related to balance of forces and behavior of characters, so that a new addition does not fight with the rest of the project. When it comes to balance, Illfonic got it right from the start, with a Predator that is neither overpowering nor relentless, appearing faithfully to its stealthy and hunter-like behavior in the movies. This development continues and happens alongside material additions to the game.
“We have great Predators and great soldiers in the game and it is incredible to see the players’ response to a game that takes these concepts forward”, completes the creative director. According to him, the idea has always been to try to emulate the films in a playable format and the developer believes he has managed to do that. The work, however, is far from over.
In the production lines, the aspects of balancing and adding content are developed by dedicated teams, but who work side by side. According to Brungardt, the work of analysis and corrections is constant, not only in terms of telemetry of matches, but also of the feedback that arrives through social networks, with suggestions for changes, problems that have been detected and even bugs that affect the performance of Hunting Grounds . “Our idea is not only to release DLCs, but also to ensure that the game lives on with quality updates,” he adds.
All of this happens at the same time that Illfonic is already thinking about new projects. Here, the executives already make one thing clear: we will see more titles of the company in the near future and in the new generation of platforms. According to the creative director of the producer, other teams are already working on new proposals and the idea is to prove that the company has versatility and does not know how to work in just one style of play.
She also sees a movement by which distributors and owners of rights over old franchises are seeing games as a good way to renew interest in brands and bring characters back. “Whoever makes the decisions, today, also grew up as a fan of these franchises and dreamed of seeing such adaptations. That is why we are in this era of classics returning in new formats ”, concludes Gerritzer.
These are fuzzy responses, after all, no one can speak directly about what is to come. At the same time, they are statements that make it clear the intention to maintain the prestige obtained so far with fans of horror films and move forward in this idea of fans creating the dream of the fans themselves. And we all know that this combination is often able to work miracles and bring smiles of nostalgia.
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