EA CEO: Mirror's Edge "Deserves To Come Back," Design At Crossroads

The head of EA, John Riccitiello, told Kotaku this week that the 2007 first-person free-running game Mirrors Edge, not only merits a sequel, but explained the design conundrum its developers face.

"We're still working through things like how to best deal with Mirror's Edge 2," he said during a Wednesday morning interview in New York. "There are some things we learned about that [first]game. It was, I think, a massively innovative product. To be honest with you, I think it's a game that deserves to come back."

Riccitiello spent much of his interview with Kotaku affirming that his stated commitments to game quality and innovation made in 2008 were not shaken by relatively light holiday sales of original EA games such as Dead Space and Mirror's Edge last year. He considers both games, particuarly Dead Space, having set good foundations.

He also pointed to the company's 13% rise in revenues this year and said that it was directly attributable to efforts regarding quality and innovation.

Riccitiello is a gaming executive who believes not just in sequels — he was already saying, on the eve of EA's newest game, The Saboteur, that he's "hopeful for a sequel" — but is equally vocal about innovation and how the two so often go together.

Everything from recently improved EA FIFA games to some loved blockbusters of old such as Grand Theft Auto IV prove that successful sequels house can and should innovation.

But, Riccitiello said, sometimes the sales success for an innovative game doesn't occur until a sequel or two, more polished than the predecessors, is released.

"Innovation doesn't mean it all works the first time," he said. "If it did everyone would do it."

And that kind of talk brought him back to Mirror's Edge and its future. He got specific about design decisions relevant to the original team at Mirror's Edge DICE and whoever is on the case — he didn't specify DICE or otherwise — who are pondering a sequel:

"I think Mirror's Edge was a fascinatingly original world. Fascinatingly original art direction. Music and sound design was great. I think the gameplay mechanic was a blast, but was intermittent and the levels didn't work. You found yourself scratching at walls at times, looking for what to do. Sometimes you had a roll going, downhill, slide, jump, slide, jump and then you just got stopped. It sort of got in the way of the fun.

"It was like we couldn't quite decide if we were building Portal or a runner. And I don't think the consumer was ready to switch it up quite that way. You could say it was a sharp and great innovation. I believe that it was. You have to figure out what to do from here if you want it to be a five million seller vs. a one-million unit seller.

"I've had several very lively debates with the dev team. And they are working on it. But there's a couple of different directions you could go.

"You could say: This thing needs to be more traditional. It's first-person game. There's a lot of successful FPS products out there that do really well. We could move in that direction.

"Or [you could say] : This was never about guns. It was about its stark originality. Maybe we can back away from some of those [older]things… and emphasise the smooth play and puzzles and move it toward, if you will, a Portal.

"And they're both valid. Innovation is a lot of times about getting so far, stepping back, assessing and then moving forward. And that's what I'm proud is happening at EA every day."

Potential fans of Mirror's Edge 2, you see the parameters of the design debate. Surely, you have some thoughts.


Comments

    Mirror's Edge isn't a difficult thing to fix. Drop the gunplay, drop the difficulty to complete levels down to casual but leave the difficulty of mastering them about where it is. That is to say, smooth out the first playthrough experience while retaining significant depth to explore afterwards. Make levels easier to read and provide more incentive in early levels for exploring alternate pathways so players will have developed those skills (and that environmental awareness) by the later levels. Remove the necessity to hold down the analogue stick to run and map that to a trigger like a car racer. And for heaven's sake get a plot that makes sense, engaging characters who haven't been beaten with the ugly stick, and cutscenes that don't look like they were drawn by a depressed two-year-old.

    They got the free-running right. That's the core of the franchise and it's solid. Now it's just a matter of getting everything around it right.

      Agreed. I liked the hand to hand aspect, that worked well, but the gunplay never fit the game properly at all. If they could now take the game down from the rooftops only, say into the city streets as well, or even into an urban neighbourhood that would be awesome. Having to freerun across a neighbourhood, through yards, over and 'under' cars, losing other free runners as they chase you etc could be kinda cool. Not everything has to be 'in the city'

      I agree with mostly everything you've said. Everything except the trigger running, and the cutscenes. This'd work fine when you've got momentum and just need to be moving in a forward direction, but that all grinds to a halt if you choose to stop. Trying to line yourself up for a jump by tilting the analogue stick AND feathering the one of the trigger buttons so that you don't accidentally run off an edge would be horrible.

      On the cutscenes, I actually didn't mind them. They were reasonably stylish IMO, as well as an interesting contrast to the in-game visuals. However, there are scenes in-game (when Ropeburn tries to knock you off the rooptop is the first to come to mind) that immerse you in the story much better than the mid-level cutscenes ever could, and I'd certainly be all for making all cutscene elements occur during the playable segments (meaning in-game), rather than cutting away to them.

      On the story side of things, I would've liked to see more focus on Faith doing the actual runner thing (delivering messages for their clients, for example), rather than just jumping straight into the 'OMG CONSPIRACY!!!' thing. The manual, tutorial and background story told in the cutscenes make a big deal about this, but the rest of the game seems to forget about it. The comic book tie-in focuses on this aspect a bit (focusing more on the running thing, as well as Faith's family and how she came to injure her leg, leading to her training in the tutorial of the game after a few months of healing), but I'd like to see Faith actually doing her thing before the proverbial hits the fan in a ME sequel.

    "You could say: This thing needs to be more traditional. It’s first-person game. There’s a lot of successful FPS products out there that do really well. We could move in that direction."

    And you could say "It's in 3D, Mario is in 3D and Mario is successful, let's make Mario" but you'd be heading in the wrong direction with no clear way out. The only problem with Mirror's Edge.

    Loved the free running, the perspective and the art design. Hated the constant harassment by helicopter gunships... what's the point of even using the rooftops if you're gonna get shot at every step of the way? Especially when you can't return fire. Anyway, the melee combat was awkward to use and the fall-to-your-death punishment was frustrating - especially the final level that required a perfect tower climb with split second timing and pinpoint landings on the first attempt or you had to start over from the bottom. I would have preferred a more open world and I really wanted this game to be more like the Thief series with a bit of stealth and lots of rooms to plunder or investigate. It came off as too linear. Having said all that, I'd still like to see a sequel.

    Said it before and said it again, the finess of the controls on the PC version coupled with the higher framerate made for a much smoother experience. Not to bag on the console versions, my first play through was on PS3 and it was fun. But it was at points a little rough when trying to line up what direction you were moving and what angle you were taking something. Also the combat felt a little less responsive.

    I really enjoyed the Music and Art design from the first, that sort of clean ultra slick near future style really worked for me. All the white made for some really nice colored lighting effects in areas.

    At then end I think they just need to smooth out the controls on the console version, make them a little more responsive. Also add a little more flavor to the hand to hand combat, maybe a more refined combat/counter system.

    Also a mulitplayer race system would be pretty cool, 4 runners given a more open environment and being the first to cap a flag or something could be cool.

    I didn't finish Mirror's Edge, despite enjoying it. I couldn't get past the "getting onto the boat" section, where you have like 5 guards guarding the area where you need to open a bulkhead door. I couldn't disable them all (could never get the timing right), and I didn't want to shoot them, so I got frustrated and ragequit, never playing it again. Oh well.

    I played the demo on a console & brought the PC version (why wouldn't you if its available). An excellent game really enjoyed every moment of it. Visuals, audio, gameplay all great. The only thing that really, really pissed me off is that they used Nvidia Physx. I am running ATI cards atm (& the way Nvidia keep rebranding & deceiving the public I will continue too) which obviously don't work with Physx. I really wanted to play this game at its peak, but can't :-( Please bring a sequel that supports OpenCL & if possible a patch to the first version that brings OpenCL support. Get some trainees to do it :-)

    The original mirrors edge brilliant, it was never TOO hard. As soon as you get in the mind set its probably the most fluid games i've played ever. No lie, I can blitz through a level like a breeze and for that it was ridiculously entertaining.

    I personally don't want them touching the mechanics or engine much (other than visual improvements if possible... but the original was sexy in every regard).

    I don't want the levels easy to read, I want the game to present a city in its whole form (much like the original) and present a challenging when the stakes are high, not because its the end of the game, but because you are in trouble.

    If anything the improvement i'd like to see is faiths ability to interact with the environment.

    Honestly I picked up Mirror's Edge a few months ago because it was $20 and I was killing time til DA:O, AC2, and L4D2 came out. I opened it, tried it, put it to the side. One night after watch I came home, got drunk, and decided to try it out again and fell in love with it. The game is friggin HARD, but it made me tweak the path I was taking and try something different until something worked. I dig the 1984 style storyline, the art direction, and even the audio. Highly underrated game in my opinion and I think if the second one is smoother more people will realize that. Also, props to the devs for not having Faith run around doing all this stuff nearly naked with DDD boobs.

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