I recently read a Destructoid article discussing a forthcoming James Bond game, and it made positive comparisons to a previous Bond game that I worked on, James Bond: Everything or Nothing (EON). I am really proud of the team’s work on this game, and it was gratifying to read the article’s positive comments, a personal first as in my experience comments on the Internet tend to be pithy and negative.
Back in 2003 we had just shipped James Bond: Agent Under Fire (AUF), one of the toughest projects in EA’s history. The project took a large personal toll on many of us, and so none of us were really ready to jump straight into another Bond game. AUF was a major hit for EA, so the powers that be were keen for us to work on the next Bond game, hoping for a repeat success.
Ideally, teams re-use tools and code across games: the pipelines are mature, the tools well-studied and the runtime relatively bug free. Not us. We decided to throw away large portions of the tools and runtime and rewrite them. This proved to be a very unpopular decision, both within the team, and management. Rather than getting a quick sequel that could ride the back of AUF’s success, instead they got a 6 month delay.
In a way, the decision had already been made, much earlier during the long crunch to finish AUF: the runtime was poor and unsuited to game consoles. There was no-way we could achieve our aspirations for the new game upon that runtime. AUF was originally intended to be a PC game, so we bought the PC-based FAKK2 engine from Ritual. About 18 months into the project we decided to switch platforms to the popular PlayStation 2. The PS2 was missing most of the luxuries that a desktop PC has: a fast CPU, fast storage and plenty of RAM; so the engine was a complete mismatch.
But, most importantly, we were able to keep most of the engineering team together. Experienced engineers pay off, and experienced engineers who work together as a team pay off the most. We were able to replace all the broken parts of AUF with superior implementations: the entity system, asset management, graphics engine, visual effects system, asset tool chains, animation engine, camera system, the multi-player game, to name just a few.
It was hard work, but at some point during production we crossed a threshold and entered a virtuous cycle where everyone was building off each other’s great work. At that time it changed from a heavy slog, to a heavy, but fun, slog. Most importantly everyone took pride in what they were making, and ultimately I think that shows through in the final game.
I look back on EON as some one of the most fun and rewarding times I had making games. I’m proud to have been a part of this game. I think a lot of people in the industry were inspired by EON too: we made a very polished 3rd-person cover based game and I can see it’s influence in many games today.