It takes a brave, resourceful studio to make an open-world game and Sleeping Dogs developer United Front Games appears to have embraced the challenge rather than shy away from it. The game’s Hong Kong setting provides one of the most interesting virtual playgrounds we’ve seen in long time while the plot should provide gamers with plenty of context to enact justice on the city’s criminals in a variety of creatively violent ways.
The Xbox Community Network (XCN) recently got in touch with Sleeping Dogs’ Executive Producer Stephen van der Mescht and conducted a Q & A session based on fans’ questions about the game. If you haven’t invested much time in reading up about Sleeping Dogs then now is the perfect time to get up to speed with what sets it apart from its competitors.
Take a look at the full Q & A below:
Q: Why ‘Sleeping Dogs’?
A: It comes from the proverb “let sleeping dogs lie.” It epitomizes the main character’s professional and personal journey in the game where he needs to tread carefully for fear of what he will wake. As it turns out, he is a bit of a ‘sleeping dog’ himself so we felt the name perfectly captured the feel of our character as an undercover cop in the Triad underground.
Q: What was the reason for choosing Hong Kong and a Triad / Martial Arts background for the game?
A: There were a few reasons. Firstly, we wanted to take the open world experience somewhere it hadn’t been before. Somewhere fresh and exciting with its own distinct tone and visual style to offer up distinctive insights into people, customs and the city. The city is usually the star of an open world game ‒ and with Hong Kong’s rich history in Triad culture, its martial arts legacy and stunning architectural range, we knew we had enough stuff to make a rich gaming experience. Secondly, we were watching a lot of Hong Kong action and drama movies at the time ‒ and thought that if we could capture that feel of being a martial arts action star in an open world Hong Kong, with a cool undercover cop story ‒ we’d have something unique and special.
Q: What elements in the game do you feel that Sleeping Dogs excels at compared to its competitors in the genre?
A: Two things. First, the melee combat and how seamlessly you can move between free running, fighting, shooting, disarming enemies, using the environment and moving between vehicles. It was all designed and built as one integrated system. We never wanted it to feel like ‘now I’m in the shooting part of the game’ ‒ but that you always had options and that it was easy to transition to whatever core action experience you wanted. Second, pacing. You play so many games today where pacing is almost non-existent. You turn it on within 2 minutes the intensity is at 11 and it just never quits. It can become quite numbing and difficult to have an emotional investment in the characters around you. There are a lot of games that do this really well ‒ but there’s something to be said for growing into the experience. We paid a lot of attention to how your character grows by building an in-depth upgrade system. You have more affinity with something/someone that you have a hand in shaping. Similarly, we wanted to take time with some of the other story characters in the game ‒ let them breathe ‒ let you understand and connect with them on a more human level other than just relentless action. Make no mistake, there is more than enough straight-up ‘balls to the wall’ action in here ‒ but some of the things you do build personal attachment to characters and their stories too.
Q: What was the most difficult part of the game to build and what are you most proud of?
A: Anyone that has worked on open world games before will tell you how hard they are to build. Unlike linear games ‒ everything is connected. You change one thing in one system of the game and the impact ripples through everything else. The thing I’m most proud of is that we built a great open world game on new technology while building a new company at the same time. When you have competitors as storied and experienced as ours, you have to be really strategic in your decision making. Where do we compete? What do we offer that’s unique? How do we create a space for ourselves? Right from the get-go we put a very experienced team together with a lot of open world experience and we went hard after something we were really passionate about. Hopefully the results speak for themselves ‒ but I’m most proud of how it all came together. We have made a really fun and engaging open world game with some of the best action gameplay out there. It’s a really fun game.
Q: How long is the playtime of the main story? How long is the overall playtime including side missions?
A: The story is 20+ hours (depending on your play style) ‒ and there is easily 40+ hours of content in the game.
Q: Is there any kind of character customisation, from looks to skills the character can learn?
A: Yes on both counts. There are numerous outfits and clothes to purchase in the game, many of which have real gameplay benefits to them. The character is also able to upgrade his skills in three different categories. Cop Upgrades, Triad Upgrades and Face Upgrades. There is a lot to invest in and see your character change both visually and ability wise.
Q: Can you carry out activities in the city? If yes, can you tell us something about these activities?
A: Yes. Outside of the core story missions there are favours you can do for characters you meet, drug busts where you clean up different areas of the city and get the supplier arrested, races, numerous collectible types, cases where you help the police, jobs and other mini game type activities. It’s a rich world where we have focused on creating a dense gameplay experience where you are never too far away from having something to do. There is also a cool challenge/leaderboard system in the game where we track certain stats that let you know how you do against your friends.
Q: The combat animations seem to be really spectacular, but how do you avoid a repetitious feel in these types of games?
A: With a lot of content! The amount of animation content we have in this game is unbelievable. Also we really focused on creating a system that had depth to it and is contextually aware.
Q: What was Georges St-Pierre’s role in building the fighting system? How are the results shown in the game? (stances, moves etc.)
A: Georges came in and offered expert advice on many of the core moves. Obviously there are a couple of his signature moves in the game in his DLC pack ‒ but he really helped the combat team fine-tune the experience to make it feel more real. He was a great help in looking at stuff and pointing out where tweaking something here or there would make a big quality difference.
Q: Do you have any plans for DLC?
A: Nothing has been officially announced yet ‒ but keep an eye on SleepingDogs.net for any updates!
Sleeping Dogs will be released for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on August 14th in the US and August 17th in European territories. Be sure to take a look at El33tonline’s extensive coverage of this open-world action game for previews, screenshots and trailers.