Sleeping Dogs Producer Talks Triads, GSP, and Unique Gameplay
Later this year, Square-Enix and United Front Games will be bringing an open world action game that’s intense, gritty, and violent with Sleeping Dogs. Set in Hong Kong City, Sleeping Dogs casts players as an undercover cop tasked to infiltrate and sabotage some of the most dangerous gangs and Triads in the city.
JTM Games had a chance to chat with Dan Sochan, Producer at United Front Games about their upcoming open-world action game where we talk about the development team’s experience, exploring Triad societies, working with George St. Pierre, martial arts and fighting, as well as Sleeping Dogs‘ online features.
Check out the full interview after the break.
JTM Games: How did the deal between United Front Games and Square-Enix come about in regards to Sleeping Dogs?
Dan Sochan: Basically we’ve created a new IP; we were initially partnered with Activision and in the end it worked out that now we’re working with Square-Enix. It’s a fantastic unity between the two studios. They really understand how to make open-world games (Just Cause 2, Deus Ex) and they also knows what it means to make great action games like Batman: Arkham City and Arkham Asylum (in Japan). It’s been a really good partnership between the two.
JTM Games: Why did you choose to go with Sleeping Dogs as the game’s title?
Dan Sochan: That’s a good question. We wanted to go with something that was a little more cinematic-sounding. So we spent a lot of time in the game making a strong story and narrative with lots of character development to really try to get the player inside the head of what would it be like to become an undercover police officer. We invested a lot of time and energy getting great voice acting, writing, and bringing that all together.
I think with our approach with the game, it makes Sleeping Dogs much different from a lot of the open-world titles where the story is just tacked on; it’s really about you just running around causing mayhem in the city. With our game, we have a strong goal and story for the player, and the title Sleeping Dogs reflects that.
JTM Games: How big is the game world and what makes it unique compared to other open-world environments?
Dan Sochan: Our’s is a large open world, I mean it represents the entire island of Hong Kong. We’ve got alleyways, we’ve got the Victoria Peak, we’ve got a lot of monuments that everyone from Hong Kong will recognize. Obviously it’s an island so we’ll have some boat racing, and some boat missions as well.
JTM Games: Could you tell us about the game’s protagonist and his motivations?
Dan Sochan: Sure, you’re (the player) name is Wei Shen, and you were born in Hong Kong originally. You and your sister started to get in with a bad crowd so your entire family moved to San Francisco. There you become a police officer and have since gone back to Hong Kong and reconnected with some of your roots as well as previous connections you had there. And with those contacts, you try to help infiltrate the Triads.
JTM Games: How did you get inside the world of the Triads? How did you go about trying to understand it in order to write it into the game?
Dan Sochan: We definitely spent a lot of time researching the Triads. We read books, reading about its history, watching a lot of films like Infernal Affairs and The Triad Elections, and really immersed ourselves in that world. We also went down to Hong Kong several times as well. And while we were down there, our writer met with a few Triad members. It was pretty intense, but very cool at the same time.
It’s very different from the way we see gangs here. The Triads have been around for hundreds of years so they’re almost woven into society. They serve a role, a purpose in that society as well. It was interesting taking that culture and that history and bringing that to a North American audience to allow them to feel like what it would be to be part of Hong Kong, and to be part of the Triads.
JTM Games: Switching gears, could you tell us about your experience working with UFC Welterweight Champion George St. Pierre (GSP) during the development of Sleeping Dogs?
Dan Sochan:Ah GSP; yeah it was fantastic. I mean what an honour to work with one of the most amazing athletes of his time and a great Canadian as well, which is really exciting for us because we’re a Canadian developer. I think bringing his knowledge and expertise of martial arts and be able to bring that into our game makes a really big difference.
We wanted a combat system that felt very fluid, very intuitive to the player, but also grounded in reality; you’re not able to jump 30 feet to go and punch a guy. So because of that, all the moves have to transition from one to the other, so punch attacks, to a roundhouse, to a backfist; so having someone who knows that martial arts world/mixed martial arts really helps.
JTM Games: How are you incorporating GSP’s MMA, Kyoukushin Karate, and wrestling base with Sleeping Dogs’ environmental attacks and fight gameplay?
Dan Sochan: One of the things that Sleeping Dogs is known for is our environmental attacks, so you know, being able to take someone put their face into a barbecue; that’s something that GSP hasn’t done in MMA – which is good. So we have that side, it’s a little more violent, a little more over-the-top. On the martial arts side, we definitely looked at all the different martial arts styles and took elements that we thought worked which is what MMA really does, it’s a hybrid of multiple styles.
As well in the game, we ended up putting some ground-and-pound (Jan: YES!!!) fight moves and of course the left superman jab (superman punch) made famous by George St. Pierre.
JTM Games: Are there going to be any multiplayer features or are there talks of having multiplayer features in the final game?
Dan Sochan: We have a whole social hub feature which basically is like an organic online leaderboard. You get scored at the end of each mission, and then those scores are automatically posted online. There you’ll be competing against other people for the top score on that mission because you get triad points and cop points. So if you cause mayhem, run over innocent pedestrians, you’re going to get lower cop points. So it’s possible to have the perfect mission, the right balance of being an undercover cop; doing what you need to do without being excessively violent.
We also stats challenges; so we have something like longest wheelie, most consecutive headshots, and hundreds of different stats that are tracked. You can compete with everyone for the records, even amongst your friends. So for example, you have the longest wheelie record and I beat it, you get a notification in-game that I just beat your score. So all of a sudden you’re like “there’s no way Dan’s gonna beat me,” you jump back in the game and continue to play until you beat that record.
JTM Games: Finally, is there anything else you want people to know about Sleeping Dogs?
Dan Sochan: With Sleeping Dogs, we wanted to maintain that sandbox (allow yourself to do whatever you want to do) and the open-world feel, but we really wanted to focus on the core mechanics. Often in open-world games those are left behind, the combat’s not very good, the shooting’s not very good, the driving’s not very good. So we took the expertise that we have in past games (fighting, shooting, driving), brought that all together and made Sleeping Dogs.
We think it has the best in-class mechanics. So you still get that fun of being able to explore and do whatever you want to do in the game world, but while you’re driving through the world, it feels great. The combat and shooting feel very fluid; and all these with a strong narrative. We think we’ve brought all those elements together and really distilled them to make a great game.
JTM Games: When can players expect Sleeping Dogs to be released?
Dan Sochan: Sleeping Dogs comes out August 14, 2012!
As a big Hong Kong action/thriller film fan (Infernal Affairs, Election, Exiled) , I’m quite excited to be able to play Sleeping Dogs‘ undercover cop infiltrating the triad thriller narrative. It’s a story that forces Wei Shen to face his own morality and code of honor. He gets ordered to do crimes that makes him cross the line between lawman and criminal. A gritty story full of plot twists, betrayals, and Wei Shen’s loyalty to his badge takes center stage here.
If that wasn’t enough, let’s not forget that there’s shooting, driving (especially the white-knuckle street races), and full-on city exploration that makes Sleeping Dogs one of the open-world games to look out for later this year.
Are you excited for Sleeping Dogs? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!