Sleeping Dogs Associate Producer Talks Hong Kong, Triads, And Brutal Combat

Released today to much critical acclaim, Canadian developer United Front Games’ open world action game Sleeping Dogs has quickly become this season’s most wanted. 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 Benjamin Sullivan, Associate Producer at United Front Games about Hong Kong, their experiences and research of the Triad way of life, and the brutal combat featured in Sleeping Dogs.

Check out the full interview after the break.

Sleeping Dogs’ cast of characters switch speaking between Cantonese and English throughout the game.

JTM Games: From the trailers we’ve seen so far, characters will be speaking Cantonese and English. Could you tell us how the decision came about to have both languages in the game? Was there a time when it was all Cantonese with English subtitles?

Ben Sullivan: Hong Kong isn’t just where Sleeping Dogs takes place, it’s the main character of the game. We put a lot of time and effort into making Hong Kong a living, breathing world, and a big part of that is language. While most of the story narrative is spoken in English, your encounters with people in the world will often be in Cantonese, whether you cut them off in traffic or chase down a thief who’s stolen your wallet. Though the story script was never fully in Cantonese, much of the dialogue is interspersed with Cantonese curses and phrases.

JTM Games: The last time we talked, you gave us a brief overview of the way United Front Games started understanding the Triad way of life. Could you tell us about the research process and your experiences with working with real Triad members?

Ben Sullivan: There are several books on the subject but while in Hong Kong we met with former members of both Triad gangs and the HKPD Anti-Triad unit. The strong sense of honour and brotherhood that we portray in the game is based on the way Triad Gangs actually function and operate.

JTM Games: Could you tell us of any real-life Triad stories that you or the team have heard about or learned during the interview process that have resonated with you?

Ben Sullivan: A few articles we discovered in our research:

As Wei Shen, patrol the streets of Hong Kong and take down the Triad gangs in brutal fashion.

JTM Games: Could you talk about the different Factions that Wei Shen will be dealing with or fighting against during the course of the game? And what real-life gangs or organizations were these factions based on?

Ben Sullivan: During the course of the game Wei works to infiltrate the Sun On Yee Triad. Despite being an unwilling participant to the in-fighting among the Sun On Yee Red Poles (Triad lieutenants), Wei will find time for the occasional run-in with members of a rival Triad, the 18k. One such mission tasks Wei with defending a shipment of Sun On Yee drugs from a gang of gun-wielding 18k bikers who would love nothing more than to deprive the Sun On Yee of the shipment’s profits.

JTM Games: One of the unique combat features in Sleeping Dogs is its combination of martial arts and brutal environment/weapon attacks. What was the inspiration for the combat system?

Ben Sullivan: Sleeping Dogs is heavily inspired by classic Hong Kong action movies. Often these films will involve a skilled fighter who, despite being greatly outnumbered, defeats his opponents with quick thinking and the cunning use of improvised weapons. In Sleeping Dogs, players can do the same thing to turn the tables on their opponents. This could mean picking up a butcher’s knife in a kitchen brawl, tossing a thug into an exposed electrical panel, or finding creative uses for a table saw.

Hong Kong action heroes will often find themselves bringing fists to a gun fight. Thankfully Wei’s agility and resourcefulness allows him to disarm unsuspecting thugs or, if he’s feeling lucky, charge them head-on with a deadly vaulting disarm attack.

JTM Games: Would you consider the combat system to be more like the Jackie Chan style of fight coreography, or the Tony Jaa (Ong Bak) style? What makes Wei Shen’s fighting style unique and deadly?

Ben Sullivan: I’d say our combat system  is  more like Tony Jaa (Muay Thai) style than Jackie Chan. Our combat style consists of realistic and effective combative more than flashy and showy cinematic moves you see in Jackie Chan’s movies. You can see many of Wei’s moves are actually used in professional combat sports like Mixed Martial Arts, Muay Thai and Sanshou (Chinese kickboxing).

Take down your opponents using martial arts skills, weapons, or the environment.

JTM Games: Could you tell us about your personal favourite environment/weapon finishing moves?

Ben Sullivan: My personal favourite finisher is to weaken an enemy’s defences before tossing them over a railing or down a flight of stairs. Our combat system makes use of physics to ensure that everything that looks like it should hurt, really does. This opens up endless possibilities for players to use the environment to their advantage, such as throwing a thug over a table or off a highway into the ocean below.

JTM Games: Could you talk about the experience of balancing Sleeping Dogs’ hand-to-hand combat and the core shooting mechanics?

Ben Sullivan: Balancing the gunplay with the melee martial arts was a challenging process involving a lot of iteration and playtesting. Sometimes even subtle tweaks to an upgrade, weapon or move based on tester feedback could have unexpected repercussions elsewhere in the game so regular playtesting was critical to ensuring that melee, gunplay and vehicular combat all flowed together perfectly.

It was important to the game’s balance to ensure the player could move easily from melee into gunplay without the action stalling. For instance, after disarming an enemy Wei will enter slow motion allowing the player to quickly finish off the disarmed thug in one motion and begin targeting his friends without missing a beat. Additionally, many of these abilities and combat moves can be enhanced with upgrades as you progress through the game so you always have a trick up your sleeve when you’re feeling outgunned.

While not in the game, GSP comes alive in Sleeping Dogs through Wei Shen’s costume and fighting style.

JTM Games: Final question, will George “Rush” St. Pierre be a playable character in Sleeping Dogs? Will MMA and martial arts fans be able to play as GSP in Sleeping Dogs’ open-world?

Ben Sullivan: While GSP isn’t a playable character, MMA fans who pre-order Sleeping Dogs from Best Buy will unlock several of GSP’s signature outfits which grant combat bonuses for Wei and allow him to use GSP’s famous flying punch move.


Since I’m a Hong Kong Triad action/thriller film fan , I’m excited to play through Sleeping Dogs’ campaign and to experience Wei Shen’s story. An undercover cop who’s forced to break his morals and code of honor in order to take down the dangerous Triads.

As Wei Shen, will you stay loyal to your badge or will you stay loyal to the Triads?


Have you picked up Sleeping Dogs yet? What did you think of the game? Let us know in the comment section below!


About janhutchings

Canadian Game Industry Blogger / Contributor for @Sonyrumors & @ShogunGamer / Communications and PR Professional. Voice of Canadian and Indie Gaming.

Posted on August 14, 2012, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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