“I’m gonna reduce your coronary heart out with a spoon!” Ahh, Robin Hood, ahh, Alan Rickman. This is a legend we have seen reinterpreted time and time once more for the small and massive screens. And now, Robin Hood is the inspiration for Sumo Digital’s new recreation.
Hood: Outlaws & Legends is bang on pattern so far as video games like Hunt: Showdown are involved. It’s a PvPvE recreation which, on this case, means two groups of legendary outlaws attempt to break right into a fort guarded by computer-controlled guards – and a monstrous-sounding Sheriff of Nottingham – and liberate the large chest of gold there. And all whereas competing with one another.
It’s like Hitman meets For Honour. Or, to make use of the staff’s personal inspirational touchstone, ‘What wouldn’t it seem like if Game of Thrones did Payday in a Robin Hood universe?’ Hence the grittiness, therefore the violence, therefore the dour look. But it sounds thrilling to listen to recreation director Andrew Willans discuss it – he who designed Grow Home and Eve Valkyrie, and helped make Watch_Dogs, The Crew, The Division and Driver: San Francisco. So do as I did, and sit again and pay attention.
To start, let’s rewind again a bit and discuss the place the concept comes from. Were you watching Kevin Costner and Alan Rickman? Who wakes up and goes, ‘Got it: Robin Hood.’?
Andrew Willans: Bizarrely this began as an idea in Sumo Sheffield that had been hanging round for ages, they usually principally needed to do a darkish model of Robin Hood. And possibly that is as a result of they’re nearer Sherwood Forest than we’re. So they’d put this idea deck along with these actually cool photographs of Robin Hood, trying nearly like a Ringwraith from Lord of the Rings, and the concept was extra of a co-op [game], it was somewhat bit extra PvE by way of its construction. But the concept is you set your Merry Men collectively and do missions towards the State.
And once we joined Sumo, we went all the way down to Sheffield […] and we have been initiatives. We had work on on the time however we have been like, ‘Okay, are there any ideas that we might take and make our personal?’ And this was one which was on the shelf the place we simply went, ‘Oh my God, that is superb.’ Just that picture, the unique picture we noticed of Robin trying nearly Wraith-like simply instantly captured it. Like, ‘Wow, there is a cool recreation right here.’ So we took that idea as a result of nobody was doing it.
For us, our pedigree is in multiplayer video games. So what we have been actually all for is how can we take this and do a twist the place it turns into extra PvP? So we began off with quite a few totally different ideas that we thought, ‘Well that is the outlaws, the gang of Merry Men, principally attempting to steal the treasure from the Sheriff of Nottingham and the evil powers that be. So what about if the gamers managed the state?’ So it was just like the state had the riches, versus the outlaws, and one staff’s attempting to guard the gold, the opposite staff’s attempting to steal it. So a really conventional set-up.
And then, fairly rapidly, conversations went to one thing somewhat bit extra revolutionary. We have been taking part in loads of video games like Hunt: Showdown, loads of PvPvE video games, and there was loads of fascinating mechanics and fascinating options about these video games the place we thought we might do one thing even higher with it. We might put one other twist on this. What about if it was two outlaw groups they usually have been each attempting to steal the treasure?
And you then’ve received the setting. You’ve received the Sheriff, who then turns into like Mr. X from Resident Evil: a big-ass form of tank that is stomping round that may instakill you, and this fort which is simply stuffed with AI. So you have received this type of swarm AI, the place you will get tons and many kills; would not must be gamers however you are getting the great feels from getting headshots, proper? And in order that simply began to take form.
Then once we began actually digging into the precise legends of Robin Hood, there have been, bizarrely, two sorts of competing legends, which is Robin of Locksley, and Robin the Earl of Huntingdon. And that was simply nice. It was simply written for us actually. Like, ‘Well there’s our groups proper there, Locksley and Huntington.’
When we dug into it, what was instantly apparent was [the mystery of] who was behind the hood was much more fascinating than defining [it]. And that is the place we ended up with the fantasy for the sport. It was just like the hood turned a logo to the individuals, a logo of the individuals rising up towards the facility, nearly like Anonymous, you realize? So it was this concept that you will by no means reveal the id.
So we ended up utilizing the themes of Locksley and Huntingdon simply as staff names, reds versus blue. We thought that was a pleasant fantasy. But what was most compelling about it was the concept you’d have these two outlaw factions that have been principally attempting to steal the identical gold. And one of many different issues as a story touch-point for us was, you know the way you all the time hear Robin Hood robbed from the wealthy to present to the poor? That’s not really true.
Oh no! You’ve simply ruined my childhood.
Andrew Willans: [laughs] We thought we might twist that somewhat bit, and it was really Robin Hood robs from the wealthy to harm the wealthy. And instantly if you exit with a press release like that, you will have somewhat bit extra participant company. So we offer you a call. You rob from the wealthy, you will have a pile of gold, what do you do with it? And that is why an essential mechanic throughout the recreation is what we name the Scales of Justice the place, after each heist, you will have this scale and two pots, and one’s for the individuals and one’s in your pocket, and also you distribute the gold between them.
So on the one facet, when you’re giving to the individuals, and also you’re beneficiant Robin […] then extra stuff will turn out to be accessible in your Hideouts. You’ll get higher perks, you will get extra weapons and costumes inside your forest hideout. [But] you want the cash in your pocket to purchase them. So mechanically it is the meta, within the short-term. And we thought, ‘Well, that is simply actually fascinating. We’ll give that to the arms of the gamers.’ So really the way you management the development is somewhat bit extra in your management, you realize?
Thematically and mechanically, issues labored out fairly properly.
So how true to the precise legends of Robin Hood are you? Presumably you have finished loads of analysis round it. What did you discover out? Did something shock you?
Andrew Willans: Yeah: Maid Marian, once we dug round, simply by no means existed.
You cannot say that, it is Pancake Day! [It was Pancake Day in the UK when we spoke. Please don’t make me explain why this reminds me of a British TV show called Maid Marian.]
Andrew Willans: We could not discover something like… There wasn’t actually a historic case. It gave the impression to be extra like loads of the opposite characters that we affiliate with the legend have been made up. They have been really tales in themselves that have been simply slotted in.
Is that true for the entire individuals, like Little John…?
Andrew Willans: I feel there have been references to a John, a John Nailer/Naylor, however most of these, it wasn’t notably steeped in historical past. It was [that] over time individuals had embellished the legends, and it simply made for a greater story, and for higher films as properly.
We knew early on that we did not wish to do your typical damsel in misery, so we knew when it got here to Marianne [loosely based around Maid Marian, the Hunter in the game], we needed a personality that was actually empowering to play. Marianne is a badass Hunter. She’s a brutal murderer actually, however she’s very streamlined.
She’s the girl with the factor on her wrist [note my technicality here]?
Andrew Willans: Yes, yeah. So she’s received a wrist-mounted crossbow, which is sort of a triple-shot crossbow, which has additionally received the blade on. She is extremely agile. So together with her it is all about getting in there and doing stealth takedowns, slitting throats at midnight. And John [based on Little John obviously] was somewhat bit simpler as a result of there’s been a number of totally different variations of John, however for our version-
John is the large man?
Andrew Willans: Yeah, he is successfully our tank. We name him the Brawler, as a result of all of them have their lessons. And our inspiration for that was actually Mad Sweeney from American Gods.
I’ve by no means seen it!
Andrew Willans: Right! So Mad’s an enormous leprechaun, [with] ginger hair and a ginger beard. You may even see it within the character design. But it was that angle of like, ‘let’s have some’. The man who stood outdoors the pub and smashes the beer glass over his personal head after which goes, ‘Right, come on!’ So that was lovely, it simply match the character of John Nailer completely, this blacksmith who was actually rebelling towards the State.
And then for Tuck [Friar Tuck obviously], we went somewhat bit additional. Friar Tuck was all the time this spiritual determine, and there have been a number of totally different variations of him. We actually appreciated the concept he’d been an inquisitor throughout the State, so he is really a part of the system. So he was doing the bidding of the evil State. And then he had this realisation, this second the place he thought, ‘Well fuck this, that is actually corrupt. I need out,’ after which disappeared. And then travelled the world, frolicked with totally different religions and cultures, possibly spent a bit lengthy within the forests and took too many mushrooms… And that provides him these sorts of ethereal powers, the place he can put his hand into the soil and nearly turn out to be one with the mycelial community – connect with the earth and get these fascinating items. But on the similar time, he is nonetheless a brutal melee character, as a result of he is received an incense burner which additionally serves as a flail.
I puzzled what that was!
Andrew Willans: Yeah, so he’ll be strolling down, nearly trying shamanic, together with his form of incense burner, after which when he will get in a combat, instantly it is like this far-extending flail that appears extra just like the chains from God of War.
So these are the 4 characters? And is it the identical for each groups?
Andrew Willans: Yes, yeah. And you then’ve received a spread of perks for the entire characters, you have received a spread of costumes and weapons so that you simply customise them to, greater than something, match your playstyle, so all of them serve a goal.
We’ve received the Ranger, Robin, who is actually – we equate him to being a sniper rifle. We’ve received Marianne, who’s the Hunter, who, like I stated, is actually good at close-quarters and stealth takedowns. You’ve received John who’s the Brawler, the tank who can raise heavy gadgets. He can carry the chest faster than anybody else, he can winch sooner than anybody else if you’re extracting. And then we have Tuck who’s a Healer, however can also be a little bit of a badass. He’s extra of a tactician as properly. He’s like a mystic class, so he can see enemies by way of partitions and do every kind of enjoyable issues. And that is the outlaw gang at launch.
With, clearly, scope to usher in new characters down the road?
Andrew Willans: Imagine that! As if we weren’t sitting right here designing the fifth one already. [Laughs]
Where’s my Morgan Freeman?!
Andrew Willans: Exactly!
So the enemies you come up towards: inform me about this Sheriff, who you stated was like Resident Evil’s Mr X.
Andrew Willans: He is definitely an goal. So there’s phases to a heist. The first stage is getting the important thing to the vault. Now, that vault secret’s on the belt of the Sheriff of Nottingham. So initially, each groups begin at reverse ends of the map, [and] you have to work your method by way of the setting, taking down individuals – hopefully sneakily – after which get to the Sheriff. Now, in your map, you will have his patrol path marked, so you realize roughly the place he’s, however you want a line of sight, then it’s good to creep up behind him and steal the important thing off his belt. Now, if he notices, you are in bother! So his first goal is actually as a cell goal.
Once you get that key, that key will provide you with a clue as to the place the treasure is. You then want to move to one of many buildings that may home the treasure, discover it, and open the treasure vault. Once you get in there, you choose up the treasure chest itself, and that must be bodily carried to an extraction level. So that third section is all about getting that heavy treasure chest to one among these winching gadgets. There’s a number of areas [for this] so that you determine the place you wish to extract from. You get that loaded up and you then function a winch to, successfully, winch it to security, to assert the loot.
It’s a little bit of a MacGuffin, it is a very gamey factor. But what it additionally offers us is that excellent catch-up second, the place we discover we’ve loads of battles across the closing third of the sport.
The notion of it was the three-act construction of a heist. So you have received that excellent plan, completely executed, after which the getaway on the finish the place issues get a bit extra thrilling as a result of alarms are tripped and stuff like that. We have quite a few recreation mechanics which all feed into that. So the Sheriff will begin as a cell goal. During the second section, if you’re getting the chest, it actually relies on the participant’s actions as to what he is doing, as a result of if gamers kite him to the chest and he sees it, he’ll defend it as a result of that is his loot, proper? So he’ll actively pursue anybody inside vary. In the third section, as you are really extracting that treasure, when you’ve tripped the alarms, we’ve a fully-fledged escalation system. So we go into what we name lockdown-
I do know it properly!
Andrew Willans: Oh god, yeah – it is too quickly, too quickly! And so once we enter this closing section, the Sheriff will simply make his strategy to the treasure chest. So he is aware of, when the alarms are tripped, the place it’s. Then you will have a battle on the extraction zone with the AI guards, with the Sheriff himself, and with the opposing staff. And that is often essentially the most explosive half.
So, actually, we’re a stealth-action recreation, however the stealth is [only] actually essential within the first couple of phases. It’s not so vital within the third stage. Usually, it will get much more thrilling. So what you discover is when you’re taking part in a stealthy recreation, within the early half, it’ll set you up completely for the ultimate third. So by taking part in stealthy and doing stealth-takedowns, you fill your capability meter, you are going to choose up some cool gadgets, and hopefully that will get you to the purpose the place you will get in, get the chest with out the opposite staff discovering you, after which begin winching. It is feasible to finish the sport completely with out being seen however that not often occurs. That’s Ryan Gosling in Drive, proper? That’s the second the place he is simply sitting in behind a van and it is the proper getaway.
These capability metres you talked about: I’m presuming they seem to be a bit like Ultimate meters in Overwatch?
Andrew Willans: Absolutely, yeah, it passively ticks up. And when you do extra stealth actions, when you do extra assassinations, it’ll enhance actually rapidly. So for each stealth-takedown you do, you will get an enormous chunk. It’s a refined incentive to play stealthy. The different one is simply to not kick the hornet’s nest, so when you’re going round making loads of noise, the guards will react to you. And they’ll doubtlessly attempt to lure you in areas and ship in reinforcements. The fort is form of alive, we like to think about it as nearly a sentient fort, so when you get in these environments, they need to really feel harmful.
What occurs when you die?
Andrew Willans: Oh, you respawn. We have toyed with – and doubtless additional down the road – a hardcore recreation mode with one life, however to try this, you want some actually cool replay methods and spectator cams, which is one thing we’ll in all probability take a look at post-launch. But the sport design as it’s now: you respawn.
So how lengthy, roughly, is a match?
Andrew Willans: I might say our candy spot is across the ten-to-fifteen minute mark. If you will have a extremely expert staff, and it is a smaller map, you might doubtlessly do it in 5 – 6 minutes. But likewise, it might take as much as twenty-five minutes.
So presumably these maps are your method of telling a narrative, as a result of there isn’t any story mode, is there?
Andrew Willans: No. We have PvE so you may prepare within the maps, in order that’s one thing you are able to do with your mates. We have loads of backstory tapestries which you’ll gather, which fill out somewhat bit about ‘the place did Tuck come from?’, for instance – somewhat bit concerning the characters and the world.
But you are completely proper: we lean closely on environmental storytelling, and that is why it was an enormous problem for us to get throughout the concept the State are the villains. The concept that this corruption of church and state mixed to crush the need of the frequent man. And that is why you will see all of their buildings, that form of towering structure, displayed with dominance and energy. This form of [Soveit bloc] Brutalism.
Luc Fontenay [lead concept artist]: That was one of many pillars we had for our artwork course from the beginning. We did not actually wish to do this form of classical medieval look. We ended up form of veering in the direction of this nearly Brutalist [architecture], medieval fashion. So these huge concrete constructions and making use of them to medieval castles. So we have these actually towering monoliths in the course of a forest, or jutting out from the panorama. And I feel that form of helps convey this actually chilly, harsh mentality that the State has.
I think about that was in all probability the specified impact even again then!
What you are doing jogs my memory of Overwatch and the way Blizzard tells a narrative by way of the environments. Are you attempting to do the identical factor right here or is it simply grounding individuals in your form of actuality?
Andrew Willans: There is a wider narrative within the size and breadth of areas that we have used. So when you took simply the legend of Robin Hood, you’ll say, ‘Oh all proper, we will play it in Sherwood Forest.’
Is there a Sherwood Forest map? There should be!
Andrew Willans: I could not probably say! Coming quickly, TM. [laughs]
But yeah, if we simply took these legends, we might simply spend all our time in that one location. So what we have tried to do is take a look at the good and the great throughout the UK, as a result of we have some superb castles, you realize. Up north, we have Bamburgh, Lindisfarne, Alnwick. Then, if you get additional afield, we have a Conwy down in Wales, you have received Edinburgh, you have received Dover fort as properly. So we tried to take affect from these areas and biomes, somewhat than recreating bricks and mortar. But it is to make you’re feeling such as you’ve been on a journey, to make it really feel greater than simply spending time in a forest. The concept that you have visited various unique areas throughout the UK.
We have a coastal map which was based mostly loosely on a few of these historic websites, like Dover, Lindisfarne and Bamburgh, but it surely’s in all probability extra influenced by issues just like the Iron Islands from Game of Thrones, or Dragonstone. Game of Thrones was a touch-base for us throughout improvement. We began off, at one level, with, ‘What wouldn’t it seem like if Game of Thrones did Payday in a Robin Hood universe?’ That was one of many issues we smashed collectively. So you will see loads of that. We have a map that is set in some marshlands. That was completely influenced by a picture from Game of Thrones. Was that one from Battle of the Bastards, Luc? Can you bear in mind?
Luc Fontenay: It was, yeah.
That was a beautiful episode!
Andrew Willans: So good, yeah.
So did trying across the UK give you a chance to drag in different folklore, much like how Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has finished, and somewhat efficiently?
Andrew Willans: Not a lot, actually. We did not get caught on anybody legend. It was extra simply the texture of areas. Where we began was actually simply the biomes, greater than the rest, for selection. I do know it feels like nearly like a gaming trope, like lava degree, snow level-
But it is essential! Particularly if you’re replaying the degrees.
Andrew Willans: Absolutely. […] One of the largest challenges we really confronted was simply not setting every thing at night time. It’s a stealth recreation, and we have been like, ‘Oh fuck, we have all these maps, they can not all be at night time! It’s gonna be one observe.’ So we explored numerous fascinating methods to usher in that distinction between the sunshine and the darkish. So we’ve a map that is set in a graveyard, but it surely’s really fairly vibrant daylight. But that creates this pretty distinction, with actually darkish, lengthy shadows you can cover in. It’s nearly like you’ve got these components of pitch-black to take a seat in, within the corners, and snipe from or assassinate from.
And then Outpost is a daybreak map, so we have that rising solar, which, once more, is that sturdy gentle, which creates these directional shadows, which helps. And then our fundamental nighttime map – I feel it is the one one which’s absolutely at night time – is in Citadel, which is like the guts of the State. And that gave us an opportunity to essentially go full ham on the pantomime villain! That’s essentially the most brutal structure within the recreation, the Citadel. It’s one among our greater maps. And it is actually hanging to see all of this enormous towering concrete lined with gold and the blood-red flags, however at night time. And in fact, the entire gentle there’s by torchlight, which creates a completely totally different vibe once more.
What was the Hideout you talked about earlier? A form of place you inhabit between matches?
Andrew Willans: Yeah, it is a protected house actually. I imply, for all intents and functions it is a foyer. It’s a spot the place all of the outlets are, so you have received your character development, you have received challenges, you have received perks in your character, which you’ll unlock and craft. You’ve received your weapons, you have received your cosmetics, and there is a coaching vary so you may observe taking pictures, you may observe in gear gadgets, or hitting melee mannequins. And you may invite your mates to hitch you as properly. So a staff of 4 can simply have a little bit of enjoyable.
Is it a spot you may customise in any method?
Andrew Willans: No. We did toy with the concept you might improve the Hideout, that the spoils of your riches would impact this space, but it surely was simply loads of improvement time for one thing which did not actually give a lot by way of gameplay.
Basically it is a good forest dwelling, a Hideout so that you can sit back between matches.
And the belongings you unlock or purchase there, like perks and tools, does all that imply we’ll be completely enhancing our characters there?
Andrew Willans: Yeah, however we intentionally did not wish to go for a min-maxing factor. There’s nothing worse than you simply grind your method by way of and unlock all these items, and you have got extra energy. So it is extra as much as you to customize the playstyle to your liking. Robin, he is an excellent instance. So his arrows, if you shoot somebody, if you unfastened an arrow and also you kill somebody: there’s a likelihood that that arrow will break. But there’s additionally an opportunity that it is going to stick within the physique, so you may run over and choose the arrow off the corpse and put it in your quiver and reuse it. Now, there’s a perk in there that will provide you with 100 per cent likelihood of breakage, in order that arrow is gone, but it surely will increase the injury that the arrow does. There’s all the time little trade-offs with every of the perks.
So there isn’t any levelling because it have been, no getting passively extra highly effective?
Andrew Willans: No, no. There’s all the time a hazard with multiplayer, with PvP video games particularly, that you simply run the danger of leaving individuals behind. We all the time needed it [that] if I choose that pad up tomorrow and play with somebody that is rank ninety-nine and has been taking part in for a yr, we’re nonetheless aggressive. It’s simply he may need customised tons extra issues than I’ve, and clearly be much more used to the sport than I’m! But it nonetheless seems like a degree taking part in subject.
And is all this development tied to the account or per character?
Andrew Willans: Each character has their very own rank, in order that they have a degree, and the extra XP you earn with that character, by taking part in the character, then the upper that rank is, and that gates the perk development. The extra you utilize the character, the extra perks can be found. But that is all feeding into one pool of XP for you, so you will have an general badass fame rank. You, as a participant, is the mixed XP of all of these characters used.
Okay. And the tools we purchase, does that give any statistical bonuses or is all of it beauty?
Andrew Willans: Absolutely beauty. Some of them look radically totally different, however yeah, they’re all simply cosmetics.
Okay! So, launch is ready for this yr, in May?
Andrew Willans: Yes, the tenth of May. And there’s early entry for those who pre-order.
And it is popping out for last-generation consoles and present era consoles on the similar time?
Andrew Willans: Yeah, completely. We’re transport on all console platforms apart from Switch – I’ve to throw that in there. So we’re doing PS4 and the entire Xbox Ones, after which clearly the brand new boys, which we optimise for. We do have full cross-play in there, [and] it is as much as you to choose out and in of. We’re clearly focusing on 60fps and wonderful visible constancy on our new consoles, however for apparent causes we’ll in all probability must do 30fps on [last-gen machines], relying on how we optimise.
Andrew Willans, thanks very a lot.