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“The outrage was ridiculous”: How Raven Software made one of the most controversial shooters of its time with Soldier of Fortune

The tone of Soldier Of Fortune was odd. If you were told you were going to make a license-based game, you might expect a superhero like Batman or a well-known movie franchise like Terminator. Instead, Raven Software won a magazine. As if that weren’t unusual enough, Soldier Of Fortune was a magazine on niche topics like mercenaries and warfare, and was little known in the mainstream, except perhaps for brief bursts of fame during cases where it was brought to court for contract murders. loyalty. in the eighties it was organized through advertisements on its pages.

Dan Kramer, an assistant programming director at Soldier Of Fortune, reveals that he and many of his colleagues were confused when they found out they were going to make a game based on the mercenary magazine. “As I recall, Raven was finishing Heretic II and was looking at what they were going to do next. One day, Brian Raffel [Raven cofounder] He came and said that Activision had licensed Soldier Of Fortune and we were going to make a game. To be honest, I don’t think any of us really know what to do in the first place. If any of us had heard of it, all we heard was that it was a magazine. Is it a print magazine? ‘How does this reflect on games?’ we were saying. It was a surprise.”

But the team was determined to do just that. “Licensed games had a bad reputation,” Dan recalls. “You make a bad game and then you put a license on it and hope it sells, they were seen as such. We were well aware of this, but Raven is very proud of what they do and so we weren’t about to just say ‘shit in a box’ because that was the phrase we used and then we sent it to the stores. We wanted to do something to be proud of.”

Dan says the team went through several iterations in the early stages of development, deviating from a more traditional shooter approach to something inspired by the recently released Rainbow Six, towards something where players would first have to plan a manga’s entry into a building. change route again. “The thing that really solidified us, gave us direction, was when we found out about John Mullins.”

mercenary

old player

“Once we focused on that person, we created a character where we could say, ‘Okay, we can make a game around that,’” Dan says. John and the credibility he gave the game as a result of his real-life experience as a soldier was front and center in the game’s marketing, so it’s fair to question how much of an impact it actually had on the game’s development, and to what extent. It was all marketing bullshit.

“It was definitely a marketing job, but he went to the office a few times,” Dan replies. “We were promoting pseudo-realism at the time, so there was talk about how it would actually work in the real world. Not if we really consulted him about where to put the cover. We could ask him for ideas for weapons. I think it might have something to do with it.”

shoot to kill

mercenary

“From the perspective of using it, we had to do things that I definitely thought weren’t done on the art side,” Dan says of the complexity of implementing the new system. “All of our artists had to identify which triangles belonged to which region in the model, so we needed to come up with a complete schematic of how many regions we would have.”

“With the ability to fire the limbs, I was like, ‘Okay, well, if I’m going to blow up a leg, I have to unplug the leg and then attach the hood or something to plug the hole in the model, and maybe some bone in, and then create another copy of the character except everything but the leg.’ Then there were the animation concerns. So there were a lot of things that I didn’t think other shooters had to deal with at the time.”

“Once we got it, we knew it was great. I would spend hours thinking about what we could do with it and talking to the animators about what kind of animations we could do. I remember spending quite a bit of time on some specific case fatalities like groin injections, frankly the real crowd pleases. This was revolutionary at the time. We knew people would find it different, so we hoped it was cool. Frankly, there were some people who didn’t think it was very cool.”

mercenary

future wealth

mercenary

mercenary

Dan Kramer

“We also wanted the player to feel as if they were fighting a highly intelligent enemy. The capabilities we gave the enemy AI were there to help the player take root in the fictional world and introduce new gameplay, but still feed into the core of the hero’s gameplay.”

Dan tells us that in the first two levels the studio built – the first on the New York subway, the second on a moving train – everything that sets the course of the game comes together. “I didn’t know at the time but it was a kind of green light process to convince us, Activision and the people we showed it to, yes, this game is real.”

From a messy magazine license to real-life mercenary John Mullins to an action movie sense, the studio has found a way to run Soldier Of Fortune. Soldier Of Fortune tends to be defined by the controversy surrounding the GHOUL system and the violence that accompanies it. While we can’t underestimate the importance of this for the success and legacy of the game, it may be worth changing our perspective on this. This is a game created by a team given a strange concept and trying their best to make something good out of it. This included violence, but it also represented a serious attempt to do new things that resulted in a different, traveling action game.


This feature was first old player magazine issue 219. For more great resources like the one you just read, don’t forget to subscribe to the print or digital edition at My favorite magazines.


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“The outrage was ridiculous”: How Raven Software made one of the most controversial shooters of its time with Soldier of Fortune

The pitch for Soldier Of Fortune was bizarre. If you were told you were going to be making a game based on a licence, you might expect a superhero like Batman, or a well-known movie franchise like Terminator. Instead, Raven Software got a magazine. As if that wasn’t unusual enough, Soldier Of Fortune was a magazine about the niche subject of mercenaries and war, little known in the mainstream save perhaps for brief eruptions of notoriety during the instances it was taken to court for contract killings that had been arranged through advertisements in its pages in the Eighties. 
Dan Kramer, who worked on Soldier Of Fortune as assistant programming director, reveals that he and many of his colleagues were bemused when they found out they would be making a game based on a mercenary magazine. “If I recall, Raven were wrapping up Heretic II and were looking at what they were going to do next. One day, Brian Raffel [Raven cofounder] came in and told us that Activision had acquired the Soldier Of Fortune licence and that we were going to make a game. Quite honestly, I don’t think any of us really knew what to do at first. If any of us had even heard of it, all we had heard was it was a magazine. A print magazine? We’re like ‘How does that even translate into games?’ It was a surprise.” 
Nevertheless, the team was determined to make it work. “Licensed games had a bad reputation,” Dan recalls. “You make a crappy game and then slap a licence on it and hope it sells, was how they were viewed. We were keenly aware of that, but Raven has a lot of pride in the work it does and so we were not about to just, I’ll say ‘shit in a box’, because that was the expression we used, and then send that out to the stores. We wanted to make something we were proud of.” 
Dan tells us that the team went through a couple of iterations in the early stages of development, swerving from a more traditional shooter approach to something inspired by the then recently released Rainbow Six, where players would have to plan a squad’s entry to a building, before changing courses again. “What really solidified it, gave us some direction, was when we found out about John Mullins.”

“Once we had that person to focus on, it kind of built a character that we could say ‘OK we can make a game around that,’” says Dan. John and the credibility he lent to the game as a result of his real-life experience as a soldier was front and centre of the game’s marketing, so it would be fair to question to what extent he actually had an impact on the game’s development and to what extent that was all just marketing fluff. 
“He certainly was a marketing thing, but he did come out to the office a couple of times,” Dan replies. “We were pushing so-called realism at the time, so there were conversations about how this would actually work in the real world. Whether we actually consulted him about where to place cover or anything like that, no. We might have asked him for ideas for weapons. I think he might have had something to do with that.”
Shoot to kill

“I can tell you from the perspective of using it we definitely had to do things that I don’t think had ever been done on the art side of things,” Dan says on the complexity of implementing the new system. “All of our artists had to designate which triangles on the model belonged to which zone, so we had to come up with a whole scheme of how many zones are we going to have.”
“With being able to shoot limbs off we had to come up with a system that detected, ‘OK, well if I’m going to blow a leg off, then I’m going to have to turn off the leg and then put on a cap or something to cover up the hole in the model, and maybe attach a bit of bone, and then also spawn in another copy of the character except with everything but the leg turned off next to it.’ Then there were animation concerns. So there was a whole lot of stuff that I don’t think other shooters had to deal with at that time.”
“Once we had it, we knew it was cool. I would spend just hours playing around with what we could do with it and talking to the animators about what kind of animations we could make. I remember spending quite a bit of time on some of the special case deaths, like the groin shots, obviously, the real crowd-pleaser. This was, at the time, revolutionary. We knew that people were going to find it different, we hoped cool. Obviously, there were some people who didn’t think it was quite so cool.”

Future fortunes

Dan Kramer

“We also really wanted the player to feel like they were fighting against a somewhat intelligent enemy. The abilities that we gave to the enemy AI were there to help root the player in the fictional world and offer new gameplay but still feed into the core of the hero gameplay.”
Dan tells us this all came together in the first two levels the studio made – the first in a New York subway, the second on a moving train – which set the tone for the game. “I didn’t know it at the time, but it was kind of a green-light process, to convince ourselves, Activision and the people we were showing it that, yeah, this game is for real.”
From a confusing magazine licence, to real-life mercenary John Mullins, to an action movie ethos, the studio found a way to make Soldier Of Fortune work. Soldier Of Fortune has tended to be defined by the controversy that surrounded the GHOUL system and its accompanying violence. While we shouldn’t downplay the significance of that in terms of the game’s success and legacy, it’s perhaps worth adjusting our perspective on it. This is a game built by a team who got given a strange concept and tried their best to make something good out of it. This included violence, but it also represented an earnest attempt to do new things that resulted in a distinct, globe-trotting action game.
This feature first appeared in Retro Gamer magazine issue 219. For more excellent features, like the one you’ve just read, don’t forget to subscribe to the print or digital edition at MyFavouriteMagazines.  

#outrage #ridiculous #Raven #Software #controversial #shooters #time #Soldier #Fortune


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