At the recent Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts event I attended, I sat down with members of the CI Games team. Check out the transcript of our chat below, or scroll to the very bottom to hear the uncut audio yourselves. But beware, that version of the CI Games interview has not been sensitised for younger audiences and may contain a swear word or two.
Tell me a little bit about yourselves and what got you into the gaming industry.
I work as a research manager for CI Games. Before, when I started my career I worked in QA, then QA lead, compliance lead and of course right now I move more to publishing. But I’m still close to the game’s development and the game dev team, and of course, trying to connect both publishing and marketing staff with the dev guys. So I’m still close to the product. For a while, I used to be a designer as well. 10 years in the games industry. It’s a very cool place to be.Karol
I’m senior communications manager. So I’ve been in the industry for about 20 years in one way or another. I started off on your side, the journalist side actually, for a few websites. Then I moved to the dev/publisher side. I was at Konami for three and a half years, on the brand/marketing comms area. I also work close to the dev teams as well when it comes to talking about the game in terms of features, when it comes to speaking to press, fans and consumers.
So as Karol says, the gaming industry is a cool thing to be part of. It’s busy, especially around these times when it comes close to launch. Everyone’s very tired. But we’re all working towards one goal, to release a good product, to make our fans happy and successful to release more products in the future.
I’ve been part of CI Games now for five months, started in June, its been all hands at the pump really. Right in the deep end, my second week was at E3 actually, that’s where I met everyone, that was quite nice. But it’s cool. Being part of Konami who are known as a bigger company, CI if you’re comparing is probably a smaller company, but you get to be more involved in everything. You’re very hands on in terms of shaping the products, shaping the future of the company etc.
You know we’re working with these guys in Poland as well, so we’re over here based in our UK office, we have regular contact. Whether it be with the dev team, whether it be release, whether it be marketing, everyone works together very hard towards one goal.Asim
I work as a digital sales manager for CI Games. I joined the team like two years ago. Before CI Games I was working in one of the biggest stores and services in Poland for Gamers. Right now I’m taking care of all digital sales, forecasts and digital strategy.Quiet guy in background
So is it two offices you’ve got working on the game?
So we’ve got, our dev team in Poland, so the game is mainly made in Poland. Karol can probably speak more to that side.Asim
We’ve got some support from third-party companies, outsourcing ones. But it’s like a small part, most of the core team is based in Poland. Plus the office in the UK, and we’re thinking of launching an office in Barcelona.Karol
Yes, so we’re expanding. We’ve got Sniper Ghost Warrior, but CI Games also has Lords of the Fallen which is another one of our big games. And there is always, the industry always, we always, everyone has other projects in mind, on the horizon, which we can’t talk about.Asim
Like DLCs for the games or future games as well?
Future. It could be post-launch content, it could be new titles. You know, there is always stuff on the horizon. There is always projects being worked on and talked about in the background. So while we’re releasing games, there’s a million things going on in the background as well.Asim
So what actually inspired you to make Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts?
For our company, sniping games are, let’s say we’ve just been working on sniping games since the beginning. This is the fourth instalment of the Sniper Ghost Warrior franchise. This is something we feel we are good at of course, and we take a lot of inspiration from tactical gameplay, which is more satisfying we feel as every mission is a puzzle and you need to think before taking an action.
This is just opposite to pay and spray titles like Call of Duty and Battlefield. And it appears there is a big community for these type of games. I feel we are just providing them for many years with these type of titles.
Right now we’ve made a lot of improvements. We’ve changed our settings, we’ve provided the players with the mask, a lot of gadgets. So right now we are just giving the traditional sniping gameplay, but this is combined with a lot of gadgets, a lot of new features, just to make it feel fresh and exciting.Karol
The inspiration generally comes from the way, it’s what CI Games is known for right. The sniping games. Like Karol said, this is the fourth instalment of the series. Inspiration also comes from what fans are saying and what they want, we look at that. Looking what fans are saying on forums and social media. There’s very few dedicated sniping games out there.
There is another franchise, which we won’t talk about, but we focus on a more realistic experience. Obviously balanced with fun as well at the same time. You don’t want to cross either boundary. So I think what, especially with Contracts, just kind of fastforwarding forward, we’ve got an experience that strikes a balance of fun and a realistic experience in terms of the sniping as you’ve seen.
Its got a weird bullet drop etc. and when you nail that shot whether it be 400m, 100m, 200m, it feels good. And that’s the ultimate goal, but evertything around that as Karol mentioned, the series has evolved. Now, you’ve got the gadgets, you’ve got the masks where you can scan the surroundings which brings in a more tactical element. And that’s all shaped around how the industry has changed and how the markets have changed and what fans want as well. That’s got us to this point.Asim
Exactly, yeah. As Asim’s mentioned, on the other hand, we’re just trying to be very authentic in terms of shooting mechanics, but you also have the weapons skins, very colourful, because this is something the community wanted. Another thing is the dismemberment, this is another thing people were asking for.
It’s very tricky, very difficult to deliver and of course it may even be problematic to receive some ratings stuff. But at the end it’s very nice to see.Karol
It’s what the fans want. They’ve been asking for it.Asim
Yeah. See, I’ve been watching you guys on Twitter and I saw the Gif and then there was a tweet a day or so later like ok the fans are asking for it so you get a full Gif, you can see what the dismemberment is like. And obviously I’ve tried it in-game and I was like YES!!! Straight through the legs, it was so good.
It sounds a bit weird, but I get the same feeling.Karol
I still feel like a complete outsider, so as a first-time sniper coming in, that intrigues me more than anything. I’ve come from games like Call of Duty. Like the whole scoping system is completely new to me, like I’ve had help in the game. Needed help with quite a lot. Which is actually really incredible that I’ve really liked it because it’s not just shoot and hope for the best. You have to actually think about it. To me, stealth always had to do with being quiet, but it’s not. You have to think ahead five steps to think where you’re going to be. I love that.
How does your game differ from games like Call of Duty and Battlefield?
Call of Duty and Battlefield, obviously big games and have a huge fan base. I think in terms of how we differ, our key focus is the sniping first and foremost. We want to give that realistic experience, again balancing it with the fun aspect as well.
And it’s kind of play how you want as well. So you’ve seen the big maps, there’s two maps in the build that you’ve got. Big maps give you locations, there’s so many different routes. Like even when we’re playing in the office, you find new routes all the time. Sneaking around, trying to find new paths to the contracts, and each contract you can tackle it in a different way as well.
Obviously you can go stealth, that’s probably the best approach shall we say. You can go and mix some action with it as well. We offer, where as those games, I guess you’d call them blockbuster-action FPS titles, we’re more of a tactical FPS title. So we first and foremost focus on that.Asim
The main difference, actually, as partially mentioned by Asim, because our game is not scripted. No scripted action, almost everything allows you to make [decisions]. It’s dynamic, it’s kind of sandbox gameplay approach.
It gives you all different opportunities and that’s why there is no repetition because you can play stuff, approach from a different side. This missing scripting allows you to just grab the gameplay to your needs, to whatever you like.Karol
We watch people playing it for the first time, like at E3 or events like this, and cool moments happen. Just random cool moments happen. We watched a few influencers streaming it in the last month or so and they’ll have some crazy moments. They’ll like sneak up behind someone and take them down, and their body will fall off the building and they’ll belike “oh s*** the body fell off the building”.
It’s like really cool moments like that happen, and with dismemberment added now there’s even potential for more cool stuff. Like someone was telling us here they shot someone’s arm and it kinda flew off and went next to someone. So you’ll find cool moments like that happen. So not scripting, compared to the titles you mentioned, allows for more dynamic situations and more randomness as well at the same time.Asim
I love that because as you said before as developers you’re still learning, different things you didn’t know. It must be so much fun for a developer to still be learning about their game.
Yeah. Just to see people playing it and finding new ways of tackling situations, which is cool to see.Asim
This is of course the challenge for the level designer and game designers, to provide you with an environment, that will be leading you to a certain location. You need to play with the environment stuff, some small props, every object should have its story. And we are trying to do that because at the end you need to find a way to kill the target. And it’s very challenging for the game designers in that sense.Karol
What are some of the big issues you’ve come across in developing your game?
Recently the dismemberment, of course, is an issue with some rating agencies as this is very sensitive content. For example, in the Germany region.
On the other hand, lets say there’s maybe explaining the game mechanics. Which is something that happened to you because you didn’t understand the mechanics.Karol
Maybe that’s one of the bigger challenges. Getting people to understand the mechanics, but then when you do understand it, it’s like ahh, and there’s a lightbulb moment.
And in terms of development, I don’t know, like just speaking generally in development, there’s highs and lows throughout. Like you know, there’ll be as you know, they’ve been adding in dismemberment recently, that’s a challenge in itself bringing that, that’s a whole new mechanic and feature you’re bringing into the game. So it has to balance with what’s already in the game, in terms of working with everything. Somehow the dev team have managed it. Its been a challenging process probably, but everytime you add something new to a game, or just in general keep things ticking along like clockwork. One piece fitting into another, it’s always tough, but that’s game development.Asim
Exactly, of course, it is making this level critical parts clear to the final users, this is another challenge we were facing during the development process. But the usual stuff let’s say for the dev studios, at the end, we feel that we just get rid of.Karol
Yeah, I think the best reaction is where people get hands-on with it when they play it and do videos, or play it at events and we see previews etc. That’s the rewards for the challenges.Asim
Well is there an option to turn off the dismemberment? You’re saying it’s one of your problems, is there an option to turn it off?
We don’t have this option but we can, it’s possible of course. It’s something we need to consider maybe.Karol
Yeah potentially, I mean we’ll look at feedback. Fan feedback so far, it’s just they want it in. But, if there’s enough feedback from fans or players, so, then potentially we’ll look at the option to turn it off.
I don’t think that it has been a problem that it’s in, it’s just I guess when you’re trying to get that sort of mechanic in, it’s challenging to fit it in with everything else. But now that it’s in and it’s working fantastically well for us, and everyone is liking it so far, so its good.Asim
And it will only be better, there’s still time for some small fixes.Karol
How did you guarantee that the game was going to be as realistic as you wanted? I know you’ve got an idea that you want it to feel real, but you said you wanted it to be fun as well. So how did you get from A to B to make it as realistic but as fun as possible?
That comes from play testing. Like the guys will create stuff, and we’ll get people in secretly, and they’ll play it and give you feedback. Internally, everyone will play it and give it feedback as well.
You don’t want something to be super realistic. You could go to the minute detail of anything you’re trying to simulate, and it could just be boring and tedious. So you need to balance it as it’s a game. It’s supposed to be a form of entertainment, it’s supposed to be fun, so you need to balance the realism.
You could have like a scope you could turn, you could have all this stuff with a sniper, there’s loads of stuff you can do to make it super, ultra realistic, but then you’d find balance. And you get that through play tests and feedback etc. And I think we’ve reached that point.Asim
I agree. We actually did a lot of play testing for our game. We actually, when we were at E3 or Gamescom we were paying much attention to people playing our game. You know, we followed the feedback. There’s been a lot of changes.
Our game that we presented at E3 is different compared to this one. Even the first tutorial, the shooting range kind of that you know explains all this stuff, that was from feedback of people.Karol
Generally, we got feedback. After there was a certain point, where devs have reached out to myself, asking what are fans saying, what are people who are playing saying. We’ll have made a list of things, and the tutorial was part of that, to explain the mechanics that are in the game. So yeah it’s all based around playtesting and getting feedback.Asim
It was the same issue with the stealth paths for each of the regions. We’ve adjusted the gameplay to allow both, shooting from the sniping spot, but on the other hand if you wanted to make a stealth gameplay, we’ve adjusted the walk paths of the enemies and everything around, just to allow you the play style if you want to play stealth, we’ve adjusted.
And of course this is come through the playtesting, and I mean this is regular process, but we play a lot of attention to that. But, of course after the release, there’ll probably still be feedback. Because there are issues that will be found by players after release, and of course, we need to react to that. Just make some fixes probably and adjust.Karol
A good thing going back to how the feedback evolved, was like you said, at E3, the sniper mechanic we have now wasn’t in during the E3 build. So it was just like a general kind of red dot sight. But then feedback taken on board, we were like we want it more realistic. Which is where the wind elevation, the bullet drop, and once that was implemented, that was first showed off at Gamescom. People loved it. So we kept it in.Asim
And the funny thing actually, is this dynamic critical system, the idea of it came from programmers. So internally as well. He presented it, we said let’s look at this prototype, and we were so impressed looking at this prototype put together in just a few hours.
And this is a game changer for us. The core is sniping, but everything is around this mechanic now. It looks promising and there is a lot of potential, adjusting and tweaking this mechanic for the future.
And then we’ve got the masks, which is more futuristic stuff. But yeah, there is a lot of potential.Karol
Well, the cinematics definitely adds to that, to your feeling of realism and then fun. If there are cinematic shots, you get that satisfaction, if you haven’t got the satisfaction then there’s no point. In any game.
Again, like you mentioned, the slow-mo (cinematic shots) stuff is really satisfying when you get that shot. And you just sit back and are like, yeah, nailed it. And also with the dismemberment, along with the slow-mo shot you’ve got the satisfaction of the leg cutting off or the arm cutting off or the head exploding. So you’ve got kind of like a reward or some sort of feedback for the player either way.Asim
What advice would you give to other developers, in any game, from what you’ve learned? Is there anything where you’ve thought, no one told me this?
Planning. Planning is the key.Karol
Yeah, planning is the key. And get sleep early on.Asim
Exactly. Of course sometimes it’s really difficult because there are a lot of different factors that might happen during the development cycle. And of course, if you are just planning from the beginning you can avoid some potential issues that might appear. But trust me, every developer should start with the planning.
This is something that might be missing and might result in some…Karol
Sometimes a plan can run off course, but then you need to reign it back in.I think, just from my side, from my point of view, and from the development also, listen to your fans. Listening to what fans are saying, they’re your consumers at the end of the day, and those are the people that will champion your products.
If you listen to them, and you have constant engagement in community, feedback forums or from social media etc. just make sure you’re listening. Balancing that with your vision as a developer, plus feedback from fans, embracing that together. I think that’s what we have with Contracts.
After Sniper 3 there was lots of feedback. And Contracts is based on the developer’s vision plus the fan feedback.Asim
I love that. Gives people what they want.
Yeah, that’s what it’s about.Asim
So what made you choose Siberia, to set the game?
Just because we wanted to actually show to people that Siberia is not normally covered in snow. Because there actually is a tundra, forest, and there is actually diversity of the environment. And I think that, this is something that works for the sniping gameplay.
Because, you can actually, you are not bored, because it’s not just snow maps or something like that. You feel that the environments are dynamic, so you still feel engaged by being in Siberia and discovering some, lets say, unknown lands for people and this is cool. And from my perspective, there’s different types of visuals, there’s a lot of nice landscapes.Karol
Yeah, mountains and forestry areas as well, greenery. So yeah, people think Siberia they think snow. Ok yeah, we do have some snow, we have one major single map in the game. But, the majority of them are a lot in the day time, it’s kind of lush greenery, there’s some nice forest areas as well, so yeah.Asim
So yeah it helps the immersion because people don’t really know what Siberia is like, do they?
Yeah it’s really cool. It was cool for people actually to get this understanding. Because from the director, and the artists perspective, it’s always important to have something interesting to work on.
It’s nice. I think in terms of art the games strong. AAA quality for sure.Karol
See it sounds silly, but obviously the wind and things in the game, that would then reflect in Siberia and the snowy landscape, I think that helps the realism point.
Yeah. Absolutely correct. It’s another good point.Asim
I mean it does sound silly, but if it’s in England you’d end up going it’s not that windy, do you know what I mean?
It’s just, when you think about sniping, even like movies, where there are snipers and stuff, it’s usually in that region. So it just kind of makes sense to be in that region.Asim
How do you think the game will feel from a first-time sniper player to a veteran of the game when they pick it up for the first time? So from someone like me, that has never played a proper sniping game to someone who knows exactly what to expect.
I think for a new player there probably is a slight learning curve. But, we do have a tutorial in there. I think, you’re seeing a bit of the tutorial here, there is quite an in-depth tutorial at the start of the game that guides you through the mechanics. Including not only the sniping mechanics, but also the stealth mechanics and how the mask works, how you can scan the areas etc.
So for new players I guess it’s a lot about discovering certain things, and elements of the game.Asim
See I noticed, all of the bullets and things, that interested me. And I was more encouraged to try what the other bullets do. Like the EMP bullet, I’ve never even heard of, it’s usually an EMP grenade. So I tried it out.
I think new players are more likely to not only discover the mechanics etc. but are more likely to try new approaches. Where as veteran players who are maybe more stuck in their ways, will go for a certain approach. They’ll be in tune with the series and what we’ve done in the past. But I think the difference will be that the new players will be more likely to just discover and take…Asim
Probably more learning by their mistakes.Karol
Yeah, which is fine.Asim
Yeah, we are the kind of people, like the Dark Souls of shooters. People may just die a hundred times just to understand that this approach is not a good idea. So yeah, this is actually something probably, because I know that sometimes the beginners in sniping games are trying to rush and skip the tutorials, which is not the best idea in terms of our game.
I think this is actually good because you can stay a bit longer in the shooting range, try different styles, try different shooting options. This is actually giving some exercises before getting into the serious action gameplay.Karol
I noticed that, because as a first-time player I spent a lot more time in the tutorial. Usually, we either want to skip it, or play it for a few minutes and go ok I know it now and skip. But I thought no, I need to actually figure out what I’m doing.
Yeah. I think also in the full game, the tutorial is kind of woven into the missions as well. So you’re, before you kind of go into the first map, it’s woven in quite nicely. It teaches you the main thing is you need to know before you’re thrust in.Asim
Yeah there will be an extension lets say to the tutorial, with an in-game tutorial. Based on real enemies, instead of shooting at just some dummies.Karol
Yeah, this build it’s more of a case it’s for this specific build just to teach you the main stuff. But in the game it’s more an introduction.Asim
Yeah, it’ll be even easier to understand all the mechanics. Because there will be an extension to the tutorial presented in the game.Karol
See that’s why I really, really agree with what you guys are saying. It’s definitely worth doing the tutorial.
Last question; random one. If you were a drag queen, what would your name be?
I don’t know. George Best?Karol
I’m going to go with Kiki Le Fleur, that’s a good one.Asim
Ok, and is there anything else you’d like to say before we finish?
Just that we’re hoping, in terms of coverage you’re providing, I guess, you’ll get to capture gameplay as well. People will hopefully see what we’re really aiming for with contracts. To deliver what we’re calling the ultimate sniping experience.
There are other games out there, but I think our focus is sniping, and there also stealth parts as well, but I think the stealth part gets diluted a bit. But I think actually, that’s kind of a big part of the game as well, and there’s not many stealth games out there. And I think we’ve got a nice balance of everything, sniping, stealth and tactical approach.Asim
And that’s a wrap! We’d like to thank the guys from CI Games for inviting us along to the event and allowing us to chat with them and get hands-on with the game. You can find our preview of the game by clicking HERE which has some gameplay footage from our time with the game as well. And you can even see how I got on when I took on CI Games’ Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts Airsoft challenge I took part in, which is over on our YouTube channel. Just click HERE to check it out.