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Military Aid – Andy McNab and DICE
Text: Jonas Elfving (Gamereactor Sweden)
Published 4 August 2011

Author and former SAS operative Andy McNab has joined forced with Battlefield developers DICE, and we had a chat with him to see just what he’s been up to.

Prior to my fifteen minutes with Andy McNab at the DICE offices in Stockholm I learn that photographies are strictly forbidden. There are or have been terrorist groups who have targeted him and if you do a google search for him you are likely to come up with a disguised photo or a simple silhouette. Recently a more revealing photo appeared in the tabloids, but when asked about it by The Guardian, McNab’s agent simply asked “ah, but how do you know it’s him?”

Best to be sure, it’s really McNab I’m sitting in front of.

How do I know you are who you claim to be?
“Good question. Perhaps you don’t. Perhaps I’m going to London tomorrow and turn up for interviews pretending to be Terry Pratchett.” (laughs)

You’ve gone from writing novels, to helping with movies, to audio novels with real sound effects, and seem very interested in different mediums. What do you like about games?
“It’s a fantastic medium, I play with my God sons and get beaten every time. But when I was asked to come on board for Battlefield 3 last year, I was fascinated by how these things are created. It’s a similar process to making a film, but everything in films are expensive: towers, cameras, all the employees and so on. But in the process of making a game you can change it all, stop and think about it.

In video games everyone is part of the creative process, unlike in the motion picture industry. There are people there to hammer in nails or sort the electricity. There is a natural enthusiasm among the people working here at DICE, you can tell it’s guys who enjoy computers and play a lot in their spare time.”

What have you and DICE learned from eachother during the project?
“I have learned an awful lot about the technology that goes into creating a game, especially from the sound guys. It’s crazy, the have 60 or 70 different sounds from the one and same M4 fired – in rain from a distance at 4 in the morning, indoors around s7 at night and so on. The level of details is just simply fantastic. They do their geek things, and it’s great. The amount of work that goes into one fired round is enormous.”

We have called the sound team the best in the business.
“Definitely, I hardly understand what they are talking about half of the time. I simply smile and nod my head.” (laughs)

Having experienced war first hand, have you been able to teach them something about sound as well?
“Yes, one example of what we have discussed is something called “crack and thump”, where you can tell the distance to something who fires off an artillery piece. First you hear a “crack”, when it’s fired, and then the “thump” when it hits the ground. With this information you can measure a rough distance to the enemy. Even if distances aren’t great in the games DICE have been able to work with that information.”

You experience the real thing and then used your experience for both works of fiction and non-fiction. Now you’re lending a hand in creating a game lots of young people are going to play. Do you feel any sense of responsibility, is there a message gamers should get out of it?
“Not a message, but a responsibility. Games are often treated quite poorly in the media. But the people here are very responsible and think things over – should we do it this way or that way. There are limits to how explicit you can be. There is a mutual agreement between those who produce games and those who buy it. You don’t let you 9 year-old drink alcohol, so why do you let someone who is under 18 play a war game? Meanwhile in the news, in the middle of the day far worse things are aired. You can see children die.”

When you try Battlefield 3 or other shooters, does that bring up any good or bad memories from your own experiences?
“Not bad memories, just… memories actually. What I have done is seen scenes from the game, and tried to put them into a context. Like the tanks, for instance. They are the homes of soldiers, and become very personal with time. The men have barbecues in the rear, some have set up air conditioners as you live weeks in them. You hook up your mp3 player to it so you get music, and so on. You will see little details like these in the game.”

Any other little things or details you have helped out with?
“The script was more or less done when I came in, but I have worked a lot on what we call motivation – why people jump from one storyline to another. Dialogue was another thing I worked on, how soldiers talk. For instance you never use any negative phrases in the military. Words like “possibly”, “try to” or “will attempt” aren’t used. In the field you don’t say “today we shall try and reach our goal at three”, but “we shall reach it at three”. Things like this are also reflected in facial expressions that DICE have been working on.”

You also have a Battlefield 3 novel coming, what can we expect from it and how was it writing it?
“I hope it gets done in time. (laughs) It’s supposed to come out at the same time as the game and it’s been a challenge. I have always written in first person, but this one is written in third person. I thought it would be easier to write in third person as you can jump between different scenes. I was cocky, and thought it would be much easier.”

Source: Gamereactor


by Robert Purchese 1/08/2011

Battlefield earned its stripes as a multiplayer game. Fast forward 11 years and Battlefield, now promoted as the contender to the colossal Call of Duty, will have to exhibit similar skill at telling a story. Who better to hire as help, thought Battlefield 3 developer DICE, than best-selling author and former SAS member Andy McNab.

McNab, a pseudonym, shot to fame for writing Bravo Two Zero, his account of a failed Gulf War SAS patrol. He’s written more books based on his own experiences since, as well as fiction and an autobiography. McNab also spent time in Hollywood advising on the use of weapons and military manoeuvres, and worked with Michael Mann and the actors on Heat. Now, his silhouetted self has turned to games.

Andy McNab is co-writing a book called Battlefield 3: The Russian to accompany the game. The book fleshes out game character Dmitri “Dima” Mayakovsky. But McNab’s influence on Battlefield 3 doesn’t end there; he’s been working with DICE for just under a year, ensuring that the story works, the game looks believable, and that the actors behave like real soldiers.

Eurogamer talked to Andy McNab.

Eurogamer: What are you doing on Battlefield 3?

Andy McNab: Working on the game on a number of different levels. I was asked to look at the script, and I was looking at motivations and justifications for things to happen. It was more question and answer than a creative process on that.

And then sitting down with the teams doing different aspects of different levels and looking at the aesthetics, trying to get it looking right. You can look at a catalogue of tanks online, but actually what we forget is that for the tank crews that’s their home, they live in it, so they personalise it. It’s trying to give it that feel of being right.

Then looking at the tactics, what people are doing on the ground and the reasons why they’re doing it, and transferring it into the motion capture studio. Actors want to know why they’re doing something in a certain way and why they’re saying things. Soldiers’ dialogue is always progressive and positive, there’s no “what we’re trying to do”. It’s “what we’ll do is…” – it’s all that positive stuff. Trying to talk about that and why that happens, so when the actors do their two or three lines of dialogue they’ve got that background to it, as well as holding the weapons in a realistic way so it looks like they’ve been using them for years.

Eurogamer: Did you change anything in Battlefield 3?

Andy McNab: Certainly, on the tank attack aspects. I’ve already talked about tank crews, how they live and how everybody’s trying to plumb in their iPhones and all that stuff. But when they’re going through the compound, the big desert fortification where they build up the sand to make it like a fort complex, it’s an exact replica of one that is on the Iraq-Iranian border.

You get these big, battalion-sized fortifications. It looks like some medieval embankment. So we’re sitting down looking at all the bits and pieces coming out about the major tank attack and looking at the fortifications, and I remembered that about four years ago I was flying along the border with the MOD, because I do these trips for the Ministry of Defence, you know, the Brits. And we flew over these fortifications that we used for 10 years in the war between Iraq and Iran. And as you do I just took some pictures. I thought ah, you know what, I’ve got some pictures. When I got back to the UK I’m trolling through the lap top trying to find it and I sent the pictures back to DICE.

So what happened is you’ve got an exact replica of one of the fortifications that’s on the Iraq-Iranian border. I wasn’t quite sure if it was going to be used, but the next time I come to DICE it’s there, in the game. That was really good.

Eurogamer: What shape was Battlefield 3 in when you first saw it?

Andy McNab: These guys know what they’re doing, they’ve been doing it for years in different games. But what they want to do is get it right. The meat was already there. And the beauty of it is, unlike film – where you have a point where the creativity has got to stop because you’ve got to film – you can still be creative and change and adapt, and everybody wants to as well. So the process was good.

Eurogamer: Did you do any motion-capture?

Andy McNab: No, I didn’t get the kit on. When you got the actors there and the stunt guys there you do the walk-through talk-through with them. On part of the promotion packs there’s some film of me on the motion capture, on the floor in the studio doing bits and pieces with the actors.

I’d look ridiculous with one of those suits on anyway.

Eurogamer: Has working on Battlefield 3 brought back memories?

Andy McNab: When they’re in Iran and in the game it looks and feels very much like the Gulf War. You know, about a million-and-a-half people got killed in that war. And actually a lot of the urban stuff in Tehran takes me back to infantry days, running around the streets of Northern Ireland. The tactics, the way that you operate in an urban environment, is obviously different to a rural environment. That was quite good, because I was trying to give practical examples of why guys on the ground would do a certain thing, so the guys had some kind of context for it.

Eurogamer: In real-life, war isn’t pretty, but a game can’t go that far. How much more gruesome could Battlefield 3 be?

Andy McNab: I don’t think it’s about that. What we’re trying to do is to entertain – it’s a vehicle of entertainment. We’re not trying to say, with any ideology, that this is what war is really like. What we’re trying to do is give people entertainment that actually feels right, because when you’re playing a game or watching a film, it’s really easy for your unconscious mind to go “that’s wrong; I don’t know what it is, but it’s wrong”. All the effort is really about making this feel right. But it’s entertainment. It’s not a documentary.

Eurogamer: Games today resemble real-life – are video game makers behaving responsibly enough with what they portray?

Andy McNab: I think they are responsible. If you look at it as part of what people are exposed to: there’s a nine year-old today, and when he comes back from whatever he’s doing he can turn the telly on and he can watch rape and murder at half-past six at night. Or he can turn on 24-hour TV and watch famine in Somalia and kids literally dying in front of his eyes. People are more exposed now to trauma of all types than they’ve ever been before.

Eurogamer: Do you play Call of Duty?

Andy McNab: Yeah, yeah I play them all. And I lose at them, from Wii Bowling upwards. I’ve got a couple of godsons and they range between nine and just turned 14, and I’m really bad – I get annihilated by them all the time.

Eurogamer: Is this a one-off or will you work with Battlefield again on four, five, six?

Andy McNab: Well I hope so yeah! All depends how this game goes, ha ha. So far so good. I like the process very much, because you’ve got that flexibility and everybody’s involved in that process. It’s good fun and I enjoy it.

Eurogamer: Is this your first game project?

Andy McNab: No. Like all these things, whether it’s books or the media in general, there’s always offers that come in. But nine out of ten times, quite frankly, they’re sh*t. Once something comes up and it’s something I would like to do I ask has it got its own credibility – could it stand alone anyway? It doesn’t become enjoyable if you’re just called on board because they think you’re going to elevate it. Well this Battlefield 3 has got its own elevation anyway, so you’re joining something that is already a winner, which is a great thing to do.

Eurogamer: How much are EA paying you?

Andy McNab: Well my answer to that is: not enough! Ha ha. Unfortunately there’s no one here from the EA office listening! No, it’s all good, and you get loads of time spent in Stockholm. It’s fantastic.

Source :EuroGamer