We recently talked to Wayne Cline, Producer of NARC for the Xbox and PlayStation 2. NARC is a gritty action game that puts you in the role of a NARC officer. Drugs are part of your job and it is easy to get too involved, possibly even getting addicted to drugs yourself. We talked about this controversial game, how addiction works in the game and how the games playing public are going to react to it.
Pro-G: The original NARC caused problems at the time with its explicit violence and drugs based content. How do you feel the market and the public's perception of games have changed since 1988?
WC: I think the game-playing public has matured a great deal since 1988 and mature games have proven to be a very popular market. Players expect more realistic and gritty experiences from their games and are interested in cutting-edge content. I think this has been reflected in all forms of media, from books to movies and now to interactive entertainment.
Pro-G: How much pressure did you feel to update NARC into something with more emergent gameplay instead of sticking to the simplicity of the original?
WC: There wasn't really any pressure. Instead it was a conscious decision we all agreed upon. We didn't want to just repeat the arcade game with prettier graphics; we wanted to give the player a new experience. But for those who miss the classic arcade game, we have included it as well as an unlockable bonus!
Pro-G: How does the duel personality work with NARC? It sounds interesting, but usually in games where you have the choice to be good or bad ('Fable' for example) it ends up being far easier with one than the other?
WC: Although the player can do many "bad" things in the game, there's still a balancing strategy they'll need to employ. If the player does too many bad things, they'll actually be busted from NARC officer to beat cop. If they continue to misbehave, they'll be kicked off the force entirely. The player cannot play any missions until they clean up their act and get reinstated to the NARC squad. So, the player can do bad things but at some point they'll need to do good things, like bust criminals or turn contraband in at the evidence drop, to keep from going too far.
Pro-G: Are there any changes in appearance that immediately show if you are a good or bad cop (again, similar to 'Fable')?
WC: The player's behaviour is tracked by a badge rating. Every time the player does something bad or good, a badge will appear on the screen and show the decrease or increase of the player's rating. If the player goes too far, they can be kicked to beat cop and this is shown by the player wearing a street cop uniform. If they continue down the bad path they will be kicked off the force and will be in street clothes and have to work as a vigilante, performing citizen's arrests, all while possibly being hunted by the cops themselves.
Pro-G: Can you explain how the addiction meter works and what addictions mean for your character?
WC: Each drug is addictive in the game, some more so than others. If the player takes too much of a drug they will become addicted which is represented by an addiction meter on the screen. The meter will fill and when it becomes completely full, the player will go into withdrawal. The action freezes and the player is seen "wrestling" with the addiction and must keep a marker within the save zone for a while. If the marker goes out of the zone, the player will "black out" and the player will collapse and awaken somewhere randomly in the city with a loss of inventory. If a player is in a mission they will fail the mission and have to attempt it again.
Pro-G: Were you influenced by films such as 'Training Day' and 'Narc'?
WC: We were definitely influenced by these films. We're trying to portray what it might be like for a NARC cop to be caught in morally ambiguous situations and these movies did that perfectly. But we also wanted some humour so we were also inspired by some of the classic buddy cop movies like 48 Hours, Lethal Weapon, and Stake Out.
Pro-G: What was working with Michael Madsen and Ron Perlman like?
WC: It was great. Since both Michael Madsen and Ron Perlman have done video game work before, they knew what to expect but they were still excited to be involved with NARC. Bill Bellamy was especially excited and even hung around the studio for a couple hours after his recording session to play the game.
Pro-G: The game will retail at an unusually low price. What was the reason for this decision and do you think some people will dismiss the game as a budget title?
WC: The storyline in NARC is one that many people find compelling, regardless of whether they're hardcore gamers or just casual players. As a result, we wanted a price-point that made the game accessible to as many adult gamers as possible. Titles like ESPN's NFL 2K4 and others have shown that there's a significant audience within that price group. With the growing installed base and success of Mature-themed products, we feel the market is ripe for a Mature-rated $19.95 game.
Pro-G: Finally, who do you think will enjoy NARC? It clearly isn't a game for everyone.
WC: Adult gamers looking for a new experience will enjoy NARC the most. We are definitely not a game for kids so we made a mature title that adults will enjoy and want to see through to the end. We have a really strong story that will keep the players' interest and with the other various items to find and side missions to attempt, we hope the players will find the experience unique but ultimately fun.
We'd like to thank Wayne Cline and Phil Robinson from Midway for their time. NARC is set for a May 13th 2005 release on Xbox and PlayStation 2, priced at Â£19.99 RRP.