Patrick Bach, the boss of Battlefield makers EA DICE, has been speaking about the studio’s approach to Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, its upcoming reboot of the first-person free running game, and how it contrasts with the approach taken on the original.
Speaking in an interview with UK newspaper Metro, Bach said that “the promise of the [first] game was amazing, but the delivery of that emotion did not come through. So you have the promise of [the main character] Faith, which did not really come through to its full potential because of some problems with the storytelling, some problems with how it was told, etc., etc.”
“Everyone seems to love the concept of Mirror’s Edge. Not everyone loves the result.”
“When we looked at the reasons why Mirror’s Edge didn’t work the promise of it wasn’t the problem,” he continued, “everyone loves the promise, it was the realisation of the promise that was the problem. And the traversal of the city, that you wanted to be open and free, was not there.”
Bach’s comments about the original Mirror’s Edge could indicate a more open, free-form approach to level design this time around, with players given more freedom to find the best routes through a level to their goal. In Mirror’s Edge, optimal routes throughout the environment were marked clearly in red, an aesthetic which has since become instantly recognizable.
But level design isn’t the only thing which Bach believes wasn’t up to scratch. Commenting specifically about main character Faith, Bach said that “the character didn’t come through, all the way. You saw the picture of [Faith] and you saw something that you wanted to know more about, but we didn’t really tell you all of the things. So we went back and created the origin story, we went back to the drawing board and had a completely new, fresh take on it – which then changed everything, but it feels the same when it comes to the emotions.”
Rhianna Pratchett was the writer on Mirror’s Edge, and she’s returned to write Catalyst. But it’s important to remember that while a writer is often responsible for crafting the dialogue and character development, the specific focus and narrative of a game is more often than not dictated by the developer making the game, and nailed down early on in the development cycle. Artists and level designers need to know what environments need to be made, animators and modellers need to know what to animate and which characters to create, etc.
Bach’s comments seem to indicate that the studio is all too aware of the criticisms surrounding the first game, and is seemingly intent on addressing them. The fact that a second game is even in the works is something of a minor miracle – the first game underperformed critically (by EA’s standards, at least) and commercially, despite picking up a hardcore fan following and being praised for its concept and aesthetic. Bach seems almost as if he can’t quite believe that there’s a sequel himself: “No sane company, and I’m not going to say EA is not sane, would put their money on something like this,” he says in the interview.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is currently due for release on February 23rd, 2016 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. If you haven’t seen the announcement trailer from E3 earlier this month, you can have a watch below.