Driver: San Francisco’s unusual mechanics and “it was all a dream” plot were inspired in part by Google Earth.
Speaking to EDGE, Ubisoft Reflections founder Martin Edmondson said the game’s shift mechanic – by which Tanner jumps from one vehicle to the next – was the basis for the game’s narrative.
“The idea was: Google Earth live,” he explained.
“Everyone’s been on Google Earth and has had fun finding their house or where they work, but of course that’s a static photograph taken six months or a year ago. We wanted to be able to pull out and see the whole world running – all the cars driving round, all the people walking around and going on about their daily life – and you could be any car you want, you can be any person in that city.
“So we then set about designing a system that would be very reactive and fun, and part of the enjoyment and skill of playing would be the use of Shift.”
Edmondson said he didn’t want the reportedly delightful Shift mechanic to be a gimmick tacked onto the multiplayer, but to be built into the single player campaign – necessitating Tanner’s head injury, resultant coma, and the dream in which the game takes place.
Although may developers forefront narrative, injecting heavy drama, Ubisoft Reflections took a light-hearted approach markedly distinct from earlier games’ grim tone.
“We did not want this to take itself too seriously. We didn’t want to be pretentious with it, because when you describe what’s actually happening it’s a tricky sell. So the first thing we wanted to do was to lighten the tone,” Edmonson explained.
“It also gave us an incredible amount of opportunity for humour. You can imagine Tanner shifting into a huge range of people in the city, and the passenger sitting next to him thinks it’s the same person, so Tanner has to very quickly work out who he is, what situation he’s in and find adequate responses. You find quite a lot of funny dialogue when he suddenly shifts into somebody and he doesn’t know and gets a broadside comment from the person sitting next to him.”
As such, Reflections recorded over 80,000 lines of dialogue for the hundreds of characters Tanner could meet on his psychic travels, even going so far as to write stories for these extras.
“There are also people on the streets that you just come across again, and their situation has progressed slightly – for example, splitting up with a boyfriend,” Edmonson said. “There are all sorts of things that are going on in the city.”
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Driver: San Francisco is due on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in early September, but the PC release has been delayed to later that month.