L.A. Noire, as excited as I am for it, is a potential mine field for gaming awkwardness. Not the open world or action elements of it; those things are already well founded in Rockstar projects. The potentially awkward portion of L.A. Noire comes from the interrogation aspect. Players will have to read facial expressions in order to solve crimes… That means that the game is relying in a gradually learned social skill to be played. Thus the awkwardness. How has the developer compensated for that?
Team Bondi, the studio behind L.A. Noire, lead Brendan McNamara spoke with Paste magazine about Rockstar's upcoming crime solver. First, McNamare talked about their facial capturing technology. Actors are being recorded in a dark room from all angles as they deliver their lines. The entire performance is then placed on the models in the actual game. The result is, basically, a one to one performance between to real life actor and the game character. Lies and subtle social cues will be displayed on the characters as they would on an actor, according to McNamara.
Paste actually asked the first question that came to my mind when details of this project started trickling out: what about people that are simply bad at reading these kinds of social cues? Here's McNamara's response:
"We recognize that L.A. Noire will draw all types of players with various levels of experience and skills. The goal wasn't to make a punishingly difficult experience for newcomers, or a game that felt too easy for the hardcore. Proficiency in interrogations can reward the player in a number of ways: a new clue may surface, an expedited path to the end of the case may present itself, perhaps a side story of a character unfolds. We want to reward and encourage players to strive for the truth in every interrogation, but we understand that, sometimes, you just get it wrong. And that's okay. Players will never fail a case or their progress impeded for performing dismally in an interrogation. They may just have a longer road to travel to the truth. We also recognise that women appear to be much better at reading lies than men…
…The main thrust of the narrative dictates that Phelps solves cases and moves through the ranks of the LAPD. Every case has their own fail conditions, of course, but as I mentioned earlier, we don't want a player's inability to correctly analyze suspects to prevent them from proceeding on in the case. Obviously you can fail because a game by its nature is a contest. One of the nice things about the game is that many of the cases have alternative routes throughout that different players will experience differently."
There you have it: women will be better at L.A. Noire than men. That's just science.
McNamara goes on to explain that each case will deliver a varying degree of action, so its entirely plausible that you'll be solving crime without firing a single shot. Variety like this is a tricky concept in the world of gaming; some developers deliver and others simply make promises.
We'll find out for sure on May 17th when L.A. Noire drops.