GamersInfo.net: Can you tell us about your background in the gaming industry and how you got involved in this project?
Bill Gardner: My name is Bill Gardner and I'm a designer at Irrational Games. I arrived at Irrational three years ago, shortly after graduating film school in Boston. I began as QA, then stepped up to help with smaller design tasks as well as a few Associate Producer roles. When I had the chance to help design SWAT, I was thrilled.
Bill Gardner: VUG approached us about taking on development on the game. A good number of us here are huge tactical shooter fans. Needless to say, we jumped at the opportunity. Our primary reference point during production was SWAT 3. As for our inspirations, we thought working on a game based on real life heroes was inspiring enough. I'm not saying that to sound tacky, but even pretending to walk in their shoes was a very humbling experience.
As for the vibe of the game, we modeled a lot of our look around the gritty urban settings of films like David Fincher's Seven.
Bill Gardner: We have a library of reference material including several books on police munitions. There's a wealth of knowledge out there if you know where to look. Whenever we needed direction beyond what we could research, we used our SWAT advisor, Ken Thatcher.
GamersInfo.net: What resources did you have available to help you ensure realism in the tactics and strategy used by real life SWAT teams?
Bill Gardner: We were amazingly fortunate to have Ken Thatcher as our advisor. Having someone with over 25 years of actual experience on the SWAT team was vital. The insight he gave us on just about every aspect of the game has been invaluable. He showed us everything from how to hold an MP5 properly to how to clear a room. It's input like this that helped us create the most realistic tactical shooter possible.
GamersInfo.net: Did you have an opportunity to work with any actual SWAT officers in the development of the game? If so, what was your impression of them and how much did it help you in creating the game environment?
Bill Gardner: Working with Ken Thatcher was almost surreal. I mean, at first glance he's a totally normal person that you could bump into on the street, but when you talk to him, you can just tell he's been around the block. Even though he's about as modest as one can be, he just has a presence about him. I suppose it comes with the turf when you put your life on the line on a regular basis. Just hearing the way he talked alone got us going.
GamersInfo.net: How extensive is the armory of available weapons in the game?
Bill Gardner: Altogether, there are over 25 weapons and tactical aids in the game. Guns include M4, MP5, Taser, etc. Things get really interesting when you start picking your tactical aids though. From flashbangs and CS gas to the opti-wand, the choices are very diverse and have the potential to completely change the way you play missions. We're also including several multiplayer only weapons as well.
Bill Gardner: We were fortunate enough to get our hands on some real weapons and even experience a real flashbang explosion. That was an unforgettable experience. It made me realize why people give up after SWAT deploys one.
GamersInfo.net: How extensive is SWAT 4 in terms of hours of game play and number of scenarios?
Bill Gardner: It's always tough to make those kinds of predictions. For a straight playthrough of the single player campaign it should take most people 10-15 hours. With the Quick Mission Maker, competitive multiplayer and Co-Op, you'll definitely be getting a lot more flashbang for your buck though.
GamersInfo.net: What improvements were made to the game over its predecessors (SWAT3 etc)?
Bill Gardner: Besides the obvious visual facelift, which is quite the leap, we've added several new modes to single and multiplayer, completely reworked and streamlined the interface and added tons of new AI behaviors. And that's just for starters. I think we've hit the sweetspot of adding just the right amount of new things to make it feel new but not alien to SWAT fans.
Bill Gardner: The game takes place in an unspecified city in the northeast. There are definitely some hints that would lead the player to think it was New York, but we thought it was best to leave a little to the imagination.
GamersInfo.net: Are the scenarios based off of actual SWAT case files?
Bill Gardner: We felt there's something not quite right about basing missions on real life events, so no. That said, we did get some ideas from case files we came across.
Bill Gardner: You bet. We're shipping with the SWAT 4 Level Editor. Modders who are familiar with the Unreal Editor should be able to dig right in. Given SWAT 3's success and popularity within the mod community, we're anticipating a great deal of mods.
GamersInfo.net: Will the multiplayer aspect of the game allow each player to control a team of officers? or just a single avatar?
Bill Gardner: You'll take control of a single player. Rather than interacting with Ais we thought it would be best to leave the tactics and communication to live players.
Bill Gardner: The competitive multiplayer modes will support 2-16 players. Co-Op will feature 5 SWAT officers, just like the single player.