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Ghost Recon Breakpoint: Interview With UX Director Matthew Tomkinson

Ubisoft Paris announced their follow up to 2017’s Ghost Recon Wildlands today. Ghost Recon Breakpoint continues the story of Nomad and a new batch of Ghost operators as they infiltrate the island of Auroa. The Ghosts are tasked to combat ex-Ghost and leader of the Wolves, Cole D. Walker. Played by Jon Bernthal, Walker has since gone rogue since his recent introduction in Ghost Recon Wildlands story DLC: Operation Oracle.

Ubisoft invited us out to sit in on a briefing before the announcement and have a brief chat with the development team. I sat down with Ubisoft Paris’ UX Director, Matthew Tomkinson to discuss new features and the inspiration behind them.

Steve: Can you tell us about your involvement in developing Ghost Recon Breakpoint?

Matthew: I started working on Ghost Recon Wildlands quite a while ago. I started working on [Ghost Recon Breakpoint] since the beginning. I’ve been on all aspects–– the way we organize is we have a creative team of five people including an art director, the game director, and myself. All creative discussions happen together. So when we thought of Ghost Recon Breakpoint we knew that we wanted to put the players in the boots of a spec-ops even more. That was the starting point of lots of elements.

That is why we wanted to work more on all the other aspects when you are not fighting as a spec-ops. The time you spend navigating the world, you can feel fatigued. Or how you can be injured in battle and how you heal yourself, and how you rest.

Since we are [developing] a co-op game, we wanted to focus on the brotherhood that you can have in the bivouac for example. We thought of the world we wanted to have. We wanted a varied world and thought of the threats that we wanted the Ghosts to fight. That’s how we came up with all the creative elements in Ghost Recon Breakpoint.

Steve: What points of criticisms and feedback did the development team take from the Wildlands community for Ghost Recon Breakpoint?

Matthew: It was really great to launch Ghost Recon Wildlands and the updates including [Operation Oracle]. We could get all the good feedback from the players and negative feedback. Creating a game with all those elements is so much easier than when you start a franchise. People had an idea of Ghost Recon but not as an open-world. Now it was much easier.

There were several elements that we wanted to tackle. Since we had a big world, we never got a lot of vehicles. So we knew we wanted to invest a lot in the way you handle the vehicles so that it felt comfortable when you navigate. We also wanted to put an emphasis on the story-driven content––that is part of what I focus on. We wanted to have stronger characters. We wanted the camera to be closer to the characters so it could be more intimate, and have more complex characters. That’s why we focus on dialogue options and all the cinematic aspects of the game. Also the variety of AI elements. Now, the AI has better coordination and have more archetypes which bring more tactical challenges to the players.

There was quite a lot, but we kept a lot of the fundamentals that the players loved. The freedom of choice, the fact that you can jump into a co-op game and switch to solo if you want. They love the PVP so we will be bringing it at launch.

Steve: Can you talk to us about the new features. Were any inspired by feedback, or were the new features always something you wanted from the get-go?

Matthew: It depends on the features. As I said, there are lots of features that were inspired by pushing the fantasy of being a spec-ops soldier. When we developed the Prone Camo feature, for example, we think of the Ghost as being invincible. They are supposed to blend in with their environment. When you go prone, you are more or less invisible, but we wanted to go even further––where you become one with the environment.

So we did that, you saw that you can cover yourself with mud. Then we thought about how it was not only mud in the world. It works that way in the sand. It works in the snow. It works in the grass. You can even use the grass around you and brush your face to become green. You will become totally invisible and feel powerful. You can take down enemies while being invisible. Those are the elements that we knew our players love and a good way to make them feel like a spec-ops then they were previously.

Steve: There was also mention of going over terrain and how weather conditions can affect that––if it’s raining or muddy you can slip. Are there other instances where certain conditions change the gameplay?

Matthew: Yes, of course. When you are using vehicles, it really isn’t the same physics. If it’s raining, you will slip. All the different biomes bring something new. You won’t have the same weather throughout different areas. The way you slip downhill will depend on the weather. In the bivouac, you can change the time of day. If you choose to attack at night, it is a tactical choice that we are adding to the freedom and player experience.

Steve: Are you guys ready to talk about the map size of Auroa in comparison to Bolivia?

Matthew: We are used to building really huge worlds and what we are building is not only an island but an archipelago. So the main island is the same size as Bolivia we created with Wildlands. We have procedural technology that helps build a huge and stylized world. We’re also spending lots of time to make sure the world is very dense with lots of things to discover. There are so many [points of interest] that you will discover only if you go offroad. When you discover them yourself, you are rewarded with loot. All of them are unique and made by hand. There is a lot to uncover and incentivizes the player to go off and discover.

But, the main island is only the beginning! There are more islands to come. There is the red island that you can see at the beginning of the game but can only access once you have reached a certain level in the game. You can see it from afar, a silhouette of a volcano with smoke coming out. When you go there, you will see so many surprises. We will show a bit to the players, but they will want to see it for themselves.  When you open the map, you will see there are areas where we intend to bring more content. There will be lots of them that will come after the launch of the game.

Steve: Awesome! Well, that’s all I had, thank you for your time, Matthew!

Ghost Recon Breakpoint will be available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on October 4th, 2019.

A big thank you to Ubisoft for inviting me out to sit in on the briefing and allowing me the time to speak with Matthew Tomkinson.

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Steve is based in Toronto, Ontario. His enthusiasm and adoration of the video game industry go back to the days of SNES. Find him on Twitter and join in on the escapades.

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