Interview: Spec Ops: The Line’s Tarl Raney

Discussing pressure and politics.

After a two-hour gameplay session with Spec Ops: The Line, we sat down with Yager Development associate producer Tarl Raney for a brief discussion on the upcoming third-person shooter.

Controversy. Were you worried about possible uproar, getting an AO rating, or something like that for having your protagonist kill American soldiers in the game?

Obviously you’re always kind of worried about that. You don’t want to run into that problem. But we feel like we’ve approached the subject in as respectable manner as we can, and people will get that. It’s not gratuitous. It’s violent, but it’s almost like an anti-war game because we’re trying to show the horrors of war and how horrible it is and put the payer in a position where he can grasp what’s going on there. He has to think about his actions, and then seize the unknown consequences of his actions. We’ve tried to make it as respectful as possible while still showing it in a realistic light.

So you’re playing as U.S. Soldiers versus a rebel U.S. team?

Essentially the Damned 33rd has gone rogue, but you’re not sure why, and as you play through you start to get little bits and pieces and by the end you have the whole picture.

EA felt pressure to remove the Taliban as a playable faction in its reboot of Medal of Honor. Do you feel some of the more fantastical elements of Spec Ops, like the giant sandstorm, temper the controversy?

That’s actually something, specifically, we’ve talked about. The fact that it’s a natural disaster, rather than fighting some other government. There’s no political message here. The focus is on the squad and their journey into, basically, the Heart of Darkness. It’s a huge reference, of course. We’re staying away from the political side of things and are just trying to show that personal journey and the emotions of the player through the characters on the screen of what happens in war.

You just said you’re staying away from the political side of things, but a moment ago you told me it was almost an anti-war game.

That’s why I said almost. What I meant by anti-war is that we’re trying to set it in such a way that it’s not the John Wayne hero, it’s not one guy running in, just killing everything, black and white, these guys are bad, these guys are good. In fact, that’s part of what works so well with having American soldiers, because when you first come upon them you realize that they’re American soldiers but they’re shooting at you and your only choice, really, is to fire back. So it’s that ambiguity of the unknown consequences, you’re doing whatever it takes to stay alive. There’s no ‘It’s fun to kill people and I’m the hero.’

So no Call of Duty?

I’m not gonna say that. But there are a lot of other games that do that type of gameplay, that type of story, and they do it well. We’d be stupid to try to compete with that. Those guys have already carved out their niche and we think this is ours. What we want to do is tell this story.

Thank you for your time, Tarl!

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