Activision’s Graham Hagmaier on rebooting Goldeneye

Having the responsibility of updating a game such as Goldeneye can be quite a challenge, but what developer would actually refuse that opportunity? Remakes, especially the ones from the last few years, have seen all sorts of treatments for lazy emulation to high resolution bumps to full-on overhauls. Goldeneye, takes an interesting route by playing it safe in some areas while trying out some new ideas, such as removing the Cold War element. We had a brief chat with Activision producer Gragam Hagmaier on what to look forward to with both the Wii and DS remakes of 007 Goldeneye.

Can you reenact your reaction when you first found out you were working on this revered multiplayer console game?

I was ecstatic to find out I was working on it first of all. It’s a huge, huge honor to work on this property and also a huge weight on your shoulders. It’s a delicate balance to deliver something brand-new and fresh for a 2010 audience but also delivering what everyone loved in the 1997 game.

Considering the 13 year gap, you have a much younger audience wondering what the big deal is. What are the things that you bring to it that will appeal to that demographic?

What’s funny is that, through a lot of our testing and focus groups that we’ve done at Activision, people that weren’t even born when Goldeneye came out know about Goldeneye and many have actually played it through an N64 emulator, online via the Goldeneye source engine, or literally on the N64 that their dad or older brother dusted off. It’s hilarious that 13 year olds who were born the year it game out are playing it.

The main concept about the new things we’re bringing to the game is accessibility. We’ve got a whole new set of control schemes. We’ve got Classic Controller Pro, which a lot of people are familiar with for Xbox and PS3 users. There’s obviously the standard Wii set-up with Nunchuck for frequent Wii users. There’s also Gamecube and Wii Zapper controls.

We also have online play for up to eight players which you would expect from a modern 2010 game. It’s akin to more of a modern shooter where you rank up with experience points, weapon perks, and gadgets.

Obviously there’s four-player split-screen, which a lot of people remember from the 1997 game. It delivers on a lot of the cool maps you should remember. There’s new maps, new characters, new weapons, new game modifiers. There are things like invisibility and singularity as well as classic modes like Golden Gun.

Tell us more about changing the Bond character model to Daniel Craig.

With every era there’s a new James Bond. While we are using Danial Craig, we brought in the original writer, Bruce Feirstein. He came in and wrote our script and updated it for 2010. He kept the core story, made it less about the Cold War and made it more about the financial crisis that’s going on right now.

Obviously the license holders didn’t mind that.

Yeah, we were actually working hand-in-hand with them and this was their suggestion actually. We had no objection to updating the game with Daniel Craig.

They brought their whole creative staff with them. We got access to their costume designer, their concept artist, the music composer, the writer, and of course all the executive producers. Activision, Eurocom and Danjaq worked together in reviewing builds and asking often, “Would this fit in the James Bond universe? Does this fit Goldeneye?” It like being involved in a film, really. Both this and Blood Stone have had that kind of treatment. That film composer I mentioned actually did the music for Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale. It’s fantastic.

Can you touch up upon some of the ideas that were tossed around when deciding what would be cut in this new version?

The Boris character was the one notable thing that was cut. You won’t find him in the new version. He has been taken out of the plot but we still have all the other characters and the rest of the levels. He’s the one who hit the cutting room floor per se. Everything else is still intact.

How does the DS experience differ?

Well, they’re both independently developed games. n-Space, our DS developer, has developed a lot of Call of Duty games on the DS. It’s really more customized for that particular mobile audience. They want short levels, instant gameplay, lots of stylus interactions as well as wi-fi multiplayer. It supports six players, which is pretty amazing for the DS. For multiplayer, the DS version also has game modifiers and additional game maps. The Wii version and the DS version also follow the exact same plot.