The Death and Rebirth of Sleeping Dogs
True Crime: Hong Kong is dead. Long live True Crime: Hong Kong.
Published: February 17, 2012
...And The Intrepid Leaders
After the presentation had concluded and I had gotten some hands-on time, I sat down with both Stephen Van Der Mescht, Executive Producer of United Front and Lee Singleton, who heads up the Square Enix London team. We had a terrific chat that covered everything from the differences in storytelling between film and games, to the impact a game's visual language can have on a player's experience. Eventually, the conversation turned to the topic of Activision's cancellation of the game, and how it affected the team's morale.
“It's tough”, said Van Der Mescht. “you put like, over 3 years of your life into something and then you're just sitting there going like 'Shit, this might not see the light of day.' It's pretty devastating. But what you learn from that is that everyone faces adversity at some point in time and it's just how you come through it right?”
So how did they come through it? Six grueling months passed from when Activision cut the cord to when Square Enix stepped up to the plate. That's a long time to be in the dark about what's going on, and whether your hard work is going to pay off or not. I expected to hear horror stories of people leaving the project wholesale but according to Van Der Mescht, that couldn't have been farther from the truth.
“Throughout that time we are able to keep every single person on our core team in the studio after the project got canceled That's how much our people believed in the game...so of course I'm gonna stand up and say 'I believe in what we're doing'. Otherwise, why am I wasting my time? I should just find a different job, right? But it will be great to have this thing see the light of day and hopefully, people love it.”
Van Der Mescht's and Singleton's pride, and that of their team, shone through as clear as day for me during their presentation. The elegant savagery of the combat is no doubt easy to discern from my descriptions, but it's all the little choices that make this game world memorable: the way the stylized action lends weight to the well restrained characterizations during cut scenes, or how the soundtrack deftly juggles menacing rap baselines with the traditional strings and winds of the region. One can't help but believe that when the game finally hits store shelves by year's end, Activision will regret having let Sleeping Dogs lie.