Raven Software co-founder Brian Raffel has revealed details about working with Soldier of Fortune consultant John Mullins and creating the first limb dismemberment system in video games.
IGN’s Ryan McCaffrey sat down with Raffel to discuss Raven Software’s broad history in the latest episode of IGN Unfiltered, along with discussions on Call of Duty: Black Ops: Cold War, Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, Hexen, Heretic, Soldier of Fortune, and more.
Soldier of Fortune is a military shooter based on the popular real-world magazine of the same name and was built on the Quake 2 engine. It was perhaps most notable for the GHOUL tech that allowed individual limb dismemberment for the first time in games, a mechanic which would go on to become relatively common in the shooter genre, and even become a central pillar of games like Dead Space. It was also used to create realistic lightsaber damage and limb severing in Raven’s later game, Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast.
Before beginning the discussion in earnest, Raffel revealed the motivation for the creation of the GHOUL system. “Let me just be clear: there was no goal to make this… to just make it super violent. The goal was, and this came from my brother, Steve… He’s like ‘Let’s just make it as realistic as possible.’ So that was the goal. And what is the most realistic thing? Instead of just shooting a body and having it just drop and fade away, we wanted to make it as realistic as possible, not for the sake of violence, but just for the sake of reality.”
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Raffel also commented on the first time he saw the tech in action. “I still remember the day, though, when we got the GHOUL system in. Of course, we saw the shooting of the limbs… but when a body falls down and you can still shoot it, and it’s still reactive… that felt really real. It brought a realism to me that I never saw in a game before.”
To craft the system, Raven brought in a consultant, who ended up being critical to the game’s evolution. “We actually had a consultant from Soldier of Fortune [magazine], John Mullins, who was great. He was like, ‘You don’t really know combat until you smell what’s going on, and hear it, and feel it. So, that kind of inspired us, a bit.” As the team at Raven continued to work with Mullins to create the game, they were impressed and eventually decided to make him the main character.
“That was a fun project, and I sometimes wish we would have continued it, and… evolved it… into a higher-brow situation… We definitely had the action… The weapons felt great. The multiplayer was a lot of fun. We had so much fun working on that game. It’s always a good indicator for us when we’re making games when you, yourself, are playing and you can’t stop. Heretic was like that. Soldier of Fortune was definitely like that.”
For more interviews with the best, brightest, most fascinating minds in the games industry, check out be sure to check out every episode of IGN Unfiltered, which includes talks with The Game Awards creator Geoff Keighley, Master Chief co-creator Marcus Lehto, 343’s Bonnie Ross, Valve’s Robin Walker & Chris Remo, Respawn’s Stig Asmussen, and so many more.