50 Cent: Bulletproof
50 Cent: Bulletproof – G-Unit Edition shipped in 2006.
Platform: PSP
Published by: Vivendi Universal
Developed by: High Voltage Software
Format: UMD
50 Cent: Bulletproof – G-Unit Edition was an overhead shooter; it intended to put the roaming and pickups of Diablo into Robotron mechanics, stitched together with the story, music and cutscenes of the PlayStation 2 game.  There were also close range moves similar to Mortal Kombat’s fatalities, and a multiplayer mode (vs. and capture the flag) if the regular campaign wasn’t enough, as well as virtually the entire catalog of music 50 had to offer at the time.

Simply put, this was the “shotgun wedding” of video game development. A game had to be built quickly, and while quality was important, above all the game had to ship on schedule. Period. Pre-production may have more of a word than a practice, but we did ship, and I learned a lot in the process.

Development

50 Cent: Bulletproof was a relatively high budget PS2 game at the time for Vivendi Universal, and they wanted a simultaneous PSP release to cover their bases. (Not surprising; even today the big releases try to cover as many platforms as possible.) High Voltage was something of an obvious choice; they were a studio with a history of doing games based on movies, and they previously had done the Leisure Suit Larry refresh.

Apart from the usual timeline struggles, the big hurdle in development was definitely working alongside the PS2 game. Not only did content have to be approved by Vivendi (and sometimes 50), but the game was constantly held to the PS2 “big brother”‘s standard. If a story point or cutscene changed, we not only had to match, but we had to get and convert their assets to go with it.

Music and Cheats

Worth noting if not applicable to the game design was that most (if not all) of 50’s music to date was available to listen to from the main menu. None of it was downloadable – you needed to launch the game to listen – but  I thought it was a pretty tremendous bonus for fans of the artist, especially since iPods were an expensive luxury and the PSP was a pretty popular MP3 device.

The cheat system was also fairly unusual at the time. All of the cheat modes (invincibility, unlimited ammo, unlocks, etc.) were actually shop items you could purchase. No stigma, no beating the game. Playing true to 50’s style, if you had the cash, you got the mode. (Of course, most options were incredibly expensive…)

Aftermath

As with most license games I can imagine, the budget and the timeline were tight; enough to make a plan and carry it out, but not enough to polish and revise into anything resembling a metacritic champion. The reviews are unsurprisingly harsh, but I do take some pride that we managed to meet or beat the original when it came to the scores.

High Voltage Software didn’t have the time or flexibility to make the successes that Orbital Media did, but the company’s reputation (and our paychecks) depended on us to ship the game according to contract. People had lives to live and families to take care of. A lot of what I’ve learned about project management and time management comes from the days we spent working on this game. That we could beat out the PS2 game was just icing on the cake.