Ben Ward addresses The Club
We were rather impressed with The Club, Sega and Bizarre Creations' new arcade-style action title, and it seemed entirely appropriate then for a quick chat with Ben Ward, Community and Web Lead at the British developer.
Firstly, thank you for taking the time to speak to us. To kick things off, how different is developing an action title to creating the racing titles for which Bizarre is most famous? Is it nerve-racking to tread new ground, or a breath of fresh air?
Well actually we have two internal game teams at Bizarre; one for racing, and one for shooting. The racing team, or Amax as we call it, are the folks behind the Gotham games. The shooting team, affectionately known as Shitstorm, previously worked on Fur Fighters and Treasure Planet, before making their way onto The Club.
However, we have made use of our racing game expertise to build The Club. This isn't just in terms of technology... some of our artists and coders have made the move from Amax to Shitstorm in order to share their skills cross-team.
The premise makes The Club sound like a shooter-come-sports title. How close to the truth is this crude summary?
Haha, everybody always tries to describe the game in one sentence. Even we have trouble with this... in truth it could be compared to lots of games: PGR, Doom (speed runs), Tony Hawks, Street Fighter, etc. The beauty of The Club is that it's quite an original concept, and we find it flattering that people have so much trouble describing what it's all about! The best way to learn about the game is to give the demo a try... but don't just play a level once! You'll need to play each level at least two or three times before you truly appreciate what the game is all about.
Plot isn't too much of a big deal in The Club. Sure, it's there... but it's not the reason you play the game. The real reason is the gameplay, and the "just one more go" nature of it all. You never hear people saying "I'm just going to play Street Fighter, because I can't wait to see who Zangief's real father is" or whatever. You're there for the fighting, first and foremost. The Club is the same.
How will the gunplay in The Club differ from other games in the genre? How much time is being spent to ensure this side of the game is water-tight?
Controlling the gunplay will be familiar if you've played other third-person shooters. We have a sprint button, an aim button, etc. However, the difference with The Club isn't the actual mechanics of moving around... it's all about how you actually play the game. In The Club, you won't be hiding in cover or sneaking around - you should be literally sprinting between enemies. You don't shoot bad guys as soon as you see them, but rather time your shots to best serve your multiplier. Oh, and of course - if you're not getting headshots then you're doing it wrong...
The locations and characters serve the gameplay first and foremost. We picked all of the locations for their ability to add interesting and varied game modes and styles of play. We've got abandoned Ocean Liners; with their narrow corridors and fast, guided gameplay. Then we've got huge open warzones (in the middle of devastated cities), which have large courtyards to sprint through, and smashed buildings punctuating the open space.
The same goes for the characters. Each guy has a different set of attributes, meaning that you should pick the character which suits your playing style. Of course, some characters will be best at certain levels... and getting the top high score will depend greatly on which character you choose.
How will the game's environments be involved in the gameplay?
The environments have scripted set pieces, which are great for adding cinematic effects to the game. For example, shooting a rocket launcher enemy at the top of a bell tower in Venice will cause the entire building to come crashing down, and a huge brass bell to smash into the courtyard in front of you. Pretty cool stuff.
Multiplayer is a mouth-watering prospect. Tell us about the different modes, and the nature of online play.
We've tried to make the multiplayer as original and enticing as the single player in The Club. That means that it's not just standard Deathmatch games (although they are in there for the purists). Simple game modes like Scorematch are based on The Club's scoring system... it's not just the most kills that wins the match. You could kill less people, but gain more points through headshots, rico-slays, death rolls, etc.
The more complex modes are ones like Siege and Team Fox Hunt, where your team must work together to complete a common objective.
Which recent release do you most admire, and what has influenced The Club most?
We haven't really had any one game influence The Club during development. We're all massive gamers, and this has been put together from all the ideas we had kicking around internally. Of course comparing the game to other titles (like Doom, Street Fighter, etc.) makes it easier to describe... but the reality of it is that The Club has been built up from our very first prototype (a simple "box man" shooter where static targets were the only enemy!).
Finally, will The Club's plot and frenetic gameplay leave open the possibility of an ongoing series - perhaps in a similar fashion to Epic's Unreal Tournament games?
Maybe! Unfortunately any potential sequels won't be made by Bizarre Creations, as we're now part of the Activision family and already hard at work on the next games for them. Sega own the rights to The Club, and I think everybody at Bizarre is secretly hoping that they'll run with the game and make the sequel we think it deserves. I guess we'll all have to wait and see!
You can read our full review of The Club, now.