Erin Roberts Producer at Digital Anvil talks about Brute Force
The latest on this redefining Xbox action game.
Ferrago: I gather Brute Force plans to be a big-hitter for the Xbox as an action game; how will it take full advantage of the Xbox's hardware, and what unique features will it boast to keep gamers hooked? ER: We‘re planning to use every ounce of CPU and GPU power we have available to really bring the BF experience to the player. Because we’ve had an extra year with the hardware over titles which shipped last Christmas, we’ve really explored how we can optimize our code effectively to really push the quality bar for Xbox. We have four unique characters who have very different skills and personalities. We want the player to really get to know and like the squad, and live the story with them from when they are thrown together, until they complete their mission. We have over 40 different types of weapons and equipment, and over 6 unique worlds players can visit. Ferrago: A multiplayer 'style' of game play is of course the aim, but how will Brute Force play for the lone-gamer in single player mode -what kind of plot and AI will still keep the squad-based action rolling? ER: Brute Force does not differentiate between multiplayer and single player - it is the same campaign. They both get the same experience, with the only difference being that instead of having AI squad members they can be real people when some friends decide to join in. People can join and leave with the press of a button, so during a mission, you can play with either one, two, three or four players. The game handles it all on the fly, so you never have to re-start a mission again when a friend comes round and wants to join in. As for AI, we have gone to great lengths to make sure that the Non Player characters behave intelligently and provide support for the character you are playing. You can give them orders to move to specific locations, or to follow you and provide support. They also can go into an aggressive mode, where they will take flanking positions as well as move on ahead and deal death to any who get in your way. Characters also know to take cover, behind objects, as well as lay down cover fire to support other characters. Ferrago: Why a third-person perspective? What thoughts lie behind this design decision? We thought a more involving first-person viewpoint made for the most involving action. ER: Third Person allows you to identify with your characters more. You get to see your characters while controlling him or her, and also because you can move the camera given certain circumstances the player can get a better view of what is going on. We can move the camera out when wanting to show an epic moment, or pull the camera right in when in combat, so you can feel in the middle of the action. Ferrago: What kinds of environments will battle rage across, and how will the terrain and its facets impact upon the player? Tell us about how the Xbox's graphical capabilities are best being utilised. ER: There are 6 different Worlds. Ferix is a huge swamp and tree world where cities are built in and among the ancient trees. Orirus is a Volcanic Moon, where the landscape is made up of rivers of Lava and Volcanoes. Estuary is a huge Sea World made up of a few islands dotted around vast bodies of water. Caspian is a desert / Earth type world and Singe has a mostly molten surface. Each character has strengths and weaknesses associated with each planet. For instance on Ferix, Brutus’s home world there is a thick and impenetrable mist, which obscures vision. Brutus however has a special ability which allows him to sense heat, and so he can see enemies from a long way off while the rest of the squad can only see 10 meters in front of them through the fog. As for graphics, we are using every trick in the book, high res objects/ textures, a proprietary special effects editor which allows us to create many new and different effects. We have spent a lot of time on lighting tools / shadows and have some very cool special render modes for character special abilities. Ferrago: A more thoughtful RPG-esque thinking seems to lie behind development in the game; tell us about the usage of weapons, and the different 'classes' that evolve. ER: All Characters start with a basic weapon and equipment load out, as well as set of skills. The Squad earns money for each mission they accomplish, and can get bonus payments, either from finding money during their mission or due to good game play. This money is used to buy better weapons and equipment. The selection of equipment improves over time when new prototypes become available, and also when the team finds new alien technology. Character special abilities can last only as long as their stamina bar lasts. The more experience the characters get the more stamina they get. Ferrago: Simply put; the visual stylisation of the game is quite original and breathtaking. Tell us about this vision. ER: We really wanted to create something that hadn’t been seen on a console before. We wanted to take the player through, not just one culture and environment, but a whole system full of them. We wanted four very strong characters, each with their own look, and character. Basically we wanted to do something different, and large in scope, so the player would never get bored with the same environments over and over again. Ferrago: How do you hope Brute Force will innovate and progress a genre crowded with games claiming to be the 'next big thing'? ER: I think we are trying to push in every direction at the same time, but also make sure the whole package is very tight. We are not just happy with characters, they have to be high res and detailed. They have to talk, and look like they are talking properly. Their motions have to be smooth and realistic, the environments have to be vast, and full of many buildings and objects, which themselves are pushing the boundaries of GPU, so we can give realistic and different buildings which don’t look like blocks because of poly count restraints. We want you to be able to play four characters not just one, and we’ve made sure we have AI which will make the game play experience extremely fun. At the end of the day we hope Brute Force will speak for itself. Ferrago: I notice the game appears to involve clearly defined characters - what is the role of these, and how will they fit in with the plot of Brute Force? ER: The Four Characters are Hawk, Brutus, Tex and Flint. Hawk is the Scout, and she has the ability to cloak herself and scout on ahead without being noticed. She can be extremely useful at taking out guards if you want to get in quietly as she also has a blade which she can use to back stab her target. Brutus is the only alien on the team, and comes from a superstitious race called the Ferals who live on the Planet Ferix. Brutus is the fastest member of the group, can see through mist / fog and smoke and has the ability to regenerate damage. Tex is the real Bruiser in the group, he likes to carry only heavy weapons, and has the ability to fire two weapons at one time—one in each hand. If they both happen to be mini guns that can be quite destructive. Finally Flint is the sniper, and a synthetic to boot. She has an eagle eye and is deadly at the end of a scope. She does not like close combat, and will always try and get to high ground when a fight breaks out. She has the special ability to lock onto targets, so can be deadly for a short period of time until her stamina gives out. All the characters meet at the beginning of the game, and although they initially have issues with each other, by the end of the game they trust and respect each other. Ferrago: Finally, when will US and European gamers be enjoying Brute Force? ER: Autumn 2002. Ferrago: Thanks for your time, Erin, we look forward to witnessing Brute Force soon.