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Let's just start by talking about the overall goal you guys had with this game - it's been getting a lot of praise - and you're on the home-stretch, so you must be pretty happy with all of that.
Yeah we're really pleased. You know, we're around Alpha right now and we're expected for release on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC Spring 2011, so that gives us a solid nine/10 months to get it absolutely perfect before it ships.
In terms of where it's all come from, you know, we did Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and Enemy Territory: Wolfenstein for the PC and so we've been building multiplayer shooters for about 10 years now but we really wanted to make something that blurred the lines between online and offline gaming, because we still enjoy those big compelling single-player narratives as well. So what we've tried to do with Brink is create a game where really irrespective of the way you play, you know, it doesn't matter if you're playing co-operatively, solo or competitive - you advance your same
in-game persistent character. So all the cool outfits you unlock, the upgrades you get, the weapons that you modify, abilities that allow you to specialise in different combat roles - because, first and foremost it's a shooter - all of that stuff stays with you, no matter how you choose to play.
One big thing about multiplayer games like Brink is that they tend to form these organic communities afterwards and the community tends to change the way the game exists post-release, have you been watching the shooter space to see how all the other communities are working and what are you guys expecting from the community once the game is released?
Well you know we've always kind of handled community-management for our past titles at
Splash Damage - [Enemy Territory:] Wolfenstein has had over 15 million downloads to-date, and half a billion matches played online, so it's been a big, big game for us, but you know with Brink, because it's a console game as well, you can't just rely on forums or websites to create a community around something, you have to have a great game that has longevity; something that is just really highly replayable. And I think that's the reason I wanted to create something that wasn't just, you know, a big Triple A blockbuster shooter experience and you can certainly play it with that linear, single-player game in mind if that's the way you want to play, but with Brink, because you can play it over and over again in so many different ways you end up having great longevity with the game and I think that's what sets games up for good tournament support, the ability to play at LAN parties and all of that good stuff.
And that's really our background, you know back in the late 90s, 2000, 2001 - I was the Clan Leader of Clan EarthQuakers, we played Deathmatch and CTF and Team Fortress tournaments for years. You know back then, with Wolfenstein Enemy Territory we released the SDK (Software Developer's Kit) with id Software and that allowed people to modify the game and create their own levels and we did exactly the same thing with Enemy Territory Quake Wars for the PC too. So I think we have a track record for supporting the community really well and if you look at Bethesda, they're just absolutely obsessed with putting out great DLC - look at Fallout 3, it's just had so much cool content for fans of the Fallout 3 universe. So I'd say, you know, the prospects are really bright for great community support following release, but because we're just at Alpha at the moment, we're not really ready to talk about the details of that stuff yet.
Actually, you've really helped me segue there - post-release support in terms of DLC and stuff like that, and obviously you can't talk about it in detail, but it has to be something you have in mind but are you also thinking about releasing mod-tools for the mod-community in more detail?
This comes under the point of really needing to get to Beta first, because it's only once you've made it to Beta that you've finalised all the details and features that are in the game and the way that they're going to play and the balance and everything else, that you're able to make any really informed decisions about the types of DLC because you could speculate forever about whether it should be additional maps or outfits or customisation options or weapons or whatever else but it doesn't really mean anything until you've reached the Beta stage and you have a sense of where the game's strongest points are and what the community is going to want more of post-release.
So right now, we're really not doing anything with it at all, we're just solely focused on getting the game from Alpha to Beta.
As an old PC gamer yourself, we seem to be at a crossroads now where, because DLC has proven itself such big business, and consoles kind of support and foster that - as a business - there's a big split between the PC community who expect a lot of their DLC to be free, to come from their own community - what are your thoughts on that? I mean obviously now that you have a publisher in Bethesda who're going to want to support the business model-side of DLC, how does it all work, and do you have a say in it at all?
Yeah of course, I mean we work with Bethesda on all kinds of ideas and stuff for the game, but first and foremost for us is making that initial retail game the best game it can possibly be. If you look at the PC audience as a whole, you're right, there's always been levels created; community level maps and that kind of stuff, and in the past on the PC, you would have expansion maps come out for games and they'd be like a half game, but the side-effect of that is that quite often they would split the community because you would have people who had the expansion and the people who didn't, and so I think the challenge for a lot of developers now with DLC is to try and come up with methods that don't split the community and do a good job of providing them with, you know, just creating a really compelling environment for them to play. But beyond that there really isn't much I have to add until we get to Beta.
Let's switch gears, I'm keen to learn about how you're handling match-making on the console because the PC generally has a completely different system and in Australia we suffer seriously bad lag, and a lot of games don't necessarily factor that in with local match-making or the like - do you guys plan on supporting that or anything like it?
I think there're a ton of great options for how that stuff can be managed. We're really lucky to have a great creative director; his name is Richard Ham, and he was the lead designer on Fable II, he also co-created Syphon Filter. He's really come to multiplayer with a completely different view on how easy it should be. So we were really used to the kind of hardcore - you know, say with Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory - if you recommended it to a friend, well they had to go out and buy a new graphics card and a decent internet connection, download the game then try and connect only to find they needed to download a patch, get that updated and then they'd finally connect to a server and find they'd get headshot five times, tea-bagged five times and then someone would insult them over qizmo and tell them that they're girlfriend weighs 400 pounds and if you got past all of that, you got into multiplayer shooters and you had a great time. I mean somehow 15 million people got past that first point.
But I think for contemporary games, really part of what we're trying to do is make it easier for people to get into multiplayer because the thing is there's this incredible buzz, this incredible satisfaction that comes from playing together as a co-ordinated team and competing cool objectives and if you're not able to deliver that to people in a way that isn't elitist, or really, really obsessively over-the-top then they're not going to have a great time - they're not going to enjoy it.
Now the solution isn't to dumb down the game, the solution is to make it easier for people to learn how to co-ordinate well and so one of the things we're doing here at E3 is we're showing off one of our Challenges, it's called Be More Objective and you have to try and beat the clock completing a series of objectives in different combat roles; it's combining SMART to get to really hard-to-reach locations and find quicker routes through the map and we're finding that people playing through Be More Objective are then able to co-ordinate to beat Reactor - the map that we have here in full co-operative games and do that really effectively.
So in Reactor, the idea behind is you're trying to hack into this objective to take this fan so you can get your team through a tunnel for the second half of the map. We've got guys out there who're complete strangers who automatically - one goes Engineer; he gets a mission to go and guard the location, so he puts down a turret and defends it. Another guy goes Operative and he gets a mission to hack into the controls and another guy goes Medic and he goes automatically to guard the guy who's hacking the controls - now those are top missions, they have five or six other thing that they could be doing; capturing Command Posts, giving people health, reviving players, you know, but when they start to co-ordinate like that just by using the mission system, they're getting that buzz and that satisfaction we got back in the clan days when a clan match just went really well and everything worked together and that's really what we're trying to do - we're trying to not dumb it down; we're not trying to make it so that it's ridiculously super easy and just easy to kill people and easy to incapacitate people and easy to complete objectives - we're keeping it just as tough, we're just making the learning curve a little easier for people.
Well that's all the time we have, thanks so much Paul.
No, thank you very much for having me.