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AusGamers Transformers: Fall of Cybertron Developer Interview
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 10:13am 18/07/12 | Comments
AusGamers caught up with High Moon Studios' Matt Tieger, Game Director for Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. Read on for what he had to say...

AusGamers: Welcome to AusGamers. We are here with Matt Tieger, Game Director for Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. Matt, you had a bit of a sleeper-hit with the first game, and it’s arguable that you’re on the same page with the likes of the Batman Arkham series (in regards to capturing the soul of a licensed product)...

Matt Tieger: That’s a big compliment. Thank you.

AusGamers: In terms of capitalising on licensed games, and breaking that weak licensed trend. What have you guys done this time, with a sequel, to further this idea, and take it to the next level?

Matt Tieger: You know, doing a sequel, I originally thought would be a piece of cake. Actually, it turns out it’s a lot more work than doing the first one. And that’s because we... games are an artform; what we do is we make games. And if it’s an artform, then by extension, we’re all artists that make games.

So, we’re always looking at our work and saying “how can it be better? How can it be stronger? How can it be something that appeals to more people?”. So when we finished War [for Cybertron], it was a game that we were very proud of, but what we did is, we kind of listened to all the feedback that we had been getting -- from the forum posts; from the fans; from the journalists; and that little voice inside our heads, pushing us in a certain direction -- and what we realised that we needed to do, was to deliver more variety in the game; we better needed to embrace each character, and make each character feel real special, really unique, and something that really grabbed a hold of the license -- because transforming is really unique to Transformers, in a way that nobody else could be doing that; that was the path to success.

So I say it was more work, because what I realised is when we were doing it, is that we had a whole bunch of new things that had to be created; if variety was our mainstay. So we took some of the mechanics we had before, and we improved them; we threw a bunch overboard, and re-did them, and we brought in a whole several new things. And that was what we did.

AusGamers: You mentioned really going into each character, so are we seeing different moves; ways they move, and ways they fight? That sort of thing?

Matt: The core difference between all of the characters, is their vehicle and their special ability. And actually, the combination of those: sometimes you’ll see the same special ability more than one time, but with a different vehicle, all of a sudden it feels different, it feels very special. So Cliffjumper can turn invisible, and he’s a car; Starscream can also turn invisible, but he’s a jet.

On the surface you may say that it’s the same thing; it’s totally not. What you’re doing and how you’re doing it, all that stuff is really fundamentally, very, very different. Then of course, they have very different stories, that are really tied to who they are. And from a level-design point of view, we really embraced that vehicle/special ability combination in really interesting ways.

AusGamers: So on Starscream for example, in the demonstration we saw, was that a sort of sneak-mechanic?

Matt: Yes, that’s the cloak. And there are other parts to his level, but maybe you want to be the guy who turns invisible; turns into a jet -- so now I’m an invisible jet -- flies to a far area; transforms and pulls my sniper-rifle out and kills guys while I’m invisible.

Maybe that’s not the way you want to play. Maybe you want to be the guy who flies right into the middle of the action; transforms; kills a bunch of guys; runs off the platform; falls; transforms; flies underneath, and comes up on the other side, and deals with them -- maybe by cloaking then, at that point. You can really play it any way you want.

And we showed off some of the weapons, but honestly, you could have picked a whole different set of weapons and had a whole different play experience.

AusGamers: We’ve seen a Grimlock trailer, and you talked about it -- we saw some in the demo -- and you touched on how you’ve gone into the origin. We’ve seen Dinobots and Insecticons. Are you able to reveal any of those origins? Considering they haven’t been to Earth?

Matt: Yeah, I can. I’ll happily talk about it. Shockwave, who is one of the primary Decepticons -- he’s kind of the mad-scientist -- incredibly loyal to Cybertron above all things, he’s the one who created the Insecticons, and they are... In War for Cybertron, you went to the core of the planet; we saw some things under there that weren’t Transformers, but they were kind of more biological, robotic things.

So he kind of... a combination of those ideas, plus robots, created Insecticons. The next step he went, is he took some captured Autobots, and turns them into dinosaurs. Now where does he get these dinosaur ideas from? Remember, he’s loyal to Cybertron -- he’s trying to save it. One of the things we really tried to approach this time, is that Cybertron has layers of history, ages past, where they kind of maybe had technologies and that they knew things that they don’t know today.

One of those, was the idea of space bridges -- the ability to walk amongst the stars; to open up wormholes through space. Shockwave figures it out; he rediscovers it; starts looking through the cosmos for other worlds that he can steal energy from -- Energon -- and reboot Cybertron; he sees Earth.

The twist is that he doesn’t see Earth today; he sees Earth when dinosaurs are stomping around, because that’s when this whole story is taking place -- millions of years in our past. So he sees these shapes; he catalogues them and thinks they’re kind of interesting, and then he realises that he can then convert -- because he had success with Insecticons -- convert some captured Autobots into these shapes; change their brain function so they’re more controllable, and get new minions on his side. So it’s a long story, but that’s the origin.

AusGamers: Right. Sounds awesome! Will we be seeing a similar campaign setup to the previous game?

Matt: It’s different for a very good reason. What we had before was an Autobot and a Deceptacon story. And I realise that was the primary reason that contributed to one of the major criticisms we had -- the game felt repetitive. When you break it down, we really had two first levels, two second levels, two third levels... so once you played through one campaign, you had seen all of our tricks -- you had seen all the pacing. It had different chrome -- it was cosmetically different -- but you’d seen it all.

So what happened, you’re like ‘I’ve played this; it’s repetitive’. By going to a single campaign, we were much better able to map out abilities and characters, and really give you this great flowing experience for the entire thing, not just the first half. So it was a big choice that we made, but an early one.

AusGamers: Will we be seeing any kind of DLC in this one?

Matt: Well, we haven’t announced that kind of stuff yet, so I guess the answer to that is ‘stay tuned’. We did do DLC for War, so it’s something we’re real passionate about, but I can’t confirm anything yet.

AusGamers: Can you talk about multiplayer at all?

Matt: A little. Frankly, multiplayer was pretty darn good in War for Cybertron -- there were two problems with multiplayer: one, the community wasn’t big enough. I think with multiplayer games, there’s a certain tipping-point, where you just get this self-sustaining group. We didn’t achieve that, but I think we will on this game. Mostly because it’s a higher quality game, and Activision’s really getting behind this one.

Two: character customisation. We barely delivered on expectations, I feel like for War for Cybertron, on what character customisation could we do. So we knew we had to turn that to 11, and we did. It is awesome. Players who like customisation -- whether they’re Transformers fans or not -- will spend 10 hours in the menus just building Transformers; it’s awesome.

AusGamers: Yeah, it is amazing. I guess the problem we had in Australia -- you kind of touched on it in terms of... with the first game, like I said, it was a sleeper-hit, so we didn’t get as many people playing it, which then when you transfer that to multiplayer, we in Australia being so far away and not the best network, we had a lot of latency. Is there any talk about dedicating anything to that?

Matt: Well, we’ve put a lot of effort into multiplayer. From a content point of view we thought it was pretty good. There are technical improvements to multiplayer; we’re not ready to talk about those yet. One of the things I remember being struck by when I talked to some Australian gamers, was allowing them the ability to kind of choose to look by region for gamers. We did that on War, and that’s important to us. Specifically because that came out of Australia -- something that they really wanted.

AusGamers Yeah, it’s a huge issue for us in most games.

Great. Well thank you so much for your time. We’re really looking forward to the game.

Matt: Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed War, and this game exceeds it in every way.
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