You've said that in Brink you can you into other people's games at any point and play with or against them. How will that work?
There's always two groups in the game: one attacker and one defender. The players will just fill up the roles that the AI otherwise takes on. There will be the same missions, and the players will have the same tools or weapons to choose from. The players that are attacking will have access to specific things that can blow up barricades and open up new routes, while the defenders can for example blow up bridges to hinder the enemy.
Earlier Splash Damage has just worked on already established franchises. What was it like to start from scratch in Brink?
The games we did in the Quake- and Wolfensten-universes were all well received, the reviews were good and so on. We're also pretty satisfied with the work we did. After we finished Enemy Territory: Quake Wars at the end of 2007, we really wanted to try something new. We wanted to build a world, where we ourselves wrote the background story and created all the environments and concept art ourselves. We ran into some problems, since we were used to working only for the PC and its online features, and we knew that this new game would have to be released for consoles as well. So we had to hire a lot of new people, that could help us reach our goal. We headhunted people that previously had done console games. People like Olivier Leonardi, that had worked on the visuals in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Neil Alphonso that was level designed on Killzone 2. Also Dean Calver, that worked on Heavenly Sword. We filled our offices with people that had the experience we needed.
Can you tell us a bit about how you came up with the original idea for the game?
What happened was that I originally had an idea about a game that took place in a flying city, because we wanted to do something unique and not just another shooter where you run around the North Africa during World War II or in some place in Siberia that we've seen so many times in games before. But that idea is all I should get credit for, since straight after that Ed Stern started to write the actual story and why it was floating above ground. So we spent a lot of time getting the story and the game's universe right, before we even considered how it was going to play. From those first pages of sketches and thoughts we decided that the player should have a greater freedom to move around. From that one of our programmers created the SMART-system, which was a much better feature than the one I had initially thought up.
Can you share what that was?
Well, what I imagined wasn't that much different, but because my background is in online PC games, I wanted the player to have control over everything you did in the game. Constantly. One from the team thought that it took too much focus away from the game itself, and the things you do, and how the player does things. One is about experiencing, and another on learning, and I was too focused on having the player learn a lot of different things in order to become a good player.
He's idea was to make a button that does different things depending on when you use it. Look down, press and I slide beneath something. Look up, and I can jump over something else. It's not an autopilot - you are not losing control of your character, and you can cancel an action at any time. The controls become much more simple, so the player can focus a lot more on what is happening on screen and instead think of timing and tactics.
You're focusing a lot on the story. How will it work in an online shooter, where there's usually not a lot of room for storytelling?
The most important thing for us that no matter how you choose to play, online or offline, there's a reason why you are fighting against the others in the game. It starts when you create your character and choose which side to play on: Resistance or Security? Resistance are refugees that believe in a society where everything shared by everyone, and that the Security people are violent dictators. If you choose Security you see yourself as someone that are trying to maintain a degree of decency and order in an isolated world that they feel would otherwise crumple into anarchy. For them, Resistance is a group of terrorists. Two very different perspectives. One of ours points with the story is to show how two different groups can believe in what they are doing is the right thing, no matter how terrible and disastrous the result of their actions is.
You've said that initially didn't like the visual style of Brink. What was your problem with it?
I started out with this vision of a photorealistic game, but that changed when Olivier joined the team. He had these ideas about more caricatured characters, that were so different from I was used to that I was probably a bit stubborn. You know how it is to hear a song from a really good album and not really liking it straight away? But then you listen some more to it and after a while you finally realize it's so good that you listen to it constantly for months. At the same time, you can hear a bad pop song and completely forget about it the next day. Unique visual styles are the same way. It takes a while before you get used to it, but when you finally take a closer look and suddenly notice the personality and the small details. Our game is about having fun, and you can't have fun when you take yourself too seriously. From Olivier's perspective it was also about bringing color back into shooters.