Splash Damage lives for multiplayer. The Operation Market Garden map in Return to Castle Wolfenstein is responsible for inspiring Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory - Splash Damage's first project. And then came more multiplayer maps for Doom 3 and eventually Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.
Right now Splash Damage are preparing to make a splash with a fresh IP, they're currently fixing bugs and polishing up Brink for release and as they put it "getting our noses rubbed in our mistakes on daily basis". But Brink has been getting good press and lots of great feedback from those who have tried it. We picked up the phone and called senior designer Ed Stern.
Isn't it hard to please everyone with a new franchise such as Brink?
- I think you can get into trouble if you try to please everyone. Because you can only give people what they already know they want. The best games offer things you didn't know you wanted. We're building partly on what we have done in the past. Another aspect of this question is the differences between PC players and console players. These days the difference isn't as big as one would think. In just five years we have gotten many more console owners and we can now use what we know about PC-gaming and let console owners enjoy it.
As you embarked on Brink, were there any other console games that you were inspired by?
- There are several. Personally I really like the story telling of the Bioshock games, they have moved away from the overly obvious plots many other games offer. Video games is still a young phenomenon - compare it to early films, which was more or less theatre - actors had exaggerated expressions before they realised you could move closer with the camera and work more subtle. The same goes for games, we are starting to realise that you don't have to go all out when telling a story.
How important is The Ark, the world of Brink, to the game?
- The Ark is the main character of Brink. The environment had to be something the player had not seen before, it had to host all the gameplay and it had to be able to tell a story. Given that it was a floating city it was visually distinctive. Wherever you are in the game and look around you, you should be able to see where you are and even what has been going on in the city lately.
It seems like you have put a lot of story in Brink, can you tell us something about that?
- That's true, many are surprised at just how much story we have written for Brink as it's "just" a shooter. But we really need a good foundation, we need to have all the answers if someone in the team comes asking something about the world or wants to add something.
We have also tried not to say who's right of the two warring factions. In the Container City level for example both factions - Resistance and Security - fight over what they believe to be two different things. Either a vaccine or a poison.
For the people that want to jump into the game and just start shooting?
That works as well. Not much has changed since Quake III, which according to us was a perfect game. Since then we've had many first person shooters that more or less is controlled the same way - but despite their super powers they can't get over a wall a meter high. It's very unrealistic. I mean, I'm a fat man and I can get over a wall like that, especially if someone is firing at me at the same time!
That's why we developed the SMART-system for movement in Brink. If you see something that you should be able to jump over, it means your character can. It's done automatically, but it's not an autopilot. SMART is easy to use, but hard to master, if I'm allowed to use a cliche like that. In many games the camera is bound to the main character's head, but doesn't work like human sight does.
The running and jumping has been compared to Mirror's Edge, have you been influenced by that?
The fun thing is that we started to plan Brink before we saw that game, so we haven't borrowed as much as some people seem to think. When we saw it we thought "oh no, now everyone will think we stole from it." I liked Mirror's Edge very much, I think it was both unique and very daring of EA to publish it. And the running and the parkour-part is similar, the big difference is that Brink is a shooter while Mirror's Edge was mostly about running and jumping.
Brink is very much about multiplayer, what can you offer the player there?
We looked a lot at what we did well in our earlier games. The first Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory was amongst the top 10 most played online games at the time, and the reason was that every match was different from the one before. That was the important point when we started to develop Brink.
We thought about how many classes we should have and finally we chose four: soldier, engineer, medic and operative. We wanted it to be a simple as possible. We wanted to make it important for everyone in a team to help each other and not only about killing the other team. The four classes and the side you fight for will offer a lot of variety, we hope. We also have three different body types; small, medium and big.
There's a lot of other multiplayer games out there, what are you going to do to beat them?
There's usually a big difference between single- and multiplayer in other games and that's something we've wanted to avoid. With Brink we wanted to offer a completely seamless experience, both in graphics and gameplay. You've probably played a singleplayer game which has been really good, but as soon as you step into multiplayer you get killed all the time and the rest of the players scream at you. The goal for us has been that you're going to feel as good and comfortable both online and offline.
We also want to get people to play online, even if they are not used to multiplayer. Let's say that you finish a mission in singleplayer, then a suggestion might pop up that beckons you with double XP if you try out the same mission online. We're not forcing anyone, just suggesting. Overall we want to make it as smooth as we can, you shouldn't have to enter a lot of menus or reboot the game to play with friends.