Difference between revisions of "Interview With James Tsai - GameReactor"

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NOTE: This interview was originally posted on May 12, 2000 by Kristian West & Jacob H. Nielsen on GamesReactor, which is no longer available.

We contacted Volition, the developers of one of next year's most interesting 3D Shooters, the Near-Future game for both PC and PS2, Red Faction.

We asked James Tsai, Assistant Producer on the game, a six-fingered hand of questions about different elements in Red Faction, the possibilities of their new, cool GEO-MOD engine, and a little about the future of the anxious MOD-developer's community out there. The images are from the Playstation 2 version, which arrives before the PC version next year. Get busy!

1: Explain the reasons for inventing the GEO-MOD engine. How long has the code been underway?

Developing an engine capable of supporting a fully destructive environment felt like the next natural step in the progression of first person shooters. In past games, you would have a wide assortment of realistic and well-laid out areas that were believable until you got to the wooden door that you couldn’t get through without a key, despite the rocket launcher slung over your shoulder that would have reduced it to splinters. With the Geo-Mod engine, we’re introducing an entirely new level of interactivity to the player that could bring gaming one step closer to unprecedented realism. Now, if you can’t find a way to get around that wall, you can pick a point you like and blast your way through it.

The engine itself has been in development for the life of the project, which has been approximately two years. As with any new technology, there was some time spent getting it up to speed and smoothing the bugs out, but we now have a solid foundation upon which we hope to deliver a revolutionary first person shooter to the gaming world.

In-game third person shot of a miner sneaking up behind Ultor guards from a maintenance hatch. Close-up and personal with a mercenary soldier. A shootout in a long hallway with Ultor forces. Miner casualties are on the ground, underneath the player’s heavy machine-gun.

2: What other games, if any, are underway using the GEO-MOD technology, and do you plan on licensing out the engine to 3rd party developers?

Right now our development focus is entirely on Red Faction and how our Geo-Mod technology can best enhance the player’s experience with this title. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you will not see other titles with Geo-Mods in the future, but at the present time everyone here is focused on making this game a tough contender in a competitive genre.

3: What do you feel the possibilities of the GEO-MOD engine opens up for in a multiplayer team-based game, as we've heard rumors of will be included in Red Faction? And what does the "open-hole" gameplay possibly limit in this kind of game?

Geo-Mods and multiplayer offer a realm of possibility that hasn’t been addressed in past games. The impact on standard deathmatch or team deathmatch games is obvious; you can cut other players off from the rest of the pack hunt them down when they’re isolated, or blow out a catwalk and watch a bunch of your opponents tumble into the depths below. There’s also the chance of Geo-Mod specific modes, where the emphasis is not on racking up the highest number of frags but perhaps stopping a vehicle from reaching its destination, destroying a particular structure, etc. We also want to make sure the game is mod-friendly so we can watch gamers produce a popular and long-lasting community that players will enjoy being a part of. The “open-hole” gameplay translates into an open door for our creative fans.

4: There are clear elements of Descent AND First Person Shooter in Red Faction. Explain a bit about the meeting between the vehicular and on-foot parts of the game, and any thoughts/conflicts you came across in making this meeting work satisfactory. Have you used any technology from the Descent games in Red Faction, or is this GEO-MOD engine built from scratch?

Developing the Geo-Mod engine has been a part of Volition’s plan from the very beginning. When the idea for Red Faction was initially conceived we knew that we wanted to provide a destructive environment, an advanced physics system, and vehicular combat, all of which would play a major role in shaping the gameplay experience. In order to do this, we knew we had to develop our own technology to drive development of the title.

The vehicles have been a lot of fun to implement in the game, and we are excited about all the opportunities they offer to the player. By specifically planning to incorporate them in certain situations and then tailoring the action to best suit their needs and capabilities, we have been able to provide seamless transitions between the on-foot and vehicular action.

An array of Ultor APCs being maintained by techs. An Ultor elite guard and riot guard are walking by. A shootout with an Ultor Security Commander in their administrative offices. Caught in the crossfire are a fallen male administrator (behind the commander) and a fleeing female administrator. Scientists in an Ultor airlock. Two of the three scientists are in their envirosuits already.

5: How much weight does the single player part have contra the eventual multiplayer part of the game. How will the story and setting play its part in the multiplayer portion of the game, to prevent the scenery from just becoming another FPS battleground? Will there be a possibility of Co-op in the game?

As stated earlier, multiplayer has any number of directions it can take with the Geo-Mod engine and our story. Since multiplayer will incorporate a lot of the same characters and features of the single player experience, players will naturally find a lot of tie-ins with the story. But I’d also expect to see community mods that are very creative and have nothing to do with mining, perhaps not even set on Mars.

6: Will the ammunition for each weapon be limited? Have you taken into consideration the physical settings of Mars in the desing of the game, especially in terms of ballistics?

Yes, players will have a maximum amount of ammunition they’ll be able to carry and will have to constantly pick up reloads to avoid running out of firepower as they venture through the game. We chose to set the game on Mars because it makes the story more compelling; though we have done some exploration into variable physics, we always keep in mind that our first goal is to make a game that’s fun and exciting to play. Having said that, there might be a few surprises here and there that will catch the player off guard and really put a new spin on things.