Interview with Mike Kulas - Voodoo Extreme

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NOTE: This interview was originally posted on May 12, 2000 by Chris "Outlaw" O'Brien on Voodoo Extreme, which is no longer available.

There has been a ton of hype and speculation surrounding Volition's unannounced first-person shooter, Red Faction, right up until the minute it was announced (see our coverage of the announcement right here) at E3 yesterday. The screenshots that have poured out of this game have been nothing short of amazing, and the game's engine sports a Geo-Mod Engine, something Epic Games' Tim Sweeney calls the "holy grail of gaming". Seeing as how I was pretty pumped up about this particular title, I decided to shoot a few questions over to Volition's Mike Kulas regarding Red Faction. Here's what we had to talk about

First and foremost, are you still working on Descent 4, or have you nuked the project in favor of Red Faction? Will we even see a Descent 4?

We're not working on Descent 4. Beyond that, I can't say any more about it. Interplay owns the rights to Descent sequels and further announcements should come from them.

Let's talk about the Geo-Mod Engine. All of this hub-bub sounds really cool, but what is it going to mean for the gamer? I mean, destroying walls is nifty, but what, other than visual effects, does it add to the gameplay?

There are so many things we are already doing with it. One of the most fun things is to blast a camper through a wall. We have a rocket launcher with an infrared scope. If you're pretty close, you can see guys hiding behind walls. If it's a thin wall, one shot and he's a goner. If it's a thick wall, it might take a couple shots, but if he's paying attention, he'll know he's no longer safe. If he sits there, he's dead. If he comes running out, well, maybe he's dead then, too. :)

If you see guys running towards a bridge, you can blast the bridge. If you're really good, you might blast it while they're on the bridge. Or maybe you'll wait until they go across, then blast it behind them, knowing they'll eventually need it again.

We slapped together a mission we call Omaha Beach. You're advancing on a massively powerful turret. You have a lot of concrete rubble you can hide behind, but a couple turret shots at each one and it's gone. You have to keep charging the turret until you can get a clear shot and blast the thing. Geomods are what make this level unique.

At E3 we showed demos of our particle system interacting with geomods. You can divert water or lava flow with geomods, perhaps to strand an otherwise undefeatable vehicle.

Frankly, one of the most telling thing about geomods is how the guys on the team will play with them whenever they launch a level. You start testing the level, but then you see something and you just have to blow it up. In older games, buildings were for running around in. In Red Faction, they're for knocking down, preferably with someone inside. Any kid who has played with blocks will understand.

Speaking of the Geo-Mod Engine, is it going to take a top-of-the-line gaming rig to run the game silky smooth? In other words, is the new feature going to cause any performance hit? What sort of rig are you running the game on right now and what sort of performance are you getting out of it?

I run it on a P450 with a Voodoo2. It runs very well. I don't know what the target machine will be, but I believe the code will get a lot faster between now and release. That has always been the case with our games.

What about multiplayer? The press release states that Red Faction will be supporting multiplayer. Can you talk about any of features pertaining to multiplayer gameplay? What are you doing to make sure the game runs without lag?

Yes, it will support multiplayer. I think the number one cool thing about multiplayer is the geomods. What could be better than blowing the floor out from under a camper? Or in a team game, you can use geomods to setup your defenses. Or you can use them to circumvent your opponent's plan.

As to running without lag, I don't see us encountering any special problems in that area. The geomods are a CPU-intensive problem, but they don't cause any special problems from a network standpoint.

Your very own, Scott Blinn, has been ranting and rambling about the new level editing tools for Red Faction over the past few weeks. What makes them so special, and can you talk about them in general (such as some of their features, etc.)?

We've had a guy working on it full-time for a long time and he has worked closely with the level designers to give them what they want. On many projects, the editor is an orphan program that no one wants to work on. We made it a very high priority. With new technology for the level designers, such as geomods, it's crucial that our editor be extremely powerful. As to specifics -- you should ask Scott. He's got the editor religion.

What sort of support are you planning on offering modification makers, if any? Will the level editing tools, as well as other editing tools, be released to the public when Red Faction ships?

We're a big believer in the mod community. I can't say for sure whether the editor will ship with the title, though that is our hope. Our history shows that we love to get tools in the players' hands and I see no reason this should be different.

How long has Volition been working on this particular project?

The full team has been going since about the beginning of this year.

When will we get to see this baby in action (I.E. demo, video, and so on)? Or is it too early to tell?

Excellent question. We showed it at E3 and there are trailers available now. I hope we can release a steady stream of stuff, but that's more of a PR issue. As to a demo -- that would be pretty far in the future. I just don't know.

Whoa, it looks like Billy is going to be quite disappointed about this one, as the Geo-Mod Engine is going to put an end to his camping days. I want to thank Mike for getting the interview back to us faster than Billy can be beaten down like a red-headed step child...