Bethesda and Splash Damage's Brink is looking good. The companies are showcasing the game at E3 this week, where the class-based first-person shooter has received what seems to be a largely positive reaction among attendees.
And Ed Stern, senior game designer at Splash Damage, hopes to get Brink into as many gamers' hands as possible.
The studio, whose roots are in the hardcore PC FPS scene, wants to strike a balance in which the game is accessible to console gamers who aren't typically drawn to online first-person shooters, but still satisfying to the hardcore.
"We didn't want to stay just a PC developer," Stern said as part of a larger interview with Gamasutra. Splash Damage is the studio behind the popular multiplayer online PC FPS Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, as well as 2008's Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, which appeared on PC and consoles -- although the console versions were converted by other studios.
Brink has the studio focusing even more on console play on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, although the game was also announced for PC.
"We didn't want to just cater to [PC gamers]," Stern said. "I mean, we love them, we were a mod team before we were ever developers. We love them and want to keep on supporting them the best we can. But in the last five or ten years, there's just millions more people who are now gamers."
"We had to change a lot as a company. We only had experience on PCs, so we've hired a lot of people with triple-A cross-platform experience."
The London-based studio did go on a hiring spree in recent times, bringing aboard key people from games such as Black, Heavenly Sword, and Killzone 2 -- people who were well-versed with console development, and making games accessible to that audience.
"That's why we hired Richard Ham [as creative director]," Stern added. "He's one of the co-creators of Syphon Filter, he put Sims on the consoles ... and he just finished Fable II [as lead designer]. He's brilliant at taking a system and just making it easy to get into."
Stern further illustrated just how a console mindset has taken over the studio. "On the playtests, everyone uses a controller. You're not allowed to use a mouse and keyboard. Level designers were not happy at first, but we all got into the habit." At the E3 demo, Splash Damage studio director Paul Wedgwood played the game on an Xbox 360.
The game is trying to do a few things different in order to stand out from the crowd of shooters currently occupying PCs and consoles.
For one, the art style, under the direction of Olivier Leonardi with character art by Tim Appleby, trades outright realism for a pleasing, somewhat cartoonish look, particularly for characters (which are highly customizable and boast a persistent experience system). Vehicles have exaggerated features, and environments are varied.
"We wanted to make something that looked different," Wedgwood said, replying to a question posed by Gamasutra. "We've done Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, and we wanted to do something unique. We didn't just want to have another shooter set in North Africa."
Brink also is trying to blur the line -- or perhaps completely erase it -- between multiplayer, singleplayer, online, and offline modes. Gamers will be able to drop in or out of each others' games while playing the story campaign on the fly, for instance.
"It just seems ludicrous that we have this notion of completely separate online/offline/single-player/multiplayer," Stern said. "It's ridiculous. It's one of those things where we wonder why it has always been this way up to this point, and why we've put up with it. It's inane."
Gamasutra will have more from Stern and Splash Damage in the near future.