How does the tech you're building now compare to what you were using before?
CS: Midway actually had lots of "engines" -- they were all based on Unreal, but had different features to their core. For starting Hero, we had used the open world engine. After the first year of using it, though, it was clear that it was still rough and would need some time to be working well on console.
This engine was one of the first videos leaked; it shows off a driving feature that we never revisited. So after a year in development, we switched to the Stranglehold engine, which hadn't shipped when we started, but now was finished and working on the major consoles and PC.
So in six months, our tech team did a massive integration, and we added a open world streaming system, TNA's combat system, our own special ability system, [create-a-player's] front end and renderer, and miscellaneous stuff like rudimentary crowd system all to the Stranglehold engine.
We had literally just finished integrating all these systems, and finally got to play with all the pieces together when the project was terminated.
What lessons have you kept from Hero? Now that you've got to start again, how do you refine and ressurect the concept, and what kind of areas are defining to your team?
CS: Something we're still really interested in is the idea of a morally gray enemy. We're all fans of Hayao Miyazaki movies... where someone might seem like an enemy, but maybe they're not. Generic "mercenary force" villans aren't that compelling. So we're really wanting to find a way to make that more interesting.
And we really want to integrate a friendly group of people going through the adventure with you, which is a way to do storytelling.
Right now, we have a hard time with knowing whether the player character will have a voice or not... It's something we still debate inside a lot. If the character doesn't have a distinct voice and name, are people going to gravitate to him? We think as long as, no matter what, there's a really compelling story around them, and the character isn't being treated like they're a mute, they'll feel like that person's part of the world.
It seems early to be talking about the game. Are you further along than we might think?
CS: We totally weren't planning on talking about it until... this weird disinformation started popping up on the internet. It's really, really early. We're talking to numerous publishers on it. We've had a lot of back-and-forth.
But for right now... the vision we most want first, before we get too serious [with a publisher]. We have other projects in the queue, so we're able to do that right now. Phosphor -- we're like 17, 18 people or so [on the project team; studio team is about 27 internally], plus Chicago is cool that there's a whole network of contractors, people you've worked with that are all freelance now, and stuff like that.
The Prototype and Infamous comparisons... do you think that makes it easier or harder to for people to get behind what you're doing?
CS: I think it's a little easier and a little harder. The harder thing is that those two games are very much about a specific character who's this modern superhero in an open world. And now we're really trying to... we're far closer to Gears, Resident Evil, Uncharted kind of space, with hopefully really interesting situations -- but with your own character.
We're really just trying to let players create their own kind of person. In that kind of way, those games -- we keep getting compared to them and we're actually pretty different. How powerful create-a-player is, is really the coolest feature about the whole game. It's really hard to show that in a way that isn't flipping through a lot of menus.
How does it feel now to be on your own with Awakened?
CS: It feels really good. It's neat being independent and forging your own path -- I was at Midway for 10 years. There are a lot of dangers with being independent, too -- it's just really neat knowing we're going to do the things that we set out to do. It's just the right thing to do at this point and it's pretty clear.