Are there people coming from other disciplines into game development in Russia because there isn't an industry? Is it just people who are interested in games but didn't have an outlet for it before -- that they were brought into development like that?
AI: We have programmers who used to be mainstream web developers or database programmers who come in and bring a unique skillset, but obviously you can't form a team around those people. You need to have people who understand games and who develop games. Luckily for us, there are a few smaller developers in Russia from where we could cherry-pick the best people -- the best designers, and the best programmers. They formed the core of Saber's team a long time ago, because they're working so closely with Western publishers -- first with Ubisoft, and now with Vivendi. We're able to train those people so that they become true leaders in a company that develops a triple-A franchise.
Obviously the quality of the game is good and it does have creative ideas, but it is, essentially, a conventional game. Are there any ideas that you think would come out of your staff that aren't as steeped in the past ten or fifteen years of game development, and what's been out on consoles already? Do you hear unusual ideas out of any of them? Sometimes people who come from other backgrounds don't really know what they're up against, and they'll suggest atypical ideas. Have you gotten any of that?
AI: Obviously, TimeShift is
a shooter, but it's not a standard shooter. It's a shooter with a twist.
Obviously, time control is the biggest thing. Not only does it work
in single-player, but also in multiplayer. That's where you have the
bulk of emergent gameplay situations. You're able to use time control,
and just the fact that you can manipulate time in multiplayer -- and
how we were able to figure out the time control mechanics in multiplayer
-- leads to a lot of interesting gameplay implications.
Obviously single-player as well, it's not just a standard thing, because you have time control. You have to build AI, for example, which is responsive and cognizant of this time control. Not only can you run around opponents in slow time, but you can also do reversal. What happens if you run into a room and you have a bunch of guys -- you activate them and they start shooting, you initiate reversal and then run behind them? They come into this reactive state. You have to program all these reactions to figure which work with time control.
The multiplayer component works with time control. The AI reactions with time control. It's two big things -- big-ticket items -- which make the gameplay experience in TimeShift unique compared to other games. Not to mention other things you can do with physics, for example.
You have to answer more questions about quantum physics than I ever imagined, working on the game, because we always have to control these time streams and alternate time streams, and what happens if you do a reversal and come to a place where -- imagine a scenario where there's a bunch of barrels. You explode those barrels, and go into the place all those barrels were, and use reversal. Essentially you'll end up with a barrel on your head, and what do you do? You'll get stuck there. So we had to come up with a special solution, which is a time continuum breach. If you end up in the middle of something which you reversed on top of your head, that's a time continuum break. You can't continue. That's something you can never experience in any other game.
Something I wanted to ask you about
was, your producer Kyle Peschel came over with the title, basically.
He was at Atari, and now he moved to Vivendi, and he's risen in the
ranks as the producer of the title. Can you talk a little about
that, and how that worked out on the project?
AI: Definitely. When TimeShift was acquired by Atari, Kyle was assigned as an assistant producer to the title at Atari, working out of the Santa Monica office. About six or eight months into development, Atari decided to close their Santa Monica office, and he was offered to relocate to New York so he could keep working on the product, which he did. So he moved to New York, and he spent a lot of time in Russia, it was frickin' cold, and he was traveling back and forth.
At one point in time, Atari decided
to sell the title to Vivendi, so he was all pissed and frustrated, but
he applied for a job with Vivendi, and he was hired. He stayed with
us, he stayed on TimeShift, and he actually moved back to Los
Angeles to work on TimeShift at Vivendi. He's saw the title through
completion. He's been a great partner, and he was really helping us
to push the title and to change the title to the way it shaped up.
Do you think that it would have gone as smoothly with changing publishers, if you didn't have someone on your side throughout the whole process?
AI: Definitely. Definitely. He was the one who was with the product from day one, so he knew all the technical details, design details, and the style of the project overall, so he helped to ensure the smooth transition from publisher to publisher. And he has a great understanding of what it takes to make a great first-person shooter, so he was quite instrumental in helping to polish the game on all fronts.