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Thinking Brink: Splash Damage's Console Evolution
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Thinking Brink: Splash Damage's Console Evolution

July 31, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

Kris Graft: What about accessibility? You guys have a background in hardcore shooters, but I've always thought that something like Valve's Team Fortress 2, for example, is a shooter that somebody who's not good at shooters can still play.

ES: Well, that's why we hired Richard Ham. He was one of the co-creators of Syphon Filter. He put The Sims on the consoles, which as far as I'm concerned is a superpower. That is a certifiable achievement. And he just finished Fable 2. He is brilliant at taking a system and making it easy to get into.

One of his mantras is, "More carrot than stick." I've learned a lot from this. For example, in my mind, it doesn't make much sense to be a heavy body type and go operative [player class]. Surely, you'd want to be the light body type because you try to be more agile, you're sneaking, you're trying to get behind enemy lines. So I was thinking, "Should we gray that option out or just reduce the rewards?"

He said, "No, let players do that. Don't tell them how to play the game. They'll realize maybe that's not the best use of their resources, but don't make them do that."

Fable 2 is for people who never thought of themselves as gamers before, never thought of themselves as RPG gamers. Similarly, we've got a pretty major backlog of hardcore FPS experiences. We've done that. We don't want to keep making that game. The challenge for us is to make something that people who have never thought of themselves as FPS gamers or online gamers or multiplayer gamers can slide into. It's exactly the same game, whether it's solo or co-op or competitive.

CR: Was that the original concept for the game, or did you come upon that while designing or prototyping?

ES: Well, we didn't want to stay as a PC-only developer. I mean, we love PC gamers. We were a mod team before we were ever developers. We love them. We want to keep supporting them as best as we can.

But, you know, in the last five or 10 years, there are millions more people who are now gamers. And generally gamers are much more hardcore than they realize. There've been a lot of very good articles about how "hardcore" versus "softcore" isn't actually a particularly constructive way of looking at it. There is completionist or tourist. These are much more useful terms.

And we really wanted to take that [into account], which is why we had to change a lot as a company, because we only had experience on PCs. So we've hired a lot of people with triple-A, cross-platform experience. Olivier Leonardi, [formerly of Ubisoft,] is our art director. It could've looked like any other FPS, and it just doesn't. Tim Appleby, our lead character artist, did [protagonist] Shepard on Mass Effect.

We've had to grow a lot as a team. We're doing all three platforms at the same time. It's not that thing where it's just ported from the PC to the console. So, for example, on the playtest, everyone uses a controller. We go back and check that it's still working with that control thing. The level designers weren't happy at first, but eventually we all got into the habit of it.


CR: So, on behalf of the PC gamers, should we be worried about the opposite problem, that it will feel non-native to the PC platform?

ES: Oh, that's a good question. No, I mean, that is always first in our mind. The challenge for us is to deliver on all three platforms absolutely. We're very confident about that, because we have got some very, very smart technology.

You know, we've never seen this level of character customization before. There's a memory issue. It's great having all these huge source textures, but how are you going to send that over a network, particularly when there's no server?

CR: So that's all peer-to-peer on the console?

ES: Exactly. That's not an issue for PC gaming. But I can barely get the fingertips of my imagination on what's going on. The source textures are gigabytes big, and we're compressing them down to a couple dozen megabytes of video. It's really fast. No two players are alike. It's a ridiculous level of detail.

Also, it's a first-person shooter. Only other people get to see how cool they look. [laughs]

But yeah, we've got much love for the PC audience. A lot of that ties in with the publisher [Bethesda Softworks]. We're not going to forget the PC gamers, because we are them to some degree.

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