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Without Warning

After the widely documented fallout from , Eidos whisked the series away from original developers Core Design and handed it over to Crystal Dynamics, who are currently working on Lara Croft's seventh incarnation. Following the debacle, Jeremy Heath-Smith - who co-founded Core in 1988 - left the company and has only recently resurfaced with brother Adrian with a new coding outfit, Circle Studio.

Their first offering? - a third-person action-adventure, natch. We caught up with Heath-Smith to find out why it couldn't be more different to Tomb Raider and why spending three years trying to develop your own technology isn't a good idea...

How did you settle on what type of game Without Warning would be? You've gone for one of the most competitive genres out there...
It's one of the biggest as well though. If you analyse the way we got to where we are, we left Core, sat down in a room and said, What are we going to do now? It has to be said there were elements of us that wanted to disappear into the sunset but that would have been far too easy.

We looked at how the market is divided up - car racing games, RPGs, sports games - and then thought, OK, what are our strengths? Third-person arcade-adventure games, we've done those, so we should stick to that. Metal Gear, Splinter Cell, Medal Of Honor, Tom Clancy stuff, Rainbow Six - they're all great but what is in there that we can do differently to all that? We wanted to write a game that's topical but we don't want to write a stealthy, squady unforgiving game.

The reality is, while it is one of the most popular genres, they've all gone after that same kind of market and left this gaping hole. So we started by saying we want to set it in one location; we want to put terrorists in there; we want to put hostages in there; we want to have this single guy that goes in and saves the world.

Why one location? Why was that important?
You can spend time on that location, make it look great, get to know it as a player, go through it several times. We wanted that one sandbox location. The game started its life with a single character. We spent three months doing a great demo, got the character up-and-running really well. But then I thought, Would I actually buy this thing? What's unique about it? It looks great but that's hardly unique is it? It's arcade-action instead of stealth... well, that's not enough. If I'm a publisher, I wouldn't buy it just because of that.

So we said single character's too difficult, we can't do that, we can't compete against Metal Gear, Splinter Cell, so we have to do something else. Then the really obvious squad-based element came in but then you've got SOCOM and the rest of the deluge of the squad-based games. So we don't want to get into that space.

And then that whole 24 thing kind of hit the scene for us. We loved 24 and we thought they can do it - that main plot going on top with all these sub-plots underneath - so why can't we do it? Then we came up with this idea of time travel, which was just a nightmare. We had this idea that you could play a level then go back and play it again and change events but that just scared the hell out of us and everyone would just laugh us out of the building.

Then one of the guys said, "What about if we have time lines with different characters? They can never meet because that would be impossible but their paths will cross." So we worked it up from there. The great thing about this game is it sounds complicated but, in reality, it's dead simple because it's all scripted, it's all linear.

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