“The medic has objectives too,” explains Stern. “There are some objectives in which you've got to keep somebody alive, so medics get to be the hero as well. It's quite a democratic thing. That's the influence of our creative director Richard Ham, who co-created Syphon Filter – the first proper shooter on console as far as I can make out. He also did The Sims on console, which is some sort of weird voodoo magic, before working on Fable II with Peter Molyneux. We knew all the PC stuff, so it was great to work with a guy with a proven track record in making certain genres accessible to a larger audience without losing sight of what's cool about that genre.”
“We're trying to get people who don't think of themselves as online gamers to enjoy this cool stuff,” Stern continues. “We know that the best and worst times we've had playing games at Splash Damage have been playing online shooters. When they work, it's fantastic; when they don't, it's incredibly tedious. So we're trying to guarantee all the stuff that's good, and get rid of all the potential pitfalls.”
Pitfalls like rubbish teammates whose flailing crapness ruins your enjoyment of the game? Well, maybe not. Splash Damage is designing online play to work in such a way that you'll only ever hear the voices of people on your friends list, but inevitably – if our extensive experience with Left 4 Dead has taught us anything – you'll come across people significantly better or worse than you. Especially as, unlike Quake Wars before it, there'll be persistent unlocks and character progression.
“We have a bunch of goals,” states Stern, “and we're trying to advance on all fronts. This is the first time we've worked on something we’ve created from scratch, where before, we've always built on someone else's game. We're still using id technology, but this was a test for us as a studio – whether or not we can generate 'new franchises'...”
Ed Stern cringes at having to use the corporate jargon, much as Paul Wedgwood winced at his publisher’s marketing spin. Splash Damage is still, despite the explosiveness of its game, a very down to earth, passionate group of gamers. Consider also that Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory is still the third-most played online shooter on the planet – a fact that seems to surprise Splash Damage as much as it does us – and it’s clear that this free-floating oceanic shooter’s built on some seriously solid foundations.
Oct 15, 2009