Brink Q&A w/ Creative Director, Richard Ham – Part 2
Picking up from where we left off in part one of our in-depth chat with Richard Ham, Creative Director on Brink, we conclude with discussion about what we can expect from the game’s campaign, it’s competition in the marketplace and where the FPS genre goes from here.
Also, if you’ve yet to indulge yourself, our hands-on preview of Brink is available here.
IncGamers: Are the two campaigns completely unique or do they show the same events from different perspectives i.e. if you play as the Resistance do they ‘win’ in the end and vice versa for Security?
Richard Ham: Yes, yes, and yes. The two campaigns show the same events from radically different points of view – not only in terms of story, but also gameplay. You can’t really consider the game finished until you play through both storylines (which you can do solo, co-op, or competitively online… it’s entirely your choice). When you finish one storyline, you’ll see the end cutscene for that faction, then when you finish the other storyline, you’ll see that faction’s end. And then finally, once they’re both done, you’ll get the ending for the full game.
But even then, it’s not over. You’ll still have tons of levels to earn, and if you choose to play through the story again, you can play as different classes, with different abilities, and get a radically different experience. And even while you’re exploring all those big differences, you can also (from the moment you turn on the game) go into our advanced online section and start playing the game with different server settings (trying it with friendly fire, in stopwatch, alternate maximum team sizes, turning off command post buffs, or a dozen other interesting and meaningful configuration choices). So really, with Brink, you get nearly infinite replay value.
IG: There are a lot of shooters due for release this year. What makes Brink unique and who do you see as competition?
RH: Everyone is our competition. With all the modern advances in graphic fidelity and online functionality, games are getting more and more expensive to make, which makes them more expensive to buy. And we know that players only have so much cash to put on the table to fuel their gaming habit. So we try to ensure that with Brink, they’re really getting the most out of their gaming dollar. With our previous games, we’ve got people who are still logging on years after the game came out. Wolfenstein Enemy Territory is almost a decade old, and it’s still in the top 10 most played multiplayer shooters on the PC. So we’re using the lessons we learned over the years to ensure that Brink has the same longevity.
IG: Explain the idea behind the SMART system. What inspired you to implement such a feature?
RH: SMART is all about making sure that players can focus on the tactics and the shooting, and not worry about getting stuck on terrain or being blocked by something that in real life you could get past easily.
It’s in the game because of a variety of influences, foremost being the designer who worked on it being a real life parkour practitioner!
IG: What are your thoughts on the future of the FPS genre? Where are the next major innovations going to come from?
RH: I wouldn’t want to give away all our secrets, but I will say that finding new ways to get players connected with each other and more deeply involved with their game is the way forward. As a company, we’re looking for ways to make people’s lives better basically, and since human beings are at heart social animals, sharing experiences with friends and even strangers adds so much more depth and meaning. We basically want to take video games away from the path they’ve been moving on over the last 30 years towards more and more solitary experiences. Instead, we want games to bring people together.
IG: Are there any features that have, for whatever reason, been ‘left on the cutting room floor’?
RH: Every videogame in history has a graveyard of ideas that had to be dropped either because of schedule, tech limitations, man power issues, or because it just wasn’t fun. Okay, maybe Pong didn’t drop any of its core ideas, but every other game since, definitely.
Brink’s no different, and it’s not a surprise since we’re such a deep game. So sure, some things have been dropped because of changes in design, like originally we were going to offer you bonus XP if people played online, but we decided against that because we didn’t want to punish people who couldn’t play online because they didn’t have the proper connections. Other things get dropped because we have technical troubles with implementation, like going idle in the middle of a match and letting the AI take over. It’s always heartbreaking when we have to make a cut like this, but a big part of development is taking a long hard look at the situation and making the choice that makes the game better for the most players. It’s a delicate juggling act, and there are casualties in every war.
IG: Any favourite weapons/classes throughout the team?
RH: It used to be I was a total medic fan, because I’m only an okay player, and so when I was outmatched by the enemy, I could focus on keeping my team alive instead of trying to kill the enemy. But then I kind of got into being an operative in a big way, sneaking around, hacking enemy defenses, and laying out great defenses like caltrops and sticky bombs. But these days, I’m really heavily into being a soldier. I’m loving being the master of death and destruction, improving both my regular Frag Grenade’s damage and splash damage, as well as being able to throw more, plus cool stuff like having built-in Kevlar, alternate grenades like Molotovs and flashbangs, and better yet, deployable explosives I can put anywhere and remotely detonate at any time. I can blow individual ones for targeted strikes, or make all three of them go up at once to put the hurt on a lot of enemies simultaneously. Of course, I have to hide them well, because if I put them in plain sight, they can just shoot them from a distance.
And as I’ve gotten better at the game, I’ve found I’m living longer, and have more need for additional ammo, so keeping myself and the rest of my team going is great, plus getting to hand out armour piercing bullets to cut through the enemy’s Kevlar is a bonus too. And of course, there’s the core action of planting HE charges to complete major objectives. It’s just an incredible feeling of accomplishment to get that done and move my whole team forward, or open up a cool flanking opportunity.
IG: Any zombie DLC in the works?