To The Moon!BT: OK, so you’ve chosen your setting and settled on this space-based game. Did you find that difficult to design around? Was creating a zero-gravity game more complex than you anticipated? The tactics and freedom open to players must present some challenges – people could bounce above the surface and boost forward shooting down on enemies, but it isn’t really down because there is no down...
It was just a question of prototyping and playing with the variables. We’ve had various movement models for the game, for example. It was something we worked on for 18 months. At different stages of development players have had different levels of freedom of movement. A lot of experimentation.
BT: What types of things did you try?
Well, it’s a big step to go from a usual FPS to a full 360 degrees of movement. So, we experimented along those lines from a pure FPS to what we have now. We’ve had base levels which you have to return to, but we found that freedom is what gives the player the most options. In many ways this is the most intuitive way to play the game, as well as freeing up the level design.
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If you look at the levels in the beta then there’s still a big range there. There’s Moondust, which has a lot of structure and an obvious floor, so even though there’s no gravity there’s still a sense of which direction is which. Then there’s ISS at the other end of the scale, which is completely open and has no plane. It’s just this big floating station.
So, that was what the testing was all about – seeing who preferred what and what was most popular, but we tried many, many
There’s a lot of interesting stuff on the internet about the conventions of FPS design
, but once you free up how the player moves we found we had to write a lot of new rules to make our game work.
BT: That’d include some of the design points you mentioned in your presentation? Things like changing the available grenades and how they work, no frag grenades and so on?
Yes, because we never wanted to make a complex game – we wanted something accessible and easy to get into. That was always our design focus.
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BT: Was it always your focus to do a purely multiplayer game too, or did you think about having a singleplayer element too at any point?
We started with a multiplayer concept. We developed ideas based on our backstory, but the design from the very start was always to keep it as a multiplayer game.
BT: Do you see yourselves making more games in the future?
BT: Is Shattered Horizon a franchise you’re going to build on then? It would seem unusual to make a multiplayer game with a deep story otherwise...
We hope to build on it, definitely. During the last ten years or so that we’ve been doing 3DMark we’ve done custom game projects for various companies, so we’ve dipped our toes in the water at various places but this is our first full game under our own name. That does mean you have to have sensible ambitions, but from that we do already have the technology and the processes.
Yes, absolutely, we expect to make many, many more games.