Last Friday a small group descended upon the Free Radical Design (FRD) studios. Among those invading the Derby studio were community members deded999 and ms-kleaneasy - they didn't come back empty handed either.
Not only did they put Project Lead Derek Littlewood through a gruelling interview process (ok not so gruelling), they also came back with some specially guarded top secret game information as yet unknown to anyone beyond the walls of the Haze development studio. Thanks to the guys at FRD we bring you some exclusive new multiplayer game information. Walk this way...
Q. Some people in the community have been asking if legacy controls will be available in the final game.
Derek: The control options in the demo are as they are in the final game. While it'd certainly be possible to include, I think it's going to be a case of seeing player reaction.
Q. Are there any options to adjust stick sensitivity?
Derek: There is no stick sensitivity option in there and I'll tell you why - it's because a core part of the game is the balance between the troopers and rebels who both have different stick sensitivity. I mean, they move at different speeds, they turn at different speeds... if you let people change the sensitivity you break that balance between the two sides. When it's taken us a very very long time to get the game balanced, to put something like that in would be suicidal for the balance of the multiplayer online.
Q. Are there separate leaderboards for Promise Hand & Mantel online or is it combined leaderboards?
Derek: It's a combined leaderboard. It's a nice idea though!
Q. How happy are you with the final game compared to the original design?
Derek: As always I am happy with some of it and there's some of it I wish I could go back and do again. You're never 100% happy with a game, there's loads of stuff that I'd like to change but then there's loads of stuff I think Well yeah that turned out quite well'.
The one thing I do like is that I remember the very, very early discussions about the game and we talked about trying to include asymmetric combat and we talked about trying to present war in games in a slightly different way and in a slightly more thought provoking way and I think that it does those things. So from that point of view I think I'm happy that we have done the thing we set out to do even if the exterior of the game is not what I expected it to be like at the time but the core of it is still that concept.
Q. Considering the delay would you say it's been a more difficult development than you expected?
Derek: Yes I think it has been more difficult than we anticipated. Balancing the two sides was actually the one thing that was more work than we anticipated and we did anticipate it would be quite hard anyway.
We were aware what the problems were likely to be, however I think what we were more surprised with were just the problems that arise when you scale up a team of 20 or 30 people (which is where we were working last gen) to up to 100 people. Managing that number of people and ensuring that everything gets delivered on time and in keeping with the core vision of the game is a very difficult thing. It's kind of dull project management stuff really but those were the real kind of big challenges that we faced and the things that we didn't anticipate that were kind of surprising.
Q: So that's something you can point to, the change in generation of consoles and the corresponding increase in size?
Derek: Yeh, it's just the amount of resources that it takes to make a game these days, the production of assets for it takes so much more. All the stuff like online functionality and everything, it's just all a hell of a lot of work, and a hell of a lot of testing.
I know we did online with TS:FP but again there were a lot of new problems to solve with Haze such as being able to join co-op games, drop-in, drop-out, all of those sorts of things, again new challenges to solve.
Q. How much has developing Haze taught you about this new generation of games and how much has that informed the development of TimeSplitters 4 and your Lucasarts project?
Derek: Oh masses... absolutely masses, the knock on effect has been big, we learned a lot of things with Haze, we've also developed a lot of core technology and a lot of core tools that we're going to go forward and make TS4 and the Lucasarts project with, we've just learned so much in the process of making it.
Q. Story plays a strong part in Haze. Which other games have impressed you with their story?
Derek: Metal Gear Solid 3! Incredible. Cracking game.
I still like Call of Duty 4, it did something really special with its story there, in a way a bit unexpected, I don't think I was expecting that from it. The previous Call of Duty games have been great games but I don't think they attempted to tell quite that kind of story, I think it was a really nice thing.
Here's another game influenced me, though not as a direct influence. I've always had a lot of respect for Shadow of the Colossus, I just love the way that you have this expectation of the outcome and it changes, and it makes you think about the result of all your actions. It does that thing that I always wanted Haze to do which is to get you to look at other games and think "This thing I've been told to do, is this actually the right thing? What's the result of this?' I always hoped that people playing Haze would also have a similar reaction to other things so when you finish playing Haze and go and play another FPS you maybe ask yourself "What lies behind what I'm seeing here? Do I have my Nectar vision on?" And is there something behind that, it would be nice to think people have that experience from it. We'll have to see.
deded999: From what I've seen of it I think you've probably achieved what you were aiming to do.
Q. Which non-Free Radical shooters are you most impressed with?
Derek: Well, Call of Duty. I'm quite a big shooter fan anyway so I'm not overly dismissive of the competition. I loved Call of Duty 4, I loved Halo 3, I loved Portal and Half Life 2: Episode 2, I quite like GoldenEye which is probably one of those things I put in my job description when I was applying for a job [laughs]. All the big shooters of the past year, there's some really good stuff in there.
Q. Is there any great difference between the Haze demo and the final game?
Derek: The demo was a bit earlier than the final game. There's not one thing you're going to put your finger on and say Oh well this is different', but there was a lot of bug fixing and polishing that went on.
Q. Anything else you would like to add?
Derek: Yes, please thank [the community] for their long term support, particularly those who have been here since E3 2006 when I popped up and said hello to the 4 of them that were there [laughs].