By: Michael Dougherty
Warmonger is a next generation FPS (First Person Shooter) slated to be released this month by NetDevil. We were lucky enough to get a chance to ask Chris Sherland a few questions regarding the upcoming release.
Michael: Thank you Chris for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. Firstly, let’s get a little background information on you. What is your position within the Warmonger team and what is a typical day like for you at NetDevil?
Chris: I’m Warmonger’s producer, and while no day is typical here, each one does involve blowing stuff up which makes on-the-job stress relief pretty easy.
Michael: A quick perusal of your site ( http://www.warmongergame.com ) and it’s easy to see that NetDevil is passionate about this release. You mention how the world of FPS games has been at a standstill for 10+ years (as far as game play goes) and how the technology is now available to take a step forward in this area. I couldn’t agree with you more, and personally, am very excited to see what Warmonger offers in this area. Does the hype surrounding these new technologies (and Warmonger itself) make you nervous at all or are the developers at Warmonger 100% satisfied with the changes these technologies enabled them to implement?
Chris: Well every release is a source of stress really… Did you get it right? Did you plan for everything? The answers are never what you expect really, but play testing is proving to be positive and folks like to play so that’s a good sign. As far as the changes that this tech brings to the shooter; we think this stuff is inevitable so the satisfaction comes in strange packages. Right now I cannot play any other shooter without becoming very frustrated, so its sort of bitter sweet to know that the changes that are coming with destruction aren’t coming to the whole market at once. And for what it’s worth I think that this tech can go a lot farther too, so does Ageia. So while we’re wrapping up the feature set for Warmonger our creative energies are still flying…”what could we do next?” type of thing.
Michael: One of the technologies I was referring to above was the
PhysX technology. NetDevil has used this technology to implement a “Fully
Destructible Environment” with the release of Warmonger. Could you give us an
overview of what you mean by a “Fully Destructible Environment” and how PhysX
technology allowed you create it?
Chris: Well the phrase really does say it all. However the word “fully” needs to be treated carefully. We made everything destructible early on and the playing field became a pool table in about 40 seconds, so some stuff just has to stay put in order to support interesting gameplay. That said, we made that stuff look like it would be impervious to the weapon set in order to control the player’s expectations. That said, just about everything is destructible but depending on what weapon you have you’ll get different results. I recall a play tester getting into the game for the first time and blasting away at this building with his pistol…then he looked at me and said “I don’t see anything blowing up!” I thought to myself “this is going to be a long road.”
Michael: Will gamers have to purchase a PhysX card to run alongside their graphics card to take full advantage of this new environment you have created?
Chris: Absolutely. We wrote Warmonger directly to the Ageia PhysX
card, right alongside Ageia techs. There is no other way to support the volume
of physics we added to Warmonger with any decent performance.
Michael: The Fully Destructible Environment, should it be as great as it sounds, will be a major step forward in FPS gaming. What kind of an impact do you expect the ability to create environments such as this will have, long term, on the FPS game genre?
Chris: Well again, I think this is where all shooters will have to go eventually. I mean how long can the titanium fence survive with this tech around? Once physics isn’t a canned effect, or a controlled feature that is hand fed to the player it will finally become the change agent it’s destined to be. When a player can consciously alter any part of his environment for tactical advantage he won’t settle for much less for very long.
Michael: Sounds like gamers are going to have to rethink the way they play First Person Shooters. No more memorizing maps and being successful based on that knowledge rather than your ability to strategize. This is very exciting as well as a bit scary to this gamer. What other aspects of Warmonger make it stand out from the other FPS games currently on the market?
Chris: We took it easy really. I mean destruction in and of itself is a lot to chew on for a shooter. And look anywhere in the history of shooters for clear examples of players embracing subtle change, and rejecting massive innovation, right? We added a lot of environmental effects as well, but we purposely left shooter game play alone to a large extent. Warmonger is not about changing everything, it’s about delivering the ability to change your environment with your weapons, and all the new tactical ground that uncovers.
Michael: While creating a next-gen FPS where so much of the world can be destroyed what were some of the challenges your developers were faced with and how did they overcome these challenges to make Warmonger a reality?
Chris: Getting the destruction to work at all was huge! It took longer than we had hoped, and was quite a challenge. But the major task was getting our heads around what this tech allowed us to provide. For a long time we kept making maps and tossing them out until we started integrating destruction into the design from the get go.
It was a cultural shift really, where we began treating the destruction tech as a function rather than a feature. In some cases you can use all the tried and true methods of level design, but if you don’t take into account that the map is a living thing that will change, you end up making maps that cease to function well. It’s quite tricky.
Michael: Releasing a game that promises such exciting new features; the “Fully Destructible Environment” & Cutting Edge Game Visuals to name a couple, is always risky business. We all know gamers tend to be an unruly bunch when they are let down with a game release. How has the reaction been thus far from the gamers who have had the chance to play-test it?
Chris: Warmonger is a shooter, so it’s easy to understand the basic play. In that regard it looks cool and plays smoothly, so there are no big barriers there. However first time Warmonger players do have a learning curve to overcome when it comes to the environment. The big “ah ha” moment comes when you duck behind something instinctually to get cover and then it disintegrates right in front of you and you die. Until you have that experience, even if you’ve already done it to someone else, you keep playing as you always have. It’s a hard lesson, but you really only have to learn it once.
Michael: NetDevil has decided to take the next step forward in First Person Shooters with the release of Warmonger. What does the company hope to achieve by being one of the first companies to bring a title such as this to the market?
Chris: Just that, to be one of the first. Most shooters are ruined for
me now, and I suspect a lot of others that have played Warmonger. Bringing this
tech to the market is exciting for NetDevil because we’ve always been physics
hogs. We just love blowing stuff up. But on a deeper note we feel that we’re
opening up new gameplay that is going to stick, and really become the expected
norm for shooters.
Michael: Is there anything in closing you would like to tell our readers about the game, the developers, or NetDevil in general?
Chris: Well the best way to get what Warmonger is about is to play it; no matter how much I blather on about it, actually playing it is the only way to get the emotion it delivers. And it does deliver. We’re hopeful that Warmonger helps pave some new paths for shooter play. I mean it’s sort of ironic in a way. Warmonger is, after all, about opening up new flow.
NetDevil is in a huge growth cycle right now and it’s a great studio. Having
10 years behind us is proving to be quite a benefit as we take on new projects.
We’re pretty eager to see this tech take off and we’re pretty proud of how the
game plays, but ultimately it’s up to the players. If this tech changes game
play in a way that is palatable and enjoyable to you then we’ve done our job
I’ll be honest Chris, I’m sold. If the game is half as good as it sounds I think NetDevil has taken a huge step in the right direction in making a positive change within the FPS genre. Warmonger is slated to be released on October 16th, 2007. For more information & News feel free to visit the official homepage of Warmonger and be sure to check back in the coming weeks for a full game review where we’ll find out if Warmonger lives up to all the hype.