E3 2010: Red Faction: Armageddon Interview - David Abzug, Design Lead
Written Saturday, July 03, 2010 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Admittedly when I first heard that Red Faction was heading underground in their fourth instalment in the franchise, I was a little intrigued. Not because going underground is anything particularly amazing, but with a game that relies on its open-world environments and destructibility, I was more intrigued to see what that would mean for the game.
We caught up with Design Lead, David Abzug, at this year's E3 to ask those burning questions and more. Ever wondered why Red Faction took out terrain deformation? Well we now know... I do miss burrowing into the ground for no reason whatsoever though just because I could though.
Can you tell us a bit about the story and how it connects to Red Faction: Guerrilla?
David Abzug: Certainly. Red Faction: Armageddon is set two generations after the events of Red Faction: Guerrilla and you play the character of Darius Mason, the grandson of Alec Mason and Samanya from Red Faction: Guerrilla. In that time, there's been a lot of changes in the world. The surface has been devastated and destroyed in a recent war about 10 years ago; the terraforming has broken down completely. Huge storms are scouring the surface making it very hard to live up there, so the vast majority of people have moved below the surface into the mining tunnels underground, so that they can build a civilisation there. And recently on top of that, something has started happening below ground that nobody understands. Something is killing everyone it comes across and infesting the entire world. Darius Mason's job is to find out what has happened and to stop it.
How will moving the action underground affect the free-roaming destruction aspects built for the last Red Faction?
DA: It's definitely going to affect it, but the thing is that the tone and style of every Red Faction game has been different to the one that's gone before it. Red Faction 1 was set down in tunnels and was about the evils of the Ultor Corporation and fighting mutants. Red Faction 2 was on Earth and was about super soldiers and dictatorships. And Red Faction: Guerrilla was a more grounded story about revolt.
Do you think having the freedom to change the tone from game to game is what makes the franchise so successful?
DA: I think so. I mean, how often have you seen a sequel where your response has been, “Oh, it's just more of the same?” Well the one thing that's been part of Red Faction is destruction and we've even made changes between Red Faction 2 and Red Faction: Guerrilla going from GeoMod to GeoMod 2.0, so we've been playing around with that. And we've even added onto that in Red Faction: Armageddon. What we've set out to do from a design aspect was to come up with tools and weapons for the player that are cooler because of destruction. You'll have a weapon and that weapon is fun in and of itself. If you were in a box made out of 'I-can't-break-you-um', you would still have fun with that weapon. But the fact that you're in a destructible environment makes the weapon even better.
The obvious example is the Magnet Gun from the demo. It's a very simple weapon. It takes whatever you launch the first projectile at and sends it flying at whatever you launch the second projectile at. Very simple, very basic. You could picture yourself doing, 'launch the exploding barrel', 'launch the bad guy at the wall' – that kind of stuff. But with our game, because of GeoMod 2.0, you get to launch the side of the building. We don't have a 7/11 in the game, but if we did, you could launch it at something at a hundred miles an hour! Hit them with the convenience store! I have often taken a whole chunk of a building and taken out three or four guys in one fell swoop by basically pummelling them with twenty tonnes of concrete.
DA: I think it's what we were talking about before. What we managed to do was take advantage – the phrase to use is, we stood on the shoulders of giants. The Red Faction: Guerrilla team put a huge amount of effort simply into the ability to do destruction to anything in the world. Destruction is very hard, so some people with very big heads, worked on it for a very long time to get it working and get real physics-based destruction. Then they handed it to us and we got to say, “Right, what can we do with this that's fun?” So we've come up with things like the Magnet Gun or things like repair, to let you build, which we actually developed for RF:G's multiplayer. Things like repair that let you rebuild the world after you've destroyed it! That enables you to do new things, like repairing a wall after you've just jumped through it so that the bad guys can't follow you. Now you can repair the area around the tunnels so that you can rebuild a trap to collapse on them when they come after you. Now you can build yourself new Magnet Gun ammo.
We've made some tweaks to GeoMod 2.0 - which were primarily done by the same guys who built it in the first place – in order to make the destruction more integrated, more fun and more realistic. You know you're on to something good, when making it more realistic makes it more fun. But mostly what we've done is say, “How can we play with it? How can we make it more a part of the player's tools during combat rather than it just being part of the objective?” Mind you, we still have all of that. We have destruction targets where you'll go and blow this building up. But now in the middle of combat, blowing the building up helps you win the fight.
In Red Faction 2 you had more terrain deformation. Did you ever consider bringing that back for Red Faction: Armageddon?
DA: We've already said that the GeoMod 2.0 engine took a lot of effort to build and it's a very complicated engine. Adding actual terrain deformation into that would have increased the level of complexity dramatically, not to mention the design. If you can't border the player with anything, no matter what, it's a little hard to get them to follow the story. We have a very tight story that we're telling in RF:A. We've got a very involved story that we're telling and it's one of the things that we've expanded from Red Faction: Guerrilla. The amount of storytelling that we're doing and the amount of plotline involved and just the idea... I'm sorry, but the terrain deformation just wouldn't fit in well with what we're doing.
DA: Well, I would definitely say that we're not survival horror. Don't get me wrong, I thought Dead Space was a great game and I love the daylights out of it. But what we are is an action game in a horrific world. You saw the demo. You get into a fourteen-foot tall suit of powered armour and shoulder-bash your way through five of these things before you unleash a trio of rockets that track them down and kill them, then swap to your fully-automatic rail-gun to blast them into pieces. You're fighting massive hordes of enemies, using powerful weapons. I'd say what we wanted to do was tell that darker, more involved tale from a story, world and atmosphere standpoint, but we are still very much an action shooter game. Dead Space – one guy down the hallway is scary, and you've got to take it apart before it gets to you. Here, there's eight or ten of them swarming down the hallway at you and you're mowing them down in desperation trying to get them before they get to you.
DA: I'm trying to find a polite way to say, “I'm sorry, I'm not allowed to talk about that at this time. You'll have to wait.”
How will multiplayer tie into the new setting?
DA: We have made some large changes to how multiplayer works in Red Faction: Armageddon and we'll be revealing those pretty soon.
Red Faction: Armageddon will be smashing into stores in March 2011.