Red Faction: Armageddon Interview – Marketing Manager Eric Barker Gets His Ass To Mars
Written Thursday, April 28, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Red Faction has always prided itself on giving the player free reign to destroy almost anything they want to, and Red Faction: Guerrilla was perhaps one of the purest expressions of the franchise remit yet, offering total freedom to level buildings and trash anything in sight.
For Red Faction: Armageddon, Volition is taking the action underground in a bid to focus the destruction and hopefully provide a more satisfying - if slightly more linear - experience for fans of all-out chaos and demolition, which surely includes everyone.
We sat down to talk all things Red Faction with Marketing Manager, Eric Barker, who is only too happy to discuss Red Faction: Armageddon's shift in location, its new weapons, its vehicles and the franchise's past, present and future.
Why was the decision made to transport the Red Faction franchise underground following the open-world of Guerrilla?
There were a few things. The first thing that we really wanted to focus on with Red Faction: Armageddon, was making sure that we addressed some of the problems that people had with Guerrilla. There were great things that we loved about Guerrilla like the GeoMod Engine, and that was one of the things we wanted to improve upon. In an open-world, some people have to drive for five minutes from mission to mission with perhaps not a lot happening, so there's that and we really just wanted to tighten the story up. It's more of a linear game now, but we still have the destructible environments and people really loved the destruction, so of course, we wanted to take that to the next level. We had some people who were concerned, because they didn't want to risk maybe destroying a bridge so they can't get to the other side and can't finish the game, so with the repair function, you can go nuts and destroy anything you want, because you know you can always bring it back.
We wanted weapons that are focused on using destruction instead of just guns, so not just your standard assault rifle or pistol. There's a Magma Gun, we have a Plasma Beam that enables you to cut buildings in half... So, by having these weapons that are focused on destruction, what we do is kind of surround you with destruction. With the bigger, open environments, you don't get that same feeling. In this sandbox environment, you still have high ceilings and tall structures, so you're surrounded by it, and to have something like the Magnet Gun flinging things past you, throwing debris across, it's coming at you from all sides. As you saw, we have aliens who are clinging to the walls, firing at you from there, so basically we're taking the destruction 360° and instead of being able to back off in Guerrilla to survey exactly what's going on, now you're right in the middle of a maelstrom with things flying back and forth creating this kind of 'killing jar'. You're repairing, the Magnet Gun is throwing things around, you've got aliens climbing out of the walls from all sides and all angles, and that was really the goal for Armageddon.
While we were playing the game, it seemed like Darius was almost impervious to the shower of debris and masonry falling all around him in the maelstrom, as you said. Were we just lucky or is he actually invulnerable with so much chaos going on?
No, because basically he's still a normal guy. He's just a human being. What we've got though is almost like an Iron Man-type phenomenon, where Tony Stark is just a normal guy with no super powers, but we're going to give you a Nano Forge, let you repair and give you some really cool weapons and we'll give you the exo mechs. But as you also saw, there's not just one type of alien, there's all sorts of types of aliens and they're not all created equal. You'll have the Nano Forge's great abilities, but you'll be facing some pretty tough aliens. You'll get cool weapons, but then we'll throw in the Lightning Ball Ravager who'll throw lightning bolts at you. So now we'll give you the exo, which is like a fantastic Iron Man suit, a great big mech, but then – guess what? - we're going to throw the heavy at you, which has an explosive attack, turning the fight into something like a Godzilla battle. So, Darius is a normal guy who we'll essentially give you great powers, but every time you get those powers, we're going to amp up the competition to ensure that the game stays competitive.
Are we going to see a return for Guerrilla's backpacks? They were great fun...
We had the backpacks and no jetpacks, but what we decided to do is take a lot of the stuff that people did love from the multiplayer [in Guerrilla] as you saw with the Nano Forge and stuff, and what we did is we took it and moved it into single-player and you have it throughout the campaign, through co-op and everything, so we spread those great Nano Forge abilities across the game. We tried to take so much of what we saw worked and really make sure that what players loved in Guerrilla is amped up.
What kind of role – if any – will the EDF play in the game?
It's not so much focused on the EDF now, but you have the aliens and you have these cultists who are lead by Adam Hale. What makes that interesting, is that it gives you a lot more diversity in terms of your antagonists, so you'll be fighting a number of different types of aliens and you're going to be fighting humans. You'll be fighting by yourself and you'll also be fighting alongside the Red Faction. There's stacks of diversity in terms of the enemies you'll be fighting and they all have different powers, abilities and weapons, but we've also given you a lot more environmental diversity, which is another improvement over Guerrilla. In Guerrilla, you had one light source in a very uniform environment, whereas in this, you'll see huge underground caves, crystal caves, there's a magma level where you're going through in a lava barge, and about 20 percent of the game takes place on the surface. You've got lots of different enemies, lots of different places, lots of different weapons. We've really just tried to give you a whole big palette with loads of fun, cool stuff to do.
Do you find that having 80 percent of the game confined to underground spaces proves a little restrictive in creating variety? Surely you're only really able to have various types of cave?
Not so much. We have crystal areas, we have areas that are like shanty towns where the humans have developed them, there are mining colony areas with huge pipes and lot of other areas like that. What's really interesting, is that with the destructive element, you are remaking the environment yourself, so as you've already seen while playing, it's not going to look the same for very long, because you blow stuff up, you repair it; you actually re-shape your world. You can rip things apart with the Magnet Gun and you want to level a building? Well, that was a big challenge for our designers, because in the past you could just spawn bad guys behind that building, but now we don't know if you're going to knock that building down or not. You might knock it down and build it back up again, so for our designers it was a real challenge in dealing with all of those fantastic options that destruction gives the player.
Has the GeoMod Engine had to be updated at all for Red Faction: Armageddon or is it the same as before?
Honestly, the guys did such a great job the first time round, that all we needed were minor tweaks. Anything man-made in Guerrilla, you could destroy and now anything you can destroy, you can repair, so we made sure to incorporate those elements that allow those fantastic physics-based weapons, like the Plasma Beam, the Magnet Gun and the repair function. Overall though, it's hard to improve on perfection.
Were there any new issues that arose from being able to both destroy and repair, like players maybe repairing themselves into a corner, for instance?
Well, of course you have impact as well though, so if you ever paint yourself into a corner, you can always blow a hole to get back out. We've always made sure that you have that option, but exactly, when you're talking about that, we did ambitious stuff that created a lot of challenges to create all of these fantastic options for the player, because what we wanted to do was ensure that the destruction wasn't taking place in the background; to ensure that it wasn't just a tech demo. Now as you can see, you can repair and create cover for yourself. And if I want to see if there are aliens there, I can use impact to blow a hole and then, do I actually want to shoot the aliens or if they're really hard to get hold of on the floor above me, I can just use the Plasma Beam to cut the floor in half and bring them down to me. I don't have to sit there and play it like other games. It really allows players to express their personality. Some people are really sneaky and strategic, some people would rather bring the whole building down and some people are going to be very cautious and use the cover, so you've got a lot of different variables. What we found in QA were all of these different styles of playing the game, because you've got such a diversity of creative options.
I imagine that the majority prefer going crazy with the destruction though, like lots of players will love tearing through buildings in the Leo exo mech. Are there any other mechs or things like that?
There are other mechs, yes. But that mech – just like Darius – is not indestructible, so you destroy too much, too fast, that thing is going to catch on fire and you're going to have to get out of it. So, we've made sure that at every point, there's always challenges. You're not indestructible, so you're always going to have to weight up your options and consider the best way to handle things, because if the Leo exo catches on fire and you have to get out of it, well then you're going to have to face that big green heavy, without an exo, so you'd better think about how fast and how much you want to destroy or you might put yourself in a really bad situation.
Will there be many vehicles up on the surface of Mars?
You're going to have a diversity of really interesting vehicles, as the Red Faction series has become known for that; having a range of really cool, really interesting vehicles. We don't want to disappoint our fans, so you're going to be seeing a lot of different exos, a lot of different vehicles, a lot of different stuff. Some of those we want the players to experience for themselves, so I don't want to ruin it.
Do you think that once the next-generation of consoles eventually rolls around, doing a game like Red Faction will be tougher, as players expectations of what they should be able to destroy might be impossible to deliver?
They're way off, but there's two elements here. There's always your technological element and your design element as well, so is it really going to make the game that much better for players? Where's your focus going to be? Do we really want to focus on that or do we want focus on doing something different? You can see we've made some changes from Guerrilla, and the most important thing to us is making the game more fun, better game to play, so that's the area we'll be spending the most time on.
Red Faction 1 and 2 were more about destroying terrain rather than buildings and structures, so why was the shift to destroying buildings brought about for Guerrilla and Armageddon?
The issue was clarity. You might remember that you weren't necessarily sure whether you could destroy something or not, and we didn't want to have to do artificial, contrived stuff, like “hey, you can blow this up!” We've really got the game to a point where we don't need that. We want to do something that's intuitive, where the player just knows what they're doing. We found what was a really great dividing line was to say that if it's man-made you can destroy it and if it isn't, you can't. That gave us a level of clarity and the player a level of clarity, from the most experienced gamers to players picking up the game for the first time, they get it instantly and they know what they can do and they know the limitations. They don't have to think about anything else except having a good time.
What's your personal favourite weapon?
The Magnet Gun. My goal from the moment you get it until the end of the game is to try and just use the Magnet Gun, which is very difficult! It events in a lot of short range, melee situations, but on the other hand it lets you get creative in the way you're going to use it, and that stuff is great.
And finally, can you tell us anything about Saints Row: The Third?
I can tell you it's awesome!
Red Faction: Armageddon is out on June 7th in North America and June 10th in Europe. For more, check out our latest hands-on preview.