GamerZines: We’ve all heard about the inspirations from Lady Gaga, but what does Bodycount do differently to other shooters to make it a “shooter for the 21st century”?
Andy Wilson, Game Director, Bodycount: With Bodycount, we’ve stripped away every last hint of the real world, po-faced military shooter template and created something unique from the ground up: a balls out intense experience with arcade sensibilities in its soul. In particular we’ve focussed on the gun experience, making it feel violent and impactful.
We’ve also deliberately steered away from making another brown shooter and have a very vibrant art style. The cherry on the cake is our class & faction-based AI, which thinks and fights in a dynamic and un-scripted way.
GZ: Destruction is a central theme of Bodycount. How much of the game world and the objects within it can be destroyed?
AW: This is not a game about big, passively observed Hollywood set pieces; you’ve got movies for that. This game is about using destruction at a very intimate, localised level and making it into a tactical gameplay device. That means that piles of cover shred, windows, doorways, interior walls and so on. Anywhere you might expect to see an opponent taking cover, basically. Knocking down every building whole-sale is boring – who wants to fight their way across a big, empty square?
GZ: Are you able to give us a general round-up of the story? Who is Jackson, what are these ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’-style enemies, and why are they all intent on killing each other?
AW: ‘Jackson’ got one between the eyes I’m afraid. We realised after last year’s E3 that having this guy answering back the Handler the whole time was really annoying. And then we remembered Gordon Freeman and realised you really don’t need to have your main character yapping away the whole time.
So, we’ve dialled him back to his original self; a combat adept, John Doe ex forces guy who accepts an offer to fight for a hidden organisation known as The Network. After stepping into a conflict fight between two army and militia factions, the picture starts to cloud and a third faction emerges: The Target. They are the antithesis of The Network, an altogether more deadly foe and basically the people who’ve been fermenting all of these conflicts. They are technologically cutting edge, brutal, oppressive and hell bent on moulding the world in their own image.
GZ: Which end of the scale are you aiming for with Bodycount – Battlefield levels of authenticity or Bulletstorm-style wackiness?
AW: Well we’re certainly not trying to ape real world warfare, but neither are we at the totally fantasised end of the scale; you’re still fighting with weapons loosely based on real world guns, for example. Where we are closer to Bulletstorm is with the art style and the general fun factor. We want to hark back to the golden age of arcade games, particularly when it comes to blowing a guy through a wall with a shotgun!
GZ: Will the weaponry be limited to the realms of reality, or will we be able to get our hands on any super funky weapons?
AW: There are a couple of weapons in there which we’ve built from our imagination. We’ve built two primary weapons for the Target to use and we let the player get their hands of them too at some point. One is kind of like a portable rail gun and the other has a whiff of BFG about it.
GZ: Ironically, many shooters overlook the need for guns to feel satisfying. What goes into making sure Bodycount’s weapons pack a punch, and how important is such a feature to the game?
AW: Cause and effect is a big part of it. If I fire an assault rifle at a wall then I want something to happen, not just for a little black smudge to appear and a couple of particles pop out. Even if you fire at something indestructible, you should see a big, fat decal appear. If you fire at an angle, you want to see deep gouges. You need to feel you’ve traumatised the world otherwise you might as well be wielding a pea shooter. What happens at the business end is also important; everything from audio, to recoil, rumble and beyond. It’s amazing how few shooters actually focus on the core experience with any real conviction.
GZ: We’ve not heard much in the way of competitive multiplayer. Do you have any plans for multiplayer modes, and if so, what are you doing to ensure you can compete toe-to-toe with the best FPSs out there?
AW: We’ve got deathmatch and team deathmatch, and we let the shredding show how the game differs from other shooters. Imagine being in a building made up of shreddable interior walls. Even over the space of a 10 minute deathmatch, the combat range completely changes as the place degrades and all these lines of sight open up across multiple rooms.
On top of that, we’ve deliberately steered away from persistent perks – we want people to be able to pick up and play Bodycount online at any point, and not find that there’s a bunch of elites ruling the servers.
GZ: Rather than being integrated into the campaign, we’ve heard that co-op is a separate feature with its own bespoke missions. What sort of missions will co-op players be able to get their weapon hot with?
AW: Co-op takes the form of a horde-mode style series of wave attacks. We went for that primarily because of our AI. We’ve got a wide variety of different class types with different behaviours and abilities, so the way in which we combine them together in the waves makes for a wide range of different permutations and therefore experiences. For example, a medic (who’s reason to be is simply reviving fallen soldiers) is pesky at the best of times, but imagine what happens when he’s supporting a wave with a couple of Psychos (heavy, tank-class characters) in the mix.
GZ: The EGO Engine works wonders for racers, but has yet to prove itself in other genres. What does the EGO Engine allow you to do that other engines, like Frostbite, Unreal or CryEngine, don’t?
AW: EGO is based on years of evolution and development, not just by our central tech group but by each of the game teams feeding back into it. First and foremost, it gives you a platform to get started quickly. Once we added shredding to it we were very quickly able to produce a proof of concept and that was enormously helpful. Most engines are built with this flexibility in mind, so it’s rarely about wanting to do one thing better than the competition, it’s more about providing your game teams with the tools and tech to get started rapidly.
GZ: Codemasters has largely fired blanks whenever it’s tried to launch an action-shooter IP in the past, with Damnation and Turning Point both being quite high profile failures. What have you learnt to ensure history won’t repeat itself?
AW: Well, I’m not in the business of slating other people’s work and I very much doubt those game teams were lacking in passionate, talented people. What I would say though it that those were third party games and externally produced, whereas the focus at Codemasters over the last 2 years has been about moving to internal, EGO-led projects. So we’ve had all the benefits of being an internal studio with a production-ready engine, plus learnings and assistance from our sister teams on Operation Flashpoint, Dirt and F1.
GZ: It’s been reported that UK game development has been suffering in recent years due to a tough economy, a shortage of expertise and other on-going market pressures. How difficult has it been to build Bodycount in the UK, and would Codemasters ever consider moving development to other countries for future in-house projects?
AW: The UK is primarily tough, in my opinion, because the bright, shining hope of tax breaks for the games industry got torpedoed. It’s a tough economy for sure, but we need to start supporting the industry properly or the whole thing is going to melt into iPhone developers – and there’s only so many 4-man teams who are going to find success.
When you look at the level of support in North America it becomes painfully obvious why so many developers here are closing their doors, including my former home Black Rock. I’m still sitting in disbelief at that one. Codemasters already has a studio in Malaysia for production of art assets, but I would think it unlikely we’ll move fullscale development overseas any time soon. We’re still flying the flag as the last British publisher, after all.
Bodycount launches on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on September 2nd.
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