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Red Faction: Guerrilla

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Volition
Release Date: Sept. 15, 2009 (US), Sept. 18, 2009 (EU)

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'Red Faction: Guerrilla' (ALL) Developer Interview

by Adam Pavlacka on April 24, 2009 @ 9:00 a.m. PDT

Volition, Inc.'s third-person shooter franchise will make its open-world, next-gen debut with Red Faction: Guerrilla. Set 50 years after the climactic events of the original Red Faction, this third-person open-world action-shooter will return to Mars and once again re-define the limits of destruction-based game-play.

Red Faction: Guerrilla is a 3rd-person, open-world action shooter set on Mars, 50 years after the events of the original Red Faction. Players will take the role of an insurgent fighter with the newly re-established Red Faction movement as they battle for liberation from the oppressive Earth Defense Force. Throughout their fight for freedom, players will carve their own path, wreaking havoc across the vast, open-world environment of Mars, from the desolate mining outpost of Parker to the gleaming EDF capital city of Eos. Utilizing improvised weapons, explosives and re-purposed mining equipment and vehicles, Red Faction: Guerrilla allows players to tear through fully destructible environments in an unforgiving Martian landscape swarming with EDF forces, Red Faction resistance fighters, and the downtrodden settlers caught in the cross-fire. Red Faction: Guerrilla will also feature a robust multiplayer component, including several modes focused on destruction-based gameplay.

WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank, and occupation!

I'm Dan Cermak, and I'm the VP of Product Development at Volition.

WP: Red Faction: Guerrilla, the long-delayed sequel, has been in development for a while. When did you guys actually start working on Guerrilla, and how did the idea come about to reach back to such an older property?

DC: Really, it goes back over five years. The idea was, when we started Saints Row, we committed the studio to open-world gaming, and the feeling was this was not a one-game situation. This is a genre that was going to happen, and we felt that the audience was really looking for something like this, so we wanted to do something where the studio was focused on just doing open-world games. At that point, we started up Saints Row, and then another team became available, and we looked around and said, "What do we want to do next?"

We were looking at Red Faction and thinking, "You know, if you think about the destruction that we had in the first Red Faction, that doesn't really work in a linear basis game because you can't break out of the linear base. You can't. So what if we tied destruction to an open-world game?" And that's really where the roots of the whole thing came from. At that point, we started up a tech team over five years ago to see if we could create a physics-based destruction engine, and it took many years to do that. That's really what started the whole thing, but it was all tied into that concept of an open world.

WP: We were playing with the game, and we noticed that the buildings and vehicles are all very destructible, but you don't seem to be able to deform the ground at all. Why make the decision that the ground is immutable, but the buildings and structures are not?

DC: It was more of a focus for us. We wanted to focus on what we felt was the main part of the gameplay. You can dig a hole and maybe have a trench or foxhole, but it's not really that important in the gameplay, and what we're trying to do is bring destruction into where it mattered in the game, so that was really the focus, rather than it being a fun little feature. It needed to be integral, it needed to be a part of gameplay throughout. With that, we had to step back and say, "What makes it? What matters?" Well, it's really about structures, vehicles, and that sort of thing. That's what focused us on doing that kind of destruction.

WP: When you're talking about open-world gameplay and destruction, one of the things that comes to mind is how you keep the missions moving forward. You mentioned Saints Row. You're in an urban environment, so there's a lot of running, gunning, hiding, ducking and cover. In a game like Red Faction: Guerrilla, where you can just destroy the cover, how do you keep the player interested in a specific mission goal?

DC: It's interesting because you kind of look at it as a whole for us. We put in a mechanism with EDF control — EDF are the bad guys — over the whole region, and there are multiple regions — at least five — in the game, and the concept of civilian morale.

What we want the player to do is focus on removing control so that they can then trigger missions, at the same time getting up that civilian morale so they would actually help you in the game. It's a very simple mechanism, but it really does drive the player forward. What you'll find is you'll really want to spend time doing the activities and things to make the missions happen. Otherwise, you can't advance. You have to bring that EDF control down to nothing before you can actually conquer that area, so it's a very simple behind it that drives everything.

Plus, we put in the game. There are situations where destruction is just part of the game. You come across a building that's marked as, "Destroy this building," because it belongs to the enemy. For us, guerrilla warfare is the key to the whole thing. If you look at it, guerrilla warfare is all about the idea of destroying enemy infrastructure, enemy individuals, and making it too expensive. Kill their vehicles and make it too expensive for them to want to stay. That's what the game is all wrapped up in, and in some ways, there are parts of it where that's all it's about — blow up their buildings and get out of there — but the missions have a real set purpose. It was trying to define and decide what that purpose was and get the player to do that. They're not long missions, but they're pretty interactive, and the AI responds pretty well. They come after you pretty heavy! Those are the things that kind of balance it out.

WP: Some of those side-missions can appear at any time. We were in the middle of some primary missions when a convoy suddenly appeared or there was a spy running around with stolen documents. How did you guys strike on the idea of giving the player the sudden choice of finishing what they're doing or moving on to another side-mission? It really jars you and you're trying to decide, "What do I do? What's more important?"

DC: Actually, the whole world was that way at the beginning. We had everything pop up except the missions. Everything was kind of, "I was sitting here, and now they're attacking this base or they're attacking that base," or "I need to do this defensive mission." What we found was the player only did the missions then. They almost got overloaded. What we did was backed it off, changed the way that flows and let the player decide what activities to do and made the game become huge for them. The player has more control over what they can do that way. They feel they do. They actually could have done with same thing the other way, but we left a few of them as emergent gameplay just because it feels more like guerrilla warfare. We're really trying to maintain that guerrilla warfare feel.

WP: Speaking of guerrilla warfare, what kind of discussions did you guys have inside the studio about making sure that you had the right balance? You're fighting as a guerrilla, and especially given current events, one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist, but that had to be quite the balancing act.

DC: I think it's really about the backstory in some ways. You have to make it clear how oppressive it is, really what the martial law and the EDF are really doing to people. That was one of the key things, and we spent a lot of time on that ambient world. You'll find EDF just stopping people in the street and putting them on their hands and knees and shooting them. They'll throw bodies out of cars; if you watch carefully, this is all going on. In the backstory as well, you'll see just how oppressive they really are. For us, it was really about tying that in.

You can say that about the American Revolution and find them to be guerrillas, in a way. They were terrorists to the English, but they were freedom fighters to the Americans. That's kind of what we're saying: Mars is Martian, and it belongs to the Martians. The EDF are not Martians. Those guys are from Earth, and they're the overlord and oppressor. It really is about that sort of thing.

WP: I don't know if this was intentional or not, but while we were playing the game, one of the things that came to mind was the old movie, "Total Recall." Red Faction: Guerrilla definitely seemed to have some influences based on that. What sources — be it film, novels or photos — did you guys have when you were working on the game?

DC: Everything, but I think more tidbits. We spent a long time at the beginning looking at movies and how they did their special effects, how they did destruction, and how a building looks when it falls. You've gotta look at how destruction happens so you can understand how it works, how it should feel so that it feels right because it's huge. If you watch carefully, you'll see things blink out and stuff because the CPU can only handle so much, so you have to handle it carefully, and you want to make sure that the destruction feels real without being this "magic" thing that's happening. We looked at lots of sources — yes, we used "Total Recall" and do terraforming, but for me, it was about how you make the world feel consistent and real than anything else.

WP: Early on in the game, we noticed a reference to an Ultor communications tower. How many references to other Volition titles are there? Is it just Saints Row, or do you have a lot of little inside jokes for fans of the company?

DC: You know, you've got to look back because if you look back at Red Faction 1, you'll see that Ultor was the scientists who basically the bad guys in that one. The EDF came and rescued the miners and overthrew Ultor, and we put the reference in Saints Row 2 afterward, so they were the beginnings of the bad guys on Earth who go to Mars later on. We wanted to try to bring some consistency to our worlds, so Saints Rows' bad guy, Ultor, actually comes from Red Faction 1. It was very interesting how we tied it all together. You're right, you'll find many references. For people who know Red Faction 1, you'll find all sorts of little tie-ins. The names, like Parker and Eos, are tied to the first one. You'll find towns named after people from the first one. You'll find people who were around in the first title. There are even little tidbits here and there and special sites that you'll find in the game that tie back to the first one.

WP: This is just a question about the state of the game. Wandering around, it seems you can only talk to key players. You can watch the random civilians wandering around, but you can't just walk up to anyone and talk to him or get a reaction out of him. Is that because the game's still in a beta stage, or is that an intentional design decision?

DC: We focused most of our feedback back and forth comments in and around the guerrilla bases. There are some comments you'll hear if you listen to random ambient behavior. We did put 40,000 to 50,000 lines of ambient speech in the game, so it's there, and a lot of it is focused on making sure the person understands the guerrilla war aspects, and a lot of that is around the bases.

In town, if you listen as you change the morale, you'll hear comments that are more supportive of you. So they are there, but I'm not sure if that's something that we need to look at and crank up a little bit, but it's definitely in town and with civilians as well as guerrillas, so you should see it everywhere, really. It's very close to done.

WP: With Red Faction done, next up on the list is the DLC for Saints Row 2. You haven't really said too much about that, but we've been hearing talk about it. Can you give us any hints about what to expect in terms of features, expectations and release date? Are we just going to see one DLC, or will you be working on multiple DLCs?

DC: I'm not sure how many packages I can talk about, but we are definitely working on single-player and multiplayer downloadable content for Saints Row 2. Some of the detail of it, I think I'd have to defer to marketing to give you, but we've been working on it for a while. It's taken longer than we'd have liked mostly because the hooks had to be put into Saints Row 2 first. We just didn't have time to get everything in there that we wanted to do so we could set up our DLC the way we wanted it. It's been interesting, but it's coming together now, so it shouldn't be too long.

WP: Red Faction: Guerrilla was obviously a sequel to an older title that Volition worked on. Now that you've done open-world urban gameplay and open-world destruction gameplay, have you ever thought of doing an open-world space game, pulling back to the old Descent: Free Space, where we believe Volition made their name?

DC: (laughs) That has come up more often that you know. We do a company meeting, and at the beginning of every company meeting is, "No, we are not doing Free Space 3!" We don't have the rights, first of all, but there are a fair number of hardcore Free Space and Descent fans out there. We look at it as, what does the audience want to play right now, and right now, we see a lot of open-world gamers out there, and that's really what we're trying to feed. Even if we hit every one of the Free Space and Descent fans out there, it'd still be very niche. Our concern is that we have to make sure we can hit a broad audience.

WP: Is there anything about the game that we haven't talked about that you wanted to add?

DC: There are a couple of things about the game that I don't think people stress enough, but one thing is the fact that when you play open world in Red Faction: Guerrilla, often in many games, the designer is expecting the player to do a specific thing. We wanted to make a game where the player is the designer. The player gets to decide how I'm going to go through these attacks, these different situations, and even these missions. Yes, the missions have goals, but it's more of a challenge than it is anything else. How are you going to solve it? Some of them are on rail, that's true, but a lot of missions are about, how are you going to get this thing done? For us, that was kind of a key thing. Changing the concept of design has been pretty hard because open-world design is different, but it's about putting the game in the player's hands.

Another thing is the realism level. This game is just much more realistic than any other game out there because the world reacts in the way that you really expect it to. You can't hide behind a wall and have that tank run into it and stop, or that vehicle can't hit a building and stop cold. This is real, physics-based behavior, and it's amazing to see. That's the key point. People have to get their hands on it to really experience it. People see destruction and think they've played games with it before. No, you haven't. Not until you play this game will you realize what real destruction is about.

Red Faction: Guerrilla for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC, is scheduled to ship on June 9, 2009 (June 11 in Europe).


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