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Blacklight: Tango Down

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Developer: Zombie Studios
Release Date: Summer 2010

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'Blacklight: Tango Down' (ALL) - Developer Interview

by Adam Pavlacka on May 13, 2010 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Blacklight, an Unreal-engine powered video game, is a covert military action epic set twenty-five years in the future featuring the same characters and high caliber military action as the planned movie and comic book, but with unique, intersecting storylines that complement each other.

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

I'm Jason Hughes, and I'm a producer at Ignition Entertainment.

WP: What was the genesis behind Blacklight: Tango Down?

JH: The universe of Blacklight has actually been in development for quite a while, and the team had a lot of ideas that they wanted to do with the IP. There's actually a company that was created in association with Zombie Studios called Blacklight Transmedia. The goal is to build this IP with an incredible story and visit that story through different aspects, and one of those is through this particular game, Tango Down. Now, it may be a multiplayer-focused game, but there is actually a story element to it. We're going to have a comic book that's out about the same time as the game comes out that gives a little bit of background to the story. The story is there if people really want to explore it.

WP: The comic book is something outside the game, though. How do you present story elements within a multiplayer game so that they don't seem tacked-on but feel like part of the game universe?

 JH: You can see that in some of the maps themselves, some of the environments. The real focus of the story is in a fictional city that we call Balik. It's set somewhere in Eastern Europe, and one of the big themes of the universe and game is new being plastered over old. There are a lot of old buildings and a lot of history that you can actually see, but you just see this new technology that's pasted on top of it. Not only that, but our Black Ops missions, which we announced recently, are four maps/campaigns that you can play with up to three of your friends, and those are objective-based. You'll get a little bit of background on what's going on based on you accomplishing certain goals, and that's in addition to the regular multiplayer modes that we have.

WP: Can you quickly run through the multiplayer modes that you've announced?

JH: Sure, we have Black Ops, which we've just talked about. We also have Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. We also have Domination, which is a form of capture points, and we also have something called Retrieval, which is a form of capture the flag.

WP: Software-wise, you're running Unreal Engine 3. Have you made any tweaks to the engine? Have you customized it in any way?

JH: There's been a little bit in regards to some networking. Our PS3 version is using GameSpy. For PC, we're using Games for Windows Live at the moment, and for the Xbox 360, obviously, we're using Xbox Live. Outside of that, we are using PhysX, but a lot of that is built into the engine. It's a pretty robust engine. The artists and teams that have been working specifically with it have a lot of experience. Zombie themselves have been using it for about eight years, ever since it came out. There's a lot of good stuff out of the box, and we haven't had to add too much on top of it.

WP: Gameplay-wise, you guys have added a headset feature where you can basically see everything: enemies, capture point locations, and spawn point locations. What were the challenges in implementing that so it didn't totally break the game?

JH: Right. The big point is keeping it balanced. You want to have a game that people feel really familiar with, that they don't feel alienated by. Yet, at the same time, you really want to bring in what this IP has to offer, and part of that is the HRV mode that you mentioned, which stands for Hyper Reality Visor. It allows you to sort of see through the world. You can see enemies, you can see teammates, you can see refill stations for health and for ammo crates, in addition to particular points, like capture points in the Domination game mode. The real trick is that if anyone could use it anytime, it would be completely overpowering. We found that it was also overpowering if people could fire while they were using it. The trick is for there to be a benefit and cost to using it. You don't want to use it all the time because there's a cooldown time, it has to recharge, and you can't fire while you're using it. All those little tweaks really make it a benefit and something that's more fun rather than a frustration or people feeling like they're cheating and getting away with it.

WP: Let's talk briefly about weapon unlocks. You can customize different weapon loadouts, but you've got an unlock system built into the game where you can gain additional weapons and power-ups as you progress. Can you go into a little more details?

JH: Sure. We have five base receivers, which are the primary weapons. We have assault rifle, light machine gun, shotgun, sniper rifle and submachine gun. Then we also have sidearms, three secondary weapons. As you level up — we have 70 ranks — you can unlock different presets of those weapons. Let's say you continue along, you get a little notice that pops up, "Oh, I unlocked assault rifle preset number 2." Along with that preset come a different stock, a different barrel, and a different scope. Eventually, as you progress and unlock all the presets, you can actually go into that and customize and pick the pieces that you want. You may want this particular scope, this particular barrel, or this particular magazine. We did the math this morning, and there are something over 200 million different combinations for your weapons, if you want to. With eight different scopes, five different magazines, again, with the barrel, the stock, all of that can really make weapons unique, and we're hoping to not see two of the same.

WP: On the PC side, you're using Games for Windows Live. Are users going to have any ability to run their own servers, or are you forcing everyone to go through the Microsoft-hosted servers for that?

JH: As of right now, we're going peer-to-peer with their system for PC. We have certainly evaluated setting up ways to do dedicated servers for people. I'm a PC gamer at heart, I really am. Right now, we want to make sure that we can get the game done to the best of our ability, and that may be something that we explore post-launch.

WP: From the sales point of view, what drove your decision to make Blacklight: Tango Down a downloadable title versus retail?

JH: I think that's just part of what we wanted to accomplish with this game. It may really sound cheesy, but we really wanted to raise the bar of what people expect from downloadable titles. In the past year, there have been a lot of incredible titles. If you look back three, four, even five years ago, games like this weren't quite showing up in that space. Xbox Live Arcade launched, and while they were great games, they tended to be more along the lines of Geometry Wars and Bejeweled. I think you've seen over the last year a huge increase in scope on the size of games and what people are able to do with that space. It was a conscious decision to really push what we could with that, and to be honest, we all feel that's where the market is going to eventually go anyway. People don't really go to stores much to buy music anymore; they do it online. The same goes for movies these days, with video on demand and people being able to rent and purchase movies from their Xbox, PS3 and PC. We feel that games are going in that direction, and we want to be there right at the beginning with this form of distribution with a title that can really rival the other ones out there and really show that we can do something special.

WP: The big question with online multiplayer gaming is cheating. What are you doing to implement some anticheating measures so you don't have wallhacks and such on the first day of release?

JH: Of course. Well, I'll say two things. We're doing a lot of testing internally. It's almost impossible to catch everything; there's always going to be someone out there. Especially for the PC, we have a lot of measures in place to be able to prevent that and catch that. For the consoles, the first-party teams, Sony and Microsoft, they have ways to kind of combat that as well.

One other thing that I will say is that we are completely committed to this game, and we believe in it heavily. Should something pop up after launch that breaks the experience for people, we're going to be there to fix it.

WP: If you had to sum it up in two to three sentences, what really makes the Blacklight: Tango Down a game that's worth playing?

JH: This game is pretty special. When people get their hands on it and see what content is there and the amount of fun that they can have — it's pick-up-and-play in a brand-new universe and will cost close to $15. Bring your friends in; you're going to have a blast with it.

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

JH: At the moment, we're looking at a summer 2010 release for all platforms. We want to make sure we get that out there for everybody. We want it to be fun, energetic, we encourage everyone to give it a shot, and hopefully, you like it as much as we do.


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