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Platform(s): PC, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: Dreamcatcher
Developer: People Can Fly
Release Date: April 12, 2004 (Gold Edition: April 18, 2005) (US), April 16, 2004 (EU)


'Painkiller' - Developer Q&A

by The Six Billion Dollar Man on Jan. 21, 2003 @ 11:49 p.m. PST

Stranded in a place between Heaven and Hell, your time of judgment is at hand. The Underworld is on the verge of unholy war, and you are but a pawn in the infernal battle. As you fight for your purification, the truths behind the deceptions are revealed.
1. Who has the honor to talk to us? State your name, rank and occupation!

Adrian Chmielarz, game designer and co-owner of People Can Fly, sir!

2. What is the current status of Painkiller? What have you guys been up to over at people can fly?

Well, between girlfriends, movies, TV, music and of course all the latest console games we try squeeze in an hour or two daily to develop the game. You know, stuff like animating 3D models or programming enemy behavior. Despite our best efforts we finally reached the point when we’re putting it all together. Our current milestone is the real demo (we already had the internal one) that should resemble at least 90% of the final gameplay.

As you can imagine this is very exciting time for us, because for the first time we’ll have the real proof our game is worth the gamers’ attention.

For all you people who wonder if we really work 2 hours daily: no. A good example is the fact I am answering this interview on Sunday ;-)

3. What is the story behind Painkiller?

We don’t need no stinking sto… Oh, no, we do. I always love when even the simplest game has some background storyline. I need a purpose to put these falling blocks in places in Tetris… Anyway, we do have a story, and even though you can skip it and focus only on shoot-outs, it’s really well thought and adds to the atmosphere.

Our hero comes from a family of people calling themselves Painkillers. Their job is to clean the world from the evil, and if you have never seen a demon in your life it’s thanks to them. Hell does try to speed up Armageddon and they set up their “nests” in various forgotten, hard-to-reach places, preparing for the final battle. Painkiller has a deal with demon Sammael (ok, I know, but there’s really not enough place to explain it right now), who grants him his powers for every hundred condemned souls Painkiller brings back to Hell. However, one day our hero realizes there’s more to this deal that he initially thought (duh!) and when he finds himself in the middle of the war between two of Hell’s demon lords, he starts playing his own cards.

In the game it means you have to shoot everything that moves.

4. Can you give us some info on your graphics engine? What’s so special about it, where you looking for anything specific that other engines do not offer? Such as?

I’d say what I am most impressed with in the graphics department is the overall quality. Of course we do move around insane amount of polygons, but at the same time everything – models, textures, lighting - is just so good that I can honestly say Painkiller is going to have some of the most impressive graphics we’ve ever seen in PC world.

I could throw a lot of nice buzzwords at you (pixel shaders, volumetric lights, etc. – you name it, we have it), but we never forget we’re trying to make a great game, not a great tech demo. Of course the idea is to match the technology and the gameplay, and this is exactly what we focus on.

5. What sort of system requirement will it take to run Painkiller?

The engine is scalable, meaning that GF2 owners can still enjoy the game, but GF4 owners will have additional graphic effects to please the eye – apart from the fact they can run higher resolution with antialiasing and almost (cough) no frame rate penalty.

You’d need at least 256 MB memory to play the game, and 1 GHz processor.

6. Are you planning to use the graphics engine for your next title etc? Or is this a Painkiller only engine?

It’s definitely too early to tell. Basically what we want to do is to think what kind of game we would like to do next, and then check if our engine can handle it (which would be the best solution), or if we need a completely new one, or if we should use one of the competition’s. Everything’s possible and I can give you a better answer no sooner than in at least 3 months.

7. Will you allow the mod community to have a field day with Painkiller? Will it be mod friendly at all? Will you provide any sort of mod tools or will you leave it up to the mod community to decide?

That’s a tough question. We love modded games, even Quakeworld, the game I play almost everyday, could be considered a mod. However, nowadays games are so huge and complicated that it’s not an easy task to provide the mod community with all imaginable tools. For example we build levels directly in Maya, which is commercial software, not our own 3D editor. It takes a month to model the level, 2 months to texture it and another month to set up the lighting. I hope you see where I’m going…

Having said that, we have our own world (monster placement etc.) editor and we’ll do our best to make sure the modmakers have some fun with Painkiller.

8. How many total levels do you plan to have in Painkiller? What will the average game play time for single player be?

There are 20 levels in the game, not including boss monster arenas. As for the average time, this is very hard to say. Remember the Quake Done Quicker project? These madmen can finish Quake’s whole single player campaign in about 12 minutes! But anyway assuming you are a good player who has already finished a few shooters in his life – and you choose normal difficulty – it will take you 18-20 hours to get to see the outro. Would you want to try different difficulty and/or try to find the game’s secrets, add …really, really big number.

9. Will there be multiple types of terrains in Painkiller? How large will the maps be? Is Painkiller a close quarter combat game or a more of a large Delta Force type game? Or will we see a mix of indoor/outdoor environments?

Every single level in the game is very different. We virtually reuse no textures nor models. There are levels which are entirely interiors, and there are some that are completely outdoors – of course most of the time it’s a mix of both. The sizes also differ dramatically, from fairly small cathedral to giant docks.

10. Will the Single player part of Painkiller have single missions? Campaigns? Skirmish? Will the levels/maps in each of the modes be different? Does it have tutorial/training missions?

The story is split in 5 chapters, each ending with a cut scene. One chapter has 3, the other 5 levels, but the rest is 4 levels long. You can call it a campaign. Also for example some weapons will be different in a given chapter, so you can consider the game having 5 large missions (chapters).

We’re currently toying with the idea of the tutorial and if we pull it off it’s going to be really sweet.

11. What sort of multiplayer aspect will be available in Pain killer? Game types/modes etc… How many simultaneous players will be allowed?

For now we set the limit at 16 players, but this will be finalized in the forthcoming months. You have 5 different MP modes: death match (including 1on1 and FFA), team play death match, People Can Fly (our mutation of MidAir), The Light Bearer (hunt for the quadman) and one mode that still doesn’t have a name, so I’d better keep it as a surprise.

12. Cheating with online games is becoming a true plague. Have you implemented anything to deal with this rising phenomenon?

Yeah, as Harlan Ellison once said, the two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity. I remember I hacked about 1000 games on Spectrum (to get unlimited lives etc.), and hacking is indeed an interesting art, but why anyone would be happy to win over another human being by lame cheating is beyond me. It’s just pathetic. So yes, we’ll be doing all we can in order to eliminate cheaters, but let us still keep the aces up our sleeves.

13. What sort of weapons will there be? Futuristic or more realistic weapons? How many weapons will the player be able to carry at one time?

Our weapons are neither this nor that. Let me explain… Basically what we have here are weapons which you can consider realistic, but every single one of them is custom made. Every weapon consists of 2 modules: you fire module 1 (for example Machine Gun) with Fire button, and module 2 (for example Grenade Launcher) with Alternative Fire button. This allows for something we call weapon combo. In the example above you can shoot the grenade with your machine gun, making its explosion 4 times more powerful.

We have 5 different weapons in the game, each one consisting of 2 modules – it’s like having 10 weapons in a “normal” shooter. It’s a conscious choice, we wanted to have only such amount of weapons that make them easy to choose (only 5 different keys to switch to a given weapon, or quick mouse scroll) and useful.

14. What kind of power ups will be in the game?

We have 5 powerups planned for single player, and a few more for multiplayer, and hopefully we’ll have the time to put them all in the game. But you can be 100% sure we’ll keep the classics like Quad, Immortality and Invisibility. On top of that we hope to include Skull of Nebiros and Skull of Caym. It’s too early to reveal their purpose, but interested gamers can do a little name research on their own…

15. Are you planning to have any extra single player modes like a bot match? Will you team up with NPC’s in the single player mode, forming some sort of squad?

No. And no. So much to do, so little time.

16. A lot of promising titles end up lacking in the NPC AI department. What can you tell us about the AI in Painkiller?

AI is overrated. I spent about a year thinking of how cool can we do the AI, and guess what, it’s a shooter! The enemies are already dead (zombies, demons, etc.), they don’t care about their health; all they want to do is to get you at all cost. Having enemy run away from a thrown grenade is not AI, it’s a script – not to mention it’s no fun, because it renders grenades useless.

Ok, maybe I am exaggerating a little, but generally it’s not enemy AI in hard-core mass-murder shooter like Painkiller which makes the game fun. In our game the emotions come from the fact you are surrounded by dozens of enemies at the same time. That doesn’t mean we don’t care and all our monsters just run at you yelling madly. Make no mistake, we do write thousands lines of code for enemy behavior. Some of the enemies feel pain, some don’t. Some can hear you, some only can see you. I could go on and on, but in short our game is not AI showcase. Not that we couldn’t do it, but because those bloody zombies are brainless.

17. How many enemies do you plan to have in Painkiller and can you give us some examples?

It’s the same case as with the levels: extreme variety. Flying monsters, running monsters, swimming monsters – you name it, we got it. The designs come from the myths (banshee) and warped minds of our graphic artists (sadocommando). We will start revealing all the monsters very soon.

18. How gory can we expect Painkiller to be, or will you keep it “Teen” friendly?

Oh it’s gory. Body parts flying, blood everywhere, guts on the floor… Ok, now that I have your attention let me say that you DO NOT kill humans in this game. You kill bad, bad monsters. And you only eliminate their mortal existence; their soul still survives and just moves from one kingdom in Hell to another. But this way or another I won’t expect a “Teen” rating.

19. Will we be seeing a Painkiller demo before the game hits store shelves?

We are planning for it! It all depends on how schedules work out.

20. Is there anything you would like to add that maybe I missed? Any sales pitch you would like to unleash?

Not that it’s a big deal, but you do morph into Sammael himself from time to time. It’s very satisfying to burn everything around with your Hell Fire. Yesss….

21. Thank you for answering our annoying questions!

No problem. Thanks for reading my annoying answers!

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