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'Chrome' - Developer Interview

by The Six Billion Dollar Man on Feb. 12, 2003 @ 12:12 a.m. PST

1. Who has the honor to talk to us? State your name, rank and occupation!

My name is Bartek Paul and I am the designer of Chrome.

2. Give us some info on what has been going lately in the Techland studio? What’s up?

TECHLAND is present on the market since 1991. Although the company was created 12 years ago, it started dealing with game development 5 years ago. At the beginning, our products were released solely on the Polish market, but with time some of them hit the international markets as well, for example Crime Cities, Extermination (also known as Mission Humanity), The Speedway Grand Prix series, and several titles for younger players like Pet Soccer and Pet Racer. Some of the readers might have heard about some of our current projects – Xpand Rally, The Day of The Mutants and of course Chrome.

3. What is the current status of Chrome? How many people are on the development team?

Chrome will reach Beta in March, although we have most of the missions in The Beta Stage right now. Currently there are 7 programmers, 5 graphics artists and 4 designers working on the project.

4. What is the game story all about in Chrome? Give us some background info.

The story takes place at the end of the 22nd century during the colonization of one of the planetary systems on the outskirts of the universe known to men. Bolt Logan is the main character in the game. He was once a member of the elite Special Forces, considered the best of the best. But now, upon his arrival in the Valkyria system, he’s a mercenary running away from his past. Terraformed and colonized planets of the Valkyria system are something like the New Wild West, a New Frontier for the settlers in search of a new home. But this distant planetary system is also a refuge for all sorts of criminals. That’s why Logan and his partner, as experienced bounty hunters, come to Valkyria system in search of employment.

That’s the basic plot of the story. But it gets hotter and hotter with every minute of the game. A routine mission gets the two main characters into an intrigue involving great corporations, settlers, pirates, and a whole bunch of other people. And to make things more interesting, Logan’s past, not necessarily the good one, starts to catch up with him.

5. Can you give up some info on the 3D engine being used in Chrome? What made you decide to make your own in house engine instead of a licensed one? What does the Chrome engine have that others don’t?

One of the basic goals that we have set for ourselves was to create extensive, forested outdoors, which would contrast with the futuristic buildings and interiors. Several games include outdoor locations, but these are usually limited to small clearings between high mountains with a little bit of the sky above them. These locations don’t have much in common with the extensive outdoors that you can see when you look out the window. The Chrome Engine enables the player to run around a very deep forest looking at very detailed textures of the leaves and the bark. The very next moment the player might be jumping into a shuttle and rising high above the ground to see everything turn smaller and smaller, until it becomes an extensive view of the whole terrain covered with thousands of little trees.

All this is possible thanks to innovative algorithms used to produce extensive terrains with numerous objects. The environment is presented as a map indicating terrain elevation. That system has certain limitations, but these can always be avoided by simply placing 3D objects on the terrain. The combination of geometry construction algorithms used for terrain visualization at a given view with innovative methods of sending these to video cards enabled very wide rendering of such terrain, regardless of the viewing point – whether you’re crawling on the ground or watching the ground from the bird’s eye view.

The methods of storing and rendering objects constituting the plant life in the game are also very important. In Chrome you can come across levels with the plant life count going into millions of separate pieces. Smooth running of the game could have been reached only with a proper selection system deciding which plants currently in view should be displayed. The basic problem was to choose an object selection system, which would make the player unaware of the fact that certain objects are not displayed. The player’s impression is the most important issue in that matter.

Chrome uses a very interesting system of storing information about millions of plants. This information concerns the frequency of certain plant types appearing in certain locations. The appropriate real time algorithm can generate the list of plants, which are supposed to be displayed in a given view. This method allows a very efficient use of the RAM, because information about millions of objects would take a lot of memory.

6.Chrome looks outstanding, what sort of hardware will it take to make it run smooth and at that level of detail? Are you not afraid you are aiming for only high end machines?

No. Chrome will run smoothly and look very good on P1GHz and GeForce2. This doesn’t seem to be very high end, since there are titles that will be released soon that will need at least P2GHz.

7. Will Chrome be available to the mod community? Will you package any kind of editor to assist them or will it be use your own tools?

The architecture of the game was designed in a way that enables modifications of the game itself, as well as creation of completely separate MODs. The MODs are created in a similar way as in Half Life or Unreal Tournament. We haven’t decided yet, whether all the necessary tools will be released with the game or separately, soon after the game’s release. In the latter case we would have a bit more time for improvements.

8. How large will the maps be in Chrome? Will there be boundaries?

The sizes of the maps vary from few hundred square meters to few square kilometers. In Chrome you won’t find limitations other than natural terrain boundaries. That allows the player to feel more comfortable in the environment.

9. Will most of Chrome be played outdoors in the vast expanse of nature or will you have indoor battles as well?

Extensive outdoors are undoubtedly one of the most significant advantages of Chrome. Most probably the player will spend more time outdoors, but the crucial elements of most missions will be located in the interiors of futuristic facilities. I should mention that indoor and outdoor playability is very different.

10. Are you planning to implement real time weather or any kind of weather phenomenon?

Yes. In Chrome you will be able to watch (and to suffer from) rain, snow, thunderstorms and sand storms. The effects will not only have esthetical meaning but they will also affect gameplay.

11. How many different terrain types will you play through in Chrome?

While playing Chrome, the player will visit several planets of the Valkyria system, as well as colonizable moons of those planets. We put a lot of effort in making each planet unique. The conditions on each planet are very distinctive. The player will go through rain forests, deserts, as well as snow, and wetlands.

12. How will the vehicle system work? Will there be a set number of vehicles for each board?

Vehicles play a crucial part in Chrome. Sometimes they will be essential means of transportation; in other cases their combat features will be emphasized. The success of the mission might sometimes depend on the appropriate use of the vehicle.

Various types of vehicles, available for the player as well as AI, can be found on most of the maps. The number and the variety of vehicles depend on the mission objective.

13. How many people will you be able to have in a group? Can you switch between several team members or can you only control 1 specific team member?

You can play as Logan and Logan only. That is important for the plot of the game. Particular missions, which seem very realistic, have a sort of a “heroic-cyberpunk” character.

14. Are you planning to have a class system, so players can pick what they want to do? I.e. sniper, medic, etc…

No, but during the game the player decides about his character’s profile by choosing his equipment and implants. This can be done in both, single and multiplayer modes. By choosing different weapons and implants you can act as a sniper and a moment later you can become a quick and silent assassin.

15. How many weapons will each person be able to carry at once? Also will only certain weapons be available to certain player classes or can everybody use everything?

The “Backpack” of the main character was designed to carry only one long firearm, two smaller ones (like pistols), and a whole bunch of gadgets, ammo and other miscellaneous equipment. Of course the choice of the equipment is totally up to the player. Limited carrying capacity forces the player to choose certain tactics, that way each mission might be carried out in several ways. That is an important feature of Chrome’s playability.

16. What sort of multiplayer will be packaged with Chrome?

Of course you will find Deathmatch mode, as well as Team Battle mode, focusing more on tactics than arcade playability. I don’t want to give you the final details, because we still have a lot of ideas, which will be verified during the Beta tests. But you can be sure that Chrome will include at least 16 maps and 6 game modes.

17. Will there be an instant action or skirmish mode in Chrome?

Probably not.

18. How many types of enemies will Chrome have?

Chrome includes several types of humanoid enemies (for example mercenaries, Corporation soldiers, cyber agents, and of course common criminals). I shouldn’t mention different types of appearances of the enemies because you will find a large variety of those. There will also be several types of robots, various types of machines (wheel vehicles, walking vehicles, as well as some aerial means of transport). The game also features unique bosses, which you will have to face at the key stages of the game.

19. How about the AI, are you planning a similar model like Halo’s?

No, Chrome is much more into tactics than Halo. That is why the AI has to be different. We put a lot of focus on the “perception” of our AI as well as group dynamics. We want the AI to act accordingly to the player’s actions.

20. Can you give us some info on the implants in Chrome? Will the AI be able to use them as well?

As the game advances, the player will have a larger variety of implants to choose from. This has to be done carefully, because implants affect Logan’s nervous system. As far as AI is concerned, it will be hard for the player to tell if the AI uses implants or not, but certain behaviors or actions take might indicate the use of them.

21. What sort of Audio standard will you be supporting?

We will support both Aureal A3D and Direct Sound. The latter will also use EAX extensions.

22. Will we see this game on any other platform anytime soon?

We are preparing to port the game to Xbox. However, the game will be first launched for PC. Although the game’s hardware performance requirements are not very high, it still needs a lot of RAM to store the huge world’s geometry and this is something that will be difficult on Xbox.

23. What is going on with that elusive demo people are eagerly awaiting? What is the latest word on that?

A demo will be made available before Chrome ships this summer. You can ask our Publisher, Strategy First about that.

24. Is there anything you would like to add? Perhaps something I missed?

Yes. It’s rather a request. We gladly accept any type of comments regarding both the game’s content as well as the graphics. We want the game to meet your expectations. We would like to ask all of you, who are interested in Chrome, to share with us your opinions regarding the game, its potential and any ideas you think should be included in the game.

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