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Platform(s): Arcade, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC, PSOne, PSP, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox, Xbox 360
Genre: Adventure

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Interview With 'Harbinger' Level Designer

by Rainier on Feb. 28, 2003 @ 12:37 a.m. PST

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

My name is Shane Terpstra. I’m the level designer and resident whipping boy here at Silverback Entertainment.

2. How long has Harbinger been development? How many people are on the development team?

Harbinger has been in development for almost four years. Silverback had only five guys back then, in what those remaining few call the “good-old days.” In the last two years a few more, including myself, were added bringing the total number up to around ten. It’s hard to tell how many are really ever here, because my cage only has a few holes to see through. I’ve heard rumors some of the other guys have windows, and even wet bars, but, being the low guy on the ladder, those are luxuries I can only dream of.

3. What have you guys been up to lately? Any wild and crazy stories to share that have happened through the development process?

What have we been up to lately? Well, I would love to fill some space here with wild and crazy stories filled with booze and strippers, but I would be lying. That’s because all we have done lately is work. Who would’ve ever thought making a video game would be so much work? One of our artists, Steve Macomber, received an electrical bill for $5 because he spent so much time here, and so little at home. Of course, he might just be stealing the neighbors electricity and not telling us. Other than that, for fun we pump up our intern, Mike on caffeine pills and Mt. Dew to watch him bounce off the walls at ungodly hours of the morning.

4. Can you give us some more info on the Harbinger story?

We created so much story for Harbinger, it became a challenge to fit in everything we wanted into the game. If you are reading this, you probably know the general back-story, and I don’t want to do it injustice by trying to spell it all out here. Let’s just say you enter the story just as the winds of change are blowing through Harbinger, and the character plays a pivotal role in Harbinger’s future.

5. What sort of graphics engine is used in Harbinger? Is it an in house engine or a licensed one? Why this choice?

The graphics engine was created in house. The original five decided back in the “good-old days,” that an engine designed by us would enable us to make all of our own decisions. We didn’t want to have to work around someone else’s design, and we felt an engine created by us would better enable us to show off our artist’s work.

6. What sort of sound standard will you be supporting?

Harbinger uses the Miles Sound System, which supports most common standards including EAX, DirectSound, etc.

7. Why did you decide to use the battle system similar to Diablo/Diablo II?

We have gotten a lot of comparisons to Diablo’s combat, although once you play our game, I think you will find Harbinger has a very unique combat style.

First, let’s talk about what we do have in common with Diablo -- We use a point and click interface, already familiar to most players. After that, Harbinger starts to not look so much like Diablo.

There are several different types of damage in our game, and the player can finds items and chips that enable him or her to utilize these types of damage. The tricky part is figuring out which types of damage injure which kinds of enemies.

Each character has certain gadgets to help them on their way as well. The Human uses mines, the Gladiator uses little robots he can control remotely, and the Culibine uses Amps, which circle around her either for offensive or defensive purposes.

Weapons generally have a limited energy supply as well. This energy supply replenishes, but environmental objects can alter the rate at which the energy is replenished. This makes knowledge of your surroundings important at all times.

I feel that many players will come to the conclusion that Harbinger isn’t so much a hack-and-slash, as it is a think-and-slash gaming experience.

8. How many levels will available in Harbinger?

Including character-specific levels, and non-essential bonus levels, the number comes out to a little over 70.

9. Seeing as there are only 3 characters, Will the player be able to pick a unique class for each character?

Our game does not have a ‘class’ focus. Each character type is unique to our world, and ‘character classes’ do not exist as they do in many fantasy-themed RPGs.

10. How many total weapons will there be?

As it stands right now, there are over 750 weapons in the game, many of them customizable/upgradeable.

11. Will the story be affected differently by each character? Therefore requiring the player to play the game over again with a different character?

Parts of the story are completely different for each of the three playable characters, whereas the overall story remains constant (with some branching thrown in for spice). Each of the three character-specific stories tells a little something about one of the other player types, so playing through as all three is the only way to know the full story of all our characters.

12. How large will the maps be? Will they be randomly generated to keep the players attention in the game?

Levels in Harbinger vary in size. Some levels take under 15 minutes to complete, whereas others can take an hour or more. The levels are all hand created to fit the story, as well as to provide the player with challenges and opportunities that random levels tend to lack. Like a lot of first-person shooters, we wanted each level to have a hook. Something to set it apart from the others. So each level brings at least one new thing to the game.

13. How many different types of enemies will Harbinger have?

I couldn’t tell you the exact number off the top of my head, but I do know the number has passed 70.

14. How will the leveling system and point distribution work in Harbinger?

The character gains experience through the defeating of enemies and the completion of certain missions. When a new level is reached, the character is given three points to distribute to any of their four stats. It may not seem like much, but we kept it tight so that the player could actually feel the difference when they upgraded a stat.

15. Will there be any kind of multiplayer aspect to Harbinger? Perhaps a CO-OP mode or something?

Harbinger was developed as a single-player game. We are a small team who wanted to create the best single-player game we could. We decided long ago we wanted an entertaining, solid game with a great story. We felt that concentrating on multiplayer would take our time and creative energies away from what we really thought was important for this game, and we weren’t going to come up with some token multiplayer mode just to get a bullet on our box.

16. From the screen shots it looks like this game will take place on a spaceship. Will there be any other battlefield you can visit? Such as the planet?

Most of the action occurs on Harbinger, but the player will set foot on the planet it’s currently ravaging.

17. Will you be able to have a group of people to aid you on your quest?

Harbinger is a place where friends aren’t easily made, especially friends willing to risk their neck for you. So the focus of the game remains firmly on the player’s character, with NPCs helping out from the sidelines.

18. What sort of NPC interaction will you have in Harbinger?

The NPCs, when not giving you a mission or helpful info, will often converse about the happenings and facts of life on board Harbinger. The NPCs add a lot of color to the game, and we hope people have a good time with them. However, if you are the sort of player who doesn’t want to ‘waste’ time reading – all non-essential dialogs are easily skipped and/or escaped out of.

19. Is there any talk of an add-on or sequel?

Of course there is talk of what’s next. We love Harbinger and would love expand on our universe, but that all depends on what happens in this universe. If the game is well received and the company is able to keep chugging along, I wouldn’t count anything out.

20. Is there anything you had planned for Harbinger but won’t make it in the final release? What and why?

We were able to fit in everything we really wanted. There were a few story elements and weapons that didn’t make it in, but these were very minor things. There might have been one enemy that didn’t make it in as well. If given an unlimited timetable, I am sure we would of kept adding items, enemies and missions forever.

21. What is your expected game playtime for the average gamer?

Twenty to twenty-five hours per character.

22. Will we see a demo anytime soon?

A demo should be released in early March.

23. Finally is there anything you would like to add? Perhaps something I missed?

I think anyone who tries our game will be pleasantly surprised. Bang for the buck it can’t be beat. Thanks for taking the time to listen to me, and from everyone here, we truly hope you enjoy Harbinger.

Thank you for taking the time to answer our annoying questions.

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