Digital Extremes has been working on their upcoming game Dark Sector for some time but the game has gone through a ton of changes since it was originally announced as a PC space based MMO back in 2000. In 2005 Digital Extreme re-announced the game as a futuristic third person action game.At E3 2006 the game got yet another revamp as a near-future third person action game. FiringSquad got a chance to chat with the game's associate producer Dave Kudirka to find out about the final version of Dark Sector that will be released for the PS3 and Xbox this fall from D3Publishing.
FiringSquad: First, Dark Sector began development as a space based MMORPG and later as a sci-fi action game. What cause the various changes in genre and why was Dark Sector finally set for a near future action game design?
Dave Kudirka: We’ve been through quite a few different iterations of the game over the past few years, but the one thing that has remained constant is our protagonist, Hayden Tenno. This game is about him evolving and becoming and Superhero, and that has influenced all of our decisions. The futuristic environments didn’t quite provide the contrast we were looking for between Hayden and his surroundings—he seemed less impressive to us as a guy in a space suit fighting other guys in space suits…in space. This line of thinking spawned changes in character design and prompted the creation of Lasria; a coastal city in the not-to-distant future that provides a sandbox for spectacular events, but at the same time grounds the player in the realism of a scarred Eastern European territory. It’s familiar enough that someone with a metal arm and bladed throwing-disc (“the Glaive”) will stand out, but twisted enough to showcase the many bizarre and fantastic events that occur in Dark Sector. We didn’t feel like the ultra sci-fi stuff gave us that same contrast.
FiringSquad: What can you tell us about the storyline and the main character of the game?
Dave Kudirka: Hayden is introduced as a CIA cleaner who operates in places where his government agency needs to find plausible deniability for mistakes they have made. Sent into Lasria on an assassination mission, Hayden discovers a biological threat that turns people into horribly disfigured beasts--and that he himself has been exposed to it. Hayden persistently continues his mission, but his strength, endurance, and morality is tested as this strange organic menace reacts with his body, giving him lethal, superhuman abilities. As the horrifying events in Lasria unfold, Hayden’s physical transformation will progressively open new gameplay elements for the player, but his emotional and psychological evolution are equally important to character development throughout Dark Sector.
FiringSquad: What will make this game different than the standard third person action game?
Dave Kudirka: There are a couple of things that really set Dark Sector apart from other third person action games. The first is the evolution aspect of Hayden. In games like Gears of War and Ghost Recon, the characters are essentially the same in the beginning as they are in the end; soldiers who pick up weapons of increasing size and power. Hayden’s evolution systematically opens gameplay elements for the player by introducing new powers and abilities that are rigorously tested by both the enemy AI and surrounding environments. But we also have lots of guns.
The second major component that distinguishes Dark Sector from the standard third person action game is the puzzle element. Being Zelda fans, we liked how combat sequences were used to break from puzzle gameplay. For Dark Sector, we are turning that idea on its head and using puzzles to pace the game and break up combat. However, the transition between these two modes of gameplay is more seamless than it sounds; meaning that combat scenarios will incorporate puzzle elements (and vice versa), without the distinction between the two being so cut and dry.
FiringSquad: What will the combat be like in the game?
Dave Kudirka: You can certainly expect the visceral, bloody satisfaction found in other popular shooters to be present in Dark Sector, but Hayden’s evolving powers correspond with an evolving combat system that challenges players to face enemies that are no longer just bags of hit points. Some enemies will need to be “puzzled-out” or “opened up” before they become vulnerable to the player’s attack. The idea here is to expand combat tactics using the evolving context of the player’s abilities to creating new possibilities for old situations.