Summary: An impressive tech demo for AGEIA's physics card is now being developed into a full game. JCal goes one-on-one with the lead designer of Artificial Studios to talk about their upcoming title.
FiringSquad: First, was has the reaction been like to the CellFactor tech demo that has been included in the AEGIA physics card?
Jeremy Stieglitz: The reaction to the CellFactor tech demo has been very positive -- people seemed really intrigued by the concept of an FPS that emphasized physical abilities as much (or even more than) gunplay. Coupled with the massive amount of physics objects and special effects enabled by the PhysX hardware, CellFactor: Combat Training had a pretty unique style of gameplay -- enough that we came to feel a proper game – CellFactor: Revolution, releasing this December is warranted.
FiringSquad: How hard has it been to expand on the concepts of the original demo to work for a full commercial game?
Jeremy Stieglitz: Not difficult at all, because there's still so much untapped potential both in gameplay concepts and on the PhysX hardware side. From a conceptual side, one only need think of the Matrix or Star Wars (and then scale it up a thousand-fold) to see the potential for new character abilities. With Revolution, our goal is to make players feel incredibly powerful in a multiplayer game (while retaining player-vs-player balance), and that extends far beyond the basic mechanics found in the Combat Training demo. From a hardware standpoint, AGEIA's developed new PhysX drivers which provide for a lot more physics objects within the environment, as well as major developments involving object/cloth/fluid interaction and performance. These capabilities have got us very excited about where we can take Revolution's new gameplay and environments.
FiringSquad: What can you tell us about the character classes that you are adding to CellFactor: Revolution?
Jeremy Stieglitz: There are three character classes that you can choose from in most of Revolution's gameplay modes, and they include the Bishop (all psychic ability), Black Ops Soldier (a mix of psychic power and guns), and the Guardian (no psychic power, but dual guns -- any guns -- and brute strength). Each of these characters represents a different approach to the game's combat, and they all have mechanics to make them balanced against each other. For example, the Bishop may seem to be the most powerful at first glance -- she can manipulate thousands of objects simultaneously, for crying out loud. However, you then realize she's also very vulnerable to gunfire, and she's only as powerful as the environment around her -- if she can no longer find or tear-up objects to manipulate, she tends to become rather helpless. In this way, each of the characters has strengths and weaknesses. One of the game's pleasures is to discover the nuances of the character balancing, while becoming proficient with each character's abilities in different situations.
FiringSquad: What kinds of extra weapons will you be adding into the new game?
Jeremy Stieglitz: Some examples of the new hardware you can wield in Revolution:
FiringSquad: How will the psi abilities in the demo be improved and added to the game?
Jeremy Stieglitz: Essentially you now have a total mastery of the environment, in the form of the Bishop character. She can grab many hundreds of objects at once, throw them around as a unit or release them individually one-by-one (making objects into a form of "ammo"). She can also apply such massive forces to the environment that much of the level architecture is naturally ripped apart, also for use as physical weaponry. She can apply a massive pressure to anything she's holding, crushing objects or other players. She can also surround herself with objects & debris, creating a physical shield, as well as split a sea of objects in front of her, biblical style. Needless to say, the Bishop character is sometimes near god-like, but then a sharp-eyed player with a sniper rifle can ping her in the head to quickly end it all. Assuming he gets her in the back, so she doesn't have the opportunity to psychically deflect the bullet ;-)
FiringSquad: What will the new levels be like in CellFactor: Revolution?
Jeremy Stieglitz: Assault, which involves one team defending a base while another team attacks (attempting to plant a gravity-vortex bomb). Also we're including a variety of PhysX "sports modes", which are basically mini-games involving some unique physics objectives, such as shooting a ton of objects through an opposing team's goal posts, or "jousting" with gigantic steel beams.
FiringSquad: Will there be any new vehicles added to CellFactor: Revolution?
Jeremy Stieglitz: Several, including a mechanized power suit which has dual gatling guns, rocket launchers, and limited-use flight boosters, and a gigantic tank with a -really- big gun.
FiringSquad: Will there be any improvements made for the AI bots in the game?
Jeremy Stieglitz: Yep, they'll finally be able to use Psychic abilities, and intelligently play all the game modes, as well as dynamically handle the vehicles!
FiringSquad: What other gameplay features will be added for CellFactor: Revolution?
Jeremy Stieglitz: Ah, we've got to save some surprises, right?
FiringSquad: What new graphical and physics effects will be added for the new game?
Jeremy Stieglitz: Performance, performance, performance. We've primarily been focused on optimizing the engine's rendering & object pipelines to support 4x as many objects as the tech demo. That said, the game engine supports graphics you'd expect to see in a modern PC game, including per-pixel lighting & shadowing, normal mapping, High Dynamic Range Rendering, and motion blur. On the physics side, we're currently working on PhysX-driven particle FX for smoke, fog, and fire, as well as improved use of Cloth and Fluids -- this time around, they'll be integral to the gameplay, the environments & the weapons.
FiringSquad: Will this game have a physics software mode in addition to support for the AEGIA processor?
Jeremy Stieglitz: Yes, some of the content will be supported in software mode while a few the levels will be hardware-only. This is due to large numbers of joints, cloth, fluid and other expensive-to-simulate physics assets, along with some of the weapons (such as the Acid Jet). There will be content for software-only users as well, which will have additional effects when run with hardware. Due to the nature of the physics integration with gameplay, hardware and software users will be separated in different online matches.
FiringSquad: When can we expect the game to be released and how much will it cost?
Jeremy Stieglitz: Winter 2006, but cost & distribution methods are not yet final. That said, the cost will certainly be less than most games.
FiringSquad: Finally is there anything else you wish to say about CellFactor: Revolution?
Jeremy Stieglitz: I couldn't be happier with the response that CellFactor: Combat Training received from a gameplay standpoint -- it seems like the mechanics sketched out in that demo struck a chord, and we had just scratched the surface of what's possible. I'm thrilled at the opportunity we now have to develop the concepts into a full title – CellFactor: Revolution, along with our co-developers at Immersion Games. Between CellFactor: Revolution and our other title in development, Monster Madness, our little studios are working hard to bring some new types of gameplay to the PC.
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