Sean Kennedy of Volition Inc. Talks Red Faction Guerrilla

RFWhile covering PAX in Seattle, I got the chance to meet Sean Kennedy Associate Producer of Volition Inc about the pending third title in the Red Faction Series, Red Faction: Guerrilla. I want to thank Sean for taking the time to answer my questions.

GVK: What is the background and setting for the game?

SK: Red Faction: Guerrilla takes place 50 years after the events of the original Red Faction. Essentially this is the true sequel to the first game, though a gamer does not have to have any previous knowledge of the first game to fully enjoy this one. Those who played the original game will enjoy many references and connections to the first game.
Like the first game, RFG is set on Mars in an expansive territory called Tharsis. This territory is made up of six distinct sectors that the player can freely travel to and from at the start of the game. This is truly a free-roaming open world. To give a size comparison, Tharsis is twice the size of Stillwater from Volitions other franchise Saints Row.
At the end of the first Red Faction the Earth Defense Force (EDF) came in and helped the Red Faction beat Ultor and rid Mars of them. Instead of leaving once the job was done the EDF stayed on Mars and over the 50 years they have gone from being the liberators of Mars to the new oppressors. In fact they are worse then Ultor. The people of Mars do not have any rights, are beaten in the streets by EDF officers, and live in complete misery. Finally having enough of the oppression, once again the miners have called up the name of Red Faction and have started a guerrilla movement against the EDF to push them off the planet and liberate the people.
Players take on the role of Alec Mason. Alec came to Mars in search of a new life and work after being persuaded by his brother Dan, who was already on Mars working as a miner. After his brother is suddenly killed by the EDF, Alec is pulled into the Red Faction and joins in the fight against the EDF.

GVK: What can you tell us about the A.I. in the game?

SK: Without getting too technical, the A.I. in Red Faction: Guerrilla is one of the many aspects of the game that we are proud of. In a game in which the entire world can be changed by the user at any moment and in any way, creating A.I. that works with destruction was a huge undertaking which has proven to be successful. Both civilian and enemy A.I. work with and can use destruction. For example, say you enter a two story building and must rescue a hostage on the second floor. You reach the hostage only to have the stair destroyed by an EDF grenade. The player must create a new exit by smashing a hole through the side of a wall. The A.I. will immediately recognize this newly created a hole as an exit and flee through it to safety. If the hole is too far from the ground and running through it will result in a fatal fall, the A.I. will recognize this and not go through the hole. In a regular game AI will have paths it will follow always know where a door is, a wall to hide behind, etc. But in our game where there might be a door one second, suddenly a remote charge causes that door to be gone and the AI has lost that path, so it will search for another. It will find that the blast that destroyed the door created a hole large enough for it to fit through and it will use that as a new exit. Another example of A.I. utilizing destruction would be the player taking cover behind a wall or in a building and staying there during a gunfight with the EDF. The EDF will realize they cannot shoot you and will instead throw grenades to destroy your cover and expose you.
This is just a small sample of what our A.I. is capable of, but is one of the revolutionary aspects of it. Never before has A.I. had to learn and adapt itself on the fly to a world that can be changed and destroyed.

GVK: What can you tell the readers about the new environmental destruction and the new type of warfare they can conduct?

SK: Red Faction: Guerrilla is the first game ever to feature true destruction. The destruction is RFG is completely physics and stress based. Everything in the world can be destroyed and brought into complete pile of rubble. This is not a flash effect, scripted event, or corpse swapping like in other games that claim to have destruction, but instead true real-world physics based destruction. The result of this is creating an entirely new experience for players unlike anything they have experienced before.
No longer are players limited by what they can do within a playing field with enemies hiding behind walls or in buildings, or left wondering why when they drove full speed into a building with a tank did tank come to a stop upon contact with the wall. Players will learn that they can and will and will need to utilize the weapons and tools at their disposal to master destruction. Enemies are held up in a building using it for cover? Plant remote charges around the exterior of the building, detonate them and trap them on that second floor. Watch as the building instantly begins to stress under the amount of damage done and because it is now top heavy. Watch as the enemies inside panic as the building gives way and collapses to ground bringing them tumbling down with it dead from debris. When the entire world can be destroyed, the face a traditional warfare in video games changes from being just a game to being as close to reality as you will get.
This level of destruction and change to how players will wage war not only applies to single player but also all of our multiplayer modes. Multiplayer also features full destruction and with that changes the face of online combat. Even traditional modes such as death match and team death match are no longer the same in RFG when you apply destruction to it.
What we have done with RFG and destruction is a double edged sword really. Players will immediately become accustomed to destruction, using it, expecting it, and loving the limitless world of fun it opens for them. I say double-edged because once you play RFG it is hard to go back to other popular FPS and 3rd person war-based games because suddenly you are back into worlds that confine you and limit your freedom to static unchanging world. Once you’ve experienced the level of freedom in RFG, it’s hard to go back.

GVK: What are some of the locales gamers will see in the game?

SK: Red Faction: Guerrilla features a large number of different locales for players to explore. People often ask if placing the game on Mars limits our ability to create truly unique locales for players because generally people think of Mars as a barren red environment. Thanks to the fiction of terraforming, Mars is really an empty canvas for us with the only limits being the limits of our artists’ imaginations. Players will find that our Mars has many varying environments. For example, at the start of the game players will be in a sector called Parker.
Parker is the first settlement on the surface of Mars once the terraforming process was far enough along that people were able to leave the underground settlements of the first Red Faction and come to the surface. This sector has the traditional Mars look people would expect from the red terrain to the orange sky. The buildings look as though they were made using whatever scraps of material could be found, be it parts of space craft to panels from cargo crates. In a stark contrast to this, there is another sector in Tharsis called Oasis. Oasis is much farther along in the terraforming process, so the terrain is covered in a large of grass and there are small plants sprouting up everywhere. The sky is bluer, the clouds whiter, and everything is a little more Earth-like. Due to this, Oasis has a much greater residential population and more wealth. Buildings are larger and their architecture reflects many different cultural styles brought to Mars from Earth such as African and Middle Eastern influences.
These are just two examples of different locales in RFG, but there are many more beyond this such as Dust (a dirty and rough environment, home to all of Mars’ mining), Eos (the most technologically advanced and wealthiest area on Mars; set apart by its sleek and towering buildings of white and blue glass and its whiter terrain and sky), the Badlands (a wasteland of jagged rockets, dead settlements, and more; this is where terraforming went wrong), and the end game area which is very distinct and beautiful in its own way, which players will have to wait and see for themselves.

GVK: What are some of the weapons we will see and will they change between locales?

SK: Keeping with Red Faction tradition, Red Faction: Guerrilla features a large number of weapons for the player to kickass EDF ass with. There are two classes of weapons in RFG: guerrilla weapons and EDF weapons. EDF weapons are the more traditional in style military weapons such as assault rifles, pistols, and grenades along with some more unique weapons. Guerrilla weapons are for the most part mining tools that the guerrillas have been forced to modify into weapons to fight against the EDF with. Some of these include remote charges, a rocket launcher, the grinder which shoots saw blades at high-speed, the arc welder which is a welding tool modified into a highly electrifying weapon that’s attracted to any metal in the environment, and many more impressively destructive weapons and some of which fans of the original Red Faction will be excited to see.
At anytime the player can hold up to four weapons, one of which will always be the iconic sledgehammer. As players progress through the game they will unlock additional weapons and be able to upgrade the weapons already in their possession. While the player can only carry four weapons at a time, weapons can be exchanged at guerrilla safe houses for any weapons the player has already unlocked.

GVK: How will vehicles be used in game and what will players be able to ride in?

SK: Vehicles actually play an important role in RFG. There are a large number of vehicles in the game that will be at the player’s disposal. Non-military vehicles range from mining vehicles such as pickup trucks, cargo trucks and dump trucks, to busses and a number of passenger vehicles.
Vehicle variety and types change depending on what sector of the world the player is in. In an area such as Dust the player will find mostly mining and construction vehicles, where in an area such as Eos the player will find more luxury vehicles and other high-end vehicles. EDF vehicles include troop carriers, APC’s, a number of tanks, and aircraft.
The coolest vehicles in the game which everyone loves using the most once they get their hands on them are the mining walkers. The walkers are large mech-like vehicles normally used for mining, but that have been drafted by the guerrillas to be essentially their answer to the EDF’s tanks. Walkers range from the large construction walkers used for smashing through anything that gets their way, to the small walker which while not as strong as the large walker, can still cause damage but also run faster, jump, and even temporarily fly due to a large jet mounted to its back.

GVK: What forms of multiplayer does the game include and will players be able to play both sides of the conflicts?

A game can’t be called Red Faction unless it has a huge multiplayer component, and Red Faction: Guerrilla keeps that tradition alive. RFG features a large number of multiplayer modes from all of your standard multiplayer modes such as deathmatch and team deathmatch which we call Anarchy and Team Anarchy, to a large number of modes built around destruction and even reconstruction. Some multiplayer modes have a weapon called the reconstructor that will allow players to instantly rebuild anything that has been destroyed in real-time. Need cover but all of the walls around you have been destroyed? Pull out your reconstructor and rebuild cover. As I mentioned earlier multiplayer features the same level of destruction as the single player game, and because of this even traditional modes of play are totally different in RFG. When the entire world around you can be destroyed you have to constantly keep moving and fighting because there is nowhere to hide. Camping is officially dead.
Our multiplayer features 16 players, a large number of modes, and we are looking at shipping with around 20 maps. Players will be able to fight as a guerrilla or an EDF soldier.

GVK: Blending action with a detailed plot can always be tricky. How have you attempted to create this element, and will scripted events be a part of the game?

SK: Despite having a truly open world in which everything can be destroyed, Red Faction: Guerrilla does feature a compelling story that is told through a number of in-game cutscenes and through mission briefings and other ways. While players can complete available missions in any order and in any way they wish, completing story missions will unlock more of the story and advance the player through it. Telling a story in a game like RFG has been a challenge but we have succeeded in delivering it the way we wanted to in-game and without having to fill the game with scripted events.

GVK: Roughly how long is the game and how many new maps will players get for multiplayer?

SK: The single player campaign could take a player around 20hrs or more only focusing on missions, guerrilla actions (our activities), and targets. Through in diversions, other yet to be announced elements of the game, and just destruction in general and players could easily keep playing Red Faction: Guerrilla for 100hrs.
See questions 7: around 20 maps. There will be downloadable content for MP and SP too in the future.

GVK: What are some of the biggest obstacles you faced in creating the game and the biggest successes?

SK: The biggest obstacle, creating the first true physics and stress based destruction engine. We spent over 4yrs creating the technology behind Red Faction: Guerrilla. We wanted to create something that no one has seen before and will not see anything like it for years to come. As challenging as creating the technology was, it was equally challenging creating a game around destruction. We have succeeded in what we feel is redefining open world gaming by creating a world that does not limit the player. Everything is destroyable. Everything is built around destruction, from the design of the terrain to the missions and activities. When I say we do not limit the player, this applies to the missions in the game as well.
While missions and activities in open world games still ultimately have a linear path to them, in RFG they do not. You can approach every mission whatever way you want. You can go in with guns blazing or go in strategically using cover and destruction. Ultimately the player will find that mastering destruction and using it as a tool will help in ultimately being successful in the campaign. When handing players a world in which they could destroy everything we didn’t feel we should then force them down linear paths that hampered their ability to be creative with destruction.

GVK: Why did it take so long for the series to resume after Red Faction 2?
SK: The reason it has taken so long for us to resume the franchise after Red Faction 2 is that we felt we could not go any farther with the technology available to us. With the last generation consoles, we pushed the PS2/Xbox/GCN to the max with our geomoding technology.
After two games we felt we couldn’t go any farther with the technology so we had to wait until a new generation of systems came along that had the power to do what we wanted to do. It has been rewarding for us that even after all these years no one has come close to or done what we did with geomoding in the original Red Faction, and that was back in 2001. But even with that fact we did not want to just make a next-gen version of Red Faction but instead raise the bar once again so high that we are bring gamers something that they have never seen before and will not see for years to come. So even though the wait has been long, it has been worth it in every way.

Red Faction: Guerrilla
Release: Q1 2009
Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC (Games for Windows Live)
PS3 and Xbox 360 will be feature matched and visually identical. All versions will support 16 players in multiplayer.