Brink – Q&and A with Richard Ham

If the gaming industry had something like IMDB, you would see Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars, Fable 2, The Sims and the Syphon Filter, just to name a few, under Richard Ham’s bio. Later this year, Richard will add creative director of Brink, a new first person shooter being developed by Splash Damage and set to be released this fall from Bethesda Softworks, to his resume. He was kind enough to answer a few questions posed to him by Skewed & Reviewed.

What is the background and setting for the game?

Brink is set on the Ark, a massive artificial city floating far out in the Pacific Ocean, built as a prototype for mankind’s “perfect green future.” It’s a complex that should house around 5,000 people, but unfortunately, the ocean levels have risen, and people from all over the globe have come to Ark as refugees, overrunning the place with a population of 50,000. Resources are running out and people are scared, leaving the whole place on the brink of all-out civil war. When the game starts, you choose if you want to fight as a member of Ark Security or the civilian Resistance movement. Each side of the
conflict has their own goals and objectives, and each side thinks they’re “the good guys.”

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

You’ll see a variety of areas of the Ark, some of them run down and falling apart (the slums of Container City, or the abandoned Shipyard for example) while others will still be beautiful beacons of that perfect world the Ark set out to create (such as the now-deserted airport of the Ark or the Resort pelgo).

What are some of the weapons we will see?

We’re looking to have 24 guns in the game, broken into four groups: there are five pistols (including semi-autos, full autos, revolvers), seven “light weapons” (like sub machine guns and sniper rifles), seven “medium” weapons (assault rifles and shotguns), and five “heavy weapons” (think HMGs and grenade launchers). So there’s a wide variety, and the ones you get to use are based on the body type you choose for your character – the bigger your character is, the bigger the guns he can carry.

Will vehicles be used in the game?

There are missions where vehicles have to be escorted, but players will never directly control vehicles themselves. Brink is all about the intensity of up-close-and-personal, in-your-face infantry combat, and vehicles just didn’t fit that vision.
However, what we have added to the game instead is what we call “freedom of movement.” In Brink, you’ll have the ability to scramble all over our levels in ways you’ve never experienced before in a high-action shooter. You can climb up 15’ tall walls, slide under low obstacles to knock enemies down, and do cool wall jumps to reach areas that sometimes even our level designers didn’t realize you could reach. This is all accomplished through a really intuitive control system we call SMART, which stands for Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain. When you hold down the SMART button, you tell the game that it should automatically avoid obstacles by sliding or mantling. This lets you focus completely on the tactical side of our firefights, without having to worry about learning a new control system or timing your jumps or slides correctly in the heat of battle.

What forms of multiplay does the game include and will there be co-op play?

Brink is unique in that the entire game is multiplayer and single player at the same time. Say you’re playing a level by yourself and a friend comes home from work and fires up his copy of Brink. He’ll be able to hop right into your game, seamlessly changing it from a single player to a cooperative experience. Brink supports up to eight players playing cooperatively like that.

Similarly, if you make your game completely public, players can also join it on the side of the opposing team, fighting against you. Of course, from their point of view, they’re playing their version of the story and you’re the enemy.

What engine is the game using and what are some of the new features it will offer gamers?

Brink is running on idTech 4, but it’s been completely re-written from the ground up to provide an incredible next-gen experience across all three platforms (PC, PS3, and Xbox360). There’s a bunch of cool code features in it, but the one we’re most proud of is called ‘Sparse Virtual Texturing’. This is a clever system that allows us to put literally gigabytes of texture data on screen, all compressed down into just a few megabytes of video memory. This gives Brink a nice sharp and detailed look.

What can you tell us about the A.I. in the game?
Brink’s AI has to be great because of the way we blend single player and multiplayer gaming seamlessly. At any time, you could be playing against AI or against other human players, and our goal is that you can’t tell the difference. So our AI is capable of doing literally every action that you can, which makes for much more exciting and dynamic gameplay. Not only are the enemies more ruthless and surprising, but your teammates are more self reliant and useful. In Brink, you won’t have to babysit your AI squad mates and make sure they do their jobs. Actually, if you’re not doing well, they’ll babysit you!

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?

We’re approaching that in a fairly unique way. Everything is dynamic and happens because of choices you make and the choices made by your teammates and enemies. If you play the same missions a hundred times, they’ll each be unique and you’ll get cool stories to tell your friends because you know they happened only to you, and no one else.
We still have a storyline for the game. There’s a cast of characters, and you’ll get to know them, and you’ll start to like them (or hate them in some cases), and there’ll be a way to ‘save the day and win.’ But the real focus of the game is on the stories that you’re making for yourself. Like the time you disguised yourself as an enemy, snuck behind enemy lines, found hidden intelligence, carried it out while being escorted by your mates, and turned the tide of battle for the rest of the mission through your heroics. What’s cool is that this kind of story happens not because some designer scripted it all to happen a certain way, but because you made it happen. That kind of cool, dynamic mission-based gameplay is something we think players haven’t seen before, and we’re very excited to hear players’ stories.

What are the biggest obstacles you faced in creating the game and the biggest success?

It’s been a big challenge transitioning from a PC-only developer (we did Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory and the PC version of Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars) to a developer working on PS3, Xbox and PC at the same time. And I’d have to say our biggest success is achieving this goal. Right now, all three platforms are running great and it’s hard to tell at a glance the difference between the three, until you look at the player’s hands to see how he’s controlling the game!

What are some of the enemies players will face and will there be Boss battles?

Even though Brink is set in a sort of sci-fi future, we’re actually a very realistic and grounded game. This is all about a civil war between social factions fighting for control over the Ark. So we don’t have any farfetched mutant space dogs, or 5,000 hitpoint boss monster characters. This is a gritty, personal war.

What can you tell us about the music and sound in the game?

Our Audio Director is Chris Sweetman, who is just incredible. Before joining Splash Damage, Chris was behind the audio in Black and Burnout Paradise, in my opinion two of the best-sounding games of all time. And Brink, by his own admission, is his most impressive accomplishment yet. I honestly can’t do justice to just how amazing Brink sounds. You’ll just have to wait and hear it for yourselves!

What makes this game different and fresh from others in the genre?

Well, I hope this interview did a pretty good job of answering that! Basically, if you’re looking for an FPS where you’re free to explore however you want, without hitting invisible walls, check Brink out. If you’re looking for an FPS where your actions have a real meaningful impact on how a mission plays out, check Brink out. If you’re looking for an FPS where you can level up to earn lots of cool abilities while seamlessly switching between online or offline, single player, co-op, or versus, with a consistent story with something to say, that carries you through the entire experience, check Brink out.

One Comment

  1. Rankcanine said:

    this game seems to be coming together nicely. the sound production in this game is going to be pretty awesome Black was fantastic in audio and so were the burnout games . this game sounds pretty good so far.

    April 13, 2010

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