Natural Selection 2 Interview: Mixing a FPS and RTS For a Killer Experience

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Recently I got to speak with Hugh Jeremy at Unknown Worlds about their game Natural Selection 2. If you are not aware of the game, you will want to add it to your watch list as it is shaping up to be one of the most unique and enjoyably original titles in ages. The original game was a Half Life mod. Natural Selection 2 is a standalone game that as the dvelopers say “seamlessly combines Real Time Strategy and First Person Shooter genres – Think Starcraft having a lovechild with Call of Duty, where an order given to a unit is an order given to a real person”.

What is the storyline for the game?

Natural Selection 2 does not feature a defined plot. Instead, players create their own story within the Natural Selection universe. The animalistic Kharaa fight the human Frontiersman for control of various locations. Their motives are largely left up to players, though our community has generated a small amount of lore.

The game is a teamwork based shooter strategy game, in which up to 32 players vie for domination of various maps. One player from each side plays as the real time strategy commander, while the others play out the game in first person.

What types of weapons will be available to players?

Human players can select from a wide variety of classic Alien on Human weaponry, such as rifles, shotguns, flamethrowers, grenade launchers, axes, and welders. They may also use equipment such as jetpacks, mobile siege cannons, and exoskeletons.

Alien players can choose to evolve into any of five different life forms at any time during a game, provided they have the required resources. Each life form is completely different, from the wall-running Skulk to the flying Lerk to the giant, hulking Onos. Depending on which life form you are playing as, you will have strengths and weaknesses that will determine how you choose to engage the human enemy. Players may customise their life forms with various upgrade evolutions during a match, depending on what strategic path their commander has chosen.

Apart from the individual weapons available to first-person players, the real time strategy commanders have a huge variety of structures available. Apart from structures that directly influence battle, such as sentry guns, commanders direct the overall strategy of the game through their structure choice. For example, a commander may choose go for jetpacks by constructing a prototype lab. Or, they could choose to expand quickly for a large number of extractors, limiting their tech options but allowing their team to purchase large numbers of weapons. The possibilities are endless!

What enemies will players face and will there be vehicles that players can use?

Players face each other, and whatever weapons and terrifying life forms they have chosen.

As each alien has a different movement method, each one is a little bit like driving a vehicle. The Gorge can belly slide, allowing you to ‘drift’ around corners as if driving a car. The Lerk flies, and is therefore a little bit like flying a fighter plane. The Fade blinks in and out of existence, and so on through each alien life form.

On the marine side, the Exosuit offers the experience of piloting a large robotic mech. The jetpack gives marines the opportunity to fly. There is other equipment available to marines, though not all allows a human player a ‘vehicle’ experience.

What can you tell us about the gaming engine and what it will bring to the table?

The Spark engine is a brand new in-house engine developed specifically for Natural Selection 2. It is fully dynamically lit, capable of hot-loading game code, and requires no map pre-composition. The engine is designed to be extremely moddable. All the game code is open source, and can be changed by anyone. We are confident that this is one of the most, if not the most moddable games ever produced. All the tools we use to create the game are shipped with the game, including the map editor, script de-bugger, and animation editor.

The advantage of this extreme moddability is that players can produce content for the game, and changes to the game. What will it bring to the table? Likely an incredible number of possible game experiences. We cannot wait to see what the Natural Selection 2 community produces.

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

Most official maps are pieces of a large ‘Alterra Corporation’ facility on an undisclosed planet. Each map offers striking contrast. Some, such as Docking, feature clean living quarters. Others, such as Mineshaft, feature dark mining tunnels and drilling equipment.

Because of the extreme moddability of the game, players will likely see a huge variety of locales. Already, the community has produced a huge number of maps. One of them, Summit, is now officially included in the game.

What type of multiplayer will the game offer?

Natural Selection 2 is multiplayer only, everything you see discussed in other questions is what you can do in multiplayer!

Blending action with a detailed plot can always be tricky, how have you attempted to create this in your game?

As mentioned earlier, plot is something that player create for themselves, within the NS universe. Because the game offers such a deep well of possible experiences, mixing plot with action is easy. Who knows what story a player will tell after any given match. Was there a desperate fight over Crushing Room? Did the aliens break through into Data Core and cut the lights? Did you manage to fly through the marine base, destroying their armoury and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat?

What are some of the biggest obstacles you see in creating the game, and what are your biggest goals for the game?

The creation of our own engine was and is the biggest obstacle. Getting the game to perform strongly and stably on our new engine is an ongoing challenge.

Our goals? Bring the unique Natural Selection experience to as many players as possible, and keep improving it long into the future!

What can you tell us about the customization options in the game?

The ability to customise NS2 is completely unlimited, because of mods. If there is something a player wants to be, do, or see – it can be done using the Spark engine. We are integrating with Steam Workshop to allow players to publish and auto-download mods, making experienced a customised NS2 a seamless experience.