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Interview: Brink (part one) – Splash Damage’s Ed Stern

Tuesday, 4th May 2010 15:10 GMT By Johnny Cullen

ed stern

Ever since its reveal before E3 last year, Splash Damage’s Brink has been firmly on the core’s radar. It’s aiming to be one of the biggest action titles of this year, pairing up with fellow Bethesda-published title Fallout: New Vegas this fall.

In one of two interviews with Splash Damage, we spoke to the game’s writer Ed “BongoBoy” Stern in Paris last week at Bethesda’s pre-E3 event, asking about the possible future of the series, another potential team-up with id Software and lots more.

The all-new demo we saw in in France last week was show-stopping. Don’t even think about not buying this game when it releases.

We also spoke to SD’s CEO Paul Wedgwood about the game. Get that here.

[Interview by Johnny Cullen]

VG247: When the first gameplay video came out just before Christmas last year, I labelled it “the bastard child of Mirror’s Edge and Assassin’s Creed”. Would you agree it’s a combo of those two and a drop of Killzone?

Ed Stern: One of the many privileges and pleasures of developing in games is that you get to work on things for decades, and people go, “It’s just like the last thing I heard of,” and you spend ten years trying to get movement right and inevitably other people are doing the same thing. I mean, we were already working on SMART and freedom of movement when Mirror’s Edge got announced, and it’s like, “Oh no, people are going to go…”

Actually, though, I think they’re sufficiently different. For a start, we’re primarily a shooter that happens to have this extra movement stuff. I don’t think there’s going to be any confusion between the games at all. They feel so different. So, I think what you’re trying to say what something is least unlike. I can see how people can go “Oh, it’s kinda like that,” but not really. I think it’s going to stand on its own; stand and slide on its own two feet.

Paul [Wedgwood, CEO of Splash Damage] said at Eurogamer Expo last year that the game wont be superior or inferior on any other platform. Are there three independent, separate teams working on at the moment? Is…

Ed Stern: No. We’re developing on three platforms simultaneously. We’re using exactly the same assets for all three, so it’s not like, “Oh, here’s the high-quality PC version. Ugh, here’s the simplified version for a different one.”

It’s challenging, and we’ve had to go out and hire some very, very smart people. We come from a hardcore PC FPS background, and we do not have the smarts to know how to do that. We had to go out and hire a bunch of people who were very experienced on the console equipment.

Richard Ham, who’s our creative director, worked on Fable II under Peter Molyneux. Our art director Oliver Leonardo, he worked on Prince of Persia and Rainbow Six Vegas. Tim Applebee, our lead character artist, he worked on Mass Effect, he worked on Shepard and [inaudible]. We had to kind of go out and assemble a dream team because we didn’t know how to make this game for consoles. But now, we’re really determined and trying to break down those differences. and I think, quite often as gamers, we get obsessed about what’s different and what’s cool.

Why not deliver the same on all three platforms [without] leaning on one or the other? Single-player, multiplayer, co-op, online or offline, previously these have demarcated and divided the games, and there’s no reason for that to be the case. I mean, it’s hard, it’s a challenge, but specifically, [with] Brink [we'll] blur those lines.

So, lets take an example. You’re playing a solo game. You’re pursuing one of the storylines, and you decide to be either Security or Resistance, and you’re playing this thing. I am on your friends list, I come online and I see you’re playing a solo game. I can join you, if you let me: you’re not gonna let me invade your game. As far as I am concerned, this is now a co-op game; you’re still playing a single-player game, you’re still one team, one team’s attacking and one team’s defending. It’s never you against the world in a James Bond-style because the coolest stories in games are player experiences, and that’s always what’s been cool about hardcore first-person shooters, and that’s what made it the toughest to get into.

One of the goals of Brink is to take all that good stuff, and make it easy to get into and to make… You go in there just trying to play the game and you realize that you’ll be trained and educated in the ways of multiplayer gaming, so you don’t get that syndrome, which I think we’ve all had, of being good at the single-player part of the game, but going online and be bad at it. Like, you’ve taken something you’re good at, you enjoy, you’ve beat the game, you feel pretty good about that and you go online and it’s totally different; weapons do different damages, it’s a totally different speed of experience, you suck at it and you die all the time and you don’t know why.

Brink is always consistent. It’s always the same game. It doesn’t matter what platform you play it on. It doesn’t matter whenever you’re online or offline, or whether you’re thinking about it in single-player or thinking about it in co-op or multiplayer: it’s the same game. And it’s the kind of game that’s going to deliver the most replay value and the most replayability.

There was a second part to that question.

Ed Stern: Oh, I’m sorry.

No, it’s still good enough, so I’ll take it. The point I was trying to make with that question was whether or not there’s a lead platform on Brink?

Ed Stern: No, not at all.

Not at all?

Ed Stern: We’re developing absolutely…

Independently for all three platforms, yes?

Ed Stern: Well, we’re doing all three of them, yes. And it’s the same attitude for all – which is you’ve got to do it. You’ve got to do it that way to end up with an equally accomplished “SKU,” as I believe they’re now known.

Can you narrow down a possible release window for Brink? All we have heard is fall this far.

Ed Stern: Fall 2010. We’re not gonna not say when it’s coming out, let’s put it that way. It will not be a secret we jealously guard until the moment it comes out. You will be fully apprised when the day is finalized.

I ask that because it could be out at the same time as other big hitters like Halo: Reach, Call of Duty; Black Ops and possibly another Bethesda title, Fallout: New Vegas. If push were to come to shove and you were up against those games, what would be the situation?

Ed Stern: We’re really on the development side, we’re just concerned with making the game. Things about stuff like scheduling we keep for the publisher side. Sorry. I’m sure Bethesda will cheerfully field any of that stuff. We’re just trying to finish the game and making it as good and balanced as with many bells and whistles as we possibly can.

Ah, fair enough. Is there any DLC plan at the moment?

Ed Stern: We can’t talk about that as yet.

But would you like to?

Ed Stern: I mean, to avoid that question entirely, we want to make sure that on release day, the kind of out-of-the-box thing of the game is as good as possible. Everything else outside of that? That’s extra stuff Bethesda can field.

What will the game offer in terms of a social features and competitive multiplayer?

Ed Stern: We can’t talk about that yet. But we’re going to a lot, and you’ll probably be quite tired of us banging on about it.

But will you be talking about it at E3, anyways?

Ed Stern: We can’t give a specific date. Just to make the point, and this is neither to confirm or deny anything, nothing is set in stone. We’re at pre-Beta at the moment, so there’s plenty of stuff still to go. Both Splash Damage and Bethesda have not previously been in the habit of not giving the community the tools they need to get the gameplay they want… So we shall see.

Splash Damage did Quake Wars: Enemy Territory on PC, and with id part of the Bethesda family now, would you really consider doing a game with them again?

Ed Stern: By no means not. But our sights are completely full of Brink. All that’s on our radar is that.

Yes, but I mean in the future after Brink, after whatever post-release stuff happens with Brink. Would it be something that you’d consider down the line?

Ed Stern: Yeah, sure. I mean they make great games. We’ve been incredibly lucky that the previous games we got to work on were Wolfenstein and Quake and we used the Doom 3 technology. Those are our three favourite games. So yeah, that’d be certainly not be a terrible thing at all.

Last year, it was said there was big plans for a Brink 2 and a Brink 3. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?

Ed Stern: This reminds me [not] to make flipping comments in interviews. I said should there ever be a sequel, we could always call it Briink with two I’s and then Briiink with three I’s. People keep saying, “Why did you call it Brink?” and I say, “Well because that is as much thought as we did to that.”

A slapped wrist on my own.

The way you put it like that – Briink and Briiink – you seem to imply that there could be a trilogy in play here.

Ed Stern: Oh, I’m thinking at least seven. But after three, you’d have to go with Brivnk if you keep going with Roman numerals.

I can not sufficiently stress just how much and exclusively we’re concerned with making this one game. The notion that we’re gonna start stringing them, “for the next 40 years…”

We’re just trying to make this game as best we can.

Paul didn’t specify at Eurogamer last year how the long the story was, saying it was still to be decided. Have you fixed it yet?

Ed Stern: Yeah. I mean certainly if you think of it purely as a solo game and you’re not going to replay any of it and you only play through both of the storylines, you’re looking at about ten hours plus of gameplay.

But it’s always tough to quantify that, I mean, is it like doing a speed-run? If you only play it solo and you’re only playing offline, it’s going to be a full-length game. Absolutely no question about it.

We’d like to think it has significantly greater replay value than recent titles, because that’s the great joy about multiplayer games; you’re playing the same maps again and again and yet they’re always different.

Certainly, a goal in Brink is that you’ll play through one campaign and you’re probably want to play through the second campaign and it’s different because even though it’s the same map, you’re playing on the different side, and then you unlock a different body type so you’re playing tactically now, and then of course you can play different classes.

What we’re passionate about is the way PC multiplayer games provide such a variety and repeatability of experiences, but previously it’s been difficult for console gamers to access that.

Brink releases fall 2010 on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.

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