Stern on the Brink: “In an FPS, effectively the gun is you”

Monday, 28th February 2011 15:00 GMT By Patrick Garratt

Stace Harman goes head-to-head with Brink’s latest build and lead writer Ed Stern, finding guns, guns and more guns.


Developed by Splash Damage, published by Bethesda.

Innovative FPS set on The Ark, a floating city gripped by civil war.

Out in May for 360, PS3 and PC.

As Keza discovered at Gamescom last year, a certain amount of readjustment is necessary when you sit down to play Brink for the first time. A few minutes are required to disabuse you of the notion that you’re best off finding a cubby hole and staying put. Thanks to the Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain (SMART) system, hiding behind cover and popping out to squeeze off a couple of rounds will likely work for around thirty seconds, until an opposing team member vaults the wall you’re crouching behind and shoots you in the head.

This hands-on session is about looking at just how much attention has been lavished upon the gun that shot you and the avatar that’s holding it. The devil, after all, is in the details.

Guns: lots of guns

As I cycle through the vast array of customisation options in Splash Damage’s upcoming team-based shooter, one thing is very clear: there are a lot of unique guns in Brink. More specifically, there are a lot of ways that you can customise your load-out, with the ability to upgrade and tweak weapon sights, ammo clips and attachments, coupled with whether you choose a light, medium or heavy body type for your character. Uniqueness is key here, as Brink’s lead writer Ed ‘BongoBoy’ Stern explains.

“There’s no point having dozens of different guns if they’re not meaningfully different,” he says.

“The scorecard at the end of the round doesn’t show kills.”

“In an FPS, effectively the gun is you. It’s your avatar, and so it better be an interesting character. That’s how we think of the guns in Brink – ‘Well this guy looks, sounds and behaves differently to the other ones.’ Frankly, it’s pointless having four dozen assault rifles if they’re all clones.”

The concept of clones is something Splash Damage is keen to move away from in other areas too, and so the customisation extends to character appearance and voice, facial archetypes, clothes, armour, tattoos, hairstyles and face masks, all with multiple colours and tints for each.

As you level up you earn more gear, which Splash Damage hopes will increase sense of ownership over your avatar and serve as a status symbol online.

Intelligently, your character and customisation options are persistent whether you’re playing offline or online, so the character you’re playing will always be of your own creation, not typecast.

While much of the customisation of your character’s appearance is purely for aesthetics and has no effect on in-game abilities, the body type you choose does. Heavy, medium and light body types bolster what may initially seem a limited roster of four character classes – Soldier, Medic, Engineer and Operative – and affect not just the obvious attributes, such as the amount of damage you can take and how fast you can move, but also the kinds of guns you can effectively utilise and how agile your character is when traversing environments.

Brink. Guns. Similar things.

This, combined with the SMART system, means you can create a Parkour-style soldier or a heavy-set medic, and allows Brink to further distinguishes itself from the likes of Team Fortress, in which a Heavy Weapons Guy is always a Heavy Weapons Guy.

To the victor, the spoils

Underpinning the class system is XP distribution. XP is distributed with an eye on how effective a player you are being for your team, not how awesome you are at headshots (which, incidentally, will only ever result in a one shot kill if you manage to land one on the very agile and fast moving ‘light’ body type).

“The scorecard at the end of the round doesn’t show kills,” Stern explains.

“Of course we track that information and if you want to set up a multiplayer server that’s all about that, the data is there for you.

“But we’ve seen what happens when you rank players by kills on objective-based maps: you get medics that won’t revive players and soldiers that won’t give out ammo, because everyone is just chasing kills.

“We look at how to incentivise players. We give you much more XP for buffing your teammates than for kills, and we smother you in XP for actually doing the objective. In addition, the XP that we do award for kills is proportional to damage, so if you cause 90 percent of the damage to an enemy and someone else swoops in and delivers the final shot, you will get 90 percent of the kill XP.”


It’s evident that much of Brink is designed to be slick and fast-paced. The UI is clean and uncluttered, and changing character classes can be achieved at any in-game command point by selecting one of the four available from a wheel based menu.

Character customization. There’s a lot of it.

If you get lost during any of the objective-based maps, pushing up on the D-pad and selecting an objective will physically turn your character in the right direction as well has highlighting what you’re supposed to be doing next. Even the medic’s ability to revive teammates is swift, achieved by tossing an self-administrable adrenaline shot to a downed player, ensuring the medic doesn’t become a sitting duck as he stands over a prone player to revive them.

“We’ve taken all the things that we know make online gaming fun and made it easy for players to get into and removed all the things that we know are irritating about online gaming,” insists Stern.

This streamlining extends to the movement, too. The SMART system makes it necessary to view environmental obstacles as structures than can be vaulted over, run through or slid under, but rarely should they be stood or crouched behind for any length of time. The brief tutorial video we see reinforces this by advising us to ‘move more than you shoot’. It’s evidently an area that Splash Damage intends to form as a key characteristic of the game.

“One of the key things we’ve worked on is movement, which we think has been lagging behind graphics in FPS for years now,” Stern tells me.

“I call it the fridge-on-roller-skates problem, because in some FPSes you’re like, ‘Hang on, I’ve got this beautifully detailed, brilliantly animated super-fit commando who cannot jump over a wall that’s chest height? That’s ridiculous.’”

“If you cause 90 percent of the damage to an enemy and someone else swoops in and delivers the final shot, you will get 90 percent of the kill XP.”

Rounding out today’s hands-on are the challenge maps, a series of self contained levels that sit outside of the main game’s narrative and set challenges to encourage you to get to grips with each class.

In fact, there’s so much packed into Brink that it feels almost churlish to ask if there’s scope for further character classes to be introduced at a later date.

“We’re sticking with four,” insists Stern.

“We started with a, frankly, terrifyingly blank sheet of paper on this project and we really thought long and hard about where we wanted the complexity to be. We had to decide whether we wanted that complexity to be between the class types, or with the different combinations of abilities within those classes. We think it’s less intimidating to starter players if there are fewer classes and then certain abilities that you only get access to at higher levels. That seems fairer than having a whole bunch of classes and players being bewildered.”

Time will tell if this new, multi-format FPS IP will inspire or bewilder, and we’ve not got long left to wait to find out. Brink is set for release on PC, 360 and PS3 on May 17 in the US and May 20 in Europe.



  1. DBZ0wnz

    I’m so much looking forward to this game more than MW3, BF3, Crysis 2.

    #1 4 years ago
  2. DSB

    I don’t get all the headshot hate. I always thought it was great to watch a guy go down when you hit him in the head.

    I hope the guy who finished off a 90% kill gets a consolation prize of more than 10%. It’s still pretty important to get him down, after all.

    Aside from that, love it, love it.

    #2 4 years ago
  3. mattyc4

    I’d just like to see more gameplay video of Brink. I think I’ve reached the end of the internets looking for it. Since it’s such a hybrid game, I just want to get a better feel for it.

    #3 4 years ago
  4. ManuOtaku

    And i thought that those slogans about you are the weapon were kind of funny, now we get this, well is the logial evolution….

    #4 4 years ago
  5. freedoms_stain

    Your Choir of Guns video is borked, it freezes at 19 seconds, here’s a working version:

    #5 4 years ago
  6. Patrick Garratt

    I’ve updated it. Thanks.

    #6 4 years ago
  7. NeoSquall

    I’m still waiting for preorder information in Europe before getting it.

    C’mon, I don’t want to spend 49euros on Steam while TheHut gives its PC version at 28 euros just because Steam gives you the SpecOps pack :(

    #7 4 years ago
  8. OrbitMonkey

    Mmmm…. customization…. :)

    #8 4 years ago
  9. Redh3lix

    Have loved, and always will love Splash Damage games. Cannot WAIT for this game.

    #9 4 years ago
  10. Hungamer

    New Gameplay trailer!!!

    #10 4 years ago
  11. DSB

    The guns video is straight up genius.

    I love how all the guns look like something you know, but the contours are just completely exagerated. Arguably some of the most killer weapon design I’ve seen.

    If Brink doesn’t blow away any multiplayer shooter I’ve played, I’ll be really disappointed. One of very few preorder purchases for me this year.

    #11 4 years ago
  12. hitnrun

    Not so enamored with the sound of the “SMART” system. It’s been a long time – from the decline of the PC, really – since the days of hiding in cul-de-sacs. Maps nowadays are designed to funnel players forward into mindless —-fests. There’s barely a square inch in CoD maps that isn’t approachable from behind.

    #12 4 years ago
  13. Erthazus

    My only compain about this game is a “SMART” system. Because that system does so much with one button.

    I just hope it’s not going to push our industry backwards where soon with one button we are going to able to shoot, duck, jump, press button, move forward and etc.,

    Everything else looks good so far.

    #13 4 years ago
  14. mattyc4

    Thanks, there was a couple things in that mash-up I haven’t seen before…a lot of old footage too tho.

    It would be cool if Splash Damage released another commented video from start to finish, load-out customization and all, of a sample multiplayer match. Just need that extra push to hit the preorder button :)

    #14 4 years ago
  15. Magicpocket

    All the ‘normal’ buttons are there and if you want to stop ‘SMARTing’ at any time you just let go of the button. Hell, if you want to just use it as RUN you can and then press jump, instead of SMARTing.

    #15 4 years ago
  16. AHA-Lambda

    cant bloody wait for this!!

    unfortunately its the same day as LA nore so it’ll probly have to wait =(

    #16 4 years ago
  17. DSB


    The real question you should be asking yourself is why you’d ever want to focus on freerunning in an FPS? You want to use Q to put one leg in, and E to use the other one? Forget about it!

    It’s not a game about freerunning, it’s an objective based multiplayer shooter. The freerunning is just a tactical aid, and judging from the pace, I’d say the less focus it takes the better.

    I respect the hardcore fans of Mirror’s Edge, but most of the people I know who bought the game never really figured out the controls. I thought it was overly twitchy, personally. Good idea poorly executed – Don’t want it in my Brink :P

    #17 4 years ago
  18. freedoms_stain

    I wonder if the gun customisation will run to iron sights.

    Some guns have better iron sights than others, it’d be cool if you could choose preferable irons rather than just having a selection of red dots and ACOGs.

    Anyhoo, gimmie a bullpup Assault rifle with a nice hoop and needle iron sight and an underbarrel shotty and I’m as happy as a pig in shit.

    #18 4 years ago
  19. ManBearPig

    @18 yeah you can just have iron sights ive seen a vid where a guy is going throught the customization on the guns and it says you can kee iron sights.

    #19 4 years ago
  20. Moonwalker1982

    @ 10

    The video is gone, anywhere else i can find it? :(

    #20 4 years ago
  21. freedoms_stain

    @19, that’s not what I meant, I presumed keeping irons was an option, I’m asking if you’ll be able to choose what kind of irons on a per-gun basis, which would be unique to most current games which tend to use real life guns and thus use whatever irons the manufacturer uses with no option to change to another type.

    #21 4 years ago
  22. HauntaVirus


    LA Noire can wait! You should totally get BRINK first!

    #22 4 years ago
  23. ManBearPig

    does anyone know how many maps there are going to be? ive only seen 2

    #23 4 years ago
  24. guapo

    I hope it doesn’t take a million shots to drop a dude. Definitely day one for me if it doesn’t.

    #24 4 years ago
  25. Shonak

    @24: same here. Fall 2011 will be sick, so I really don’t know if I should buy Brink or BF3 for my multiplayer-satisfaction. Hopefully they release a demo for both games or make an open beta.

    #25 4 years ago
  26. asbuwango

    I heard there would be 16 missions (so 16 maps?)
    Can I find it anywhere else?

    #26 4 years ago

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