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Project Awakened Interview: Power of the Players

by on02/15/2013
 

Project Awakened is a title that was once a cancelled project when Midway Games closed down, and then a side project for the team as Phoshphor games. Now they want to put all their force behind it and make it a full-blown title made on Unreal Engine 4 and with enough success make its way to next-gen consoles. This is a customization freak’s wet dream, imagine if Neo jacked into the Matrix and instead of learning kung fu, he learned kung fu, telepathy, teleportation, mind control, and the ability to create tornadoes. Imagine you were Neo…what carnage would you strike down upon the world?

That is just a little bit of what players can do in the world Phosphor Games wants to bring to life in Project Awakened. Allowing players to create a person who could be an outright super hero or take a more humble approach,hiding his great power.

Combine that with the multiplayer world and modding, you might never leave this game. Creating different game modes with a variety of choices/restrictions to make or taking a more competitive approach in a balanced matchmaking environment of powers, the control is in your hands.

If Halo 2 sparked gamers imaginations by letting them create gametypes that are famous to the franchise now like Zombies, then I can’t imagine what a community can bring to a game that lets you change a whole lot more than a few game options.

To learn more I talked to Chip Sineni the studio director of Phosphor Games. With their game already hitting the 100K mark of their 500K Kickstarter goal, they are making their way to turning this into a reality. To help you get a stronger grasp on this concept though and the possibilities it brings, watch this video they released, before even bothering reading my dribble.

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I have been a huge fan of character creation/customization in games ever since I started playing, I love how this is clearly a HUGE focus in Project Awakened. You touched on breaking new ground in this aspect, what do you think other developers will be able to take from this?

We definitely haven’t thought of how Project Awakened will affect other developers. I think we are now seeing games in general that allow players to play more how they want – Dishonored and Far Cry do a great job of this, and even COD is starting to do more of this than in the past. The yin-yang of customization is that the more you offer, the less specific of an experience you can do- like a game with a well-defined character means you deal with their motivations as a character you created that you want them to have different motivations. Both styles are completely valid with different strengths and weaknesses, it is just whatever the player feels like engaging at that moment.

The video and screenshots not only show the raw power a character can have, but a variety. What is Phosphor games thinking in-terms of “style”, obviously I can create a character that will have powers ranging from turning invisible all the way to manipulating elements of nature, how in-depth can we expect these abilities to be?

Different abilities do different things- ballistic force will break down many objects. Objects like small bodies of water can carry an electrical charge.  Items that are flammable will light up when the player puts them on fire. What you pick will affect the world around you.

Between the description and actually seeing pieces of the game, I get a Matrix vibe, obviously a little more sci-fi, but still placing us in a world we are familiar with, it really makes me nostalgic. How is the player looked at in the world? Can you be looked at as a normal person? where you can blend in or do you carry around a scarlet letter…or is that up to the player to decide?

We really want the player to have an appearance they like, without being penalized for it. Plus how outlandish a person looks is really subjective; that would be difficult for a computer program to recognize- like a certain piece might be fine on its own, but when it’s pink it might look silly.  We just let you look how you want, and your actions can cause enemies to change their behavior- sneak around in the shadows and they don’t notice you, or walk up and cast tornadoes and they will attack you.

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Follow-up question, how are people introduced to this world, are they dropped in to the world to learn “who they are” and discover, or do they get dropped in with a mission in mind working for a “boss”?

This is a great question, but it is too early to tell exactly how it starts. We’ve actually written it many different ways and have gotten in arguments ourselves on how it will start! We will share more once we  refine and hone this

I was told that co-op is something we could expect if you hit your goals, this is a huge part for me, I would love to team up with a friend and mold our characters to complement one another. If I could absorb bullets and be a “tank”, while he might take a stealth approach, I would probably throw money at you guys…and if I could also release the energy that I build up from the absorption and cause an explosion, I would demand a job. What perks and challenges do you face with the possible addition of this feature? And would it be a “mode” or would it be fully co-operative action?

We see the whole game as a live beta with different components- campaign, multiplayer, and modding. We want to have as much basic support at launch, and then blow those out based on what the community wants. When we prototype the game, we are always testing things with co-op and multiplayer- the difficult thing isn’t the base functionality, it is the polish and level of support. So with the live beta, we want to give people the tools we have, and see if they want us to make it more robust- match-making, lobby, leaderboards, etc.  With co-op, ideally you’d be able to play the campaign with a friend.  What we’ve found in prototyping is that all of these are a lot of fun, and we want to get that to you sooner than later so players can provide feedback on where we develop it further.

I really appreciate that approach, I can only hope that means players could help influence more players in co-op or be given a free-roam mode similar to GTA or Red Dead Redemption.

Discussing this with one of our writers, he saw some amazing potential for multiplayer. The idea of almost a class-based multiplayer that isn’t necessarily a FPS was attention grabbing. Then he described it as if “X-Men faced off in a multiplayer setting.” Do you think you could pull people out of their narrow-minded selection of competitive multiplayer titles?

It is difficult to foresee how much it could be embraced by the most hardcore competitive players. We see our first mission with multiplayer is making it fun.  With the way players can create characters, and the kinds of switches and knobs we can expose to players, they can really make their own whole multiplayer games and rules.  They can make these rigid team types of classes they invented, or free for all, anything goes. A type of switch we have discussed a lot is “upon death, inherit enemy’s appearance and abilities” – so you could do a match where one person is an overpowered Vampire, and everyone else are normal people, and slowly everyone gets turned into a Vampire. Same with Aliens and Marines, or Zombies, or whatever you can think up.

For true competitive MP, we plan to balance the abilities as much as we can throughout beta, but something else we have discussed introducing is a wager mechanic, so if there is a skill people think is overpowered, they can say they won’t play somebody with that skill, or they have to raise the odds and the reward for winning over that player – maybe the player knows a weakness to that skill and wants to take it on.  Or maybe there are types of matches where those are “banned skills”.  It sort of crowd sources some balance issues, in addition to what we can do as developers.

Very neat, I can see a lot of creativity coming from these choices, and I also can see people using your game mode example above to create a Terminator 2 game-type or an Agent Smith body snatcher mode.

Final question, the talk of this being a first-gen/next-gen title for new consoles in your first video caught my ear. I don’t know if I misheard you, but I hope I didn’t. I could personally seeing this turning some heads with the UE4’s physics tied into the gameplay, as well as because it is different and looks very fun. What will determine if that becomes a reality?

We are definitely making the game in UE4.  Project Awakened is a game we want to support for a long time, so it is key our technology is forward looking and as future proof as possible. We have already started work in UE4- it is just as exciting for us as developers as it is for players! So many cool things we can now do- the characters look so much better, the player’s abilities FX will be so much richer, the world can have more detailed interactions- we are just scratching the surface on what we can do.

That is really exciting to hear, based on the fact that the recent abilities video was showing how great and fun it looked and that was on UE3 engine. Thanks a lot for telling us a little more about what we can expect from this title and the freedom the players have at shaping the future of Project Awakened. If you want to be one of these people you can help fund it below, thanks homies.

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