Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter Interview
We recently had a Q&A period with Paul Chapman, producer on Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter. See what he had to say about the game, xbox, and the future of gaming.
|05.02.05 - 8:58 pm
XG: What is your name and position on the team behind Bounty Hunter? Also, could you give our readers a little history on your company?
PC: Paul Chapman. I'm the development Producer on Mace Griffin Bounty Hunter. Warthog is based near Manchester England and started out in early 1997 as a small game development team of 5 people. Since then we have grown to 265 people, with studios in the UK, Sweden and the US. We develop for all platforms across all genres, both original and licensed IPs.
XG: To our readers who have not heard of Mace Griffin Bounty Hunter, could you summarise the story and type of game it is?
PC: The game is set 800 years in the future. Humans and two other intelligent alien races are aggressively colonising the universe, creating lawless frontier systems full of big business, gangsters, criminals, religious fanatics, with the honest settlers at the bottom of the pile. Mace Griffin is an elite military agent, put in place to monitor the regular police and also deal with the toughest criminal problems. At the game's beginning he is framed for the loss of his squad, gets thrown into prison for 10 years, and emerges a dangerous and embittered man. He becomes a bounty hunter, with the sole intention of finding out who framed him, then exacting bloody revenge. His bounty hunting missions lead him through many environments and situations which include protecting alien cattle from rustlers to guarding a mafia Godfather on a luxury space cruise liner. Each mission will reveal a little more about why Mace was framed, culminating in a spectacular, and somewhat shocking finale at the end of the game.
The game combines first person ground action with what we call "arcade space action". This is space combat which has been designed to appeal to people who enjoy FPS games, lot's of targets and action, no long chases, simple controls, no ship management. The space and ground sections are blended seamlessly and in any one mission you may be required to land and take off several times to fulfil a variety of objectives.
XG: "Players will seamlessly combine dynamic space and ground-based combat" - How have you achieved this? How will the transition work?
PC: Everything in the game exists at relative scale - that's to say that the planetoids you fly around in space actually do contain the ground-based levels inside them. For the situations when you are in space, then land your ship, both the space and land environments in the player's immediate vicinity are held in memory, but whatever cannot be seen by the player at any one time is culled with the use of portals. The management of the game assets during the space/ground transition is achieved by using technology called "Scene graph" which was created here at Warthog.
The way the transition physically works in game is that the player is presented with landing guides, which they must fly in to. If this is achieved, autopilot takes over and the ship is brought safely down to the ground, but without any interruption or need for loading.
XG: The environments in the game support different physics, obstacles and inhabitants, can you describe a few of these?
PC: The environments include alien cattle ranches, ice mines, luxury space cruise liners and alien black hole generators, to name but a few. These will contain many different hazards including meat-chopping machinery, to emissions of radioactive particles. The terrain varies tremendously as well - one minute you will be perched on a rocky ledge, the next you could be in the middle of a busy settlement. We have also not simply replicated geometry and repeated it again and again like some games, which I won't name. The levels with their layout and detail are one of the things we are most proud of. Physical obstacles include water and fog which is some of the most realistic I've ever seen in a game, and then there is the vast variety of native aliens - my favourite is the Spear leg, a 3 legged beast which runs at you on it's hands then jumps, slashing with it's horrible claw.
XG: What weapons and ships will the player be able to use in the final game?
PC: The player will have 11 ground weapons, which include a plasma gun which fires bouncing energy bolts and grenades that can be switched between kill and stun mode.
There are 7 ship weapons, ranging from carrier-killer energy beams to locking missiles.
The player will pilot 5 different ships, from huge liners to advanced alien fighters with holographic control yokes.
XG: What is your favourite part of the game, the bit you think you achieved most?
PC: It's hard to do something new in game development these days, so obviously the seamless transition between space and ground feels like a great achievement. Apart from this there are a number of set pieces in the game that I thought would never see the light of day because I imagined they would be too difficult to pull off. These include the chase through the city in flying taxis, the bit where you snipe out the pilot of a fighter sending it crashing to the ground and the part when you have to jump onto the back of a hovering dropship, kill the pilot and land it safely.
XG: What are your views on the Xbox LIVE service? Any plans to use it in the future?
To be honest it's not something I've looked into in a lot of detail, but I do think that on-line gaming is the way forward. With the expansion of broadband I think more and more people will participate in communal gaming activities, it seems like a logical progression to me.
I'm sure that a few of the projects we have in the pipeline right now will involve using Xbox LIVE.
XG: What are Warthog's/Black Label Games' future plans? Any more Xbox interest?
I can't speak for Black Label, but Warthog's aims are to continue to produce quality games and remain profitable. I personally would like to do a Bounty Hunter 2 and build on all the hard work we put in on this game. I hope we do more Xbox games, it's the most powerful console out there right now. Xbox II would be even better though...