BC Exclusive Interview
|Ben Cousins, Lead Designer on BC at Intrepid, took time out of his busy schedule to sit down with us and talk about Intrepid's latest project BC.
|05.02.05 - 9:07 pm
XG: Could you please let our readers know your name, position on the team and a little history of your company?
BC: My name is Ben Cousins, I'm the Lead Designer on BC at Intrepid. Intrepid are a UK-based team that are part of the Lionhead group of companies, Intrepid was founded in 1999 by ex-Bullfrog employees Matt Chilton and Joe Rider. The rest of the team is made up of industry veterans and the best new talent in the industry.
XG: What is the back story of BC? What would you class it as, and what advantages does it have over other similar titles?
BC: BC is the story of the first struggles for survival and dominance of prehistoric mankind. You begin the game controlling a small, destitute group of starving cavemen, stranded on an unfamiliar beach in a continent dominated by huge prehistoric dinosaurs and other creatures. As the story continues the player encounters other clans of cavemen, who band together with the players tribe to create a large and more organized force of humans. Later in the game the player encounters another rival race of intelligent beings and the struggle for survival becomes a guerilla war for the territory of an idyllic land free from predators, beyond a huge, snow-capped mountain.
I would class BC as a third-person action adventure game, with brains. BC is unique because it takes third-person gameplay (exploration, combat, mission solving) and places it in a fully simulated natural world, filled with creatures behaving in much more rich and realistic ways than most video-game enemies. Creatures in the game operate according to a complex simulated AI that enables the player to exploit and experience a natural environment several orders of magnitude more realistic than they've experienced before. Also our physics, fire and water simulation mean for the first time the player feels like they are experiencing a consistent, fully interactive world that just makes sense. For instance, every tree in BC can be climbed, have fruit harvested from it, they can be chopped down, broken into logs and branches and the branches can be set on fire to be used as torches or weapons, and the logs can be set on fire and rolled into enemies.
XG: How will combat work in the game?
BC: There are several unique features to BC's brutal combat system: Any object in the world that is small enough to be carried can be used as a weapon. This includes sticks, stones, fruit, body parts etc. The player controls a single character and can engage in combat alone give orders to a team of cavemen who operate under complex tactical AI. Furthermore the player is able to use the environment around them as a weapon, setting fire to vegetation near creatures, rolling boulders onto unsuspecting foes and poisoning the food of a creature and watching it slowly die. All of these mechanics can be very simply controlled (just like in a typical third-person action game) and we are keen that the player is able to at any time avoid combat and destroy or remove the creatures using any number of other, less direct methods, like preventing them access to their water or food source, for example.
XG: How open ended is the game? Will we be given time frames or anything for when to complete a section or anything?
BC: One of our aims in BC is to keep the game very open-ended, but still make sure the player knows what to do at any given time. There is no pressure to complete each area in the game in any particular time and therefore the player is free to explore the world and exploit the simulation for as long as they want. Some people may spend hundreds of hours in one area of the game, whereas others may rush through areas of the game in under an hour. Also, the player is free to go back and explore previous regions at any time, to try to discover new items, or simply to enjoy interacting with the world and the eco-system.
XG: How have you exploited Xbox's power with BC?
BC: Almost every aspect of BC's design and technical specification is only possible on the Xbox. We use the hard drive to store and stream huge amounts of data for our vast simulated world and also use the Xbox's GPU to render the kind of realistic and amazing looking scenes you can see in our screenshots and movies.
XG: How will the swimming sections work?
BC: One of the tribes in the game is able to swim underwater very fast; a kind of super-human ability which we imagine may have actually existed in our evolutionary past. Using this amazingly fun control mechanic, the player can explore the many underwater sections in the game to find new technologies, and also to complete missions. The underwater world in BC is filled with terrifying underwater creatures and the player will have a very exciting and dangerous time negotiating these areas in the game.
XG: So far, what is your favorite section/achievement in the game? Can you explain it to our readers?
BC: I'm particularly proud of the very intuitive and violent combat system we have in place in the game. We are able to give the player the feeling of fighting in a team without the associated interface problems that often plague squad-based titles, as well as adding several very unique systems within the combat model.
Also our building system is completely unique and free-form. The player is able to construct buildings brick-by-brick (not as slow as it seems!) so the player can build any shape of structure they want, bridges, walls, lookout towers etc. Some of our testers at Lionhead have had competitions to create castles, sculptures and other crazy buildings. The player is able to use this system to defend the tribe, wall-in predators and unlock routes to hidden areas.
XG: What do you think of the Xbox from a developer's perspective? Which console do you prefer?
BC: I'm pretty much a completely non-technical person so I can't really talk about the details of the hardware, but one thing that amazed me about working on the Xbox compared to other consoles is that there is almost no limit to what we can do in BC in terms of the size and complexity of the simulated world.
As a hardcore gamer I own all the consoles and have no particular preference for any of them, preferring to play the best games on each system. I have to say that the future possibilities of the Xbox are far more compelling as I am particularly interested in simulated worlds and online gaming.
XG: What do you think of Xbox Live compared to the other consoles online packages/plans?
BC: I have not experienced any other online packages for other consoles. They seem overly complex and not user-friendly enough, and I don't see any one game that could pull me into to using the online on PS2 or Gamecube. Xbox live is stunning stuff, though.
XG: What is next for you guys? Will we see more xbox interest from you?
BC: Intrepid will certainly be working on other Xbox titles in the future. As for the details? You'll have to wait and see!