Recently I got the chance to talk with the talent behind the pending 3D Shooter Darkest of Days. I want to thank Jerry for setting up the interview and the team for providing the answers.
OCMS: What is the background and setting for the game?
Antietam . . . Little Big Horn . . . Pompeii, these are certainly some of humanity’s “Darkest of Days”. When time travel is first invented by a company called KronoteK, research teams are sent back to further document these events. While there, they discover individuals that are dying that were never meant to (how they know this is explained in the game). KronoteK does not know why, but it’s evident that history has been tampered with, and they set out to change history back to the way it was meant to be. You, as the player, are tasked with finding these individuals, saving them, and trying to set History right.
Who are you? Your name is Alexander Morris, and you are a new attachment to General Custer’s Army. You arrive a few days early landing you at Little Big Horn. Seconds before you meet your demise, you are saved by a time-travel agent and are whisked away to the future. You find out you are the newest recruit in a time-agent army comprised of MIA’s snagged all throughout history.
OCMS: What are some of the locales gamers will see in the game?
One of the best things about Darkest of Days is the numerous time frames the player gets to see and experience. Here are some of the events the player will play through…
1) Antietam – The bloodiest day in American History that happened during the American Civil War.
2) WW I – The battle of Tannenburg was a very dark day in History where 125,000 Russians were lost to the hands of the Huns during the opening days of the War.
3) Little Big Horn (and other Western battles) – We all know (at least should know) what happened at Little Big Horn – no one survived.
4) WW II – I wanted to do something different in WW II since gamers have seen it so often, so this era is quite interesting in the way you interact with it. Some of the things you do may end up getting you captured and finding yourself at a POW camp.
5) Pompeii – The entire city is buried soon, so being there when Mt. Vesuvius is exploding and the civilian population running scared is crazy.
OCMS: What are some of the weapons we will see and will there be alt fire modes?
Darkest of Days has a ton of weaponry in the game, over two dozen in fact! Players will get to play with period weapons, weapons that don’t belong to the time-frame you’re currently in making them futuristic and quite devastating, and then way futuristic weaponry that we have never seen. You can also upgrade weapons if you do certain things in the game correctly, which can make even the Springfield Musket fire quite rapidly. Some weaponry has alt-fire modes, especially when you get to some of the more “BFG” weapons.
OCMS: Will vehicles be used in the game?
I wanted Darkest of Days to be a roller-coaster of game styles. It’s quite a ride and each mission plays differently from the last (especially when the player has so much freedom during certain levels in how they play it). We have several missions where you interact with vehicles, even including a WWI-era Zeppelin!
OCMS: What forms of multiplayer does the game include and will the be co-op play?
Darkest of Days is a single-player adventure, heavy on the story. Bioshock and Fallout 3 were quite successful focusing on the single-player aspect first, and that’s what we have done too.
OCMS: What engine is the game using and what are some of the new features it will offer gamers?
We have developed our own proprietary engine called “Marmoset” (fitting since the game was developed by a team called 8monkey Labs, haha). We needed our own engine because one of the first things the game required was LOTS of guys on the screen at the same time. We knew Little Big Horn would be impossible to pull off with five Indians running around, or that Antietam would feel unrealistic if there were 10 muskets pointed at you in a firing-line. We needed HUNDREDS of Indians – so we set out to make an engine that could support these HUGE battlefields housing hundreds and hundreds of enemies.
The engine features all kinds of things like view-distances that are insane, where you can literally see and trek for miles. Dynamic-lighting and extremely realistic terrain kicks up the realism to an incredible level. Our use of Phys-X and NVIDIA’s involvement in the game has really added some crazy effects like fog that moves when a grenade hits it (then slowly fills back in).
OCMS: What can you tell us about the A.I. in the game?
The AI in the game was a real challenge. Once we could put 300 guys on the screen at the same time, it was another challenge to make them all think – especially since guys thought differently in the various eras. For instance, a Confederate soldier in the Civil War may like to stay in formation until it breaks, or may use more limited tactics as you might find in World War I – so we had to make sure that soldier acted differently.
Every guy we put on the screen is deciding when to reload, if it’s better to hide behind a rock before attempting to reload, if it’s best to run because he is outnumbered, or if he feels better because an officer is close-by. Each era has different AI.
OCMS: Blending action with a detailed plot can always be tricky. How have you attempted to create this element, and will scripted events be a part of the game?
This was the most challenging thing for me as the creator of the game; trying to get what I saw in my head onto the screen. The level designers gave me fantastic environments, but in the early stages of the game, it was hard to get the story across. We really did not want complex cut-scenes and long scripted events since we waned to make the player feel as if they were just dropped in the middle of a War.
To bring the detailed plot along, we found it best to allow the player to complete objectives and be able to come back to the KronoteK headquarters at various times in the game to upgrade and get more of the story. Mission briefings, characters exchanges, and other mechanics all bring this across. When you are actually in the game, you can run across other time agents that will either help you or hinder you (if they are from the opposing side that is trying to change history for their own purposes). This also helps bring out important pieces of the story. There are some scripted events in certain areas but we used them VERY sparingly. One instance is doing your first assault on a Confederate line during the Civil War. Since we wanted to really get the feel of what it felt like to fight in those times, we put you in an advancing line. For the rest of the Civil War, however, we let you determine if you want to join an advancing line, or flank, or hide, or do what you think is best to survive.
OCMS: What are the biggest obstacles you faced in creating the game and the biggest success?
Some of my biggest obstacles were the biggest successes. Creating epic scenes with hundreds of people on-screen at the same time was a technological leap that no one had done before. We struggled for many months to make this happen in the engine. It’s a BEAUTIFUL thing to see it all happen, so it’s a huge success. The challenge was worth cutting through. Another big success was how fun it was to use modern weaponry in old battles. We knew players would love the thought of getting their hands on an automatic weapon in a battle during the Civil War, but had no idea it would be as fun to players as it was. It really empowered us to find more places in the story where it made sense to deploy these tactics.
OCMS: What are some of the enemies players will face and will there be Boss battles?
You see key individuals all through History. We really made sure we were historically accurate with names, dates, locations, etc. If you hear that a Captain is surrounded and you need to save him, he would have been the commander in that location. If a certain general shows up on the battlefield, then it was actually him that arrived there that day.
The player also will meet “The Opposition”, the individuals trying to screw history up. As you start to complete your missions, these guys do not like that you are foiling their plans. They begin to hinder you as well throughout the game which really can mix up the action.
OCMS: What formats will the game be released on?
The game will be released for Xbox 360 and PC.
OCMS: What are some of the features the game offers that are new to the genre?
One of the really cool features is our “Aura” system. We wanted some new FPS mechanics so the game was not point and kill, point and kill. We knew that every bloody battle in history had survivors – people that actually lived through the battle. We mark these individuals with a Blue Aura – showing you that they are supposed to survive. This really changes up the play, because you may have an entire German platoon charging your trench, and half of them may be glowing. If you kill them, “The Opposition” knows WHEN you are, and you will have extra problems (they actually warp back to kick your butt, and you fight them amidst a time-frozen battlefield). We have several ways you can deal with these aura-folks and it really makes for some different game-play.
I also have to tell you that fighting in a scene with 300 people changes the way you have every played an FPS. There are SO many guns out there, if you start charging, you WILL NOT survive. Gamers have seen how it changes their play, when just 10 enemies are on the screen; this is a whole different experience when there is a firing line of a few hundred muskets pointed at you.