Recently I got the chance to ask Michael Fetterman, Executive Producer and Brendan Goss, Producer – Terminal Reality about the new Ghostbusters game from Atari. I want to thank Lila and Steve for their assistance with this interview.
OCMS: What is the background, storyline and setting for the game?
Game story is set in 1991, two years after the events of the second film. NYC now celebrates & embraces the Ghostbusters, who are the City’s official Paranormal Investigations and Eliminations Experts. Ghostbusters are under contract wit h the city, and the city pays the Ghostbuster’s bills AND the insurance premiums for enormous collateral damage.
The adoration of the Ghostbusters has manifested in other ways, too. The people of NY are fascinated by Gozer, and all things Gozerian. Mr. Stay Puft has become a beloved cartoon figure. ‘The World of Gozer’ exhibit at the Natural History Museum is set to open tomorrow evening, featuring pre-Sumerian archaeological relics from the Mesopotamian region.
Something unexpected happens at the museum, setting off a Level-7+ Necromantic shockwave throughout the city. This, in turns sets off a lot of paranormal activity, and reawakens an ancient evil mystery that the Ghostbusters must solve and stop before the city, and the world itself, are destroyed.
OCMS: Can you tell the readers why the game has taken so long to reach them as many were expecting it a year ago?
When Atari came on board, they agreed with Sony Pictures and us that the game’s release was so near the Ghostbusters 25th Anniversary that it would be better all the way around to hold off and give us time to do some necessary polish. We’re really happy to be involved with partners that make decisions based on quality!
OCMS: What are some of the weapons and items players will be able to use?
We don’t have ‘weapons’ in Ghostbusters: it’s all ‘equipment.’ Dan Aykroyd told us that the first time we met with him.
You’ve just been hired as the Prototype Equipment Technician, one of an apparently long line of unsung and forgotten heroes that wears Egon’s newest developments into danger to field test them for safety before the Ghostbusters adapt them into their arsenal. This job seems to be akin to taking the drummer’s slot in Spinal Tap: nobody really lasts for long.
So in addition to the classic proton stream from the films that allows you to both blast ghosts and capture them (also now with the ability to ‘slam’ ghosts into the environment and capture and fling physical objects, too), throughout the course of the game, Egon develops the Boson Darts, the Dark Matter Generator (the Shockblast and Stasis Stream), the Plasma Distribution System (updating the Slime Blower from GB2 and introducing the very cool Slime Tether), and one additional set we aren’t really discussing yet.
The PKE meter has been drastically updated, but still keeps with the aesthetic of the film. The guys have programmed the entire Tobin’s Spirit Guide onto it, as well as the Ghostbusters Field Manual, which gives you at-a-glance tutorials, equipment info, and tactics suggestions. It’s also now wirelinked to the paragoggles, so they auto-equip whenever you use the PKE.
As you earn money for capturing ghosts and destroying physical enemies, you direct the funds towards Egon’s R&D efforts, and he develops upgrades for each piece of equipment.
OCMS: Will any of the cast from the films provide voices?
This game is the real deal, and we’ve treated it as a true sequel to the films. Original Ghostbusters creators Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis wrote the story with us, and have reprised their roles as Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler, respectively. Also returning are Bill Murray (Peter Venkman), Ernie Hudson (Winston Zeddemore), Annie Potts (Janine Melnitz), and William Atherton (the insidious William Peck). Joining the cast are Alyssa Milano, Brian Doyle Murray, and Joel Murray, as well as the voices of Troy Baker and Laura Bailey, whom you may recognize from their many Anime roles.
OCMS: What are some of the locales and missions gamers will see in the game?
We revisit a few locations familiar to viewers of the films: The Ghostbuster’s Firehouse HQ, of course, the Hotel Sedgewick, Library, Central Park. Then we’ve added a number of very New York-centric locales, such as Times Square and the Natural History Museum.
NYC is crucial to Ghostbusters, almost a character unto itself, so we really rooted there. But we also reveal in a few areas that our notion of reality is very thin, and that there may be something just on the other side of the Big Apple, as we know it.
OCMS: What have been some of the biggest challenges and rewards in crafting the game?
Our A-number-one intent from the beginning is to create a true, authentic Ghostbusters gameplay expereince. Something that’s never been done before.
Here’s the tricky part, though: even though no one has ever been a Ghostbuster, everyone knows exactly when it feels right, and when it’s completely wrong. And it’s a thin margin between.
So our biggest challenge has been to perfectly recreate an experience that while no one has ever had, everyone knows exactly how it feels.
And our greatest achievement is when someone captures their first ghost and says, “Yep. That’s how it feels.” And even greater when the player saying that is Dan or Harold or Biil or Ernie.
OCMS: What sort of enemies and heroes will players face and will there be boss battles?
There are a lot of icons associated with Ghostbusters that we really wanted to bring back and integrate into the new storyline. These include Slimer, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and the Grey lady Librarian ghost from the very beginning of the first film. “The one that got away,” Ray calls her. Then we went and created over 40 new types of ghost and enemy creature. Ethereal ghosts require trapping, while the more corporeal monsters such as the stone gargoyle and grave fiends must be destroyed.
As a developer, we feel that physics and destruction-based gameplay are going to be important advents to next-level gameplay. In addition to just taking cover in environments, many of our ghosts can actually posees objects within the environment, hide inside them, or levitate them to use either as protection or as projectiles. So it’s a perfectly valid strategy to reduce everything you can to as small as you can, because getting beaned by a wooden splinter is a lot better than getting cracked by an entire heavy table.
One of the new enemy types really capitalizes on our Infernal Engine’s technology to incorporate real time physics and destruction into the game. With our Golem-tech, we can use the actual objects from the environment to create real-time enemies. So while a golem can appear in the Library’s reading room and use all the books in the environment to create its physical form, if it appears in the, uh, stained glass windows store and uses all that broken glass to form itself, then it’s literally quite a different beast.
We do have some pretty spectacular boss fights. The Stay Puft fight you might’ve seen footage of, and they just bigger and more epic from there.
OCMS: Is there a multiplayer mode to the game?
There is, and it’s very cool and offers a huge variety of cool gameplay. ThreeWave did the multiplayer for us, and they did a fantastic job.
So I’ll make an analogy here: if the single-player experience represents the story plotline of a Ghostbusters movie, the Multiplayer recreates the film montages wherethe Ghostbusters answer calls and go out on jobs.
All the multiplayer in the PS3, 360, and PC is online. There are 12 different maps, 6 different job options, campaign mode or instant action gameplay. And you can choose to play as the Rookie character from the single-player game OR any of the four original Ghostbusters!
OCMS: Will there be driving segments to the game?
You don’t drive, but we realize how important the Ecto-1 is to the Ghostbusters experience. We’ve developed a number of driving titles in the past, so it’s not really question of tech or experience, but more about asset creation and the ratio of dev time-to-gameplay.
We looked at it and realized that nothing really big or fun happens in the films while driving (other that some terrific dialog sequences). Since, like I said earlier, we were really going for an authentic Ghostbusters experience, we decided to leave driving action for a potential future title.
That said, the Ecto-1 figures heavily into a few sequences, particularly in Times Square while in hot pursuit of a certain marshmallow man, and later on, too. Ray & Egon have equipped the Ecto with a new ‘super-slammer’ trap, a sort of high-capacity, high-draw mobile muon trap that allows for near-instantaneous ghost capture. It’s a blast to play alongside.
OCMS: With music being a big part of the film, what kind of soundtrack can gamers expect?
It’s as big an element of the game as it is in the film. We’ve got that original, epic, unmistakably ‘Ghostbusters’ Elmer Bernstein score playing throughout the game. We also found twenty minutes of unused but fully recorded music from the film that we’ve added to the game.
Then, of course, you have to have that song. It’s arguable all about that song. We actually met Ray Parker Jr in London recently, and he was so cool and gracious—and he really seems to be a fan of the game. That’s a big endorsement in our book!