x360a Exclusive Interview - Clive Barker's Jericho
Written Thursday, September 27, 2007 By Dan WebbView author's profile
As hinted in last weeks podcast we managed to grab a few minutes with Raul Rubio, a member of the design team from over at Mercury Steam to discuss the title they have developed for Codemasters from the mind of Clive Barker, namely Jericho. Plenty is discussed and it is a great insight in to the game that is less than a month away. Amongst all the demo antics as well, we would like to thank Codemasters and Mercury Steam to make this interview possible. If you haven't already checked out the demo, go do it now... Well, after you have read the interview of course. Enjoy.
Absolutely. Clive Barker not only created the story; he also supervised each aspect of the project, giving his approval on each step we made to make sure the development went the right direction. This way, he assured his particular creative vision was captured in the game. Not only through suggestions and comments, but sending sketches, descriptions and dialogues… He set the guidelines for the game atmosphere, music, sound effects and, in general, the game immersion. Clive Barker is a writer, but also a filmmaker, which has been a big help for us.
On one hand, we worked hard to translate into the game Clive Barker’s particular vision of horror; fleshy and physical, with oppressive atmospheres and populated by tortured souls and terrifying creatures.
On the other hand, we tried to bring the action into the player’s face. On most FPS games, you never get to see your enemies’ face. In Jericho, the box inhabitants jump over you whenever they can. They don’t just shoot and hide behind a parapet; they try to reach you to tear your body to pieces. This creates a frenetic, very intense, even claustrophobic, action.
Problems are intrinsic to any project. Fortunately, we have a bunch of talented people to solve any unexpected situation. Perhaps, the biggest challenge was to merge the tactical action with the horror genre. It’s difficult to create tension with 6 elite soldiers armed to the teeth supporting you. Another one was the integration between the action and the story… In fact the original ending had to be changed when the game was almost completed, but everything went alright.
Besides the horror setting and the story, it’s the squad action. Most FPS games are a solo experience, even if you play together with one or more NPCs behind you, (most of the time they are useless). In Jericho, each team member follows the player’s orders (or not, if they think they shouldn’t), take care of themselves, search for better positions and work as a team and helping each other. And the player can possess any of them, using their powers and abilities to his advantage, allowing him to solve situations in completely different ways.
Just one? It’s impossible. The main characters’ charisma, the AI, the enemies, the atmosphere… If I’d have to pick just one, it would be “the ghost bullet”; one of Abigail Black’s (the telekinetic sniper) abilities, that allows her to steer a bullet in mid-flight to hit several enemies with just one shot, making their heads explode.
The interaction between characters is constantly encouraged; in fact, it’s vital to stay alive. Each team member has their own advantages and weaknesses, making them more or less suitable for certain combat situations. Not only that, they have exclusive abilities and powers, forcing the player to combine them to solve puzzles and overcome obstacles. At certain moments, the player will have to leave the team behind, with just one specific character at his disposal, forcing him to explore an area in order to advance.
Jericho’s AI is possibly one of the things we are most proud of. We usually joke saying that Clive Barker’s Jericho won’t be remembered for its AI, which is wonderful. People tend to remember the things you did wrong. When an NPC gets stuck on the wall with that unfortunate running animation, then everybody talks about that game X horrible AI. But seldom there’s a review that says “the path-finding calculation and its dynamic path-smoothing are brilliant and quite optimized”, “the sensorial control for enemies is configurable” or “the NPC's decision tree is influenced by its surroundings”. Average players do expect that enemies smell you when approaching from behind; they do expect that monsters turn around if you shine torchlight on them; do expect that patrolling enemies warm his pals when spotting you. And, of course, they do expect that enemies can dodge all the obstacles while on the middle of a battle. And all this while the AI manages a 6-member squad able to take cover, work as a team, help other team members when they are in trouble, and take care of themselves looking for advantageous positions… Yeah, piece of cake…
The experience is heavily story driven, so in that sense yes, the game is quite linear. But having several squad members adds a deep strategic dimension, allowing the player to face challenges from several approaches and solve them in radically different ways, allowing a better replayability.
Achievements are a good opportunity to let the player enjoy the game beyond the immersive story or the mission objectives. Exploring in search of new challenges is satisfying and that way, the player can access unlockable extras for the game, which is good.
I would be lying if I’d say it was easy, because they are very different architectures. But our programmers welcomed the challenge and both teams (360 and PS3) did their best to squeeze the maximum power on each platform. It was like some kind of internal competition. In the end, both versions look great.
Having read previous interviews with yourselves, you hint at the possibility of future Jericho titles being down to Codemasters. If given the chance, would you take on the sequel?
Time will tell…
Last but not least. How far away from completion are you? Will it meet the expected October release?
Jericho is gold, and will hit the shelves on October 23rd.
Thats great news, we can't wait. A big thanks for such a great interview Raul and we look forward to playing the finished product next month.