x360a Meets: Dave Matthews, FEAR 2
Written Monday, December 22, 2008 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Last month x360a got the chance to head down to London and chat FEAR 2 with a few of the game's developers. Kind enough to answer our questions was Primary Art Lead, Dave Matthews in an interview packed with juicy facts and interesting discussions.
Check back later for the latest FEAR 2 screens, video and preview, but for now, check the interview out.
Hi. Can you give us a brief insight of your role in the development of the game?
I am the Primary Art Lead on FEAR 2. My roles ranges from keeping the art staff focused on the tasks at hand as well as jumping and creating assets where needed. Most recently my focus has been on UI, but ultimately I am responsible for the delivery of all art assets for FEAR2. During the development process I have had the fortune of working with the design staff and help create new enemy types like the remnant.
So we’ll jump straight in to the action. So we’re right in assuming that FEAR 2 jumps in 30 minutes after the end of FEAR 1 ... Can you give us a brief introduction to the story?
Actually, FEAR 2 starts 30 minutes before the end of FEAR. You play Michael Becket, a soldier attached to a special ops team charged with finding and retrieving Genevieve Arestide. Gen is wanted in connection to all the unusual activities that are going on in Fairport. Read that as Fettle’s actions with the replica from the first FEAR. Genevieve was responsible for a lot of the projects that created Fettle and other creatures and she played a part in the barbarous experiments that were done to Alma. Needless to say, throughout the first mission, you will link up with Genevieve, and she will explain how important you are to her goals, and the mission culminates with the cataclysmic ending from the first FEAR and from that point forward the two timelines synch up and the story continues as one seamless tale.
That being said, how will new players to the series be able to fit in to the action? Will they feel a bit lost?
Great question. We have taken great pains to explain the back story. Since the story we really are telling is about Alma, we needed to push forward but for new players to the universe, we have to give incentive to understand the previous. Some of those incentives come in the form of collectables, but we wanted to make sure that the story was delivered via experiential means. So you will learn a lot of the story from interacting with NPCs throughout the game as well as discovery.
It seems like more and more games are starting to look towards the horror-survival genre. How does Monolith plan to keep FEAR 2 fresh and exciting?
Well, we like to think of ourselves as a little different from the horror –survival genre. Most games in that genre have a slower pace. We like to think of ourselves as an action horror game. Bringing the high frenetic over the top action of a great FPS, inspired by John Woo films, and blending it with a more psychological horror as opposed to a straight up slasher type horror. What we get is a pretty unique experience. For FEAR 2 we have cherry picked very specific aspects from other horror influences in order to further accentuate our experience and thus really separating us from the crowd. We’re pretty pleased with our formula for Action Horror, and we hope everyone will be as pleased as we are.
Creating mood and atmosphere is obviously key in this genre; what sort of techniques have you used to capture these?
Well, we watch a lot of films, read comics, books and are a generally twisted group of individuals. That said, at Monolith we keep refining and evolving ourselves and if you look across the last few games we have made, the Condemned series and FEAR we have been refining the dark gritty twisted horror experience and FEAR 2 will be the most refined yet.
The EPA is a totally new addition to the series and sticks out like a sore thumb and takes the gameplay in a totally different direction. How did you come up with this idea and do you think it detracts away from the other tension building aspects of the title?
First of we can’t take credit for the EPA. The seeds of that came from our community. We really love how active they are....Shortly after the first FEAR shipped we started getting feedback that people wanted to play the Powered armour as a skin or a mod in Multiplayer. We took that to heart on FEAR 2 and made the big brother version. As you must have seen, the EPA has a tremendous amount of power and can really tear up the environment. What's great about this, is it acts as a palette cleanser for combat ... completely reversing the dynamic of combat. Of course if you stayed in the EPA for long duration of the game, it might get a little numbing, but we get you in and out throughout the game at just the right places to keep things interesting. And I think it goes without saying that it feels good to be a badass!
We got a good chance to look at some of the more varied enemies in the first 4 levels we looked at. Can we expect to see, bigger, badder and more freaky foes as we reach the end of the title?
One of the areas that we expanded was our character list. You will see some evolved versions of characters from the first game, a lot of new ones, and we’ve even created some enemies that have been created by Alma, just so we can give her a more varied experience. Overall I would have to say we have upped the enemy count in FEAR 2, but you’ll have to play the game to see where and how we’ve done that.
What would you say was the one biggest improvement over the first title in the series?
Variety. It was our main mantra coming into FEAR 2. You’ll see more varied environments, enemies, combat spaces, greater use of colour to help tell the story, and of course a more varied palette of scares. So yeah, variety.
It was recently announced that Warner had managed to get the rights to the name from Activision. Do you think that it was vital to secure the name to boost sales or is it more of a triviality?
We are all pretty happy to have the name back ... It makes things feel complete. I like to say that Alma is the cornerstone to the universe, and the name FEAR is the polish to that cornerstone. Does that make sense?
Indeed it does ... You’ve talked a lot about the AI in FEAR 2 up until now mentioning the ‘new experience every time’ aspect. Can you give us an insight in to how that will fit in to the game?
We at monolith are pretty proud of our AI. In FEAR 2, we added more complexity to our AI. They now have knowledge of environmental hazards, additional combat opportunities within the environment, and can alter the combat space, just like the player. All these things get incorporated in the education of our AI. We have to educate them since our AI is stimulus based, not scripted.
How that matters to the player is how they approach combat. If they are the really aggressive, guns blazing kind of player, the AI may act one way. And if they are the type of player to move more slowly through a space creating cover at each step, the AI will behave a completely different way. I love watching people play FEAR 2. I have watched hours of gameplay and I always see new things....
It seems everyone has a DLC action plan these days ... How does Monolith work on this subject; is it more of a supply and demand issue or do you already have some planned?
I can’t talk about what we have planned for DLC, but I can tell you we recognize just how important it is...Tune back soon for more details.
The game is due to drop in February 2009 ... Are you glad to be missing the October/November rush and did that factor in to when you decided to release the game?
The real scoop is this. WB affords us the time to make the game we want to make. We realized earlier in development that there were certain things we felt really strong about and wanted to put in the game. They required more time to make it happen and happen right. WB gave us that time, and we’re pleased that we have those things in the game now.