Chat Damage: Ed Stern On Brink

Some weeks back, I visited Splash Damage to take a peek at how their upcoming shooter Brink is coming along. Thanks to the invaluable assistance of Master Transcriber Jim Rossignol, I finally have a textual record of my interview with SD’s Senior Game Designer Ed Stern. Read on for an avalache of Brink-o-facts…

RPS: So no “Enemy Territory” this time then?

Stern: Well Activision own that name, so that’s not something we could have done with Brink. It is a new deal, and not just a new publishing deal. It’s a step up for us because we’re creating a game on its own merits, a “new IP” and all that. it’s got to establish itself apart from the whole “here’s a new game from the people who bought you X and Y”, it is what it is. It’s Brink. Although it was nearly called Ark. It turns out there’s a limit to what you can copyright (Are you sure? – RPS Law Irony Ed) and it’s actually rather hard to name anything in games. Brink, the name at least, does everything we want it to. We’re perfectly happy with just that. Of course the sequels can be Briink, and then Briiink.

RPS: Like the old Gobliiins games, although they did it reverse…

Stern: Really, interesting approach. But anyway, the name signifies new, and we’re delighted to be able to do stuff, and to keep the complexity and depth of the games that we’ve gone and made before, /and/ cater to the PC hardcore with custom servers and all that stuff. But we don’t want that to be sat at the front of the game: look at all these controls! That’s going to be squirrelled away for the hardcore to customise their games as they see fit, but we don’t want to be daunting new players with it from the off.

Brink is about bringing our games to lots of new people, which demands, insists on, a different approach. And that is a concern, because one of the criticisms is likely to be “oh it’s on the consoles, they’ve had to hobble it because the constraints of that”, and our responses is: “we bloody hope not!” These versions will be developed for their own platforms, but we’ve had to focus on what’s required for that: you’ll be able to play on the PC with a gamepad or a mouse and keyboard.

RPS: The SMART system (Brink’s running and leaping movement cleverness) seems designed with a gamepad in mind.

Stern: I mean it’s an interesting issue, with regards to what you’d choose to play with a gamepad on a PC. You’ve had some scrapes with that…

RPS: Well yes, and people have complained about us saying gamepads are better for particular games, but it’s often a different experience from mouse and keyboard…

Stern: Right, exactly, the kinaesthetics of the two control systems are different! In a tactile way the game feels different with thumbsticks and vibration compared to mouse and keyboard. I’ve been playing Left 4 Dead using a controller, and it’s easy to master: most of the enemies are crossing a single line of fire. With regards to Brink, though, we have some stuff that will help gamepad and mouse aiming. It’s not an assist as such, but it means that once you’re following someone with your crosshairs, it becomes easier to follow them – “gravity wells”.

That should help us create an “easy mode” for the mouse user. And I think difficulty levels are set to high in games generally. All gamers are more hardcore than you think. We are more hardcore than we think we are. It’s a genuinely tough challenge to assume zero knowledge of this kind of game, a shooter. If guys can appear to be friends, when they’re actually enemies, well that’s a rage-quit moment for someone who doesn’t understand how these kinds of games work. It feels like the game is cheating! Gamers with Team Fortress legacy experience understand that, they don’t have to be told it, they just know it, and expect it. But the rest of the population do not know that…

RPS: Team Fortress 2 explains it fairly well with the way you see friendly spies behaving, and the imagery of the mask and such explains it.

Stern: Yeah, and that’s partly their presentation. I’d say we have an element of that in the exaggerated art style. But whatever else we do it has to be an intense shooter, it’s got to have that hands-on quality and that fuckfuckfuck when things go wrong!

RPS: Yeah, the exaggerated characters do look great against environments that are that detailed and deadly. It’s an impressive look.

Stern: It’s taken a long time to get the technology together to have that look. One of the goals of the game has been: it’s got to look awesome, it’s to look totally awesome close up and far away, and all the characters have to look fantastic. That’s a hard task… Does anyone at RPS not have a cat?

RPS: Kieron doesn’t. He has comics.

Stern: No sort of cat.

RPS: No, comics don’t wee on your bed when they get upset.

Stern: Except the special edition Bladderman…

RPS: Where did that question come from?

Stern: You have a picture of your cat on your phone.

RPS: Ahh, I thought you were building up to some clever analogy.

Stern: We can’t talk about the urine physics yet. But anyway, character art: establishing the tone of the game is a hard problem, and deciding exactly what is appropriate is never easy. We’ve had some good responses from E3, of course, so that’s encouraging. We’ve got a bunch of cinematics that will hopefully make you laugh, because they’re fun. There’s no jarring change of tone from a game that is quite serious. We want you to think that something is at stake. But there’s more to it than that: designing a world, designing the social, political, technological backdrop for the game, and making it mean something, that’s an amazing task, and my job, incidentally. We want to be able to deliver this information, or rather allow the player to pull that information from the world – rather than have NPCs lecture them about it – in an ambient way. If we can do that, then it’s a win.

RPS: So the cinematics we have seen are in the single player?

Stern: You can skip it, but there’s no difference for multiplayer. There will be in-game cinematics, although what you’ve seen so far is simply for illustrative purposes for E3. But the game will have some cinematics so we can actively tell the player stuff.

RPS: How does that work in multiplayer?

Stern: You see that stuff when you’re changing spawn point. It’s the explanation of what’s going on. it’s as much about getting the players to focus on some new bit of gameplay as it is about saying “we’re drawing this bit of the map now!” And, as you can see, these environments are very, very detailed. And very efficient. The source textures are gigabytes big, and the game is very choosy about what the player gets to see. We’re using a few megabytes from the original texture in each frame. This is why we can do all this stuff in multiplayer. And we use that to make things hi-res, close up. The Ark is claustrophobic, and so these environments have to be detailed enough at close quarters. When you do get into some open spaces in the game, it’s spooky. The world is one where things are not distributed evenly.

RPS: In The Ark, which is your city setting?

Stern: Yes. We’ve created an entire history for it, and the idea is that where it was once a luxury hotel, now it’s home to thousands of refuges. Where the residents were once guests at the hotel, they are now, ironically, “guests” in the slums. We’ve tried to create a kind of international world where enough is different for it to be strange to you. Have you seen Michael Winterbottom’s film Code 46? That’s a sci-fi film made from splicing pieces of the real world together – Dubai, Shanghai, and so on – and adding just a couple of foreign language words to the dialogue. It’s enough to make it a science fictional experience. That’s a big influence. People on Ark come from all over the world, and we’re going to have an international cast of voice-actors, hopefully. Why not have Nigerian accents in there? Why are all games American voiced? Why not have different African accents, from different countries? And I should say that once you’ve created a character, he will be able to join either side. Your character who grew up in a guest slum will just as likely join Security side, because isn’t that – in the real world – one of the traditional ways out of poverty? His sympathies are with law and order, but that doesn’t mean he’s a fascist.

RPS: Do you feel a game is enough of an expression of the world you’ve created? Do you feel you need a book or a comic or something too?

Stern: Well, I hope it’s rich enough to do that. I like the idea that you won’t get all the of the game world in one go. I mean, games often end up with a fairly airless over-explained fictional environment, and I’d like to avoid that. Of course we’re not at The Wire end of things where it takes you a couple of episodes to even figure out what’s going on, but as a player I like it when I’m left to work things out for myself. Ambiguity can be irritating and confusing in games, but when it’s done well – and not cleverer than thou – you can get a kick out of being lied to. And that’s how the world is, not everything get explained to you. And creating this stuff, and making it work is hard. I have more and more sympathy for cliche. You put space marines in there and so much work is done. Where would we be without Aliens? I have so much respect for what that did. You put space marines in, and you’re left to fill the details. You aren’t explaining your game from the ground up. There’s less wrong with that approach than people think.

RPS: Accessing cultural memories…

Stern: Exactly, ease of recognition. It gets you playing with minimal fuss. And in creating Brink we’re faced with those kinds of problems: this isn’t an interactive documentary about climate change, but what do gamers need to know to send them on their way? We have done our homework, and we balance that with making stuff look cool. If you fill this stuff out then it reinforces itself, and as players progress they begin to see how all that works. You see connections. And it’s not a lot more work for us to do that, because we have to check that the game is internally consistent. Not to say we’re not swamped. Someone asked me if I was going to write the novel and well, no, because I’d have to stop balancing weapons for four months to get that done.

RPS: So is there a resolution? A conclusion of some kind, to this story?

Stern: There are two storylines, Resistance and Security. When you play through the other one you’re going to hear a rather different version of events. Also, there are some maps that are unique to one campaign. So if you play through the campaign as Security and then as Resistance, there will be one map where are not the other side of the battle. We… I can’t spoil it. But there’s some meta stuff there that’s going to be fun.

RPS: Campaigns being contradictory do pop up in games here and there – the C&C games do it.

Stern: That’s life. It’s smoke and mirrors to an extent, but in real events you hear alternative versions. Having NPCs narrate an exact series of events is not as good as allowing players interpret events from their experiences, either. And I think we’ve included a level of debate about events in the game world. For the first mission the cinematics are the guys saying “shoot to kill? What?!” Because it’s shocking that it has come to violence. These guys are the police, the Security service, they’ve never been told to kill people before. And I think that’s interesting because many game worlds take that for granted: “yeah, we shoot people. What else is there?”

RPS: Yes, the weird limbo of the multiplayer shooter, where combat is all.

Stern: Yes, and as great as arena games are, that’s not what we’re making here. It should be shocking and weird to these characters that it’s come to this.

RPS: Do you think that having campaigns resolve events will stop people going back and playing multiplayer matches? I mean, if they’ve seen how it works out, is there less motivation to go in and replay these single scenarios for the multiplayer?

Stern: It’s nice to have narrative, but the story of the game is the gameplay. It’s a shooter, and that’s what people want to play. That’s what they’ll come back to: the action. That’s what they play. There is no pacifist team! Perhaps people will form sympathies. That said, I think people will take something from the campaigns. Which side would you believe? That might factor into how you play the game. People mean well, everyone thinks they’re a good guy. And people aren’t rational, they’re rationalising. We come up with reasons why we are right.

RPS: The game is quite bright and exaggerated, however. Colourful, even. It’s going against a trend for photorealism, isn’t it?

Stern: I think we’ll see more of this stuff. Look at TF2 or Borderlands, they have unrealistic characters too. And look at all three next to each other, take a screenshot from each of them and none of them look alike.

RPS: And none of them look like CoD4.

Stern: Quite. I think we’re maxed out in terms of photorealism. The achievement there is clear, and huge. But I think non-realistic approaches do have more emotional pull.

RPS: Back to the stencil abstract characters of Mario and Sonic…

Stern: Absolutely, and there’s something important in that. It’s like the Scott McCloud Understanding Comics thing where it draws a photorealistic face as it represents one person, and made less realistic, it represents 50% of people, and a smiley stick face, it could represent anyone, that’s one reason for abstraction. Brink perhaps takes another angle: we’re allowing you to be even more different. Everything in the game is Brink. I don’t think you’ll look at anything and think “that could have been in game X!”

Thanks, Ed. We’ll have more on Brink soon.


  1. Matt says:

    “Scott Kurtz Understanding Comics Thing”? Pretty sure he means Scott McCloud. Nitpicking over!

    I do like how this game is turning out, but can it tear me away from Team Fortress 2?

  2. HexagonalBolts says:

    It’s scary that developers now talk about customisable controls and custom servers as something for the ‘hardcore’, that should be ‘squirrelled away’, or advertised very loudly if you want to appeal to ‘the hardcore’ – not just in this interview but in several other ones.

    I wouldn’t call myself a hardcore gamer, I can’t even remember the last time I played an online game, but I undoubtedly benefit from customisable controls and custom servers. In fact, I would probably only play a game online where the keys weren’t stuck in an awful system and where there were dedicated servers. I see the inclusion of such things as customisable controls and custom servers more as a requirement that is a mark of quality than as an added extra for ‘the hardcore’.

    But then who am I to talk? I don’t buy games to play online, but Modern Warfare 2 buyers do and clearly don’t have a problem or aren’t aware that there is a problem.

    • AsubstanceD says:

      What does it even mean to be a ‘hardcore’ gamer? The more I hear about it the more it makes me think that its a blanket term for the kind of PC gamer who values customisability and the kind of gameplay that is something other than purely the standard or simple. That and a belief that a keyboard and mouse controls should be done right. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate however to call the millions of console gamers that buy game after game hardcore gamers?

      I am more a niche gamer maybe, or fundamental… no need for laberls anyway.

      As for the suggestion that most games difficulties are too hard. That worries me a lot.

    • AsubstanceD says:

      Also not to mention that what people call simplification of games for all audiences is considered by developers just to be removing some non essential small features. However the death of these small features are what kills gaming variety and innovation, just as simple decision to remove lean in a game or have a simplified set of stats or menus etc. can transform the gameplay completely.

    • David says:

      ‘Hardcore’ is just a sloppy, lazy, and increasingly useless term. It’s too loose and contextual to meaningfully direct a design. Wish we’d all stop using it, frankly.

      It’s time for some Bertrand Russell: “Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise.”

  3. Mr.Bigglesworth says:

    How often did this guy said the word “hardcore” ?! It seems he really likes it……..the word.

  4. Lack_26 says:

    I really, really want this game. I trust the company enough to think that this game will work.

  5. Xercies says:

    From what I hear of this game its pretty much Enemy Territory: Brink. But thats no bad thing, I loved Quake Wars and am looking forward to this one.

  6. thefanciestofpants says:

    Great interview, cheers Alec.

    Looking forward to this one, looks very interesting indeed.

  7. RGS says:

    Understand the probs these guys have with regards to mass market appeal and the ‘hardcore-ness’ or not of gamers, but frankly as a customer I’m getting pretty fed up with it. Games are too easy these days, not too hard. I think accessibility is dropping so low, primarily to max console sales, that the intelligence, depth and skill required in games is dropping also.

    Often things that are frustrating to noobs are the exact things that the hardcore love. I hate that everywhere you look these days, on almost every level (not just games) it’s all about accessibility. People are seemingly unwilling to learn anything, even the slightest barrier to their progress (despite unlocking much richer rewards later on) is too much, viewed as a fault and removed. I think this mentality is driven by console game sales and the sad fact that (aside from the monetary aspect) console games for many devs are seen as being far more prestigious than PC titles.

    The sort of games I like and would like to see more of are Hidden and Dangerous 2, Empire:Total War and so on (in spirit I’d include the ArmA series, but for me it was just too buggy and mouse laggy). These are the type of games we need. We need more intelligence, more options, more scope, immersion and reality. Not less. The trick is to help the new player into the game sensibly and to avoid frustration, but not to limit the features for others. It may not play out well for console $$$ but if a gamer lacks the patience to learn anything, or persevere at all then stuff him.

    Feels like golf courses are being replaced everywhere with mini golf as that’s all that people, both customers and developers, can be bothered with. ‘Too hard, too much work, frustrating’ and so on. Sure guys, start people out with the simple stuff, but aim to take it to pro, not cap it early for the dummies.

    Sorry for ranting off topic, Brink does actually look quite good. Just that old ‘hardcore’ thing really gets to me. + anyone that chooses gamepad over mouse and keyboard for an FPS – you’ve lost me at ‘hello.’

    (oh + while I’m ranting… Getting pretty sick of PC games with low FoV’s, large HUD’s and low res (TV designed) menus. Here in the world of the PC a lot of people are on 1920×1200 set ups now. Personally I’m on 2560×1600 and all this low res clunky stuff ticks me off no end. It’s not enough to use higher res textures in game and claim you’re being PC specific, you need to look with proper care and attention at the full package… Ok, I’m done now ;))

  8. Radiant says:

    I’m hoping this will be good.
    Splash Damage always seem to over complicate their games Which leads to a whole host of issues; balance being the most primary.

    Btw I hate it when people go through my phone.
    “Hey check out my new phone, it’s android….don’t go through the gallery…or my emails…or my messages wtf.”

    • Lack_26 says:

      Tip: Put your phone in another language, I’ve got mine in German (I know enough German that I can use it easily though, perhaps choose a language you’re familiar with/can speak).

    • Senethro says:

      What balance problems? I thought balance has been one of SD’s strongest points so far.

    • TeeJay says:

      I put my phone into Turkish once and it took my an hour to reset it to English :(

  9. Sagan says:

    Please, if you have an audio interview, also release it in audio form. Maybe just attach it to the end of your next podcast.
    For some reason I feel like I am getting to know the person more, when I hear him talk.

  10. Fede says:

    Does anyone at RPS not have a cat?
    RPS: Kieron doesn’t. He has comics.

    Poor Kieron :(

  11. Sp4rkR4t says:

    At last a game that finally addresses the urgent need for urine physics in games.

  12. Bogie says:

    Any news on dedicated servers??!!

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      Fuck you Modern Warfare for making people think this way.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      He said right in the interview there would be “custom servers”. I think it’s safe to assume that means yes to dedicated servers.

    • Seniath says:

      Paul (Wedgwood) said at Eurogamer Expo that they would indeed have dedicated servers. Cue a cheer from the crowd.

  13. Reverend Speed says:

    Quake Wars was a fabulous game that came out just as TF2 changed the paradigm of how accessible an online shooter could be. SD had worked so hard on making the teams and classes easy to read visually that it was kinda shocking to see their efforts so powerfully outshone by The Pyro, The Engineer, The Spy, etc…

    Cannot wait for Brink. I’ll miss the vehicles and (it would seem) the asymmetrical and crazily ambitious class powers, but I’m very interested in the fiction, the style and the mission system. And curious to see how the Brink upgrade of the QW ‘everything’ button will work out.

  14. The Hammer says:

    That was a great interview, with some long (but sometimes vague!) responses. I can’t say I was interested in Brink before this, but now it’s intrigued me. It’s fresh.

  15. rei says:

    Does the brink backstory have anything in it about mutagens in the water supply, or some sort of a radiation disaster that would explain why the characters look so horribly mangled and disproportionate?

  16. Yargh says:

    If there’s one game that needs to be renamed to ‘On the Egde’ or something similar this week, this is it.

  17. jay says:


    The stylisation virus struck.

    Also can this sentence get re-transcribed? I think I get the jist of what is being said but I’d like to be sure.

    “So if you play through the campaign as Security and then as Resistance, there will be one map where are not the other side of the battle.”

    Good interview, interesting questions and responses.

    • Hermit says:

      Basically you choose Security or Resistance as your team. The storyline and map objectives for each team are different, and often work against each other.

  18. mootpoint says:

    Just reading about the non-natural nature of deadly violence makes me want to play this game. That it hasn’t struck more writers and developers before is really baffling. Is this what MW2 is doing as well? But making the player feel it instead? I haven’t played it so I’m curious.

  19. lagmint says:

    “It’s not an assist as such, but it means that once you’re following someone with your crosshairs, it becomes easier to follow them – “gravity wells”.”

    Ok, I’m trying really hard not to nit-pick here, but this is auto-aim. I’ve worked on games that have it, and if anything it’s worse. What it does is it picks a player in your crosshairs, and basically drags you to look at them. the PROBLEM with this method (referred to in the industry as ‘aim assist,’ BTW) is what happens when you aim at enemy X, and then enemy Y runs across your crosshair? Do you follow the second guy, or the first? What usually happens is it makes shooting at distance enemies impossible, and anytime you have a large group of people fighting you basically dont get to decide who to shoot at. Also, that changes where you’re walking, which is hugely disorienting.

    I would also like to give a nod to the people who’re head-shaking about the ‘hardcore’ talk. My son is 8, and when I watch him play new games it’s like they’re playing for him. I ‘force’ him to play older games like Sonic, Mario 3, etc, just to make sure he knows when his hand is being held. It’s scary, in my eyes, how much new games just assume you’re a total moron and couldn’t POSSIBLY figure anything out on your own.

    Don’t make us feel like idiots, Splash Damage. Tweaking settings has been done in games since the PC first existed, don’t pretend it’s some hard-core only thing.

    • Senethro says:

      So you’ve actually played the game and know the level of aim-assist going on here?

      I interpreted it as being passive rather than active. The game won’t aim for you, or even try to move your crosshair onto a target, but if your crosshair happens to be on a target then sensitivity will decrease slightly so that it doesn’t easily fall off.

      Its probably necessary given that most people can’t do tracking aim and all SD’s games are based on tracking aim. Fastish movement/acceleration and generously accurate weapons when moving/spraying means that a common offensive manoevure is the side-to-side shuffle. I saw how difficult it was for people who’ve never encountered this in the ETQW beta when there were constant bitchings about how “waaah I emptied a clip into him and he didn’t die.” which was clearly wrong as 7 leg or 2 head shots will kill and clips are about 40ish ammo. The problem is that while most players can hit someone with their first shot, they’re no good at following up. Years of CS and its derivatives will do that to people.

      So, SD is smart to have these features to smooth introduction for new players.

    • Aubrey says:

      When Ed said that it’s not “aim assist”, I think he meant that it doesn’t “snap” your aim.

      We are working on a solution for exactly the problem you are talking about. But yes, to a certain degree, aim assistance is partially “mind reading”, so it’s never quite perfect. It is, however, pretty necessary for consoles.

    • Aubrey says:

      Also, fun fact: if you say “Aim Assist” fast, everyone thinks you’re saying “anuses”. For a month or so, I was the go-to man for sticky anuses.

    • lagmint says:

      I really do hope it’s a console-specific thing, or much less on a mouse+keyboard, as it can often lead people to being very confused. You know, the ‘why can’t I headshot?!’ thing people run into.

      “So you’ve actually played the game and know the level of aim-assist going on here?”

      Like I said, I dont know what it is, but I WORRY because I’ve worked with it before. It’s not an instant fail, but anytime you take over control of something from someone it can lead to issues. Also, I hope it quickly falls into “if you’re in 10th of 15 players you get it, once you hit 9th you don’t” kind of thing.

      Basically what I’m saying is that I appreciate that, when using something as imprecise as a controller, you’d consider an aim boost. I would say you don’t NEED one, because if no-one has one no-one is at an advantage. If you look back to the Quake series, the only time auto-aim was on was in single player, and that was because it launched as a DOS game. In multiplayer, however, auto-aim did not function. This trend towards hand-holding the player through every single action possible is not ideal, at least to me. I love the movement system that Brink is bringing to the table (heh), because it, according to SD at least, gives an advantage to players who do it manually. Auto-aim doesn’t do that, it’s ALWAYS helpful. Aim-assist, while it has problems with some situations, is also simply a boon. I would like a simple multiplayer experience where players aren’t hand-held the whole way, or totally fucks you for losing. There are games that are in the middle – TF2 for example. Games like Quake Wars had a tendency to screw you over if you had a bad start to a game – ie. being spawn killed over and over without the ability to stop it.

      I do like the looks of a lot of this game, but aim-assist is a dark, dark path.

    • Aubrey says:

      It’s definitely not used in the PC version – Mouse and Keyboard doesn’t really need any leg-up. It’s a pretty excellent tool for controlling a camera. High precision, and high range.

      All we’re really doing is tweaking to mitigate the issues of stick control – things being too sensitive while fine aiming/tracking, or not being sensitive enough when trying to turn through large angles. We certainly haven’t mitigated it to the point where there’s no skill involved, and we’re never pushing your aim in directions you haven’t explicitly asked for.

  20. cc09 says:

    Sorry if I’m being too curious, but how do your son react and what does he think about difficulty when you try to ‘force’ him to play older games compared to games of today? (Sorry for my English).

    • lagmint says:

      He doesn’t care, actually – he LOVES games of all kinds. He’ll go from Lego Star Wars to Kirby Air Ride to Mario 3. He doesn’t fully understand, but he’s starting to realise that I won’t ‘help’ him beat levels because each time he does it on his own, he gets better – often noticeably so. I don’t think he’s the type of child who notices things like how ‘good’ graphics are. To him, a brightly coloured, well drawn cartoony game (Mario World) is just as pretty as a highly polygon’d 3D game like Soul Calibur.

      What he DOES notice is that the controls are more intuitive and simple on older games, whereas the games themselves are easier now, but the controls are less intuitive. I think that’s a rather large condemnation of the industry I work in, and I am constantly asking myself what my son would think of whatever UI the game I’m working on has, or how he’d deal with the control schemes.

      I know the saying that ‘if you design a system any idiot can use, you will find your system flooded with idiots’ (to paraphrase) is often true, I think too often we go the other way, usually designing a system only the designer of the system can use.

      And we need to get the hell off of that, in addition to holding the hands of players, quickly. One thing my son DID mention is that he could more quickly figure out where to go/what to do in older games, without any hand-holding, but the second hand-holding failed in a newer game he was totally lost.

  21. invisiblejesus says:

    “Brink, the name at least, does everything we want it to. We’re perfectly happy with just that. Of course the sequels can be Briink, and then Briiink.”

    And then BriiiiiiiiiiiiiIiiiiiiiiiiIIiiiiiiiiiiII!!1iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiIIIIiiiiink – A Reckless Disregard For Anyone Who Has To Type The Name Of This Fucking Game…. :P

  22. invisiblejesus says:

    On a more serious note (and having actually finished reading the interview now), I think that guy had more to say and more thoughtful things to say than any of the articles I’ve seen around about “storytelling” in games. This game wasn’t even on my radar now, but what he’s had to say about storytelling and the portrayal of the two factions has me interested.

  23. medwards says:

    When you play through the other one you’re going to hear a rather different version of events.

    Is it just me or does Alec completely miss the point here? This reminds me of the reality of history (after you’re done the secondary school single-version-of-events). Like in the Spanish Revolution you had two versions of events being written about in the international press, and on the ground there were like 5+ versions with differing interpretations for motivation and differing focus. I mean for a long time (and in many circles still is) referred to as the Spanish Civil War which should tell you something about how your point-of-view creates a different narration on events. It’s not so much that they’re contradictory accounts, but that the information is subjective to begin with.

  24. radomaj says:

    It’s my turn to be lame and anti-fun. There’s a typo in the first Ed Stern response, when he’s saying a phrase in quotes: “here’s a new game from the people who bought you X and Y”. Edit the interview, then delete my post.

  25. Peace of Eight says:

    “The SMART system (Brink’s running and leaping movement cleverness) seems designed with a gamepad in mind.”

    And with that, I stopped reading. You can shove your console kiddie controls where the sun don’t shine; I shall never use them.

    Too bad; it looked interesting.

  26. Shadowcat says:

    Stern: Quite. I think we’re maxed out in terms of photorealism. The achievement there is clear, and huge. But I think non-realistic approaches do have more emotional pull.

    One of the main reasons that a (well-executed) non-realistic approach is so engaging is that we are nowhere remotely close to being “maxed out in terms of photorealism”, and so it’s easier to suspend disbelief when we’re not constantly being distracted by things that don’t fit.

    It’s tiresome watching other gamers say “OMG photorealism” for so many years, without developers doing it themselves. Games look good, and newer games continue on the whole to look even better than older ones did. Some ARMA2 screens certainly look incredible by comparison with what has gone before. But until you can watch extended continuous footage of a game and not be able to tell that it’s computer-generated, it’s just stupid to throw that particular term around. (Unless you’re playing games with no motion, screenshots don’t cut it.)

    • Carra says:

      Comic graphics have other benifits. They don’t age as fast. A game with great comic graphics will still look good in five years. And it can work on slower pcs. You don’t need the super duper pc you need to show photo-realistic images.

  27. Glove says:

    ..posts like these are part of the reason I love RPS so.

  28. Glove says:

    this was an embarassingly innacurate reply

  29. Starky says:

    Photo realism has been achieved in non-living subjects, to a degree – I remember a poll that put screenshots besides real life photo’s and asked people to vote on which was real and which not, and the results were mixed.
    Now those screenshots were cherry picked, and only fooled the eye in low res, but it was close.
    Here’s a link showing what I mean (though not the ones from the poll I was talking about – link to

    Honestly the only think stopping crysis from full photorealism (for everything except humans) is the fact that it needed to be playable.
    Modded to massive detail (as the engine can be, and some people are doing) I bet that near photorealism has been achieved in that game just probably at 5FPS on people running beastly overclocked i7 quadcores and quad SLI.

    Photo realism in humans can be achieved also, in still life – the problem isn’t appearance, it’s animation and physics… all of which serve to make the most photorealistic model in the world look like a corpse or a wax-work when viewed
    Sitting in the deepest part of the uncanny valley.

    No the main problem with the chase for photorealism now, is that the climb out of the uncanny valley (a theory I don’t fully agree with but one that sums up the issue in the simplest way, a graph) will take huge processing power that could be better used in games.
    Simply put you could use 40% of your processing/memory budget on a minor increase in graphic fidelity (case in point the difference between high and very high in crisis, noticeable but so NOT worth the performance cost), or you could spend that budget on better physics, more enemies on screen so on so forth,

    Physics is the new graphics, something that can be drastically improved and see noticeable (and thus sellable) generational improvements – HL2 had a cool physics engine, Red faction had destructible scenery, soon that kind of thing will be the norm in games. Realism in graphic fidelity has stalled, so realism in physics and interaction is the new hotness.

    Hell just look at Nvidia desperately trying to take physics away from the CPU and put it on the GPU, because they KNOW that graphics cards have gotten as powerful as they need to be for just graphical rendering. There’s still room for upgrades atm, but they are minor.
    I’m still running a 8800GT on one of my machines and it plays all new games just as well as my newer system (with a 4870X2 OC’d), the only difference is that the 8800GT system outputs to a 720p 32 inch TV or a 1440*900 monitor, while the newer system outputs at 1080p or 1920×1200 (often both) – the 8800 usually uses 4xAA while the other sits on 8xAA in most games…

    And honestly unless I’m sitting so close that I can’t actually see the whole screen in my vision range, I can hardly notice the difference.
    So Nvidia smelling the end of an era, where a user could upgrade a graphics card twice a year and get noticeable improvements each upgrade, to one where upgrading the graphics card every 2-3 years will be more than enough.

    Anyway I could ramble on on this subject all day. It interests me as a Engineer that the kind of simulations I’ll run in Matlab to simulate various forces on various materials (what I like to call “bend, break or burn” simulations) will be making their way into video games.
    Might be amusing when creating a video game engine, doesn’t just need software engineers, but all disciplines of engineers.

  30. TeeJay says:

    @ shadowcat and starky

    “more realistic” doesn’t automatically = better

    The real world often looks drab and boring. It is often very cluttered and messy. Both of these may work completely against the kind of game being designed. A game designer may want their game to look more dramatic and more beautiful than a typical real life scene. They may want to exaggerate the size shape and colour of everything to give it more visual impact. They may want to vasty simplify the graphics in order to focus on what is central to gameplay.

    “…maxed out in terms of photorealism…” doesn’t just mean technically, it can also mean as a design philosophy: in the ‘old days’ someone looking at a scene might say ‘it’s OK but, it still looks a bit blocky – it would be improved by more realism and detail’. The point at which this becomes the main comment doesn’t just depend on technology – there may be a point reached where someone says: yes it looks very realistic but, I prefer a more stylised / cleaned-up / exaggerated / etc. look.

    (And this is leaving aside the whole angle of why people prefer certain styles of comics or drawing, and why they might prefer this to more “realistic” and “photorealistic” styles.)

    Presumably Nvidia, ATI and the TFT manufacturers are going to have a big push (at the high end) to get everyone to upgrade to +120Hz screens running in 3d. Having said that there is a vast ‘low/mid-end’ market out there in China/India/Brazil/etc. where the push will be to get a mass market to upgrade to what we would consider low-powered graphics – also getting better graphics into netbooks and other small devices. If we are lucky developers will ‘remix’ and reissue all their classic games with this kind of market in mind.

    When a new technology arrives there will always be an initially creative surge using it to see what can be done, but once it has been done a few times people will sit back and say ‘do we actually like this better?’ It might be that developers realise that spending millions on photo-realism doesn’t actually make their games vastly more attractive in gaming terms and that in some contexts a more cartoonish or stylised approach is more popular. I expect there will always be a few developers who *do* pursue the ‘photorealism’ route, but this doesn’t mean it will always be the main design philosophy, if end-users actually prefer someting else.

  31. Mad Doc MacRae says:

    lol ETW as hardcore

    Anyway, doubt this will be “hardcore” and it won’t take me away from TF2.

  32. Paxeh says:

    Why do I think “shadowrun” when I watch the screenshots?

  33. We Fly Spitfires says:

    Sweet interview!

  34. Risingson says:

    Up with homoerotism!

  35. Biz says:

    i thought id (now zenimax) owns enemy territory

    if it’s activision then the greatest team shooter franchise is now dead