Fracture Interview

Article

posted 8/5/2008 by The GN Staff
other articles by The GN Staff
Fracture is the upcoming third person action game from LucasArts and while third person action games are a dime a dozen what separates Fracture from the rest of the herd is the deformable terrain in the game.   Need to reach a platform above your head?  Push the ground up to create a natural ramp.  Need to take out a bunch of bad guys?  Launch a giant rock boulder at them.  Here's our chat with Vicki Miller from LucasArt's production team on what else you can expect from the game

Can you give us an overview of the plot of the game? What where the inspirations behind the game? What cultural influences will gamers see when the game when the game comes out?
Fracture takes place in the drastically changed world of the year 2161. The effects of global warming have literally altered the shape of the world. Using newly invented technology, terrain deformation, the US was able to save its coastlines from the destruction. The Midwest however, was left a wasteland. The Eastern and Western United States coped with the disasters in two completely different ways. The West explored genetic alteration and adaptation, while the East relied on cybernetic enhancements. The player enters the world of Fracture just as the US government outlaws genetic engineering, leading to the Western US secession, and all out war.

During the development of the story, the team wanted to take issues that are relevant today, and push them out 150 years into the future. What happens in the wake of global warming? How do people and nations cope with natural disasters on that magnitude? How far could people conceivably go down the path of stem cell research and resulting genetic engineering efforts? These were just a few of the questions that were kept in mind as the story was being written.


Will the terrain deformation be limited to just the environments or will they impact structures in the game? Will the game be strictly set outdoors or will there be inside levels as well? What new design decisions are you finding with the new technology?
Terrain deformation is primarily limited to the environment. However, it can be used to reach parts of structures that the player wouldn’t be able to get to otherwise.

The game has both indoor and outdoor areas. The indoor environments are designed so that terrain deformation can be used the same way it is outdoors. Additionally, in more confined, indoor spaces, the player will be able to use terrain deformation to crush enemies against the ceiling.

The terrain deformation technology opened up quite a few design opportunities as well as challenges. TD provides tools that haven’t been seen in games before, which opens up a lot of variety for players to choose their own tactics in the game. We’ve tried to ensure that the puzzles throughout the missions can be solved in a multitude of ways, so that there isn’t just one ‘key’ to the puzzle players must find. It has also been tricky however, because we often see new players using TD or the weapons in ways we hadn’t imagined. It’s hard to account for that, and make sure that players aren’t getting themselves stuck or finding a way outside of the ‘world’.



Are you using one of the major physics engines (Havok/Ageia) in the game or did you build your own?
We’re using the Havok physics engine. In addition to being a solid physic engine, we were able to use it in conjunction with our terrain deformation tech to really show off the feature and make sure it was integrated into the game in a natural way.


Given the intense processing power needed to do terrain deformation, was this technology something that could not have been done before this generation of hardware or not?
There may be some crazy genius engineer out there who could have figured out a way to get terrain deformation working on the previous generation of hardware, but I think it would have been impossible to do it to the extent that Fracture does.

Do you have a final level count for the game? How long do you think it will take the average person to get through the game?
Right now we’re not giving out any details about the specific number of levels in the game, but rest assured that we’re going to make sure that players of all skill levels and backgrounds have plenty of fun not only fighting off the Pacificans, but also exploring the world around them. There will be three Acts to play through and as far how long it will take the average player to finish the game, that’s really going to depend on the player’s skill and how much exploration they do. While a dedicated player could probably run and gun through way through the game in 10 hours, there’s a ton of cool things to discover by experimenting with TD and combat that really pushes the overall length much higher.


The deformable terrain sounds like it could make for a fun multiplayer experience, will the game feature any multiplayer modes or will it be single player only? If you are going with multiplayer action, what kind of multiplayer modes can we expect? Any chance for co-op gameplay?
Fracture will definitely have an exciting online multiplayer experience. It will be up to 12 players with a variety of game modes planned. Players will be able to choose from their old favorites that have been given a terrain deformation twist, to new modes uniquely designed around TD.


What type of soundtrack will grace Fracture's split coastlines? An East Coast vs. West Coast beef naturally evokes a rap war, but I doubt we'll hear Biggie and Tupac trade posthumous verses. Are you keeping it minimalist and paring it down to ambiance and the sounds of war? Or are you going epic with and orchestral layout? Industrial? Metal? Electronic?
Our soundtrack was written by the Academy Award nominated Michael Giacchino. You’ve probably heard his work before in titles such as Ratatouille, The Incredibles, and “Lost”. We’ve really tried to craft a soundtrack that plays heavily into what you’re doing in-game, so expect a wide range of musical elements, including sweeping orchestral pieces and even distinct themes for the Atlantic Alliance and the Pacificans.



Since the camera is fixed in a 3rd-person perspective, will we be able to customize our character's appearance or is it fixed? Is the game strictly an on foot affair or will gamers be piloting vehicles during the game?
Players will not be able to customize Jet Brody’s appearance in the single player campaign, however in multiplayer users will be able to play as both the Atlantic Alliance and as the Pacificans.

A large portion of the game will be spent fighting on foot, but there will be other forms of transportation that make an appearance in the game as well. As you can imagine, vehicles plus terrain deformation definitely has the potential to be a lot of fun.


Can you talk about the weapons in the game? Will they all be terrain related weapons or will there be a few standard weapons (shotguns, machine guns, etc) Do we get a large inventory to nitpick through, or will there be a limit on the weapons you can carry at one time?
Fracture definitely has all the standard weapons that people expect in a shooter: machine gun, shotgun, rocket launcher etc. We’ve also mixed it up adding unique Terrain deforming weaponry such as the subterranean Torpedo weapon.


The name "Fracture" not only describes the terrain deformation capabilities at your disposal, but also the storyline's "fracture" of the East vs. West civil war; the "fracture" in philosophy between cybernetics and eugenics. Is Fracture a morality tale, a cautionary tale, or both?
There are definitely morality questions that get asked over the course of Fracture, with some cautionary tale peppered in. You’ll have to play the game when it’s released to see where the story leads.

A house divided cannot stand, but perhaps Jet Brody can bridge the divide in the civil war. Are there branching opportunities in the storyline for him to affect the final outcome of this conflict, or will Fracture present -- without making this sound like a bad word -- a 'linear' path to a singular outcome?
While Fracture’s story will have a ‘linear’ path to a single outcome, terrain deformation allows players to progress through the game in a variety of ways. Players will be able to craft their own tactics for overcoming the challenges they come across as they play the game. Even though the game has been in development for a few years now, we still see players trying things we’ve never seen before and passing obstacles in ways we hadn’t imagined.


There are many players of the SimCity franchise that spend hours with the terrain editor, crafting landscapes like it's an endgame in and of itself. Will there be any sort of sandbox mode allowing players to mess around freely with Fracture's weapons?
There will definitely be areas throughout the game where we will give the player the opportunity to experiment with new weapons and terrain deformation. We hope to encourage players to be creative with the weapons and tools available, and reward them for exploration.



Rockstar made public the limitations they're facing in developing GTA IV for core system Xbox 360 users (the lack of hard drive is tying their hands together). Is Rockstar being pretentious, or are you glad that someone finally came out and said what's been on your mind the whole time? Are you finding one platform easier to develop for than the other or are there issues with both of them?
Both platforms have their benefits and drawbacks. We want to provide the same experience for gamers on both the PS3 and the Xbox 360, so we’ve worked hard to leverage the benefits of each system without crippling the other. It’s all about striking a balance.


Is there anything we missed that you think is important to gamers?
We’re planning to release a demo of Fracture prior to our October release date, so keep your eyes peeled for more information!