Taking a big franchise in a new direction is always a risky proposition. Sure you can explore new gameplay options and open up the game up to a new audience but you risk alienating the core fanbase that's been supporting you for years. The folks at Double Helix have such a challenge as they take the turn based Front Mission series and put a third person action spin on the game. Curious about the game and what we could expect from the game we fired off some questions to get a better feel for where they were taking the game.
Can you introduce yourself and talk about your role on the project? How did you get into the game industry?
David Verfaillie – Design Director, Double Helix Games. I collaborated closely with the game's producer, Shinji Hashimoto, and the Square Enix creative team, to create the high-level vision for Front Mission Evolved. I also manage the design team at Double Helix and ensure that everyone is working toward that agreed-upon vision in a consistent, high-quality manner.
Hashimoto: Shinji Hashimoto, Producer at Square Enix
You've changed the game play quite a bit from previous Front Mission games (moving from turn based to pure action), why the change? Are you worried about alienating existing fans of the game? What's been the one part of the change that's been harder than you thought it would be?
Hashimoto: Up until now, the Front Mission series generally was a turn-based simulation RPG, with the exception being Front Mission Online which is a Real Time Simulation and Gun Hazard which is a Side Scrolling Action game. The reason we chose FME to be a Third Person Shooter was because we feel that there is room for many genres within the Front Mission universe and we hope fans appreciate that – the more gameplay options we present for Front Mission, the more the universe will grow. Of course we understand that the existing Front Mission fans were happy with the turn-based simulation RPG genre, but we have made sure to keep the essence and world of Front Mission alive, and hope that they, too, can enjoy FME.
The most difficult task when changing the genre was the balance of exhilarating controls, while still expressing the massive weight of these Wanzers. Wanzers are not super robots, but the evolved form of weapons of mass destruction, so they can’t zip around at high speeds. At the same time, as long as we were creating an action-based game, we had to give it a certain amount of speed to make the gameplay enjoyable. The balance between the two was definitely a struggle, and we made a lot of adjustments to have the end result we are very happy with.
Can I play Front Mission Evolved if I haven't played any of the previous games? How does the game fit into the rest of the Front Mission universe?
Hashimoto: Anyone can enjoy Front Mission Evolved! The story in Front Mission Evolved is completely stand-alone and is the furthest in the future in the series timeline. It is a period in the timeline which had never been told before. So anyone will be able to pick up the game and enjoy a great story. However, we do incorporate the themes and mechanics of previous Front Mission games. Even some of the locations will be familiar to fans of the series – Huffman Island for instance.
What types (classes?) of Wanzers will be in the game? What kind of ways will players be able to customize their machines? About how many total customization options are there in the game?
Verfaillie: The customization options in Front Mission Evolved are vast. There are over 15 wanzer types to choose from when constructing your wanzer. There are over 40 different types of weapons which you can equip on your wanzer. And Battle Skills can be applied to those weapons to further specialize them – these are really cool. They can do things like disrupting the electrical systems in your opponent’s wanzer or deteriorate their armor with acid-tipped bullets. There are also a ton of visual options to customize the look of your wanzer.
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