Back in the day (which for me is the late 1990's) I used to play a lot of twitch FPS games like Quake Arena and Unreal Tournament. Devoid of plot and melodrama the games focused purely on killing opponents as quickly as possible. In the last few years the FPS genre has evolved and slowed down a bit as they are burdened by cover, reality, and gravitas. Well, the folks at IllFonic have decided to take us back to the days of yore with Nexuiz, a remake of a cult twitch shooter. With the game hitting Xbox Live Arcade today we reached out to the team behind the game to get the scoop on what we can expect from the updated version of the game.
Could you introduce yourself and talk about your role on the project?
Kedhrin Gonzalez, Creative Director at IllFonic
Why the decision to re-make an existing game over creating something new from scratch? What changes did you have to make to accommodate bringing the game to the console?
Initially, we started development for Nexuiz as a direct port from Classic Nexuiz (with better graphics) to the PlayStation 3. We were fans of the original and thought it would be a great opportunity to give players on consoles a new Arena first-person shooter experience. The biggest challenge with going from a PC FPS to a console FPS (and the other way around) is controls and the spacing in the environments. We knew we had to alter the game a bit for it to be more accessible on consoles. However, we didn’t’ want it to lose that Arena FPS vibe.
Additionally, we added melee with every weapon, featured a fully customizable controller, a fast turn button, and a rocket jump button. Regarding the maps, the environments were made to target our max player count per map (eight). They also are easier to navigate with less snagging and clutter in the environments. We wanted to make sure the game was easy to read on a 720p resolution screen for consoles but make sure PC gamers would be able to take full advantage of all the DX11 goodies and raw horsepower CryENGINE 3 has to offer.
What’s the history of Illfonic? How big is your company and could you tell us about your core design ideals?
IllFonic started shy over four years ago with Charles Brungardt, Raphael Saadiq, and I. As hard workers who believe in quality development, we knew we wanted to take different approaches to our game development style. At our peak, we were a 12 person team. Currently, we are nine core developers. Any time we take on a new game design concept, we base it off of something that’s realistic for us to make and will push ourselves to learn and become better individually and as a team, to deliver a fun, cool experience for our audience.
In a FPS world dominated by Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 why build a classic, old school twitch FPS game?
For that exact reason. I love those games, but Nexuiz is fast. FPS games have been slowing down. We support the all night, caffeine drinking, hardcore gamer sessions. We want this new generation of gamers to see what they missed from the early days of FPS gaming.
Why the decision to go with the CryEngine 3 over rolling your own engine? Was graphic fidelity at the top of your design goal list or was it action?
In the end, both graphics and gameplay came together. Old school game development was based off Design->Performance->Art. While all of these elements are important, I believe game development today needs to be looked at as Entertainment->Design->Performance->Art. Entertainment is important for visual feedback and immersing the player in the game. We just couldn’t achieve that with the old, modified Quake engine. CryENGINE 3 had what we needed from the start to achieve this.
Could you talk about the art style of the game? What are the primary influences behind the look of the game?
When we started Nexuiz, we knew we had to do a new art style for the game. Classic Nexuiz was all over the place. Quake 3 had this medieval theme and Unreal Tournament had a cyberpunk style. We wanted Nexuiz to have its own distinct style. As fans of art styles in games like Final Fantasy and Mass Effect, we wanted to merge them into a bulky, masculine world that had a hint of elegance and beauty. Nexuiz is clean and shiny. We have one environment style, AtaVirta, which features many ancient ruins, vegetation and waterfalls. I’ve heard people compare us to Halo, which is cool, but it was never once used as a visual reference for Nexuiz.
One of the big features is the wide variety of mutators in the game, could you talk about the decision to make that a focal point of the game? Could you talk about the various ways people will pick up mutators in the game?
We wanted to make something that made Arena FPS even more intense. That’s where Dynamic Mutators come in. They are what makes Nexuiz redefine the Arena FPS genre. They allow players to interact with each other in ways never seen before in the space, encouraging team based strategy and controlled chaos. People can get Dynamic Mutators either through an environmental pickup, a five-kill streak or capturing the flag. Some maps have more mutators available than others. Players also have the ability to adjust the rate in which certain ones appear through the Dynamic Mutator Store. Here, players can spend the points they earn in matches.
How hard was it to balance all the mutators in the game and are there certain situations where they completely challenge the field of play? Do you have a personal favorite? Were there any that were left on the cutting room floor?
We balance Dynamic Mutators in different ways: how long they last, how rarely they show up, what type they are, a Dynamic Mutator that can counter attack another, and in game punishments for using them. The most important of these is how long they last. Other than that, a punishment like slower speed, visual suffering and other effects keep them in line. My personal favorite right now is Enemy Locator. It’s brutal! It let’s you see where the enemy is on the map even through walls. Combine that with Instagib for some serious fun. There were tons ideas left on the cutting room floor. Unfortunately, we had to decide what affected gameplay the most vs. what we could realistically do within our development timeline.
Weapons are the core of any FPS game, could you talk about the weapons you have in the game? Are there any that we haven’t seen any other shooters before or are you providing the standard fare?
The biggest thing to keep in mind with Nexuiz is most of the weapons are based off of a single bullet, a spread of bullets (like a shotgun), a grenade type object, or an explosive. Most weapons have splash damage of some kind, making them easier to use. We wanted to keep weapons familiar, yet require new strategies. The Super Weapons and other weapons from Dynamic Mutators are ridiculously fun and unpredictable. For example, the Super Crylink will let you instantly teleport into someone.
Nexuiz is going to have an offline mode, could you talk about the kinds of things you’ll be able to customize in the single player side of things? What can we expect to see from the bot AI?
We do have an offline bot mode. Of course, bots don’t provide the same experience you’d get from playing with real players. Playing against bots is a great way for players to test out the Dynamic Mutators with the ‘Free’ mode. These Dynamic Mutators allow players to spend points in the Dynamic Mutator Store without cost, giving them the ability to test load outs before committing to spending their real points.
How did you come up with the pricing for the game on the console side? How will the console version differ from the free PC version of the game?
On one hand, we wanted to keep Nexuiz in the spirit of the Classic Nexuiz. We tried to keep it as affordable as possible, packed with features. There is a lot of meat to Nexuiz. However, the console version of Nexuiz (and our upcoming PC version) is a radically different from Classic Nexuiz. The only thing that is really similar is the basic concept of the weapons and most of their names. One of the levels, Strength, also made it to Nexuiz, though with some slight modifications.
Nexuiz is part of the Microsoft House Party this year, how significant is that for you and how did that come about?
It’s a real honor to be a part of this promotion. There are a lot of games that submit and only a few get selected. We submitted our game like many other studios do and crossed our fingers. Fortunately, we were chosen!
Is there anything we missed that you think is important?
I think one of the core things to realize with Dynamic Mutators is the ability to really build a strategy around them as a team. A good team will know to spend time collecting points so they can adjust their profile in the Dynamic Mutator Store. There, an organized team can have one guy on defense, another guy on offense, and then have some serious tactical decisions being called throughout a match. With up to four Dynamic Mutators going on at any given time (one in each category), this leads to over 1.7million possible combinations. I’m still finding out some seriously sick combos. I’m really excited to see what fans will find too!
We'd like to thank Kedhrin for taking the time to answer our questions as well as Jacob for coordinating the interview.