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The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 action title Dark Sector is the highest profile 'AAA'-aiming game thus far funded by Puzzle Quest publisher D3Publisher, and an absolutely key project of Canadian studio Digital Extremes, a company once best known for working with Epic Games on the Unreal series.
In fact, Digital Extremes, formed in 1993, has a long history of titles from Epic Pinball through aid on Unreal Tournament 2004 to Pariah and Warpath. But the long-in development Dark Sector, first unveiled back in 2004, might be described as a 'make or break' title for the company.
find out how development is going on this ambitious next-generation,
multiplatform project, and to learn about the challenges of developing
a game on an original engine with intriguing new play mechanics, Gamasutra
sat down with the game's project lead, Steve Sinclair.
How have you been able to spend so much time in development?
Steve Sinclair: We've been with D3 for a couple of years, and before that, Dark Sector's been something that's been on the backburner at various times in development. It's been two years in full production, and prior to that, we worked on Unreal Championship, and some of the Tournament games. Some of it was funded on our own dime, and some of it was with D3.
More of what I was getting at is
like... how is it working with D3? They seem to be really patient, in
terms of wanting to make sure that it's the best game it can be.
SS: Absolutely. They have given us more time, because the scope of the game is pretty large, and with the inclusion of multiplayer and that sort of thing, we've been able to put some things back in the game that we were sort of kicking ourselves for having to cut. Like the multiplayer game modes and that sort of thing.
Part of it is, "Do we have a choice of being a little bit later?" because of PlayStation 3 and 360... you know, they're not as similar as you'd like, and not as similar as we had initially thought when we were pitching the game. In some ways, we had no choice but to take extra time.
So you don't want to release one and then the other?
SS: No. They really want to do it simultaneous, and so do we, actually.
Yeah, it makes sense.
SS: I guess it makes sense with us, I mean, as far as we're told, anyway, it sort of makes sense in terms of you spending your marketing all in one go, and if you've got both out there, it's much easier.
Plus you also don't have people
being like, "Well, I'll just wait for the other version,"
and then they don't, because something else cool comes out.
SS: And it drops off the radar. Absolutely.
I guess that goes back into you spending your marketing at one time.
What phase of development are you in right now? Are you to polish yet?
SS: Yeah. We're in polishing the difficulty, the AI, the animation, and just playing the hell out of multiplayer and making sure it's cool and awesome.
I was talking to Harvey Smith a little while ago, and he was saying that...
SS: Harvey Smith. Yes, BlackSite.
Yes. Well, and other things, you could say.
SS: Deus Ex and so on. Probably one of my favorite game designers. When I started the game engine, I actually based it off of one of his GDC papers -- 2001, or '99 -- of the data-driven game development, so the whole engine we have is sort of based on his ideas of... the example he used in Deus Ex, where they had one door whose health was too low if you did the Men in Black explosion. You could break the level flow, so they had to go through all the levels and raise the health of all of them, which was a horrendous effort.
So he said, "What you need to do is have these driven from templates, and data-driven design fixes one place and it goes everywhere." That's been a big foundation of our game and our mission. And there were thoughtful unit designs that he talked about. Anyway, sorry. You were talking to him, and...