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[The anticipated sequel Red Faction Armageddon changes the scene from the fields of Mars to the inside of the planet, and in doing so also changes the core destructibility gameplay that made the original so popular -- art director Chad Greene explains why.]
Red Faction: Guerilla -- the latest installment of Volition and and THQ's long-running destruction-centric Red Faction series -- was something of a surprise hit with gamers. The 2009 game became a hardcore fan favorite as players were unleashed on an open world -- colonial Mars -- and were enabled to destroy anything and everything in sight.
Surprisingly, then, 2011's Red Faction: Armageddon puts some constraints on players. In favor of a linear narrative and more gameplay variety, the game guides players into the underground world of Mars -- all of which is not destructible.
In this interview, developer Volition's project art director Chad Greene describes the thought processes that lead to this profound change for the next game in the series.
He also takes us through some of the creative decisions that were made to ensure that the game is still as appealing as its predecessor while delivering an experience that's not quite the same in scope or feel.
Let's talk about the increasing popularity of physics-based gameplay because it seems to have really exploded over the last two, three, four years.
Chad Greene: Inherently, video gamers love -- it goes back to watching movies, etcetera -- blowing stuff up, right? What happened in the past was that a lot of destruction, up until our game and a couple other games out there, had very what's been called "canned" explosions, where it's not really physics-based.
Our engine is something we've been working on almost for the last seven years now -- we had five years of development going into Red Faction: Guerilla to get it to where that was. This title has been in development for almost two and a half years now, so what we did was once we got that, we inherited that code and built upon it, but we didn't do much to it because it worked real well.
Our game, our engine -- we like to tout as the only engine out there that can literally destroy and break apart every single man-made object in the game, and none of it is canned, it's full, sharded destruction with physics.
I haven't played the game much yet, but that seemed slightly more ambitious in Guerilla, because it was much more open world, and this one feels much more level- and scenario-oriented. Is that accurate?
CG: No, I'd actually say it's almost the opposite. Everything in Guerilla was placed on the ground, right? On the surface of the planet. Therefore buildings were placed on the ground.
We actually said, "How can we improve destruction and destructibility in the world?" And we said, "What if we went underground and we brought everything in tighter with more density and more shards of buildings, more destruction?" It gives us the ability to have 360-degree placement destruction.
We can actually put buildings on walls or ceilings and bring that all around you, so the player is not just looking for buildings to blow up on the ground, he actually can consciously look up to the ceiling to say, "Okay, is there a light grid up there? Is there something on the wall?" So it's bringing it all around the player.
So that's the reason you brought it inside? Is it in fact more linear, that way?
CG: The storyline is linear, yes. But we are going to have quests and things that are very open world-ish. You can follow the main story or you can go off and do these quests as well, so we're going to have those elements.
I don't think there's anything wrong with linearity, by the way. I'm just making sure I'm on the right path here, because with a linear story or a more focused experience, there's a lot of stuff you can do that you can't in open worlds.
CG: Yeah. That's a very good question, and we've been asked this recently, and I want to point out that we've really started to think about story as being really important -- not that we've never thought about story -- but this title from the beginning was all about the story.
In fact, it's tied into transmedia, and we're going to be doing a deal with Syfy Channel in the spring; there's going to be a live action movie that ties together Guerilla and Armageddon in the timeframe between. Having that storyline and being immersive, you feel for it, you want to help the people out, you want to be the character Darius, and it's important.
There seems to be quite a different tone, which is partially from the story and from the world. It wasn't so horrific and oppressive before, right? What was the thinking there?
CG: The most recent title, Guerilla, was about oppressive man versus man. The EDF were oppressing the Red Faction and the people that were mining on Mars. While that's still an interesting tale to tell, we basically said, "What else can we add on that?"
We've always has these ideas as far as the fiction background of where we wanted the titles and franchise to go, and we started discussing... We definitely wanted to be sci-fi, we wanted to have change of pace gameplay, and we didn't want it to be just military versus military.
What the aliens provide us is change of pace; they jump on walls, they jump on ceilings... we have a lineup coming that's going to be progressively more powerful so we can really play that sort of mini-boss angle on gameplay.