Capcom talks to PSU about Dark Void
Dark Void is one of the most intriguing titles of early 2010. With its aerial combat and the use of a jetpack, this looks like one of the standout IPs kicking off the new year. We recently had a chance to ask Capcom some questions about Dark Void. Below is our interview with Shana Bryant, associate producer of Dark Void. The game comes out next week.
PSU: One of the most interesting aspects we’ve heard about Dark Void is the new vertical cover system. Can you tell us how this will work and how it will be implemented in the game?
Bryant: “Basically, gamers are very familiar with your traditional Gears-style cover systems, where you’re moving (essentially) along a 2-D plane, advancing from cover piece to cover piece. However, in Dark Void, you have a jetpack, and what that allows you is a new method of vertical traversal. In Vertical Cover, instead of moving forward or backwards, imagine hanging from a perch thousands of feet up the side of a foreign cliff, moving up and down through the space; your jetpack (and your fierce resolve) are the only things between you and a long way down. You can blindfire, lean and shoot out of cover, get in close and execute a melee attack, basically you’ve got the necessary spread of tactical gameplay choices at your disposal. But in addition and perhaps more importantly, you’ve got 360 degrees of combat action. So while you’re, say, scaling the decaying remains of battleship precariously embedded in a mountainside and you sense enemies coming up behind you, you can easily swing your gun around and drill them, flip seamlessly between Vertical Up and Vertical Down combat, cook off a grenade and let it explode in their faces. And then just beware the shower of mechanical parts that tumble past. The Vertical Cover System is one way we’ve turned your traditional cover-based combat on its head.”
PSU: We love the idea of aerial combat, how will this work in Dark Void, and what can we expect from the physics mechanics that lets us fly around the world?
Bryant: “In Dark Void, it’s all about the jetpack, and since Nikola was nice enough to lend you his, what you’ll have is unprecedented command of the battlefield. Not only does the jetpack allow for full-on flight and man-â-UFO aerial dog fighting, but you can also hijack enemy airships mid-flight and then turn their own alien guns against them.”
But the jetpack offers more than just flight. Players can use the jetpack to trigger a vertical boost that allows them to hover far up and engage enemies from an elevated vantage point. This “Hover Combat” allows for ultimate freedom to navigate the combat zone. Instead of simply moving from cover piece to cover piece, you can enter hover, flank your enemies, and rain death from above, draw their fire and pick them off without your feet ever touching the ground. We feel pretty safe in saying that the jetpack changes the nature of cover-based gameplay completely.”
PSU: Where did the idea of a developing a game based on flying come from?
Bryant: “Having just come off of development of Crimson Skies, the folks over at (the newly formed) Airtight Games were excited to continue their success. However, this time around, they wanted the hero to be able fight not just with a vehicle, but also hand-to-hand. At Capcom, we were excited to work with a team with such a distinctive pedigree. For a while, we’ve been touting our desire to expand our integration into the Western gaming market, and working with Airtight was just the first step. Soon, the game had evolved to flying not just vehicles, but a jetpack, and not just a jetpack, but a jetpack with guns. And the rest is history.”
PSU: What can you tell us about the plot? And, how does the plot help build the world?
Bryant:” You play as William Grey, a down-on-his-luck cargo pilot who takes a detour through the Bermuda Triangle; as expected, it doesn’t end well. Will crash-lands and winds up in this alternate alien dimension called ‘The Void.’ Soon thereafter he teams up with the human resistance in their fierce struggle with an alien race known as ‘The Watchers.’ Fortunately, the humans have on their side lost scientist/super-genius Nikola Tesla, who’s managed to scrounge together weapons and devices scavenged from Watcher tech. This includes the jetpack. With the aid of Nikola’s guns, the helmet, and (of course) the jetpack, Will takes on the Watchers and goes on to become a Jetpack Hero.
“Building Dark Void’s fiction was really different than most games. As game developers, there’s always the challenge of trying to get gamers to care about your stupid story. However, with Dark Void, because we’re building on real-world fiction (e.g. the Bermuda Triangle, Nikola Tesla, etc.), there’s already interest there. Everyone knows and can identify with the real-world connection, so they’re eager to see how and where we develop the story with these very familiar set pieces.”
PSU: Bear McCreary (who did the music for Battlestar Galactica) composed the soundtrack, how does his music fit into the world of Dark Void?
Bryant: “Dark Void simply wouldn’t be Dark Void without Bear McCreary. Many people may not know but Bear is a gamer himself, and when the opportunity to score his first game arose, he was more than engaged. The music in Dark Void is simply breathtaking. Taking flight for the first time against a majestic orchestra of strings and brass. The first encounter with the Archon featuring menacing drums in a fierce rhythmic progression. The music is as much a part of Dark Void as is the jetpack. And every instrument you hear is actual real instrument, recorded at the Warner Bros. Sound Stage in Burbank. We’re proud of that.”
PSU: What can you tell us about Trophies and downloadable content?
Bryant: “When it comes to trophies, our philosophy is to reward the player for playing the game the way we want them to play. What that means is using your jetpack! Pick off enemies while in hover combat, highjack UFOs, fly through the Archon’s legs. Basically, prove you’re a jetpack hero and be rewarded for being a jetpack hero."
As for downloadable content, nothing’s been officially announced. However, what I can say is that Dark Void is Capcom’s first AAA release of the New Year, and we are often known to support AAA titles with downloadable content after ship. Is that a confirmation of DLC? Maybe. Maybe not.”
PSU: What kind of weapons will the main character use? Are weapons obtained early in the game, or do you progressively get better weapons? Also, can we expect hand-to-hand combat?
Bryant: “All of your weapons are either stolen alien weaponry or they are the product of Nikola Tesla’s genius combined with scavenged alien tech. It’s a cool combination we’ve jokingly referred to as ‘Tesla Punk’ and as you can imagine, it’s incredibly cool. Will starts with your standard ‘Liberator’ SMG, but soon he’s arming himself with alien shotguns (The ‘Disintegrator’), Sniper Rifles (The ‘Reclaimer’), and even Tesla-specials like the ‘Hypercoil,’ which is basically a portable lightning gun. You can use in-game currency to upgrade your small arms and even the guns on your jetpack. And of course, Will’s a hands-on kind of guy, so hand-to-hand melee attacks are sometimes necessary when you’re outnumbered and outgunned. All melee attacks are proximity-based, so there’s really a risk/reward system in place. ‘Can I get in close enough to crack this guy’s skull?’ ‘Do I take him out from cover?’ ‘Do I use hover combat to drop his accuracy and pick him off from 50 feet up?’ Combat in Dark Void is all about choices, and the player has a plethora of tactics from which to choose.”
PSU: Finally, what has been the most difficult part about developing Dark Void? Anything you learned in the process?
Bryant: “In Dark Void, we’re combining really different styles of gameplay in a new IP, and that’s always a risk. However, we knew it was important to make flying with a jetpack as cool as everyone dreams it to be. To that end, playtest, playtest, playtest! We playtested the heck out of the game, out of the flight, the combat, and absolutely everything. We know most of our fans are first- and third-person shooter fans first-and-foremost, so we had to make the flight as pick-up-and-play as possible. We also wanted the features to feel integrated so the flight and on-ground combat didn’t feel like they came out of two different games, and that’s where the hover combat really started to come into its own. I think if players remember when you get in a pinch ‘Hey, I’ve got a jetpack’ then they’ll see the gameplay for the innovative combination of fight and flight that it really is.”