Since our last interview with Free Radical, we were absolutely inundated with additional questions from our readers wanting to know more! So naturally we were delighted to have a second opportunity to try to feed their insatiable desire for more Haze and TimeSplitters 4 information.
We'd like to thank Rob Yescombe and Derek Littlewood for joining us for the pleasant surprise that is “PSU interviews Free Radical Part 2."
PSU: What are your thoughts on Haze being a system mover for the PlayStation 3? With a slew of multiplatform FPS titles coming, how will Haze (a PS3 exclusive) entice gamers to buy a PS3 over anything else?
Rob Yescombe: Well, with four-player hot-swap co-op, the Nectar gameplay system, two unique factions with totally different skills and abilities, as well as the 16-player multiplayer story maps, we’ve got a top notch package that’s going to make it an extremely worthy investment. Ultimately, our focus has been on replay value. If we’re hoping that people will buy the game and/or a PS3, we want to make sure they feel like they’re getting value for money.
PSU: Do you think that Blu-ray is a necessity for next gen gaming and will developers require Blu-ray size storage for games in the future if they don't already?
Derek Littlewood: It's clearly not a necessity, but it's an extremely useful asset. As hardware matures you always see an increase in the scale and ambition of games being developed for it, as developers get to grips with their new engines and toolsets, and that increased scale and ambition equates to an increased amount of content. So I think that as the PS3 matures, you'll see developers relying on Blu-ray to an increasing degree.
PSU: Why do you think multiplatform developers choose not to utilize the extra storage capacity on the PS3 for their games and add extra content? If the space is there why not use it?
Derek: It's not really as simple as just 'using' the space. Art, animation and audio assets for PS3 games take an enormous amount of time and money to create, and it's not like most developers have a box of additional levels they can just add onto their games at the eleventh hour. If you're developing specifically for the PS3 the additional capacity is a definite benefit, but if you're developing cross platform it's not usually so easy to just add extra stuff.
PSU: What was the reason behind dropping development on the Xbox 360 and PC?
Derek: From a development point of view, exclusive development is attractive because you can really focus on getting the best out of just one platform, rather than always needing to split your efforts across multiple versions of the game. And this is why exclusive PS3 development has been so useful to us, as the entire team has been able to work very closely with the PS3 hardware.
As for why the PS3 was our platform of choice, the company has a history of getting good results out of PlayStation hardware from our days working on the PS2, but also, out of the three platforms, the PS3 is still the youngest and so represented the best opportunity for us to get a game out into an uncrowded market where it was likely to get the best recognition.
PSU: Do you have plans to support Haze further with downloadable content?
Derek: We'd like to - I can't comment any further at this stage though, I'm afraid.
PSU: Will Haze have dedicated servers for multiplayer?
Derek: I can't comment on that at this stage, sorry.
PSU: Will Haze support clans, buddy lists, and parties? What kind of customizable options will be available for these?
Derek: Yes, we're supporting friends lists and parties, and you'll be able to do things like sending in-game invites to your friends if you want them to drop into your coop or multiplayer game. I can't really talk anymore about multiplayer options at this stage though, I'm afraid.
PSU: Have you hit any technical roofs with the PS3 hardware during development (memory, bandwidth, PPU, SPU, GPU)?
Derek: You always hit technical roofs, on any hardware platform. One of the biggest fallacies of games development is that there's hardware just around the corner that's going to allow you to do whatever you want, to whatever scale you want, but the reality is that regardless of the hardware, games development is about compromise. It's about choosing which things you want to do well (sometimes based on what the hardware does well) and making sure the player can see that effort up on screen.
The thing about the PS3 is that you really need to be using all of the SPU's constantly to get the best performance out of it – Haze has been pretty heavily optimised towards using the SPU's but even so we're not using them 100% of the time, although we're always looking for ways to do so. Memory has never really been an issue because the Haze engine is built to constantly stream the entire gameworld.
PSU: How do you guys feel about Bungie copying the Mantel Helmet designs in Halo 3's multiplayer?
Derek: That depends on whether it entitles us to a share of the Halo 3 profits or not. ;)
PSU: Has your experience working on Haze for the PS3 helped in development and planning for Timesplitters 4?
Derek: Of course. Your first game on a new platform is always a big challenge, and an invaluable learning process; it's only by finishing and releasing a game on a given hardware platform that you really get to grips with it – you know, which things it does well, which things it struggles with - and there's a lot of things we've learnt about working on the PS3 from developing Haze that will feed into the planning and early development on all of our future games, including TS4.
PSU: Will Free Radical be using the same technology and game engine used in Haze in Timepsplitters 4?
Derek: We haven't made any firm decisions about what technology we'll be using for TS4 as it naturally has slightly different requirements to Haze. But I think you can expect the core engine to be the same, yes.
PSU: Anything else you'd like to add about Haze or Timesplitters?
Rob: Buy them! I need to retile my roof before the rainy season starts.