PSU Exclusive Interview: Blacksite: Area 51

With the impending release of Blacksite: Area 51 for PlayStation 3 just around the corner, PSU took the time to catch up with the games Creative Director, Jim Steifelmaier, to get some latest minute details on the highly anticipated alien blaster.

PSU: Outside of a military facility and American town, what other locations will gamers find while playing Blacksite Area 51?

Steifelmaier: The game takes place in several locations over several years. It starts off years ago in Iraq during the first Gulf War. There you discover some of the conspiracies that eventually take you to the present day small town America. You wander to the small town of Rachel, NV to
uncover more about this mystery. This in turn eventually leads you to the outskirts of the Area 51 base itself, where you do battle in the surrounding airfields before you finally gain access to the actual Area 51 base and to the heart of the conspiracy.

PSU: Tell us a little more about Aeran Pierce. Where does he come from andwhat is his personality like?

Steifelmaier: Pierce grew up in a small farm town. He is the oldest of four boys. His father was a dominant personality, but Pierce never backed down from him, and therefore earned his dad’s respect. When he wasn’t roughhousing with his younger brothers, he was protecting them from the other neighborhood kids. He played high school football. He attended a New England university in upstate NY. The plan was to major in engineering, but dropped out after majoring in girls. Now he is a career soldier. If he ever left the military, he’d probably start working in law enforcement or construction. Some day he wants to be a husband and (especially) a father.

As for his personality, Pierce follows his gut. He makes up his own mind about what’s right and wrong. He’s compelled to protect the weak and innocent. It’s what makes him a great and trustworthy soldier. He is easy-going when he’s got a handle on the situation and he’s in charge. When power balance tips, he becomes intense and focused. Pierce is smart but not a rocket scientist. He has more street smarts than book smarts. His beliefs are more important than other people’s feelings. He doesn’t pull punches with other people, and he expects them to be just as blunt with him. He hates incompetence.

PSU: How destructible will the environments be? Will it only pertain to specific objects or is everything game?

Steifelmaier: We have brought over some of the destructible tech that Midway has from other titles such as Stranglehold. However, because Blacksite was set in the far more open spaces such as the Nevada Desert and the open streets of sleepy town Rachel, we had to limit the number of
destructibles as a trade off. So in doing this, we made sure to really make the destructibles we had pay off. We focused our efforts on the objects you take cover behind, such as the vehicles. Our cars have dozens of destructible pieces on them, including all the headlights, windows, deflatable wheels, destructible engine parts, etc.

PSU: How many weapons are planned for Blacksite and which one would have to be your favorite?

Steifelmaier: Blacksite has nine weapons. One of my favorites is called the Scatter Gun. Imagine if DARPA had access to alien technology and they used it to build a super advanced tactical shotgun. The Scatter Gun has some really interesting gameplay features that separate it from shotguns you often see in games. It fires multiple projectiles that each individually bounce off surfaces. You can hold down the Fire button to load multiple shells, which gives you a more powerful shot that has a tighter spread. When you zoom in, the weapon has a tighter spread too. If you charge up and zoom in, the weapon has an very tight spread so it can actually be extremely effective from medium to long range – this makes the weapon much more versatile than your standard shotgun. The player can also move faster with the Scatter Gun than with most weapons, making this weapon a great overall choice in multiplayer.

PSU: To what extent will you be able to control your squad? And without specific commands how well do your teammates last on the battlefield by themselves?

Steifelmaier: We allow for some great interactions between the player and their squad. As the game progresses players really begin to bond with these characters. The one-button squad command system removes any tediousness that you sometimes find in other squad based games. You can order your team to move by hitting the button while aiming to specific position.
You can focus fire on enemies by hitting the button while pointing at an enemy. You can also order squad mates to utilize mounted gun positions, plant C4 charges, kick down doors, interact with computer terminals, and more.

In combat your squad will operate at about 50% combat efficiency on their own without squad commands. Depending on how skillfully you employ the squad command system, you can significantly change their effectiveness. Use them intelligently and you can bring their effectiveness and morale up to 100% Their behavior will change…they will throw more grenades, charge forward and melee enemies, and fire more accurately. Misuse them and both their morale and combat effectiveness can drop below 50%. They will take more cover, shoot less, and use inaccurate blind fire.

PSU: How many players will Blacksite Area 51 support online?

Steifelmaier: We have 10 player MP, as we wanted the best possible MP experience and while Unreal supports more players per session, we found in our focus testing the best experience was 8 players. As to what MP consists of, we feature four game types: Death Match, Team Death Match, Capture the Flag and Abduction. The first three will be instantly understood by anyone
who has played competitive shooters in the past. In DM, you kill anyone who is not you; in TDM, you kill anyone on the other team; in CTF you attempt to bring both flags to your base. Abduction is our unique game type and the one that most closely draws from the fiction of the Campaign. Each cycle begins with a single player being randomly Abducted… He’s one of the Reborn.

He has a few seconds’ head start and begins equipped with a potent weapon to balance the challenge of being alone against everyone. Each time a Reborn soldier kills a Human opponent, that victim is Abducted and re-spawns on the Reborn team. Points are assigned for getting kills, but you also receive survival bonuses for not dying. The cycle ends when every player has been abducted or time runs out. It’s really the scoring system that sets Abduction apart from the other game types because it forces you to make some subtle choices in the midst of heated combat. Players find themselves in the strange circumstance of having to work together just enough to gain the benefits of teamwork while doing whatever it takes to outlive everyone else. It’s a lot of fun!

As with gameplay, we have attempted to bring the environments of the Campaign to life for the multiplayer game. Players will be able to fight in familiar areas that have been reworked to provide exciting multiplayer flow. Players can play Death Match, Team Death Match, and
Abduction on all eight maps, and can play capture the flag on the two largest maps.

PSU: Will there be Clan support for online? How will it be set up?
Steifelmaier: We don’t support Clans, but you can search for and play with your friends.

PSU: Is there SIXAXIS support and if so how is it being implemented?
Steifelmaier: We wanted Blacksite to be identical across all three platforms, thus the motion control functionality on the SIXAXIS is not supported.

PSU: When is the Blacksite Area 51 demo hitting the PlayStation Network?

Steifelmaier: The demo for BlackSite: Area 51 is scheduled to hit the PlayStation Network on Dec. 20.

PSU would like to thank Steifelmaier for taking the time to answer our questions for this interview. Stay tuned for our review on Blacksite: Area 51 in the coming weeks.