Interview of Project: Snowblind (PC)
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UK Boxshot of Project: Snowblind (PC)
US Boxshot of Project: Snowblind (PC)
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UK RELEASE: 01-Apr-2005 (Released)  | NORDIC RELEASE: 01-Apr-2005 (Released) |  US RELEASE: 15-Mar-2005 (Released)
REVIEW
INTERVIEW
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  Interview of: Project: Snowblind | By: Justin Fenico
01 Feb-2005
 

I had the chance to send out a few questions regarding Eidos’ FPS, Project Snowblind. Coming sooner than you may think, PS seems to be shaping up into quite the title. Find out why below.

  QUESTIONS  
Q: What position do you currently hold at Crystal Dynamics/Eidos and how are you influencing Project Snowblind on the day to day issues.

A: John Chowanec, Project Producer, Project: Snowblind.

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Q: During E3, Project Snowblind was a curious little title that didn’t get a whole lot of hype. What have you been doing for the past eight months to make this a stellar first person shooter?

A: The past eight months…? We’ve been making the game as stellar as we can. ;) Seriously – what we showed at E3 was a tiny piece to the entire game. Since E3 we’ve been focusing on bringing all of the single player missions, kinematics, weapons, etc. to a level of quality we’re proud of. That and we’ve been building out the multiplayer side of the game as well. In the end, there are 18 single player missions/maps, 8 multiplayer modes, 9 multiplayer maps, around 2 dozen weapons, gadgets, demolitions and abilities, 4 different vehicles to pilot, and so much more.

While the game looked fantastic at E3 (thanks to our incredible art and tech teams), we’ve continued to push things to look better than ever. We’re not convinced the future has to be a drab and colorless place – our color palette is a bold and vibrant one.

And then aside from all the numbers and talking about how great the art is, we’ve spent a large amount of time polishing, tweaking and balancing the game so that it would be fun from start to finish. It’s a time consuming process to find that balance in a game between too easy and too hard – we did this for both singleplayer and multiplayer.

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Q: For our readers, shed some light on the background of PS. The story, where the idea came from, and the type of vision you’ve had creating this title.

A: Players take on the role of Nathan Frost, a 2nd Lt. dropped into Hong Kong in the year 2065 to help quell civil unrest in the region. As part of the international peacekeeping organization, the Liberty Coalition, Nathan is in the middle of his briefing when his base is attacked by the Republic, a regime driven by the Warlord General Yan Lo. After being mortally wounded on the battlefield, Nathan is rushed into surgery to undergo an experimental treatment that will revive him. After being infused with the latest in technology, Nathan is reborn as the future of war – imbued with abilities and strength beyond that of normal men.

He is then thrust back into the conflict where he uncovers a plot that threatens the safety of the free world. It is up to Nathan to put a stop to it, by whatever means necessary.

It was important to us, in creating the universe of Project: Snowblind that everything felt… well… grounded. This is why what you will see and experience in the game feels familiar. As you play, things will evolve a bit, pushing outside of your familiar boundaries into new territory. We’re pretty excited with the outcome.

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Q: Let’s talk about one of my favorite things in PS, and that is the different types of visual modes you can use throughout the game. Can you give us some more insight on them and how they’ll give players an advantage?

A: The vision enhancement is just one of the many augmentations the player will have access to. The alternate Vision Enhancement augmentation makes it much easier to pick enemies out at a distance – think of it as night vision and thermal vision combined. When active, it brightens low-light areas as well as paints hostile threats to the player in yellow.

This really comes in handy when you’ve got the Sniper Rifle, or better yet, the Rail Laser. The Rail Laser is an experimental weapon in the game world that allows the player to shoot through solid objects, walls, etc. So you can flick on your vision aug, check enemy heat signatures through walls and then use the Rail Laser to take them out without them ever seeing you… Now… think about that in Multiplayer – it’s a camper’s worst nightmare. ;)

This is one of many ways that players will discover how to combine the various systems available to them. (Hacking your own spider bots to use them as robotic scouts is tons of fun too…)

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Q: Although you never get to control or order your squad mates, the AI for both sides seems like an important aspect. From what I heard during E3, they’ll be able to read the terrain “on the fly”. Care to explain what that means and how it works?

A: Sure thing! One of the cool features of our AI is that they can dynamically read the terrain to determine where they are safe from harm. So when your friendlies are dropped into a hostile situation, they can find safety relatively quickly. This includes determining what they can crouch behind, so they can duck down during battle for a breather, and pop back up to take out any hostiles.

This gets even cooler when you involve our physics system. There are numerous areas in the environment where the landscape will change, be it through a blown out wall or a huge metal crate that is knocked aside by a rocket, grenade, etc. When that happens, the AI can reason for that new cover. Let’s say you’ve got a hostile that is using a large dynamic object for cover – the metal crate from before. You could actually pull out the Kicker, a physics gun, and pull the cover away from the enemy and over to yourself. This will then provide you with the cover and leave him exposed. Understanding that his cover no longer exists, the AI will either fight or flight. He may choose to engage you at this point or seek other cover. The same applies to your friendlies.

The AI can also determine when vehicles are not in use and will often times make a run for it – knowing full well that they stand a better chance against you when they’re in a 12-foot walker than when they are one on one. You can end up in a foot race for control of an emplacement or a walker.

And then there is their threat detection. Enemy and friendly soldiers will often dive out of the way of threats – rockets, vehicles, etc. Throw a grenade into a crowd of enemies sometime, you’ll see that they may scatter, one of them might dive on it to save his friends… hell, they may even kick it back at you :)

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Q: Speaking of terrain, will PS feature destructible landscapes? If so, how sophisticated will the system be?

A: As I just mentioned, the terrain is filled with dynamic objects that are controlled by our physics system that was written and optimized for Project: Snowblind. There is also destructible terrain in Project: Snowblind . Right away, even in the first mission you’ll notice one of the fences, that looks like it should provide cover, can be chipped away at. This is just one of the ways we keep the player moving. When you think you’re safe, the cover you are hiding behind moves or blows up!

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Q: There was also a mention of skills, one feature that separates PS from other first person shooters. Skills like slowing down time seem very interesting. How will players earn these skills and are there any others you can wet our appetite with?

A: The skills come in the form of augmentations. As a result of being bio-modified, Nathan Frost has access to abilities and powers that no one else on the battlefield possesses. I gave an example above with the Vision Augmentation. Over the course of the game these abilities will be coming on-line – sometimes unexpectedly, sometimes triggered by one of your Liberty Coalition friendlies. You’ll gain access to Reflex Boost, which allows you to slow down time significantly, Cloaking, which will turn you invisible, Ballistic Shield, which will absorb damage for you … and then there’s my personal favorite: Electrical Storm.

Electrical Storm falls into our “Smart Weapon” category. While not specifically a “weapon” in the traditional sense of an FPS, it is a very offensive ability that Nathan can employ at will. Electrical Storm sends arcs of lighting out onto the playfield where they, quite literally, take on a life of their own. Our “Smart Weapon” system allow weapons (and this particular ability) to interact with the AI system – allowing these bolts of lightning to scour the battlefield for you, taking out any hostiles they come in contact with.

One of the things we’re most proud of is the sheer density of enemies on the playfield at once. There are generally more than you can handle with just your gun alone – which is where your augs and secondary weapons come into play. Electrical Storm, or any of the “Smart Weapons” for that matter, allow the player to concentrate on a group of enemies at a time, while, in this case, a bolt of lightning helps you out by finding and killing enemies you may not have seen. Often times, Electrical Storm can expose the fact that enemies are behind you. You flick it on and the bolt goes where it finds the nearest threat – sometimes that’ll be behind you.

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Q: At E3, PS was said to support 16 players on Xbox Live. How dedicated is Crystal Dynamics and Eidos with the online portion of the game? Will they be able to download new maps, use their skills like slowing down time and what kind of interface can we expect?

A: Multiplayer is definitely something to keep your eye on in Project: Snowblind, as it’s a pretty awesome experience. As you might imagine, the weapons and abilities play a big part in multiplayer and really do provide some new strategies that you FPS fans are looking for.

Multiplayer is a class based experience – grunts, heavies, scouts, snipers, berserkers and agents all make up the different classes you can select when you play. Each class has a distinct weapon loadout: 2 weapons, 2 grenade types and 1 augmentation. Figure for a moment, the Sniper; armed with a sniper rifle and the cloak enhancement. I already know what you’re thinking: camper’s paradise. And if you’re a grunt or a heavy, you’d better keep your eye out for the distinct cloak effect that the Sniper has – something of a Predator-esque look – a subtle shimmer in the distance… almost like heat distortion. Then again, to counterbalance something like this, the Agent class has access to the Rail Laser and the Vision Aug. Next thing you know, you’re cloaked as the Sniper, getting a bead on a guy when a laser rips through the wall next to you, taking you out in one clean shot…

That being said, there’s also the “Arms Race” option where you gain the loadout of the class you killed. In the example above, the Agent would then gain access to the Sniper’s loadout – effectively allowing them to dynamically change classes in battle… it’s pretty cool stuff.

Classes become very important in some of the team based modes. Capture the Flag for example; the Scouts tend to be the flag carriers. Armed with a shotgun and Reflex Boost (essentially a Speed boost in multiplayer) and they’re quite the threat. Then again, if you so chose, you could wall off your flag with a few placed Riot Walls – portable energy shields you can deploy like a grenade. There are just SO many options that the experience provides.

Project: Snowblind supports 16 players on both consoles and downloadable content is available on the Xbox for additional maps in the future.

Hope to see you guys online… it’s tons of fun.

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Q: Graphically, PS looks to be something to remember. What kind of environments, weather, lighting, and shadow effects will PS feature. Presumably, will the Xbox version be the nicest looking and able to pump out the best version?

A: I’d hate to say one version looks better than the other. That’s like your parents choosing a favorite child…

Nathan will bounce around a bunch of different environments, from a converted Buddhist Temple, now home to the Liberty Coalition to the destroyed Wastelands of Hong Kong to an Opera House that has been retrofitted as a prison – holding Hong Kong’s political prisoners.

Our art department did a fantastic job in creating a futuristic Hong Kong. Our Tech team also provided some tools to allow them to achieve a lot of that “bloom” effect you’ll see without sacrificing performance. Lights have soft glows, puddles dance in the rain, etc. I think the game looks spectacular, regardless of whatever system you’re playing it on.

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Q: Always a tough question to answer; when will gamers be able to sink their teeth into PS? After it’s all over, what do you think their best moments will be?

A: Project: Snowblind should be available on 2/22 in the States, 3/4 in Europe… I think the best moments of the game will be unique per gamer – the way the weapons work in conjunction with the player’s abilities, the battlefield chaos, etc. Hell, I’m still discovering new ways to combine the weapons, grenades and abilities… That is definitely what keeps it fun for me.

And then with multiplayer, the fun never stops… nothing more gratifying that fragging your fellow gamers online… with, say a rail laser and the vision aug…? ;)

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It seems like Project Snowblind is indeed becoming quite a sleeper title. First-person shooter fans should definitely get ready for this one as it’s shaping up to be one exciting title, online and offline. As always, once we get a copy in our hands we’ll give you all the juicy details.
 
  SCREENSHOTS
Click to enlarge this screenshot of Project: Snowblind (PC)
Click to enlarge this screenshot of Project: Snowblind (PC)
Click to enlarge this screenshot of Project: Snowblind (PC)
Click to enlarge this screenshot of Project: Snowblind (PC)
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