Red Faction: Armageddon Interview With Eric Barker

By Darryl Kaye on May 2, 2011, 8:03AM EST

Red Faction: Armageddon is shaping up to be a massive game for both THQ and Volition Inc, with it building upon the success of Red Faction: Guerrilla and tanking destruction to a whole new level.

We recently had the chance to speak to studio manager, Eric Barker, and spoke to him about numerous topics, such as ditching PvP and how exactly they tackled the destruction technology. Will there be PvP in Red Faction: Armageddon?

Eric Barker: Basically, our focus became the four-person co-op because for us, the transition from Guerrilla to Armageddon was a focus on taking the stuff we liked in Guerrilla and making it even better. And of course, trying to improve on the weaknesses too. So, we took a lot of the technology, and stuff that people really enjoyed from the multiplayer in Guerrilla, like the Nano Forge, and drove that into the single player for Armageddon. So now, all those things like the Nano Forge are in single player, they're in Ruin Mode, etc. So that was really our focus when thinking about how we'd tackle the multiplayer. A lot of games seem to be going away from PvP these days, why do you think that is?

Eric Barker: Honestly, I think what you're seeing is that PvP is kind of its own beast. I mean, you see like Call of Duty, and that's really what it's about - a lot of people don't even play the campaign. I just think that, what you want to do, you need to do it well. You want to focus on that, and for us, it was the intergration of taking these great elements and putting them into a co-op environment where you need to be strategic and think about it. We knew we had a great product on our hands and there's some great potential to really drill down on the best way to handle that. Infestation is absolutely crazy, what was the thought process behind even coming up with that?

Eric Barker: Well, that's what I'm saying. We wanted to make that the best it could be and, just the fact you're bringing down the world around you, well. Some people felt that Guerrilla had a "tech demo" feel to it, because the destruction was amazing, but it was kind of in the background. We wanted to drive that to the forefront, so now you've got the Magnet Gun, which is actually using destruction - the world becomes your weapon. We wanted to take all that and drive it into the gameplay, so it changes the way you play and it changes the way you fight. So now, with other games you're walking along with your assault rifle and you're going to shoot people, we're like no. We want you to look at the environment and say, 'I could rip that thing off the wall and throw it at him', or, 'I don't want to be over there where there's nothing, I want to be over here so there's stuff for me to grab'. Better yet, I can think 'Hey, I just brought that building down - I should run over there so I can repair it if things start getting crazy'.

For a lot of games, the map is the backdrop. For us, it's an integral part of it. If you don't want to go through a door, you can just blow a hole in the wall - you're looking at these structures and you're saying, 'how're am I going to remake this?' It's not just destruction and it's not just repairing - you can do both and say 'this is how I'm going to do it'. To give people so many options is insane. I mean, you've got people like me who try to only use the Magnet Gun, to give you creative options. How many games give you the option where you can throw a car at someone? So for me, it was about giving players these unique options.

That was really the transition between Guerrilla and Armageddon, we wanted to take this incredible destruction engine and really use it to change the gameplay experience. We wanted to make it so that this is not like any other game. I know some people who don't even bother aiming, they just try to kill you by bringing buildings down on your head - they don't even worry about headshots. Oh, you're on the second floor? Well I'll use the Plasma Beam and cut out the floor below and smash you to the ground. It changes the way you're thinking. And what's better is that because we're underground, we surround you with 360 degrees of action. Guerrilla was very flat, it looked very similar. Now, there's no getting out of the kill box. They are behind you, they're leaping to the walls, we've got tall structures underground - you're in the middle of a maelstrom. We wanted to make sure that the player was in the middle of that, we didn't want them trying to back out of it. We wanted you going forward, in the middle of this, and using all these great powers we've given you. We wanted you to be the wizard that's controlling all of these fantastic options.

Instead of just going 'bang, shot you, bang, shot you', like you can in hundreds of other games, we wanted to give you a wild number of possibilities. If you've got four guys who're used to playing destruction-based combat, when they're comfortable with that and are working as a team, it doesn't look like any other game out there right now. And what else is really cool, the replay factor. With so many shooters today you beat it and you're done. Here, you really want to become a Jedi with the Magnet Gun. You want to go through the whole thing thinking, can I only use the Magnet Gun? How little damage can I take? How can I use destruction more? All these little things become personal achievements. The only thing I can find remotely comperable are games that have 'pistols only' options, but it's still not that similar. Destruction has been around since the beginning of Red Faction, why do you think nobody else has tried to emulate it?

Eric Barker: Because it's hard, it's really hard! It's funny, because the first two had it, but going into Guerrilla was a whole new game. We stated a clear delineation that was, 'anything that's man-made, you can destroy'. When the lead programmer came back after doing it he said 'I don't ever want to have to do anything that hard again in my life'. It's that hard to say, anything is destructible and not scripted. We're factoring in so many variables that it's crazy and crazy ambitious. And it's really hard to make a great game when you have to dedicate so many resource to that. The other interesting thing is how tricky it makes design, a lot of people just don't think about that. In Guerrilla, you could level everything. Now, you can level everything, bring it back, then level it again and bring it back again. Or, you can go into a building and create cover for yourself - the designers are thinking 'where the hell am I going to spawn enemies?' Is must have been a dream, but also a complete nightmare

Eric Barker: Totally, they're sitting there going 'I'm never going to see my kids again'. But, what's great that with fantastic challenges like that, come really innovative solutions. And that's what you see in Armageddon. We wanted to tell a really good story. so for that reason it's more of a linear experience. We Guerrilla is was like, 'well I've got to drive 5 minutes to get here, then do that', but we made it a more linear sandbox and to make that viable, we had to add in the repair technology. QA was just phenomenal, because for us it wasn't just finding bugs, it was seeing how people would play it - seeing people finding new possibilities every single day. In many ways, it feels a lot like Half-Life 2. As soon as you get the Gravity Gun, conventional weapons go out the window

Eric Barker: Exactly, it's that kind of thing. There are a lot of phenomenal inspirations, a lot of things that we've drawn on. With the combination of using the Magnet Gun, and using other weapons to cut buildings in half, why would you want to play this like a standard shooter? I mean, you can, the option is always open to you - but really, this game is about being creative. I mean, we also give you things like the EXO, some really cool stuff, but we make sure there's good competition too. Darius is a normal guy, he's kind of like an Iron Man model. Tony Stark is a normal guy, but he has the suit. Will you be able to record what you've done?

Eric Barker: It's not built into the game, but I'm sure people are going to find ways to record what they've done and show it off.

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