TFW2005 was recently invited to an event held by Activision and High Moon Studios where they gave us a tour of the High Moon Studio offices and a little sneak peak at the upcoming War for Cybertron video game. Inside you will see our hands on thoughts of the game (yes, we played it!), some new screens, a new multi-player video, and some Q N A with the developers themselves. Continue reading to check out the full story. All the behind the scenes images and new screen shots are in the attachment area below, so don’t forget to check them out when you’re done![/I]
Today I visited High Moon Studios in lovely Carlsbad, CA to spend some time with the “War for Cybertron” developers and also play the game for the fist time hands-on. It was an awesome experience.
I was greeted by Matt Tieger (or “Tieg” for short) who is the game’s Director. Myself and several others were led into a big conference room adorned with many of the game’s characters all over the walls. Some of these characters have not been revealed as of yet, but were exciting to see. Tieg spoke about the game’s developmental process and admitted it was a bit scary at times. The team put in thousands of hours of research into the Transformers lore. He said one of the pillars of the game had to be its core gameplay mechanics. Secondly they had to consider how these mechanics would differ on Cybertron as compared to earth. Even the smallest details, like how a weapon is picked up off the ground, were taken into consideration. He described first meeting with Aaron Archer and the Hasbro team to share ideas. Bumblebee was the first character designed, and he was happy to admit that the final in-game version was close to 90% of the studio’s original design.
Next Tieg went into the game’s storyline a bit. As we already know the game features two stories, both from the Decepticon side and the Autobot side. What is interesting is that the Decepticon story is a prequel to the Autobot story, and is meant to be played first. But if you insist on fighting for justice as an Autobot in your first play-through, by all means you may do so. The Decepticon story follows their quest for power. All the while Megatron is doing what he believes is right, fighting for a caste system to bring Cybertron back to its Golden age of glory. Starscream fans will be in for a treat, as the first chapter of the game details the first meeting between Megatron and Starscream, and tries to explain why Megatron has kept Starscream around all these years. Starscream follows Megatron on a recruiting mission and witnesses Megatron’s ideals first hand before deciding to become a Decepticon at the end of the mission. Megatron is also after an ancient research program designed to increase the strength of energon and create Dark Energon.
While rooted in G1 mythology, the game also deviates a bit with some characters. The Autobot story is a story of hope, after all hope seems lost at the closing of the Decepticon story. Optimus begins as just Optimus, not a Prime. He is not in charge and he doesn’t want to be in charge (yet).
Footage of several new levels were shown, with war-torn Cybertron displayed in striking detail. Every level of the game, including the boss fights, will feature 3-player cooperative play. This will feature drop-in, and drop-out co-op, so if your friend decides to leave for dinner, you can continue the campaign with the game’s A.I. to assist. The designers insisted on keeping a team dynamic in the campaign mode because of the great story possibilities the team could create with their internal dialogue. Teams such as Optimus, Bumblebee, and Ratchet advance the story with their internal banter. Also teamwork is what ultimately gives the Autobots success time after time, but at the same time, breakdowns in teamwork ultimately bring the Decepticons defeat time and again.
Forget everything you know about the control scheme for Activision’s last Transformers game “Revenge of the Fallen.“ “War For Cybertron” uses an entirely different scheme, starting with the way you transform. The default control scheme includes pressing in the left analog stick to transform, and you stay transformed until you press it in again. This control scheme can be adjusted in the game settings if you so desire. The default transformation scheme is meant to allow you to quickly transform and combat the enemy in one fluid motion. Pressing in the right stick creates a melee attack, such as Optimus’ axe attack. Some levels of the game will be jet-specific. One of the more intense jet levels was shown featuring an Autobot-run led by (unannounced Autobot) with (unannounced Autobot) and Air Raid racing to the core of a Decepticon base. The last level shown in the conference room was the first gameplay footage of the Trypticon boss fight. It was very impressive watching Trypticon spew flames of energy from his mouth and attack with his tail. This enormous boss battle promises to be long and feature several stages to the battle itself.
Tieg stated that he used the first Spider-man movie’s accessibility as an inspiration to the way this game was approached. Like the Spider-man movie, he wanted to game to be accessible to everyone, even people that have very little recollection of Transformers from their childhood, but just love a good shooter game. But at the same time even the most hardcore Transformer fan can appreciate all the little details and throwbacks to the past that are in the game.
Tieg elaborated more on the early design process for the game, and how Hasbro initially insisted on more earth-like vehicles. From a gameplay perspective the designers moved more towards a hovering mechanic so the vehicles could strafe sideways in battle, which Hasbro eventually conceded to. A toyline was not planned when the game was started, but came about after Hasbro became so impressed with the designs. The developers of the game know it’s a huge responsibility to create a story that is a prelude to the classic G1 mythology, and they didn’t take it for granted. The game’s voice actors all had to be perfect. An example was given where the first voice actor for Breakdown just didn’t sound right after finishing all of his dialogue, and all of his lines were rerecorded from scratch with a new voice-actor.
Next I took a tour of High Moon studios, and saw where all the magic of creating the game takes place. Many employees were still diligently fine-tuning the game and testing it to make sure it’s perfect before launch. I passed the office of Dave Cravens, Director of Cinematics for the game. He was also responsible for much of the game’s storyline. His love for Transformers was evident by the dozens of Transformers toys from different lines adorning his office, many still in original packaging. I was shown story-board rooms where ideas were hatched and fleshed out before being finalized in the game. I also had a chance to check out the sound studio, where they use everything to get the right sound, even a hatchet and an old car door! Sound was very important to the game, as Tieg believes the sounds and music are 50% of the overall experience.
Next I sat down for a conversation with three of the games visual guru’s: Jim Daly (Lead Concept Artist), Sean Miller (Animation Director), and Ivan Power (Lead Artist). They emphasized the G1 inspiration for the game and how hard they worked to stay true to its core mythology and look. They admitted that much of the look of Cybertron was drawn from inspiration from the movie “Blade runner.” They really wanted to give the player a tactile sense of actually being on the planet and being able to touch it. Not even the smallest details of the planet were spared. They also wanted to make sure that the core characters of the game maintained their most recognizable elements. Also the world had to be created to be tailor made for giant robots to be able to live on it, walk through its tunnels, doorways and anything else a giant robot would need to do. Cybertron had to be conveyed as a living planet, with transformations happening all around you: A door doesn’t just open, it transforms. When you sit down into a turret you don’t just sit down, the turret transforms around you. The visual artists also expressed the great joy they felt when they first heard Peter Cullen’s voice coming out of one of their designs, and how it sent chills up their spines.
Now on to the really good stuff: playing the game first-hand! I was allowed to play two levels from the main Autobot campaign mode. The first level was titled “False Propaganda.” The level starts with a huge hologram of Megatron’s head trying to dissuade you as you push forth in battle. In this chapter you could play as either Optimus, Bumblebee, or Ratchet. Each character controlled differently and featured different special abilities. Optimus has a “War cry” where he can temporarily increase his team’s strength. Ratchet has an energy shield that he can use to protect the team for a short time. After being attacked by several Decepticon drones, I encountered a Decepticon tyrant, with much higher strength and a huge machine gun. After defeating the tyrant I was able to pick up his huge machine gun, and the gun was almost the same size as Bumblebee while he was carrying it! This was just one of many weapons I was able to pick up along the way if I chose. What followed were several long corridors you could either choose to quickly drive through, or walk through to avoid dropping the huge machine gun. The hover-mechanics in vehicle mode give you the ability to not only strafe, but you can also jump short distances as a vehicle. Eventually I reached one of the game’s impressive mid-bosses, a gigantic three-legged Decepticon mining drone. The battle involved quite a bit of strategy and use of both alt modes to get through it. (Pro-tip: If you were still carrying the tyrant’s huge machine gun, you could make very short work of this boss.)
The second chapter I played was titled “Decagon Plaza.” The level started off in an Autobot headquarters, with lavish details of your fellow autobots manning computer screens with data flashing all around you. Upon stepping outside the base my team was greeted by a full-blown Decepticon assault. This level really gave a great feeling of being on the battlefield, with multiple points of cover and explosions all around. Eventually after clearing out all the enemies Ironhide made his dramatic and violent entrance ripping a Decepticon drone in two with his bare hands. This ended my sampling of the campaign mode.
Next I was allowed to try out two multiplayer modes: “Team Battle,” where the point was to rack up the most kills of opposing team members, and “Conquest,” a capture-the-flag and defend it type of game. Multiplayer was one of the modes of the game the developers were most proud of, and many hours were spent everyday on just these modes alone. The multiplayer modes will feature a leveling up system similar to the one in “Call Of Duty.” I was shown a bit of the create-a-Transformer mode. Creations can be made in 4 classes: Scout (cars), Scientist (Jets), Leader (Trucks), and Soldier (tanks). Each class has four weapons available but you pick out two of them to start off. Also you choose 2 abilities from 4 options, such as invisibility for Scouts. While Scientists are much more maneuverable, they take more damage. Scientists also have the ability to deploy sentries, and disguise themselves as the other faction for the ultimate sneak attack. Leaders feature heavier weapons such as seeking mines, and the “war cry” ability to boost your team‘s strength. Also they have a transformation disrupter to really hinder the opposing team. Soldiers have the highest strength and strongest weapons, like an “energon sling” to stop another team from using any of its abilities. Multiplayer was very intense and quite fun!
In visiting High Moon studios it was very clear just how much they adore the Transformers franchise. From the many cubicles decorated with transformers toys, to the time spent on the game itself, the love is evident. In closing I would like to thank high Moon studios for allowing me to visit and for their warm hospitality. The upcoming “War For Cybertron” game is truly a site to behold and looks like it will provide great enjoyment to many fans both young and old. (Keep in mind that this write-up only covered the PS3 and X-box 360 versions of the game, and the Wii and other console versions will differ greatly.)TFW2005 would like to thank Activision and High Moon Studios for the opportunity to interact with them and the game early. Make sure to pick up your copy at your favorite game store or online spot this June!