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Devastation Preview

publisher: ARUSH Entertainment
developer: Digitalo Studios
genre: Shooters

PII-450, 128MB RAM, 500MB HDD, 3D accelerator
ESRB rating: M

release date: Mar 28, 03
» All About Devastation on ActionTrip

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, and offering you a chance to play as a cynical 25-year-old street punk (oh yeah!), Devastation is another FPS game which effectively utilizes the Unreal engine. We found out that the programmers at Digitalo have significantly modified the engine code so it can cope with the game's demanding visuals. The engine was flavored with a few additional improvements to simplify game development for the level designers and artists. We've also discovered that the developers took extra care in creating believable in-game physics - we were given some neat examples of these physics in the interview, so read on if you want to find out more about that, as well as learn additional details about the storyline, the AI, NPC's, weapons and items, several multiplayer modes, and so on.

We'd like to thank ARUSH Entertainment and Vic DeLeon, Senior Producer at Digitalo Studios, for taking the time to answer our questions and explain in more detail the ideas and technology behind their upcoming FPS title, Devastation.

Action Trip: Would you mind introducing some of the members of the development team and their previous experience in game development?

Vic DeLeon: The Devastation team was once spread out not just in the US, but also in Japan and Sweden. Over a year ago we moved everyone together, relocating most our remote employees to our new Florida office. Many of the guys on the Devastation team came directly from the mod community like Ray "CA" Davis, Ben "CyberA" Golus, Törbjörn "Tobbe" Ahl'n, and Mike "Mongo" Lambert.

One of the highlights in the company history book would be the work we did with EA and Amaze Entertainment on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone last year. Another would be the UT add-on pack, which was probably the most exciting thing we had worked on at the time. Unfortunately it was cancelled just shy of its completion, but it was a key experience that got us where we are today regardless. You may also remember a little 3D demo called VRND: Notre Dame Cathedral, that was us too.

AT: Right now, how much of the game is complete?

VD: All of it! We are now in the last weeks of the polishing, testing, and bug fixing stages.

AT: For players who haven't heard about Devastation, give us more details about the game's basic premise. The storyline, the worlds we'll get to visit, characters involved in the plot, etc.

VD: The game takes place on a future Earth (72 years from now) where technology is outlawed, food and fuel are precious commodities, and the only law is Martial Law. You assume the role of Flynn, a very cynical twenty-five year-old who's nothing more than a streetwise punk with a criminal history and a penchant for rebellion. Aside from his implied honorable intentions of exposing an evil global conspiracy, he is the classical anti-hero, which makes for some new and unique scenarios to propel the game.

From the first moments of the game you are thrust into the dark and compelling plot with an NPC guide and guns blazing. Aside from surviving the baddies, you've got a lot of additional challenges to overcome. You will be given task lists made up of multiple unlocking objectives and sub-objectives via pre-game mission briefings, in-game action cutscenes, and HUD-based checklists. Your main goals are simple: survival, and conquest, but as the story progresses you are given more and more clues as to the nature of your upcoming missions. As you progress through Devastation's world, you will have more and more objectives to complete and challenges to overcome, as the game dynamic quickly adapts allowing for incredible variation from the standard shooter fare. In the end, you'll have teamed up with eight computer-controlled teammates all at once (you can issue them commands), fight alongside an entire army, and uncover and expose the mystery behind the evil mega-corporations that have been lying and manipulating the public, while they ruin what's left of mankind. Lot's of fun!

AT: What kinds of weapons will we be using in the game, and what are some of their main features?

VD: There is a total of 42 weapon, plus grenades and other explosives, large mounted turret weapons, knives, swords, and surveillance devices. Half of these weapons are real-world classic types like pistols, assault rifles and sub-machine guns, and the rest are either improvised weapons like wood planks, broken bottles or nailguns, as well as futuristic weapons based on existing prototypes like the P*Laser and the Hooverton Minigun.

Additionally, almost everything you come across in the game can be used as a weapon - either kicked, knocked over, dropped on, pushed into, picked up, carried and used as a shield, and THROWN of course! Chairs, boxes, buckets, gas cans, oil drums, barrels, TV's, all kinds of crap, even trash you find in the street. So, in addition to all the regular stuff, imagine throwing an explosive can of gasoline at a bad guy and having it explode in his face. I personally like flinging chairs at the bots, giving them hit damage, and watching them get angry at me :)

AT: Besides the weapons, are there going to be any other items the players can use throughout the game?

VD: Yes, there are many. My answer to the previous question covers some of this but there's other stuff too- interactibles. I like the camera systems. These work just like real closed-circuit cameras linked together in networks, and you can access them throughout various points in the world, and in almost every level. You can scroll through different cameras, and see what's ahead, like who or what's waiting for you. The cameras in the world are moveable - you can rotate them via your WADS keys, which correspond to a joystick connected to the motors on the cameras themselves. They are destructible as well, and you can shoot or punch them out. Once you've blown up a camera it is no longer usable and the next time you link to a camera network all you'll see is static. It's all very realistic in that sense and adds a new dimension to the game much like the cameras in System Shock.

One of the other favorites is the handheld electronic device we call the Infra-Red Decoder. This little yellow gadget fits in the palm of your hand and is what you will use to hack into mainframes and satellite networks. A maintenance device like what your phone guy would use, it literally sucks the codes right out of the system and you see them scrolling on the digital screen. When it's finished sucking the code, you hear a sound and you're ready to wreak havoc on the enemy's defenses.

AT: Will the player have any special abilities or additional skills to use during the game?

VD: No but the teammates you acquire throughout the story do. You'll have mercenaries and specialists by your side who are very good with certain weapons and tools, however they are not relegated or predisposed to using them like in a class-based or squad shooter. They can use any weapon, and you can equip them at any time during the game as well, and you can also take weapons from them. For instance, there is a character named Gus who is designed to be a heavy weapons guy by nature. When you first meet him, he doesn't have any heavy weapons yet. His pistol and rifle skills are good, but once he gets an M60 or a Minigun watch out! He's very good with those, much better than the average player.

AT: What sort of characteristics has your team incorporated into the enemy AI?

VD: One of the goals was to move away from trying to simulate the way human players play on servers, and to emulate what a real-life human would do in our real world. The idea is that with this approach, a player will be able to truly enjoy the single-player experience without feeling as though they're just playing a multiplayer game with bots. That means the enemies won't be strafe-walking while getting ready to rocket-jump to that next ledge... instead, you'll see them engage you when appropriate, trying to take cover, possibly running to get reinforcements, or just plain freaking out and running away. The farther you make it through the single-player missions, the more intelligent enemies you will encounter, along with more diversified behaviors.

Your NPC teammates play an important role in your progress throughout the single-player missions, especially when the game's difficulty is set to hard. Some of the NPC's will usually prefer to cover you, while some will hang back and defend your base camp. However, there are other NPC's who have more aggressive personalities and they tend to head out on their own. Of course, you can always give them explicit orders if you feel the need - and if you really wanted to, it's quite possible for your team mates to move out and complete most objectives with very little help from you. All you need to do is bring up the Team Command Menu (V Key by default) and you'll have a mouse-driven list of all your bots along with available commands. It's very easy to use, and combined with the "Give Weapon" and "Take Weapon" keys makes for a totally unique shooter experience.

AT: What has the Unreal Technology allowed you guys to do in Devastation?

VD: The entire team at Digitalo has been working with the Unreal engine for over six years now, so from one standpoint we've already invested a significant amount of time in learning the tools and tricks of the engine. We started Devastation back on an earlier build of the Unreal Engine, and recently upgraded it to the latest version (the one often wrongly nicknamed Warfare). We are constantly merging code as Epic releases it to us, and we're presently running the same version of the Unreal Engine as UT2K3.

As for additions and modifications, we had written our own systems that allowed us to do what we needed for Devastation. We rewrote and modified many of the components and added entire new ones. We've made dramatic changes to the skeletal system, which now allows for full parametric blending of multiple layers of animation (up to 12 layers now). This allows us to do a lot of neat things like have players actually show a certain degree of "true aim," so you can tell where they are looking and shooting at much more precisely. It also makes the dynamic transitions between our animations look much better and smoother, which is important considering all the time we've invested in motion-captured data for the majority of our movements (which now blends in nicely thanks to this feature). Aside from this, we've done a lot of work on our particle and special effects system called OFX, which includes the latest Unreal particles as well. In addition to integrating the MathEngine physics, we've also added a ot of our own world physics.

We've made several enhancements to our version of the Unreal Editor called "DEd". It is now more like a full-on development tool, and we're very excited about its potential. DEd and all the tools we added to develop the game will be bundled with Devastation. We want to help the mod community do cool stuff, and they'll be able to make entire new experiences with it. We wanted to make the casual level designer happy too, so we've unlocked our prefab library of several hundred interactive objects (furniture, hardware, plumbing, oh and of course garbage!) plus, get this- over 1400 static prefabs and architectural objects! And without trying to sound like a salesman...artists will be able to make incredible looking maps in half the time without the fuss.

AT: Is there any particular facet in Devastation you'd like to highlight?

VD: I would have to say it's the depiction of the real-world locales, combined with our unique band of misfits. The overall feeling you get from these twisted environments and bizarre characters together is indescribable. They are not your typical characters, some are odd, paranoid, loners, and others are reckless freaks bordering on insanity. These are the troublemakers, criminals, and castaways, and they reflect the desperation of a future with no hope. They're the underdogs, and all they have going for them is their little rebellion and you, their leader ;)

AT: Tell our readers more about the game's multiplayer.

VD: The game has a full-featured in-game browser and server tools with lots of options on running the game. There are 4 gametypes: DM, TDM, CTF, and Territories, 30+ weapons in MP, and there are fifty different players to choose from. 14 maps will ship with the game.

Let me give you some details about our brand new game style called Territories. The set up is you have two bases, yours and your enemy's, and inside each base is a destructible spawn point. You and your team will need to coordinate attacks on the enemy base, and its defenses. In order to get into the enemy base, you'll have to hack your way into their mainframe and get their security codes, relay the information to your team and bring down your enemy's defenses. Of course, the enemy team will be trying to do the same thing to your base ;) Once you have infiltrated the opposing team's base, you'll be able to destroy their Spawner, which will prevent them from returning to the world once they die. With the spawn point destroyed, your team will then hunt down the remaining members of their team and exterminate them all to win the scenario. However, if they survive and manage to destroy your team's Spawner, the game becomes a Last-Man-Standing type scenario. It can get quite intense, and smart, strategic teams will do well. Territories is a lot of fun, and we can't wait to see how the community receives it.

AT: When can we expect the game on the shelves exactly?

VD: In Q1 of this year.



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