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Tribes: Vengeance Preview

publisher: Vivendi Games
developer: Irrational Games
genre: Shooters

P1000, 256MB RAM, 1GB HDD, 32MB T&L/pixel shader video card
ESRB rating: T

release date: Oct 05, 04
» All About Tribes: Vengeance on ActionTrip

Recently we had a chance to speak with one of the cats at Irrational Games Canberra to get the lowdown on their latest project, Tribes: Vengeance. As many of you are probably aware we're talking about a game franchise that's supported by a considerably large fan community. For a while now fans have been waiting for the next reincarnation of Tribes, but Sierra always kept postponing the game (meanwhile, concentrating on numerous other releases). Even now, Tribes: Vengeance is still far from launch status, but both Irrational and Sierra are working intently on a brand-new single-player campaign, which allows players to experience the game through multiple viewpoints and characters, and is powered by the next-generation Unreal code. From what we hear, they hope to release the game some time next year (although we weren't able to get any confirmation on the exact release date - apparently, it's still too early to inquire about that one). Tony Oakden, producer for Tribes: Vengeance at Irrational Games Canberra was kind enough to answer our questions. We invite you to read on and find out more about the story, changes in the AI and physics, and other details.

Action Trip: It's been a while since the last Tribes game. Are things looking good for Tribes at this point? Are you pleased with the reactions from the recent unveiling of the game at UVALAN?

Tony Oakden: Reactions to early demos of our game have been extremely positive. We are very aware that there is a huge Tribes fan base out there and we don't want to risk alienating any of them! So far reactions to the game from fans have been very good. I guess the acid test will be when we start our open beta early next year. But so far yes things are looking good!

AT: Irrational has a history of games with excellent storylines (System Shock 2, Freedom Force...). Can you offer a slice of the story you've worked out for the single-player campaign in Tribes Vengeance?

Tony: Well it's not your typical sci-fi alien killing romp for sure! One of the things we've tried to do is to develop believable and interesting characters. We aren't giving away too much about the story yet but I can say that it is principally concerned with a conflict between an established empire and two Tribes, the Phoenix and the Blood Eagles. The story flicks between the experiences of two female characters approximately 20 years apart. The really cool thing is that the player gets to experience the story through the point of view of several different characters.

AT: Can you reveal more about the missions and objectives players must carry out throughout the new single-player campaign?

Tony: They are a mixture of the kind of large scale outdoor combat which has characterized Tribes to date and the tighter scripted combat which is closer to Halo. In one mission for example the player is required to jet and ski around a landscape taking out small bases before going inside a large installation.

AT: Lately, a majority of Tribes fans expressed concerns about the new single-player mode. Do you think that the new gameplay modes will be enough to keep hardcore fans content?

Tony: I think fans will find that there is much to enjoy in the single-player campaign. The jetting and skiing and experimenting with the weapon systems is fun already. It really comes down to how good our AI is. We are a long way from getting this finished, but I am confident that we will be able to produce good AI. But it is one of our biggest risks.

AT: Are we going to see any new weapons? Have you improved or modified some of the familiar firearms?

Tony: Yes, there are a few new weapons. We are not ready to talk about them yet though. We've changed a few of the existing weapons too and I hope they are an improvement. The spinfusor we haven't changed at all as how can you improve on perfection? J But the blaster has changed a fair bit as we felt it was very ineffective compared to other weapons. It's now more like an energy powered shotgun and is extremely effective at short range but becomes less useful at range.

AT: Naturally, jumpjets are a key component of the gameplay. But, we're very keen to see some of the vehicles in action. Describe some of them (we expect the design to be somewhat different, since the game takes place 400 years after the first Tribes game).

Tony: Sorry I can't give specific details on the vehicles at the moment. There are four of them and there function in the game is to provide support for the infantry.

AT: I assume you're also going to enhance the behavior of CPU-controlled opponents. Handling the AI for such an open-ended game must be a tough job.

Tony: As I have already said I consider AI and single-player gameplay our biggest risk. That's why we've left almost six months at the end of the project for balancing the gameplay. We've completely replaced the existing Unreal AI code. Our philosophy is to produce AI which is robust enough to react realistically to most situations but to provide a fairly high degree of scripting in single player to set it up.

AT: The Unreal technology and the Karma physics engine seem like the perfect choice for Tribes. Did you incorporate any new code and modifications to these engines?

Tony: Aside from the AI, our movement physics represent another new component. We really wanted that to be as good as possible so we've invested a lot of time in producing a movement system which feels as natural and fun as possible. We want the player to be able to have an almost limitless learning curve but without a frustratingly steep start to it. We've added quite a few cool features to the renderer such as normal mapping and new lighting code but most of our work has been in optimizing the renderer so we can draw more stuff in the outside spaces.

AT: So far the game is about 35% complete, so there's still a long way to go. Can you give us the game's ETA?

Tony: I don't think Sierra are ready to announce the release date.

AT: Thanks a lot for you time.



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