As the major end of year releases begin to jockey more feverishly for mind share, can Fracture, the terrain deforming brainwave of independent developer Day 1 Studios, successfully forge a place in your game collection alongside forthcoming updates to high-profile franchises likes of Gears of War and Resistance?
Here, LucasArts lead producer Shara Miller tells us that the company has shown good form in recent years when it comes to launching new IP, and why she thinks that the latest title from the developer of the Xbox MechAssault games and the more recent console ports of F.E.A.R. has managed to embody what current-gen combat titles are all about.
Fracture's released about a month before Gears of War 2 and Resistance 2. Are these the types of games you think you're going to be competing against for mind share?
Miller: They definitely are, and for a new IP I think that we've done a great job of evoking in people's minds that it's a game of that calibre. When we've done focus groups people have said, 'This is definitely a Gears quality game' and 'Why can't I have terrain deformation in Halo?' so it's great to be compared to those really well loved games.
How important was it to release Fracture before the onslaught of big Christmas season games?
Miller: That was very important to us. It's very risky for people to take a chance on a new IP and so we wanted to get out there and be unique at a time when people could focus on our game.
How have you managed to ensure that terrain deformation doesn't come across as gimmicky or artificial?
Miller: That was a question we had to ask ourselves a lot while we were developing the game and in a way it's like asking, 'How do you make a shooter without a gun feeling gimmicky?' It's so ingrained in the way that you play the game that you don't think of it at all as a gimmick, you think of it as a very necessary tool that you need in order to get the required job done.
There are so many different environment types in the game, so you'll have wide open spaces as well as very close quarters areas, or you'll have some sections that are really built out and others that are mostly terrain, and in any situation you're actually going to end up using this mechanic in a slightly different way, and so the beauty of that idea is that while it's a simple game mechanic, as you go through Fracture the ways in which you'll use it are going to really depend on your own style.
The way that you can be confident that it's not a gimmick is that when you go into another game and you can't control your environment in the same way you really miss it.
How have you managed to guide players through the story without making them feel they're being pushed in a certain direction?
Miller: For the tutorial you absolutely have to push players in a certain direction. It was very important to teach players the fundamentals because it's not only going to be shooter fans that play this game, it's also going to be people who are interested in something new like the storyline and the mechanic.
You can't make the assumption that everyone's going to know how to play a shooter, and you certainly can't make the assumption that people are going to think about using terrain deformation, so yeah, in the beginning you really have to start out funnelling people in a way, but then, as soon as people develop a familiarity with it, all of a sudden the world just opens up and you can tackle a problem in many different ways.