We talked with Chris Peck, the Founder, Managing Director, Creative Lead, and Game Designer for Outerlight.
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Strategy Informer: Firstly, could you introduce yourself to our readers?
Chris Peck: Sure, I’m Chris Peck, the Founder, Managing Director, Creative Lead, and Game Designer for Outerlight. A long title, which means long days, and far too much work for one human being!
We've heard about some of the features of The Ship, Is there any that we don't currently know about that you'd like to share?
Chris Peck: Hmm. Not a clue. What do you know about?! Probably the newest feature is adding back in passengers as witnesses in an improved form, thanks to the feedback of our beta testers. The inventory system is totally new, and allows players to carry weapons, needs items and costumes. The context sensitive interface allows players to interact with the world, and shows them what is interactive, and the different ways they can interact with things. Also, there are many more containers in this version of the game compared to the mod, including wardrobes, cabinets, dressing tables, suitcases, bins, boxes, and so on.
What can you tell us about the graphical and physics features?
Chris Peck: Well, as we are using the Source engine, we have some excellent graphical and physics features. The game looks gorgeous, with a rich cartoon style for the characters. The graphic features include bump mapping, poly bumping, specular lighting, water refraction and detailed character shadows, while characters have 8 way walk cycles, head tilting, body tilting, eye and head movement, facial animations, and lip synching. The physics is used in ragdolls, as well as physics traps and thrown weapons.
What kind of support to you plan to give once the game is released?
Chris Peck: Well, that’s definitely an unusual and unique feature of the way we are doing things. We plan to continue working on the ship full time till around September, at which point we will be reviewing where we are, and either continue to add to The Ship 1, or move onto production for The Ship 2. We will be releasing extra content in the form of maps, characters, costumes, weapons, and new gameplay features such as allowing the players to play as guards.
Are you planning to release a demo for The Ship?
Chris Peck: Because of the way steam works, we can have open days, where players can play the ship for free, which I think is a great system. We will use this to promote new features, and attract new players.
You where at this year's E3 2006, how did that go?
Chris Peck: Very well I think. E3 is one crazy place! We got a lot of Kudos for being on the Vista stand.
Can you tell us about the multiplayer aspect of the game?
Chris Peck: Lol. That’s a big question! The multiplayer aspect of the game is what the game is all about, it’s where the game shines. As a multiplayer game The Ship is totally unique, combining stealth, comedy, stalking, fighting, as well as other features such as needs and costume changes. All the gameplay elements work together in really nice ways. The needs drive players into open areas, and quiet areas, and leave players vulnerable at times, while preventing camping. The security cameras and guards prevent players killing in certain areas, while also limiting player freedom by fining them for trespassing, but players can bribe the security to ignore crimes, as well as being able to use costumes to allow access to crew areas without being fined. The players can customize their characters with new outfits (found in wardrobes or bought in shops), as well as attachments in the form of hats & glasses, but as well as allowing players to pick something that reflects their taste, these changes effect the gameplay as disguising yourself will throw off your hunter.
Can you give us an assessment of the health and long-term viability?
Chris Peck: I’m not sure I understand the question. I presume you mean the health & long term viability of the game? Well, one of the reasons we picked the game was that there are so many cool ideas we can add to it, such as interactive mini-games like arcade machines or a casino, letting the players play as guards, adding in a dating game, setting the game in other focused environments (submarine, train, hotel), and there is excellent potential for sequels incorporating new features.
Could you tell us about the weapons that will be featured in The Ship?
Chris Peck: At the last count we had 43 weapons in the game, the bulk of which are melee weapons, including knives, hammers, crowbars, pool cues, candlesticks, baseball bats, katanas, claymores, tennis rackets, and golf clubs, but there are also guns including a flare gun, pistol, rifle, and shotgun, and then there are some more unusual weapons, including a remote bomb, a syringe (with poison). We will be adding in more weapons as time goes on…watch this space! Many of the weapons are designed to be comedic, and there is great humor in seeing other people attacking each other with things like pool cues and tennis rackets!
Could you tell us about the characters that we'll see in the game?
Chris Peck: There are a basic collection of player characters, which allow players to be male, female, Caucasian, Asian, or Black, and then there are the crew characters, such as the guards, waiters and serving staff, as well as unique characters such as the doctor, psychiatrist, nurse, and captain, and of course there is the elusive Mr. X.
Could you tell us about the game modes that we've heard of?
Chris Peck: Sure. Hunt is the most accessible. In the Hunt mode each player is given a quarry, and must “race” to be the first to kill theirs (ideally using a high reward weapon – all weapons have different cash rewards for being used, set by Mr. X, and these values change dynamically between rounds to encourage players to experiment and not re-use the same weapons). Once any Hunter kills their Quarry, all the other Hunters have a limited time in which to kill their Quarry’s, after which time there is a brief pause, and everyone is given a new Quarry. This is the most accessible mode as players are actively hunting most of the time. Elimination is the most pure mode, in that once a Hunter kills their Quarry, the person they killed becomes a passenger (is out of the hunt), and the successful Hunter will then inherit their victims old Quarry. This creates an ever shrinking loop of Hunters, till one is the winner. This mode is the purest because there is no real time pressure to get in a kill, however new players can find themselves knocked out of the hunt early, and will have to spend their time as passengers waiting for the next round – however, as a passenger they are free to collect costumes, weapons, and take care of their needs, so unlike Counterstrike they are not totally out of the game.
Deathmatch is what it sounds like, every player is hunting every other player, however, unlike normal Deathmatch modes, there is still the presence of the security cameras to force players to be careful, and there is still the money for kills table, so killing players is not enough, you have to do it with good money weapons. We added this as something of an afterthought, as we thought it might be quite good fun, and wasn’t too hard to create. Duel allows players to play one versus one on a server, to settle old scores, or work out who is the greatest hunter of the two.
Also, all our modes have server settings, such as how pressing the needs are or what the victory conditions are, and this creates more variety in how the game plays, and allows players to set things up to suit their favorite settings.
As a gamer, what's your favorite part of The Ship, what makes you proud to have helped create it and why is it a game FPS fans will want?
Chris Peck: Hmm. Tough question. I guess, my favourite part of the Ship is the richness of the gameplay, and the comedy. It’s really not like anything else, and when you get a really good kill in by being cunning, it is very satisfying. I think fans of FPS’s will want it because I love FPS’s myself, from Castle Wolfenstein, Doom, Quake, Unreal, Team Fortress Classic, Counterstrike, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and Call of Duty…I love them all. However, to my mind you can see a progression in them, away from Deathmatch to more subtle and complex gaming, such as team games with multiple roles and classes. The Ship is not team based, but adds many layers of complexity to a standard FPS, and as such is a totally unique experience to play, and offers something different to all the other FPS’s.
Do you think we'll see some changes to the current release date?
Chris Peck: There has been one, the current release date on Steam is the 11th of July, but the retail release is still planned for mid September in Europe and early January in the USA.
What has been the hardest part of development so far?
Chris Peck: Lol. So many answers. Raising the money ourselves, while recruiting a team, finding an engine, and getting on with the game. Convincing publishers that it’s a cool idea. Trying to work out how to focus our limited time and manpower to produce the best result.
Well we've come to our last question, is there anything you'd like to say to the fans of The Ship which are eagerly awaiting the release of this great looking title?
Chris Peck: Thanks for the compliment, and yes, I’d like to say I think we have massively improved on the mod (one of our beta testers said it was the most gorgeous game he had seen yet), and I hope everyone enjoys playing The Ship. I would also like to thank our fans for their continued support, and ever useful feedback.