At this Septembers EGN show in London we got a behind closed doors look at Digital Extremes upcoming Sci-Fi themed First person shooter, being published by Hip Interactive on PC, Xbox and Playstation 2 in March 2005. We were given a presentation by the founder of Digital Extremes James Schmalz, who demonstrated both the Single and Multiplayer portions of the game.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the demo was the demonstration of the multiplayer map editor. Rather excitingly, all versions of the game will ship with a map editor so users can create their own multiplayer masterpieces and share them with their friends online. This is common place amongst PC games, but sharing custom made content amongst console users is certainly a new experience. Playstation 2 owners worried about the lack of storage space on their consoles need not worry. The developers are looking into using the optional hard disk add-on for the console, but this may not even be necessary. The map files themselves are incredible small, coming in at less than 64k. This wont hurt your memory cards too much and there was even talk of loading the game into the consoles memory directly from the user hosting the new map. The small file size means that there are many possibilities, but the exact method is yet to be finalised.
The editor itself looked remarkably simple to use. The Xbox version was the only one on display, but there is no reason to think that the Playstation 2 version will be considerably different. The interface was clean and uncluttered and should be fairly easy to pick up. Terrain can be deformed, painted with surface textures, objects can be placed and environmental effects can be added. The user is given clear visual indicators to show where objects can or can't be placed and player spawn points can be dragged and dropped onto the map. The editor itself takes care of certain things itself, so lowered land will fill with water should it realistically be there and buildings will sit comfortably, looking as if they really should be there. Further demonstrating the ease of use, the presentation instantly switched from the editor view to in-game action. This is particularly impressive and will help map makers no end. Testing out changes to a map on the fly takes out much of the tedium involved in traditional map making. The PC version will ship with a more advanced editor, but it is the console versions that should make a splash, offering something that will be new to a lot of gamers.
Multiplayer action looks to offer a slight change on the typical FPS formula. Mr Schmalz emphasised how players can customise their character during play, rather than choosing a set character class prior to playing. This is done by collecting weapon energy cores (WECs). These can be used to not only upgrade weapons, but also other abilities, such as running speed and healing abilities. This gives the player the ability to create a custom class that is most needed at the time. Some players may become massively powerful gunners, while others could enhance their medic abilities.
The developers are eager to use as many of the new Xbox Live features that they can and are hoping to create a thriving community around the game. The maximum number of players is still to be determined, but they are hoping for a high number, especially as Microsoft is now allowing them to set up their own servers. The PC version will obviously include all the usual online modes, but the Playstation 2 version is still having the online modes finalised.