Brink is as exciting as senior game designer Edward 'BongoBoy' Stern is excited about it. At Bethesda's recent Gamers Day in France the Splash Damage developer was on interview overdrive, answering our questions so comprehensively that there now seems little point in playing the game. That's not true, but it's almost true. In a not really true at all kind of way. You'll get the idea once you read this monster of an interview. Over to you, Ed…
Q: Describe what you've shown here today.
Ed Stern: There's some new stuff we're showing off. A lot of it is making good on what we were showing earlier. The stuff we were saying you can do, we actually show you doing it. And a lot of the gameplay systems, which we hadn't actually put in the game. So there's a whole bunch of new stuff. Where to start! The mission system is one of the most direct ways of seeing how the game works. It reads everything. It knows what team you're on. It knows what body type you are. For example, if it knows you're the heavy body type - so you've got less agility, more health and access to heavy weapons - it's not going to give you a route that uses the freedom of movement parkour style. It knows you can't make them. It's going to give you a ground route to go through there. If it knows you're agile, it'll say, oh wait, there is a way over here. Follow the arrow this way instead. It knows what class you are, so it'll only give you objectives you can actually do. Or, if there's no-one of the correct class on your team, it's going to bribe you and say, why not change class and do this and do the main objective? We'll give you loads of XP. It'll even bribe the second person to change class. But by the time you've got three players of the right class you're probably going to be able to do the objective eventually. So we're not going to bribe the third person. Even if you don't really take part in the game, and just keep on bringing up the mission wheel, you'll see how it changes as the game progresses. Right now the most useful thing you can do for your team, which we're going to bribe you with the most XP for, is this. Oh, now it's this. Oh, he's doing this. Go escort that guy. Or, wow, you're the right guy to do this, go defuse that.
The class roles are very fluid. We've got soldier, who's got the demolition charge and gives out ammo. There's the medic, who obviously heals and revives. There's the operative, who does the sneaky stuff like disguising and doing reconnaissance and reporting on locations. And the engineer, who can plant turrets and mines, and defuse the soldier's charge. Also, forgot to say, the operative can hack things, but it's the engineer who can destroy the hack box that's on the objective. So it's that rock, paper scissors deal of, they've done this therefore you do that. The natural flow of the objectives means it's never just, okay well this is the game where I just do this, and you can do the same thing all the time.
If you're not a particularly experienced gamer, you can just shoot people. That is absolutely fair and valid. You're probably best off being a soldier to do that. We work hard to make it simple for the player. All you've got to do is look at the command wheel and we'll just smother you in XP, and you'll always be doing the best thing for the player. If you're not an experienced multiplayer gamer, we will be educating you how to do that. It's a definite goal for the game. I think we've all been in a situation where we've played a single-player game and felt pretty good, I beat this game. And then you go online and it feels totally different and suddenly you're not good at it and you're not enjoying it and you're dying all the time and you don't really know why. One of our goals with Brink is that it's a totally consistent experience. It's the same game. The weapons do the same damage. Your opponents always behave in a realistic way. They may well be human opponents. We're really breaking down the difference between single-player, multiplayer, co-op, and online and offline. Those aren't meaningful distinctions any more.
You're always in a team of eight against another team of eight. One team attacks, one team defends. The players on your team and on the enemy team could be human players if you've got an internet connection. They could be friends who just join your game. They come online, see you playing and they swap out one of the AI players and become a human one. That's technically a co-op game now because there's two of you, but also it's still multiplayer because it's still eight versus eight, but also you're still in the same single-player game, just one of the guys who's helping you or fighting against you happens to be a breathing human being.
The time is definitely right for this. It's something we've been wanting to do. That's our background - multiplayer shooters. We know the best stories we get are from multiplayer games. There are some satisfying plot turns in lots of games, but the things you really nag your friends about - 'oh man, he headshot me but then the grenade went off!' - Brink is just a machine for authoring those experiences. All you've got to do is play it and it'll generate endless different replayable situations. There are lots of very good games that you don't want to replay, because it's always the same. It's a totally repeating experience. We knew our stuff had to be different.
You'll play through a map maybe from one side; if you play it through from the other side it's different. Also the storyline is different. You get told different things by the powers that be, which seemed like an obvious way of making the story interesting - it's what motivates people. We didn't want to make it good versus evil. The choice between right and wrong is boring because there is no choice. The choice between right and right is interesting. That's drama and that's conflict. Two sides that both think they're right has more meat to it than, ah, evil versus good. There are some great games that do do that, but just because it's a shooter doesn't mean it has to lack depth or not mean anything. That's what we've been trying to do with the factions - Security and Resistance - is make it so you can bring your real life, real world political affiliations and suspicions and character. That was something about Deus Ex that I loved. I didn't know who to trust, not because they were all lying to me, because they all have good reason. That's definitely something we try to do with Brink, is to make it so each faction is sympathetic. None of them are just complete loon tunes. It's about giving players the tools and the narrative means to produce cool stories.