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David Braben sits down to dicuss the finer aspects of his forthcoming political-thriller...
Whenever David Braben makes any announcement about future projects a rush of interest ensues which was certainly the case with his studios, Frontier Development Ltd, news on The Outsider. With next-gen formats Xbox 360 and Playstation3 very much a focus for the game, relying on radically new ideas and the pushing of technology, interest was further heightened with the first few lines pertaining to the context of the game, along with a focus to ensure the game offers simulating character motivation and aims. Billed as a gripping high tech thriller, where the player assumes the role of a CIA operative, some very teasing snippets of the gameâ??s storyline were conveyed to ensure this was one title that many will keep tabs on.
Derek dela Fuente spoke with David Braben, Co-founder and CEO Frontier Developments, about the focus and goals for the game in a very early brief.
First off, can you us give a brief narrative overview of The Outsider? From what we know the game already sounds like it would appeal to fans of Clancy and Ludlum, could you talk about the influences behind The Outsiderâ?¦
â??The Outsiderâ?? is very much in the spirit of characters from Tom Clancyâ??s books, and of Ian Flemingâ??s James Bond, and perhaps a little from â??Capricorn Oneâ?? and â??The Fugitiveâ??. The objective of the story is for the player to empathise strongly with their character - to make them really care, to feel deeply involved.
"If youâ??re a contrary gamer like me, who always wants to go down the side route, to shoot the character giving the long speech-to-camera, to do the unexpected, then this is the only way forward."
At the time of The Outsiderâ??s announcement, the initial press release focused on the use of character motivation and objectives rather than linear storytelling to provide a more visceral experience for the player. Can you tell us more about the proprietary technologies developed at Frontier that will bring the concept of character motivations into the game and how they help to realise the concept?
It brings a great deal of freedom to the player â?“ moving away from the gameplay-cutscene-gameplay-cutscene format, which gives the player little choice but to follow the proscribed path, and it avoids the uncomfortable problem where you might go to a location to meet a character â?“ but the character doesnâ??t yet exist as the cut-scene hasnâ??t yet played. With this new approach all the characters exist in the game from the start, and their future actions are not pre-determined â?“ their involvement can be pre-empted by the player, making for some interesting game-play mechanics second-guessing what is going on, and novel replay value. If youâ??re a contrary gamer like me, who always wants to go down the side route, to shoot the character giving the long speech-to-camera, to do the unexpected, then this is the only way forward.
Freedom to the player is an aspect many games attempt to adhere to but very few have managed to create; could you elaborate on the scope presented to players and the consequences that actions will have within the game?
Dealing with the consequences of actions is one of the main reasons game plots can end up being linear. Deciding whether to play along with a bad guy, or shop him to the police, or perhaps kill him yourself all lead to significantly different stories from that point on, if this bad guy was a key character. If the storyline is strictly scripted, then all these possible outcomes need to be scripted in detail via separate story branches, greatly increasing the complexity. Dealing with it dynamically, as we are doing here, means that we can cope with each of these narratives within the same system.
What do you (personally and as Frontier) see as the future of narratives in videogames? Can you ever see a time when storyline development is totally fluid within certain constraints?
Yes. What we are doing with The Outsider is a significant step along that road.
"â?¦people (me included) are tiring of some of the current game mechanics"
What provides the substance that youâ??ve talked about in the early press release; what about The Outsider ushers in the â??golden ageâ? of videogames?
This comes from two converging observations: that both the appetite and possibility for change is there. People are tired of the current solutions. Ten years ago the man/woman-in-a-streetâ??s image of gaming was annoying bleepy, repetitive things that kids played. This has slowly melted as we are all growing older, and a greater percentage of people were brought up with games now, and people (me included) are tiring of some of the current game mechanics. Weâ??re at the stage that the film industry was at in 1930, where people had started to tire of effects driven â??car-on-a-train-trackâ?? films and wanted something more, just as technology and budgets greatly increased to bring in the golden age of Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Wells and many others. This is why I think a golden age of games is now just around the corner â?“ it is not purely the tech, this is merely an enabling factor, it is also the timing and acceptance of the medium.
What provides the core gameplay of The Outsider; can we expect a balance of political based narrative and choices along with action-based sequences?
Yes. The intention is for them to blend together as a coherent whole.
Is development purely on the next-gen consoles, are there any plans for a PC version and how are you finding development on the Xbox 360/PS3???
Currently fifth generation machines are the main target, but we are also considering a PC version. We have been building, using and evolving our in-house engine and tools for well over a decade now and support for the PS3 and Xbox360 is coming along very well indeed, weâ??re really excited about the possibilities.
"Weâ??re expecting to launch once the PlayStation 3 is out."
Has there been any interest from publisherâ??s at this stage?
Very much so.
Even though itâ??s probably very hard to speculate at this stage of development, do you have a rough idea as to when weâ??ll be able to play The Outsider on the next-gen consoles? Do you expect an Xbox 360 version to be released ahead of the European hardware launch of PlayStation3 or are you aiming for a simultaneous launch across the next-gen consoles?
Weâ??re expecting to launch once the PlayStation 3 is out.
Moving away from The Outsider, weâ??re old timers here at TVG (the big â??30â?? is rapidly approaching all of us) and we have very fond memories of Elite; when can we expect to see Elite 4 for PC or next-gen consolesâ?¦possibly multiplayer online across Xbox Live???
Yes. That is also in our plans.
TVG would like to thank David Braben for taking some time away from The Outsider to answer some of our questions; weâ??ll have more on the title soon when we manage to find the thumb-screws and probe for further informationâ?¦
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