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Submitted by Derek dela Fuente on March 17 2005 - 15:25

Circle Studios answers our questions and provides us with a look at the "24" inspired title...

When Capcom confirmed its first European developed title earlier in the year, all eyes turned towards the former Core guys to see what was worth the investment and change of heart at the Japanese developer.

Whilst some could argue that Japanese publishers are increasingly placing their resources behind Western orientated titles during a time off depression amongst the Japanese market, weâ??d have to argue that itâ??s the originality behind the concept that marks Without Warning well and truly on the map.

Speaking with Adrian Smith Operations Director Circle Studios, TVG was recently provided an insight into the fascinating title that promises to fuse action gameplay with the type of narrative and directing youâ??d see from a movie or perhaps more fittingly a TV series; but as Smith claimed, originality is not the only goal behind the team "We've gone for an established genre that we know already has a high level of consumer interest, but have added a unique twist that will allow player to experience something quite differentâ?¦ but contained within a formula they already recognise."

Although the importance of being original cannot be overstated at this present time, Smith moved on to reassure us that this wouldnâ??t mean fun would be sacrificed in the sake of innovation, "Our mission statement is probably to produce something original - but not just for originalityâ??s sake â?“ it has to be something that we would genuinely enjoy playing ourselves. It's equally important that the development process itself is fun for the company as this keeps us all focused and enables the team to be creative."

Taking obvious influence from the hit TV series "24", Without Warning is set amidst a brutal terrorist siege within a chemical plant in the United States. The story takes place across a 12 hour period, with players experiencing the events unfold through the eyes of six characters caught up within the situation; as Smith explained to us, "It's topical, a real threat; it could happen. The timeline feature is slightly inspired by the 24 series and the fact that the actions experienced from 6 very different viewpoints give it great originality. I guess weâ??re trying to do in a game what movies do, i.e. moving around between characters but still knowing whatâ??s going on with the others."

Although it's a little too early to talk specifically about the characters, Circle Studios have worked wonders at splitting up the cast and ensuring that each character brings variety to the actual game, with three characters forming a Covert-Ops team sent in to bring order to the situation and the remaining three being innocent civilians caught up in the situation.

However as Smith moved on, it's the narrative and direction that should lead to a distinctly different experience to the glutton of third-person shooters available, with the game swapping control between characters at key moments, "Character changeovers are delivered via scripted cut-scenes that gradually reveal the storyline for anything from a few seconds to a minute or so. The characters have their own different agendas and take on the situation â?“ the 3 U.S. characters have a common objective and are delivered instructions throughout the game; they also have different skills, weapons, etc. Two of the three civilians are completely unarmed so gameplay really focuses more on sneaking around/not being seen, etc. The character Ben has a news camera and must try to get the best possible footage beamed back to the nationâ?¦ the security guard Dave has his old police revolver and his focus is to save hostages rather than attack the terrorists â?“ thatâ??s best left to the U.S. forces. So there will be pretty reasonable differences between the charactersâ?? objectives and the way they play."

This level of scripting and direction could lead to some concerns over the lack of freedom presented to the player, but Smith was quick to counter this with the suggestion that the game has been set up like this to entice the player into the storyline rather then restrict movement through the game and ensure they "feel they've achieved something at the end of it."

While 12 hours is a perfectly acceptable duration, especially given the shallow length of recent action titles, whether or not the game will continue to entice the gamer remained questionable as Smith moved into quell some of the doubt, "There are elements that will increase longevityâ?¦ it's a balance of rescue, survival and escape. We can't tell you much more about that just yet as we're still working on it."

The game has marked a drastic departure for the team, who worked solely on their own technology and tools whilst at Core Design, but have now chosen a middleware package to build the foundations for Without Warning; as Smith explained, "this has provided us with a solid starting base; we've taken the lid off it and added value to certain areas - most of our programmers have already authored engines themselves so are well qualified to bring even more value to the content."

It's exciting to see developers look outside of the box when it comes to narrative and direction, and as we keep insisting this is one area where videogames fall far short of the movies; but naturally there's only so far this can go and the overall gameplay experience still needs to take the momentum, something that Circle Studios are certainly hoping for as Smith concluded, "We certainly hope so! We do feel that weâ??ve managed to add an original element to an established format. The control is fluid and practical, immediate pick up and play â?“ which is in keeping with action orientated gameplay."

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