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Tim Williams, Creative Director
Planet Moon Studios

  Introduction:
From the team that created MDK, Giants promises to take you to bizarre new worlds combining 3D arcade action, incredible graphics, strategic thinking and a bat squeak of twisted humor.

In this interview we talk to Tim Williams, the Creative Director at Planet Moon Studios, about the game's features, engine, characters and more.

 

 
 

Interview By: Chanodin L. Rahl
Published On: Friday, April 16, 1999

What sort of multi-play capabilities do you expect to be implemented? For example, Blizzard and several other developers have created their own servers for use with their products, id makes use of GameSpy, and many other developers reach agreements with such services as Heat.net, M-Player and TEN.

Really at this moment all options are open with regards to multiplayer. But I can say that in the multiplayer game the balance of power won't always exist in the face-to-face combat. There will be a variety of other things one can do to get the upper hand, such as protecting Smarties, kidnapping and torturing enemies, and building bases. On top of this, even though Kabuto is 100 feet high, the Sea Reaper has a tornado 500 foot high, and the Meccs are very fast and deadly when in a pack. In this light, the three races start to balance themselves out.

What engine is Giants running on? As evidenced by the current flock of shooters, in a sense, engine is everything, and a capable one can be the difference of a flop or a hit.

Our "AMMITYVILLE" Engine is custom built to allow us the freedom to do whatever we want -- it's also bloody scary!!! There are some very good engines out there, but they tend to be very good at keeping you indoors and setting up strict boundaries for the design. Basically, this would have been too limiting for the art and gameplay direction we were heading with this game. We did the same for MDK, which worked out pretty well.

In Giants, the plot appears to have a moderate to significant bearing upon the game itself, as opposed to games such as Quake or Total Annihilation that have almost no consequential storyline. Can you summarize the plot of the game?

A race of magical and ethereal women, the Sea Reapers, live on a beautiful island at the furthest reaches of space. Many light-years away, five cockney space aliens Baz, Tel, Reg, Gordon, and Bennett(otherwise known as the Meccaryns) leave their home planet for their annual "lads holiday" at the one and only, Planet Majorca. Almost immediately they are attacked and swallowed by the notorious Giant "Gibbon" Fish. Having given up their holiday for the ignominious distinction of been digested for two months, this five-some is finally "discharged" in their battered ship just within limping reach of the island. The Sea Reapers are alerted to this threat and quickly use all their power to conjure up a mighty giant, Citizen Kabuto. Kabuto was to be the protector of their island, but there was one flaw: Kabuto was given a mind and conscience. He turns on the Sea Reapers and decimates half their numbers, forcing the remainder back to their watery origins. Kabuto is basically a thinking man's giant -- he looks to the skies and wonders to himself. As far back as he can remember this has been his home. From whence he came he does not know, apart from one obscure clue in the form of a serial number, "001," imprinted on his stomach. He now trusts no one, and guards the only thing that has been constant for him -- the island, his home. And woe betide anyone who now sets foot on it!

The way we want it to work is to have you play the 3 characters at different points during the whole single player game. You start off playing the Meccaryns, but during the course of their story the player will find turning points where they play the other characters -- kind of like one character handing the baton on to the next, but at the same time retaining the cohesiveness of the Meccaryn story -- a story that involves love, betrayal, camaraderie, war, brussel sprouts, and onions! Then, of course, for the multiplayer game you'll be able to play whichever race you want.

What made you [Planet Moon] decide to make Giants? Did you see that a niche was left to be filled, that the genre could be improved on, that there was room for another guy, or was then an alternate ulterior motive to the conception of the game?

I know it sounds simple but we just wanted to do something original and fun. We're basically making exactly the type of game we want to play, replete with 100 foot Giants, beautiful topless women, a team of cockney spacemen, and you're whole hodgepodge of cds, gyroscopes, magnets and lasers! We wanted a game where you get some real diversity in gameplay from the different types of characters and their abilities. I think people will find a greater depth than previously seen in action games. There's also a freshness to the game in that you really do finally step outdoors! I've seen games promise this but none that have ever given me the feeling of truly being outside and being able to go anywhere -- a great sense of environment! In our screenshots anything you see you will be able to travel to. You can even travel out of the world's atmosphere and into Space!

How far into development is Planet Moon on Giants? What features that are planned to be enabled within the full version are functioning to an extent in the current development version of the game?

I'd say about 2/3 into development. There really are too many "features" to mention here, but in general the Meccs are pretty much up and running, so now we're finishing up on the Sea Reaper and Giant. Also up and running is the land deformation, animation blending, some of the Sea Reaper spells, and many other little effects, not to mention Mecc teammate and enemy AI (which we're tweaking all the time.)

What kind of true diversity is there within the three available PC species? Do they differentiate to the extent that TeamFortress does, or [For the lack of a better comparison] are they carbon copies of each other as illustrated in Warcraft 2?

Well, we wanted three characters to represent three totally diverse races, and the different gameplay that this would garner was our main focus. We didn't want a game that forces you to micro manage large groups because this would move away from our main goal: action. Each race has its strengths and weaknesses. As the player progresses through the game he or she will pick up on this and develop their own strategy. The Sea Reaper, Delphi, can travel the ocean in her great boat -- she is faster on the water than anyone else. Therefore, if she spots Kabuto on one side of the island she could quickly whip round to the other side and steal some of his supplies before getting caught, greatly weakening him. She also has a magic ability, which will grow in power as she progresses from island to island. And to ensure the Meccaryns won't dominate she has some incredible spells perfect against Meccaryn air attacks -- as seen in the 500 foot tornado she can conjure up. She's also extremely deadly with her sword and bow.

Kabuto has brute force, and can even dig his hands into the ground and mold a smaller giant to help him out. He can also mold a giant clump of mud into a ball -- a perfect weapon to toss at the outer walls of the Meccaryn base before storming it.

The Meccaryns work as a team. You control the center one and the others protect you. You will be able to build up their experience and arsenal, then take them to other islands. For example, at experience level 1 your team of 4 will just stand by you and fire; but if the team is up around experience level 10 they'll dive to the ground, run behind trees, rocks, or even dead creatures for cover before flying behind the attackers for a better shot. They actually become more intelligent! You just equip them with the weapons, and they'll get to work!

What are the expected requirement in way of computing power; for example, do you expect Giants to make use of AMD's 3DNow! technology, what APIs do you plan to support, do you intend to allow for the software rendering mode which so many developers appear to be opting out of? What about 3D audio technology?

Supports 3DNow & PIII
Supports D3D and Glide (maybe OpenGL)
Supports DirectSound3D,EAX,A3D
No software rendering
Minimum spec is Pentium 166 & Voodoo 1 equivalent

How does the artificial intelligence compare to that of other games roughly in the same genre? Does the computer simply react to a given situation, or does it go beyond that to integrate tactics and logic in its moves?

The AI is very complex. You're teammates are able to hide behind different objects like trees and rocks, and have a many different moves to avoid being shot. Some enemies work as a team as well, including flushing you out with grenades, hiding behind objects and even covering each other as they come for you. You'll never see enemies just standing and firing, they're actually aware of their surroundings and will use them to their advantage. Basically, the complexity of the game simple wouldn't allow us to have simple AI. For example, in this game you'll be able to play a giants who can storm into villages, smash down buildings, and eat people; play as a Sea Reaper who has sword, bow and magic attacks; and play as a team of 5 Meccs who have loads of firing weapons and can jetpack around the whole island -- and that's just the basics! To make all this feel good for the player, simple AI just wouldn't cut the mustard.

What do you feel makes Giants different then the current crop of games. Indeed it does differentiate modestly with its strategy and shooting blend, but do you feel that this is enough of a change to alleviate the monotony that some gamers feel in regards to new games?

There are so many things about this game that make it original, and I'd never want to rest on a statement saying it's simply a mix of strategy and shooting and expect the players to wet themselves. This is something that many disappointing games have tried to woo their potential buyers with, and quite frankly it's become a bit of a cliché these days. What it comes down to is seeing and playing the game. When people do that they'll find originality in graphics and gameplay. With each race you'll be moving from one style of gameplay to another: first with all out firing and action, then to more hand to hand and magic combat, then on to sheer brute force.

The action will certainly be fast and furious, but as the game progresses the player will notice many levels of complexity that start to build up in parallel. For example, if you play the Meccaryns you'll first find yourself having to rescue your 4 teammates, then later in the game you'll actually have to set up a base and capture some Smarties (creatures who will work for you if you keep them happy). You'll even be able to sneak into enemy camps and kidnap more of these Smarties, giving yourself an edge over your opponent. On top of this, your "Mecc" teammates will be growing more and more intelligent, which will directly affect their skill in battle. As you can see, although this is most definitely an action based game there are other styles that add spice to it and retain its longevity. And by the way, what I've just described is about 1/3 of the game.

What exactly's the deal with the name switches? Originally Giants was Giants, but then it was renamed Citizen Kabuto, and then back to Giants. [Whilst on that note, do you foresee any future name changes?]

Well, Citizen Kabuto is the giant who lives on the island. He is a self-proclaimed "Citizen" because he wants a sense of belonging, but all he has ever been witness to is death and destruction. He now keeps to himself and makes sure no one sets foot on his island.

Personally, I always liked the mystery and paradox of the name "Citizen Kabuto"(a "citizen" who is pretty much a loner), but then again, I'm bloody well out of my gourd. Cooler minds ruled the day, and it was decided that a more simple name like, "Giants," with the sub-heading, "Citizen Kabuto," would be the better choice.

The current crop of screenshots available for Giants are nothing short of spectacular. Do you expect the average gamer to experience special effects of this magnitude, or are the available shots simply to show off the maximum possible brilliance of the game.?

Every shot is really a random view of the game -- we just get into a battle and take the screenshot. I think many people think some of our screenshots are doctored, so right now I just really want people to see the game.

What are the controls like for the game. Given the modertae hybredity of the game, will controls initially be awkward for the unenlightened, or will the integration be relatively seamless?

Right from the start we've wanted the controls to be as simple as possible. Much of the time you'll be using just the mouse, direction keys and a few other basic ones. Then, on top of this we have a some hot keys, which act as commands for your Mecc team, such as Attack, Collect, Protect, etc. We even had our first focus test the other day where we got to watch over 25 people playing the game. All got further than we expected, and this was mainly due to how fast they picked up the controls. They also really enjoyed what they played of the game.

What kind of replay value does Giants hold in your opinion? This is specifically in regards to single-player replay value; multi-player replay value is in a sense the lifeblood of the game; if it isn't a hit, the game's generally a flop [With considerable exceptions in some situations; Civilization and SimCity come to mind] Single-player currently, except in such situations as Unreal and Half-Life, is really an added bonus [Although with the new flock of games the tides appear to be changing]. How do you feel Giants will hold up in this arena?

I'm not sure I'd go at far as saying "single-player is…an added bonus." As a designer I obviously see single player as something much more important than that. Anyway, I think our game will hold up very well. There's a lot to explore on the islands, and they certainly aren't linear. Also, with the diverse types of gameplay there are always many varieties of strategy for you to pick from and master.

When can we expect the game to be commercially released? Although developers generally dislike giving estimates as such, can you approximate with any moderate validity unto when the game will most likely be available?

Well, you've got that right! But I would say 3rd quarter of this year.

Related Articles:
Giants Trailer Released


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