Monolith Stud - Craig "Momma
said knock you out" Hubbard recently took time out
of his hectic schedule to smooth-talk a bit with Billy.
my quest to secretly get a job in the "real"
gaming industry :), I put the moves on Craig Hubbard of Monolith - Craig is the main
stud-boy on the Riot: Mobile Assault team. Remember, these are
the guys that kicked out the sweet-ass Blood and as
mentioned are working on Riot which is using the DirectEngine technology (which they
developed (along with MS)).
exclusive pics of Riot from our buddy Craig are at the
end of the interview.
posted on 9.29.97
people that have been living in a cave for the last few
years, do you want to give us a brief description of who
you are and what you do (besides the work with Greenpeace
CB: Well, I spend most of my time running illegal
firearms between Southern California and Porto Alegre,
Brazil--assault rifles and high explosives, mainly... er,
maybe I'm revealing too much here.
Actually, I'm lead
designer on Riot: Mobile Armor. Basically, I sit around
and drink shitty beer and eat Cheetos while everybody
else works their asses off. Then I take credit for
VE: For people that
don't know, what exactly is the DirectEngine? How much
work has Microsoft put into it?
CB: DirectEngine is a true 3D game engine being developed
by Monolith (Microsoft will be licensing it). The lead
engineer, Mike Dussault, is the kind of guy who can look
you bravely in the eye and issue a resounding, 20 second
belch, then go off and code an elaborate, flexible
keyframing system in an afternoon. A true Renaissance
Information on the
engine itself is available at www.directengine.com. The bottom line is that it
rivals most other 3D game engines and is readily
adaptable to a lot of different uses. It's also an
ongoing project, which means it will be constantly
evolving to take advantage of the latest technology.
VE: What games are currently in development or are
planned for the DirectEngine?
CB: Riot, Blood 2,
and another project that is still in the hush-hush
prototype stage. We've got other ideas kicking around,
but we're pretty busy with the projects we've got.
VE: Do you think Chelsea could kick Bill's ass? What
about if we threw Newt in the picture (on Bill's side)?
CB: I was Chelsea's martial arts trainer in Thailand back
in '73. I've seen her snap a grown man's spine without
breaking a sweat.
Of course, if Newt had
a chance to wolf down an egg salad sandwich with onions
before the fight, I think Chelsea would be in trouble.
VE: What is the suggested base system for
Riot/DirectEngine? What is the optimum system?
CB: It hasn't been set in stone yet. I've heard P90 and
P133, but a lot will depend on the optimization phase.
We're also planning to make the game as scalable as
possible so that someone with a slower system can cut
back on some of the detail settings and get good
VE: What is the story (both behind the scenes and of the
game itself) behind Riot?
CB: Well, the basic
premise behind Riot is that you're a once-respected
lieutenant in the UCASF (United Corporate Authority
Security Force) who's been assigned to assassinate a
rebel leader known only as Gabriel. Cronus, the planet
upon which the game takes place, is rich in an organic
material that is essential to contemporary space
travel--imagine the difference between walking from New
York to San Diego and flying there in a Concorde. The
outcome of your mission will affect all of humanity.
Needless to say, there are a lot of opposing factions
jumping into the fray, some with admirable causes, many
who are just plain greedy.
The game is inspired by
some of our favorite anime films--Patlabor, Macross Plus,
Venus Wars, Ghost in the Shell, etc. You'll get to run
around in a giant suit of transforming combat armor with
insanely powerful weapons. You'll also spend a good deal
of time on foot with a completely separate arsenal. Riot
is goal-oriented, which means that instead of looking for
exit switches, you'll be trying to complete certain
objectives in the face of tremendous odds.
The in-game story is
based very much on the core group of characters. The
thing that distinguishes good anime is that no matter how
epic the struggle may be, it always comes down to the
people involved. There's a lot of humor and emotion mixed
in with all the huge explosions and balletic violence.
More information is
available at riot.lith.com. (Notice how I use URLs to
substitute for answers? Pretty lazy, huh?)
As for the story behind
the scenes? It's a sordid tale of the variety that they
used to print in dime novels. Not really fit for an
upscale venue such as this. :)
VE:What web sites
do you visit on a regular basis (if you say Billy's
sweet-ass Voodoo Extreme I'll give you a set of Ginsu
CB: Let's see, some of my favorites include Blue's News,
sCary's Shuga Shack, Billy's sweet-ass Voodoo Extreme,
OGR, Jaspur's Half-Life site, and Gamespot. Oh, and did I
mention Billy's sweet-ass Voodoo Extreme?
VE: Will Riot
supporting any online/multiplayer options or is it built
more around a single player model? If in the case of
single player, and AI enhancements that you can discuss?
CB: Riot has buit-in multiplayer support with up to 32
players and possibly more. It's server-based, so you can
play over the Internet like Quake.
devoting a lot of attention to the singleplayer aspect of
the game, though. The anime influence in Riot isn't
limited to character and vehicle designs--it's also very
evident in the game story, the level design, and the
overall feel of the game. We wanted to make a game that
would play like an anime film rather than a Doom clone
With that in mind, our
main goal with the single player game is to make you feel
like you're in a living, breathing environment. We want
the enemies to behave like people with lives and families
they care about, not like automatons that sit around in
closets waiting for the good guys to show up. They'll use
cover, conserve ammo, and do their jobs--unless they
panic or go psycho, that is.
VE: Typically how
many polygons are busting da' moves on the screen at any
one time on Riot? Does it vary with the level of the
machine (a faster machine would display more while a
slower machine would display less to keep the frame rate
CB: We've got
built-in level of detail on our characters and will most
likely do the same with the environments--the foundation
is there, it's just a question of implementing it. We'll
also probably include some sort of fog option for people
with slower machines (note, however, that certain levels
will have built-in fog for atmosphere and scale rather
I'm not sure what the
max polygon count will be, but it should be comparable to
what you see in most other games. Fortunately, our 3D
modellers--Peter Arisman, Ben Pierre, and Matt Allen--use
their triangles well. ;)
VE: What is you
entire take on this Dave Perry patent thing? What do you
think of Messiah from what you've seen and his whole
"going to nurbs" bit? Why not use nurbs over
CB: From what I've heard of the game's concept, it sounds
like it could be pretty cool. I hope they explore the
subject matter in an interesting, thought-provoking way
instead of playing it for gimmicks.
My feeling about
technology in general is that it's a tool, not a goal. I
like games that are immersive and fun, which requires
that the technology basically be invisible to the player.
If the average gamer is paying more attention to your
renderer than to what's going on in the game, you haven't
done your job as a game designer.
Even worse, if your
awesome technology simply underscores how incredibly
crappy your conceptual designs are--a certain
candy-colored, over-hyped portal engine game comes to
mind--you could end up fucked. The market is getting too
competitive for developers to cruise on their flashy
feature sets. Technology ages fast, but good games stick
around for years. I still get a lot of joy out of playing
Joust or Tempest, whereas I've deleted a lot of glitzy
demos after only a few minutes of playing them because
they just aren't fun.
A good game makes you
forget about everything except for what's going on in
front of you. You should be wrapped up in overcoming the
next obstacle and striving to attain the next goal, not
in the rendering tricks or the overzealous architecture.
Look at Goldeneye--the technology isn't especially
groundbreaking and the architecture is pretty simple, but
it's a great, innovative game.
The bottom line is that
if Messiah isn't engrossing, I don't care about the
technology because I won't play it. :)
VE: What other
little goodies such as surround sound, etc. are you
planning for Riot...what about the DirectEngine in
CB: Most of the technology you'll see in Riot is listed
on the DirectEngine site. As for gameplay goodies, those
are a surprise, but I assure you that they're relevant to
the genre and quite unexpected. :)
VE: What games do
you have high hopes for and are really looking forward
to? Which games do you think will fall on their asses?
CB: The three I'm jonesing for most are Quake 2,
Half-Life, and Jedi Knight. I've already resigned myself
to the impact each of them will have on my productivity.
I suspect Daikatana
will kick ass, as well, especially if it delivers on the
Final Fantasy/Chrono Trigger influence. The screenshots
are looking very sharp and the design sketches I've seen
really capture the wacky, over-the-top weirdness that
distinguishes the best console RPGs. Sin looks beautiful,
too, but I expect no less from Ritual. I'm sure it'll
I'm curious to see
Unreal. The weapons didn't really excite me at E3--I
prefer visceral, readily identifiable firearms to novelty
weapons--but it's a very pretty game. I'm sure the
texture alignment will be quite impressive, for whatever
that's worth to the average gamer.
Beyond that, Metal Gear
Solid for PSX and N64, which is due next summer, looks to
be one of the coolest fucking games ever made. The
attention to detail is breathtaking. Developers who think
something as juvenile as offensive subject matter
qualifies as innovative content need to take a look at
VE: Is it true you
were the stunt double for Corky in the tv series
"Life Goes On"?
CB: No, but I
played the Professor on Gilligan's Island.
VE: What effects
will Riot and/or the DirectEngine be using on either the
MMX or a 3D accelerator (fogging, etc.) that won't be
available otherwise. For intsance, if somebody has an MMX
but not a 3D accelerator, or visa versa, will they have
features the other doesn't?
CB: I think the MMX version is currently capable of
dialing into your bank account and transferring all your
funds to a bank in Switzerland, but that might only be in
the Glide version.
In other words, I'm not
sure at this point. :)
VE: On average, how
many poly's are there for each character? At this point,
how many of da' nasties are there (bad guys (in Riot))?
CB: Most characters are between 400 and 800. Bosses tend
to be more complex since they'll usually be encountered
The final number of
enemies depends on time. We've got plans for more than we
can possibly do, so we've prioritized to get the
essential ones in first. It'll be over 20 distinct
models, I assure you.
VE: what kind of
things can we expect to see in the AI? Anything like they
are hyping with SiN and Half-Life where the baddies
actually run away and get some of their buddies to help
kick your ass?
CB: That's the plan. We're doing a variety of things to
emulate realistic behavior--limiting enemy ammo, giving
them goals and attitudes, working on group behavior, and
so on. We'll also help them where possible in the level
design and through some limited scripting.
VE: Have your
humanitarian efforts taken you back to the streets of
Compton, where you grew up? What about back to Harlem
where you spent your teen-age years as a globetrotter?
CB: I think you have me confused with somebody else. I
grew up in a suitcase in an attic in Topeka. I got my big
break when I was invited to move to a high rent Samsonite
in New York. Little did I know I was soon to cross paths
with an angry gorilla. (Well, actually, it was a guy in a
gorilla suit, but he was definitely in a bad mood.) It
got me into television, though, so I can't complain,
despite the fact that you can't see me in the commercial
and they edited out my screams.
VE: Why did
Monolith go with developing a proprietary engine such as
DirectEngine rather than sticking with something that has
been tested out, such as the Quake Engine? Were there
limitations or something about the engine that you didn't
CB: DirectEngine was already in development by the time
Quake came out, so it was never a question.
VE: Will the
DirectEngine be using an 8-bit or 16-bit palette as the
supports 16 bit color.
VE: Currently, how
far into the Riot project are you guys? When can we
expect to see a beta?
CB: We're in the death march. We've got a pretty
inflexible content complete date that we're busting our
asses to meet. There's still a lot of work to do, but a
little pressure is good for ya.
The game is due on
shelves before the middle of next year. A demo should be
out around the time we ship.
VE: Do you want to
hire me? I'm kinda cute, make good coffee and can
entertain your guests! :)
CB: I'd have to okay it with my concubines. They're a bit
VE: Anything else
that you would like to say about either the DirectEngine,
Riot, Monolith (Blood2???) or anything else?
CB: Ultimately, Riot has to speak for itself, so I'll
leave it at that. I could tell you about Blood 2, but Jay
is right across the hall from me and would probably come
in here with a shovel if I leaked any secrets. Suffice to
say that it's looking awesome and will definitely be much
more a horror game than its predecessor. They're doing
some creepy shit.
A big thanks goes out
to Craig Hubbard, once again, for being such a
smooth-mofo to take the time to chat with somebody as
annoying as me :) -Billy
check out these exclusive screenshots courtesy of Craig!