We have a sit down with industry veteran, Christian Allen to talk shop about his rare shooter.
Takedown: Red Sabre sits in a league of its own among modern first person shooters. Franchises like Ghost Recon, SOCOM, even Rainbow Six have either failed to match evolving trends of shooters or in RS’s cases, are biding their development time carefully.
Serellan’s tactical shooter on the other hand, has elected to go against the grain, so to speak, boldly illustrating a form of gameplay, that was once common ground for FPSs; before COD4 broke the mold. We managed to catch up with studio head, Christian Allen, and discovered, not only what makes a game like this tick, but why they’ve nestled in the old FPS nook.
Raymond Solis: Tac shooters are in a niche genre, as you know, why go this route? Is it because there’s an absence of this kind of game, with the exception of Counter Strike?
Christian Allen: Exactly. So I’ve been working AAA shooters for over a decade. I was the creative director for Ghost Recon and lead designer on Halo Reach and basically, to make a long story short, when I left Warner Bros studios, I put up the website, Serellan and began receiving emails from fans, like, “oh you have a website, you’re with a new company, you must be making a tac shooter. We want a tac shooter.”
RS: Bells ringing.
CA: Yes, so for a game like [Takedown: Red Sabre] both single player, co-op and multiplayer, there’s just nothing out there. And that’s when we decided to do the kickstarter and we had 5,000 people donate. We were lucky in the fact that Sony shut down Zipper right around that point. So with my background on Ghost Recon and Halo and the guys from SOCOM, we were able to put together a really solid shooter team.
RS: That franchise's demise aided your cause.
CA: Right. Well, if you look at Ghost Recon, if you look at SOCOM; the trajectories of those franchises, where they’ve gone from their hardcore roots and Rainbow Six as well, to try to capture the broader audience.
RS: The Call of Duty route.
CA: Yeah, exactly, the Call of Duty route. Two weapons, regenerating health, cover system, blah, blah, blah, blah. We looked and said, every shooter is going in this direction, we’re going to go the other direction. And yes, we’re not going to appeal to everybody and we’re not going to sell ten million units and Call of Duty is fine, but Transformers comes out and they can be Transformers and we’ll be something different (chuckles). And really just try and serve the fans.
RS: Always cool to hear that.
CA: It’s really cool because we answer to them rather than, I don’t have to make excuses, I don’t have to say, ‘oh, we got to have a killstreak system’ or ‘how’s our RPG system continue to fight against used game sales?’ Screw that, we’ll do what [the fans] want. Again, it’s not for everybody, it’s lethal, it doesn’t hold your hand, but that’s what we’re trying to do. Just pure, hardcore - lethal.
RS: Now you’re going the more classic route, versus the only other title we know of out now, Counter Strike with its economy system. You guys have a straight up open system, where everything is available out of the box, correct?
CA: Correct. Everything is open from the get-go. We actually were looking at a class based system, but again, we put it out to the fans, and said, ‘what do you guys want?’ They said they want it straight up, you choose what weapon. Now what really drives it, even though it’s based on realism, it’s kind of a rock, paper, scissors, system; so you have your body armor, which affects your movement, and noise. You have penetration throughout the levels so the ammunition can penetrate different things; and the recoil and accuracy - which is based on movement as well.
RS: Can you elaborate?
CA: So if you take a submachine gun, you can run around and shoot a lot faster. If you take a sniper - you have a lot more recoil. Also, the collision of the weapon takes into account. So if you’re running into walls, and you have a big ol sniper rifle, that weapon will affect that, because every weapon is accurately modeled. So there’s an inherent balance with all the systems and how those systems work together. So it’s a lot about seeing what environment am I going to go into, which weapon do I want to choose, what armor do I want to take. So it’s not just an AWP always beats an MP5.
RS: So it’s more about realism than particular balances?
CA: Yes. In Halo our focus was any two weapon combinations have to be equal. We’re just like, we make them realistic and if you choose a shotgun on facility you’re going to get totally hosed. And if you try to take a sniper rifle on killhouse you’re probably gonna get hosed too.
RS: Is there a tutorial to familiarize yourself with these accurately depicted weapons?
CA: Yes, there is a little bit of a training level with dummies and targets, where you go in and shoot the different weapons and get a handle on how they feel. But yea, if you choose a bad combination, then that’s going to accurately reflect in the game.
RS: What can you tell us about the map randomizer?
CA: Yea, it’s not completely random, but essentially there’s dozens of combinations with objectives and enemies. We really focus on replayability throughout the entire game so you got mission mode, you have objectives and scenarios and some objectives are randomized and some are set so you’re not completely lost all the time. We’ve also got tango hunt and bomb-disarm modes in single player and co-op. And in multiplayer we have multiple different layouts for every map.
RS: And how linear or nonlinear are these modes?
CA: Everything is completely nonlinear, so you decide how you’re gonna take it. You have multiple insertion points. For a $14.99 title, we’re really focused on providing quite a bit a metric s*** ton of replayability. Co-op is up to 6 players.
RS: A team of six? Wow. Does that affect the A.I. count?
CA: Not the A.I. count. Well, there’s certain difficulties that are triggered by higher player count in a few different missions, but it’s pretty much straight up. Basically, it’s going to be a little easier if you have six, versus two. In tango hunt and bomb disarm, you can set the enemy count and it’s completely randomized and there’s 150 possible spawn locations for the enemies.
RS: So they can appear anywhere at anytime?
CA: So it’s not like Call of Duty where enemies generate throughout the mission. In [Takedown: Red Sabre] the map begins, enemies are spawned and that’s set. So you’re never gonna have a guy spawn behind you. If you get shot in the back, it’s because they heard you, went throughout the level and came in from behind.
RS: The A.I. seems pretty sharp, is that for this build or by design?
CA: Yes, so you saw that today. There’s some squad behavior. Basically, when they’re in proximity to each other, one guy will flank, one guy will cover, or they call out to each other. We keep it pretty toned down so there’s not too much chatter.
RS: How many maps will you have at launch?
CA: So we’re gonna have six core maps, which is our core environments. And each map has multiple layouts for attack and defend. So a map like Facility, is like 5 multiplayer maps. That’s the really cool thing about nonlinear design. Basically, I can take a chunk of a level and say, ‘this will make a cool deathmatch map.’ All the maps are modular, which allows us to chop them up for tight multiplayer experiences.
Takedown: Red Sabre hits Steam and XBL on September 20th for $14.99.