Red Faction: Guerrilla Interview (PC)

We smashed through the beautiful Georgian walls of Home House on Londonís Portman Square to get a hands-on taste of the upcoming Red Faction: Guerrilla available to download in demo form on XBLA and PSN now.

While we were there we put a Nano Rifle to Volitionís Associate Producer Sean Kennedyís head and made him answer all of our probing Guerrilla questions. Find out exactly how much destruction you can cause, the biggest challenges the team faced and what Kennedy thinks of Lucasartsí Fracture. Strap yourselves in tight, peopleÖthis is a big interview.

Strategy Informer: In a recent press release we read that players will be able to bring down the EDF brick by brick. Does that mean that literally ever structure in Red Faction: Guerrilla is destructible?

Sean Kennedy: Everything in the world thatís manmade Ė buildings, structures, cars or anything you can pick up is completely destructible. So, the player truly can break down the EDF brick by brick. Thatís all possible because of the destruction engine weíve made Ė Geo-Mod 2.0. This is essentially the first game to have true destruction, true physics-based destruction with realistic stressing, so everything in the world had to be built architecturally sound. Anything you see in the world is built just like it would be in real life. If not, it would actually collapse under its own weight, which was an issue early in development.

Sean Kennedy, associate Producer for Red Faction: Guerrilla
The largest construction walker is pretty resilient to heavy fire and can casually stroll through most walls.

Strategy Informer: Was that the main challenge then? Getting everything to stay upright?

Sean Kennedy: Weíd create new buildings and put them in the game and as soon as the destruction system would kick in Ė every few seconds, itís scanning everything in the world Ė it would start stressing and collapsing. We couldnít put 50 tonnes of concrete on top of some composite material, so we ended up at one point having to basically dump everything we did and teach our artists how to be architects and redo all the assets. On top of that, we had to change how weíd normally approach making a mission or an activity. Usually, thereís a way to do something, a straightforward path and everything is always clear. You throw in destruction and a mission can be done in multiple ways, whatever way the player wants to approach it, so you have to design everything around that. (That was) one of the biggest challenges, (but) in the end it all worked out.

Strategy Informer: Guerrilla marks the seriesí first foray away from terraforming. Is this partly in response to games like Fracture?

Sean Kennedy: (Laughs) Ha, Fracture! You can actually put that in your article! (Laughs again) Yeah, Geo-Mod 1.0 was about terrain deformation and it allowed you to endlessly dig through terrain and do all sorts of things like that. After doing two games of that, we knew we wanted to do a third Red Faction, but we didnít just want to repeat ourselves. We knew we wanted to do something bigger, so we had to wait until the current systems came out that really had enough power to do exactly what we wanted, which was real destruction thatís realistic, physics-based and something no-oneís ever seen before. So, we made a conscious decision not to do it, we didnít want to just repeat the same game. I mean, we couldíve done that again, but in the end it wouldíve been Red Faction 1, but with that next-generation, plastic look, so we chose to go in another direction.

Whatís great for us is, the first Red Faction came out in 2001 and years later no one has actually come close to doing what we did with Geo-Mod. You mentioned Fracture, its terrain deformation was up and down and then they attempted to build a game around that and (laughs) they didnít really succeed! We thought that was really amusing when they said, Ďnever before have you been able to change the battlefield!í Not since 2001, have you been able to do that! I mean even with that, itís like okay Ė eight years and no oneís done that, letís do something thatís going to take everybody three to five years to try to come close to, so we made Geo-Mod 2.0. And even the reaction from the industry itself, like at the recent GDC where we gave talks, they were like, Ďyou have achieved something that we couldnít even come close to!í From top people in the industry, itís a huge compliment. Itís when you know youíve done something right. You see the look on gamerís faces, but when you see the look on (the faces of) people who also make games itís pretty satisfying.

Strategy Informer: So how long has Red Faction: Guerrilla been in development now?

Sean Kennedy: SK: (Laughs) From the very beginning from when we first started until now, itís been about five years. Itís one of the benefits of THQ, they werenít rushing us out the door, they werenít going to make us push something out before we were ready. Weíve had that time to create the technology. Everything in there is proprietary. We use Havok just to throw objects around the world, but in the end all of it is from Geo-Mod.

We had the benefit of something different on this project where we actually went into post-production, where we actually cut the team down to a very small, concentrated group of people who just worked on polishing and polishing, which is why we had a little bit of a delay. It was actually so we could make the game the best we possibly could and that turned out to be an amazingly rewarding experience, which was something we wouldnít normally be able to do on other projects.

Alec Mason is pretty much a one-man army, although at certain points youíll have allies helping you out.
Kennedy and the rest of the team at Volition were keen to do something different. So, terrain-deformation is out and building destruction is in.

Strategy Informer: As we all know, Volition are also responsible for the Saints Row games, which are open world just like Red Faction: Guerrilla. Were there any lessons you learnt from the Saints Row team?

Sean Kennedy: Well, Red Faction: Guerrilla was in development during Saints Row 1 and Saints Row 2, so weíre a pretty close studio and we do communicate and we wanted to see what they were doing, especially since we were going open world too. As a studio, thatís been a conscious decision that weíre an open world studio and weíve always been about pushing technology. Anyway, weíd look at what they were doing and I think you do find some similarities, like the structure of the world and how itís broken up into districts and neighbourhoods. Our world is broken up into sectors and in sectors, thereíre so many zones and it was something theyíd do and it works, so we decided to do it too and expand upon it and take it in a different direction.

Strategy Informer: Youíve a lot of unique weaponry in the game too. Which would you say is your personal favourite?

Sean Kennedy: I have two favourites - the arc welder, which is one of the guerrilla tools. Their weapons are essentially mining tools turned into weapons, so itís a welding device turned into a weapon. All of the materials in the world are real, so they have the same properties. Here we have this electric weapon thatís attracted to anything metal, especially when you upgrade it and add more arcs, thereís actually a safety feature so you wonít electrocute anyone but EDF. So, itís pretty cool when you have a vehicle a guyís trying to hide behind Ė shoot it and itíll fry everyone inside, itíll arc, get those people and then maybe thereís a guy standing next to a lamppost and itíll go over and get him too. I like that.

My other one is the Nano Rifle, which is actually a big part of the game; part of the story and it goes back to Red Faction 1. I love that one because anything it shoots dissolves, including people. When you shoot people Ė anyone whoís ever watched Star Trek Ė it has that same effect as phasers, you just watch them burn up and scream! There is a third weapon I like, but itís not really a weapon, itís more of a tool specific to multiplayer. Itís the Reconstructor, which essentially reverses destruction, so anything you destroy, shoot it with this weapon and youíll actually see it re-materialise. The Nano Rifle dissolves things into matter; this takes matter and reconstructs anything.

Strategy Informer: So you feel that now youíve had the chance to build the Red Faction game youíve always wanted to?

Sean Kennedy: Thereís always more that you want to do. Even in Red Faction: Guerrilla thereís more that weíd like to do, but in the end weíre pushing both consoles as hard as we can. You know youíre doing good work when the people who make the systems are impressed by what youíre doing, but weíll continue to tweak technology and try to push more out of it. Weíre really happy with it though. Itís a game that even when youíve played the original Red Factions, thereís enough in there that youíll be able to get into it, beginning a continuation of that original story and thereíre a lot of references throughout the world that theyíll see, back to Ultor (the original gameís antagonists) and that incident. Then people whoíve never even heard of Red Faction or never played it before, they can dive right in and enjoy a completely new experience. Weíve accomplished what we wanted to.

Strategy Informer: Cinematically, your closest reference point is probably Total Recall, with its own Martian uprising, the mines, mining tools and so on. Other than this, what would you say are your other film and videogame influences?

Sean Kennedy: Videogame reference-wise, Iíd say Red Faction 1. (Film references) Total Recall to an extent, but actually (Iíd say) Aliens for a lot. I mean you look at Red Faction, itís set in the future and itís sci-fi, but itís more of a grounded look. Itís a realistic look at what the future might be. People are still in vehicles with wheels, but it is sci-fi and Aliens had that. It had that same kind of look in the future but itís not like Star Wars or Star Trek, so that was a big influence. You can actually see it in one of the walkers. The smallest of the walkers, kind of looks like Ripleyís exo-skeleton thing.

Actually, we looked at a lot of books like the Red Mars, Blue Mars, Green Mars series. We looked at those and it was kind of funny because it was like what we were already doing, so we ended up not really using that. We also looked at a lot of guerrilla war manuals including one that covered the Russian-Afghanistan war, so a lot of research into guerrilla movements and combat.

Strategy Informer: The look of the game is very lived-in, very convincing. Was it important for you to achieve that kind of art style?

Sean Kennedy: Yeah, although not everywhere in the worldís like that. You have six sectors, starting with Parker, which is the first settlement on the surface after they come up from the underground after Red Faction 1. Terra-forming is far enough along that they can breathe the air and when youíre in that area, it does look much older, very rough and the buildings look like theyíre made out of whatever they could find, but you go beyond that to Dust where all the construction takes place and it has a more gritty look. Structures are bigger, heavier concrete buildings and the terra-forming is farther along, so the terrain is brown, thereís plant life starting to grow and the skyís starting to turn yellow.

Beyond that, you go to Oasis and you have grass everywhere, groundís covered in shrubs and the skyís turned blue. Because of that itís more residential and with that you have people coming from Earth bringing cultural influences, which youíll see in the architecture and the mosaic tile work. It has a kind of African, Moroccan influence. If you go to an area like Eos, thatís where all the wealth and technology of Mars is, so you get that much cleaner look. Eos is north Mars, so you have kind of a grey rock and to the northern tip you start seeing some ice. Structures are huge white buildings with blue glass and thereíre a lot of decorative details everywhere - little things like park benches and sculptures. The people there are dressed much better and they drive sleek futuristic sports cars. Even (for the sports cars), the references we used were auto shows, where you see concept cars, so like concept Lotus and all those. So, thereís that grittiness and then we have that very clean look.

You can travel anywhere in the world and youíll see this seamless transition from one sector to another. Youíll see the sky change and actually the lighting, fog and time of day looks different.

Every structure had to be built so itís architecturally sound otherwise itíll collapse under its own weight.
here are some inventive weapons in the game enabling you to cause massive damage. The explosions look great too.

Strategy Informer: In Saints Row 2 we saw a lot of crazy vehicles like the Gyrocopter and the UFO. Will we be seeing anything similar in Red Faction: Guerrilla?

Sean Kennedy: Not really. When youíre in Parker, itís more industrial vehicles like dump trucks, diggers. When you get into Oasis, you start seeing regular cars and taxis like you see The Fifth Element, with the round, roll-up doors and Eos has the luxury stuff. But you know itís all grounded in realistic ideas of what vehicles will look like in the future. There are three different walkers too. Thereís the large construction walker made for smashing, so itís slower but very powerful. Thereís the medium-sized combat walker that doesnít have arms but it shoots missiles, then the small one is not as strong, but it can run, has arms for attacks and has a jet on its back so you can temporarily execute a jump-jet-hover move.

Then we have a fleet of EDF vehicles, including a range of tanks with the biggest one being the artillery tank that can shoot one missile at a time or it can shoot a huge spread like the Jericho thing in Iron Man. But we donít have a septic tank vehicle Ė weíre not shooting shit on people! And no flying saucers, although the EDF have aircraft but you canít commandeer any of them and thatís what we were saying with things we wish we could do. We wanted to do that but it came down to the limitations of the hardware. The main issue with a lot of it was the streaming. We didnít want to have to make a visual sacrifice to get something that there wasnít really much point to. This is much more ground-based and guerrillas arenít really military people, so theyíre not going to have aircraft.

Strategy Informer: What plans do you have for downloadable content?

Sean Kennedy: (Laughs) Everyone keeps asking that! And I donít know what to say! Well, Iím associate producer, but Iím also the producer on the DLC, so there are plans for single-player, multiplayer and Wrecking Crew but Iím not getting into specifics. Anyone who plays RF: G will be very satisfied with the DLC.

Look out for a hands-on preview of Red Faction: Guerrilla very soon.


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By Nicolas19 (SI Core Veteran) on Apr 26, 2009
Well, this looks promising, but it's nothing like guerilla warfare. I'd love to see that in an action game, Far Cry 2 being the closest reminisence. All fps are packed with immortal superheroes. Maybe ArmA2...