Section 8: Prejudice Interview (PC)

We honestly liked Section 8, despite some of its flaws, so we're rather pleased to see a sequel in the works. Section 8: Prejudice will hopefully fix all of the important things from the first game, as well as expand on what was a rather fun experience. We say down with Design Director Brett Norton to find out what he knows.

Strategy Informer: Well, we'll start things off simple - Why 'Prejudice'? Why not 'Section 9' or something? As odd as it may seem, we feel there's a real divide when it comes to naming a game and using a sub-title, using a number, or some other creative name convention.

Brett Norton: So we were all sitting around trying to brainstorm a name for a sequel to Section 8. We said to ourselves, "which classic action series had the best naming scheme ever?". The decision was obviously Rambo, or more correctly First Blood. In following that great tradition, we added a subtitle for our second game. This way we can promptly remove the original name when we do a third game, thereby confusing the audience even more as to the origin of the series.

Strategy Informer: As much as we loved Section 8, sadly it wasn't perfect so we're rather (pleasantly) surprised to see a sequel in the works - especially given the nature of the industry these days. Has there always been a sequel planned or is this a recent development that you found you were able to go forward with? Can you shed some light on the back-story there?

Brett Norton: We actually began to work on Prejudice shortly after we wrapped up the Section 8 DLC pack. As we finished up the DLC, plans for Prejudice were already being rolled out. Fortunately, things went well enough following Section 8 for us to get an immediate start on Prejudice, and we were off to the races!

The rest of the back-story on the sequel is really just boring business stuff, filled with secret backroom deals, kidnappings, and the occasional bank heist to find the necessary capital. Pretty tame compared to the exciting world of project scheduling and iterative planning sessions.

Strategy Informer: Actually, it wasn't so much Section 8 itself that made Prejudice such a nice surprise, as the fact that your partner with the original game, SouthPeak Interactive, have been having... difficulties lately. Are they involved with Prejudice? Did their troubles affect you in anyway?

Brett Norton: Prejudice is 100% funded and 100% produced by TimeGate – an independent developer’s dream. We’re pretty tough critics of our own work, so even without outside parties being involved we had our own lists of ‘stuff to improve and new things to add’ for Prejudice.

Strategy Informer: Obviously it has already been pointed out the single-player was a bit of a shallow offering. Personally, we didn't mind so much that it was a tutorial for multiplayer so much as the fact that you seem to go to some lengths to establish this universe, the ARM, Section 8 and the back-story of some of these characters, and yet you don't do anything with it. Are you going to delve more into the history with this game?

Brett Norton: Short answer yes. Long answer yeeeeeeeeeessssss. The campaign component was one of our main targets to beef up for Prejudice, and we’ve sunk quite a bit of time and energy into building a better narrative for our game. There’s a much more involved plot, characters, and campaign-specific gameplay - all the goodies you’d expect.

In the end, it was a good move. We wanted to make Prejudice a lot more accessible and give the players a much more entertaining playing ground. We’re really pleased to see that players coming out of the campaign are hungry for other game modes and have picked up a great skillset along the way. On top of that, the deeper narrative gives Prejudice a much bigger sense of place and presence, and it really enriches the atmosphere of our game world.
Strategy Informer: The most unique element, as far as we were concerned, was the fact that you could 'hotdrop' onto the battlefield. Is anything changing with that in Prejudice? Or are you leaving it pretty much the same?

Brett Norton: There are definitely some changes in store for that feature. Fundamentally, it’s still the same cool mechanic, but it’s had a facelift and some gameplay improvements. We’re going to roll out the full dropping revamp at a later time, though. If you liked dropping, don’t worry, it’s only gotten better. Core principles? The same. Execution? Much better, with more interesting gameplay choices.

Strategy Informer: The original game was based around the GFWL platform - will you continue to use this for multiplayer in Prejudice or are you considering other options?

Brett Norton: We will be announcing our PC platform strategy very soon. We are focusing primarily on everything working very well and going off without a hitch at launch. We know we had some problems at launch for Section 8 with servers and matchmaking, but that is all ironed out for Prejudice. So players can focus more on the great game experience rather than dealing with connectivity and matchmaking hiccups.

Strategy Informer: While Section 8 wasn't really biased towards any one platform, it was surprising that the PC version didn't have any mod support - will you be changing this with Prejudice? What are your thoughts on the modding community?

Brett Norton: A lot of our developers come from modder backgrounds, and they like to toy around with SDKs themselves. It’s something we’d like to do, but it’s also something that takes work to do right. We’re always torn in our desire to put more effort into the mod/map community, while still needing to support the game for our fans.

In the end, we don’t have anything to announce on SDK / modding / mapping support for the community. We think about the question a lot, though, but it’s a delicate choice between ‘spend more energy making gameplay better’ vs. ‘spend that energy making a more moddable game’. As you might imagine, those aren’t easy choices to make.

Strategy Informer: Will Prejudice be a multi-platform offering like the first game?

Brett Norton: Yes, it’s multiplatform. We’ll be hitting X360, PS3, and PC with Prejudice.

Strategy Informer: On that note, the PS3 version of Section 8 was released over PSN - how did that work out for you? Do you think there's a future there for large-scale production titles such as Section 8 in a download only form on the consoles?

Brett Norton: The PS3 version of Section 8 did quite well. We were pleased with the PSN turnout, and Sony’s PSN standards are very relaxed in allowing digital titles to do lots of great things. Developers are starting to realize that there’s more to a platform than just the hardware; the quality of the online infrastructure, software, and corporate polices, matter a lot.

That being said, I think that downloadable titles are on the inevitable trend upwards. Digital distribution is pretty accepted on the PCs, and the consoles are following in suit. There has been a slew of great digital titles on the consoles this year, and I want to see more!

Strategy Informer: TimeGate of course made its name in the early days with Strategy games like Kohan and Axis & Allies (which I rather liked, actually), and much recently some expansions for F.E.A.R. Have you taken any lessons from those early days and applied them to Prejudice? What's it like to suddenly go from making strategy games to making FPS games?

Brett Norton: Our RTS games always had a lot of unique mechanics. Instead of focusing on tactical gameplay with heavy micromanagement, we focused on strategic gameplay. I think we were one of the few RTS developers who intentionally pushed away from APM-heavy gameplay.

But those were RTS’s, and they’re a very different beast from shooters. The only concepts we pulled from our RTS days manifested themselves in some features like Dynamic Combat Missions and purchasing. We liked the strategic flexibility to call down deployables almost anywhere on the map, and coupled with the semi-random DCMs, we wanted each battle to play out slightly differently. Unpredictability was a big element in our RTS games, especially with our random map generators, and we wanted at least a hint of that in our shooter games.

Making a shooter is pretty different from making a strategy game, though. Shooter fans value things very differently than the strategy fans. We spent a lot of our early efforts altering our development methodology to meet those expectations. It was a big technical challenge, especially in the art department, as the complexity of art assets skyrockets when you go from a distant bird’s-eye camera to a first person camera.

It was a challenge, but I’m glad we did it. From someone who loves to learn new systems, it was great to have a whole new genre to unravel.

Strategy Informer: You could argue that the various 'shooter' sub-genres that Section 8 falls into are becoming pretty crowded now. What do you hope will help you to remain competitive, providing you can fix the problems highlighted in the first game?

Brett Norton: Our particular sub-genre isn’t getting that much more crowded. Many shooters today are still campaign-heavy, multiplayer-light experiences. Or, if they have multiplayer it’s only on the scale of 4-16 players. There’s a high demand for that, but there’s definitely still an unfilled demand for the multiplayer-heavy, large-scale shooters. Especially on consoles where games that support 24 or more players are pretty rare compared to the games that support 16 or less. In contrast, Prejudice will support 32 players on the consoles.

To remain competitive, it’s simple; you’ve just got to make your game better and cooler than the other guys. It needs to be accessible and intuitive, but still play different enough that fans feel like they’re getting a unique experience they can’t get anywhere else.

Even though the expectations are pretty simple, the execution is pretty hard. You’re trying to hit a moving target as the genres and tech keep evolving, and you’re never quite certain what everyone else is up to. It’s a great challenge, but in the end developers are almost always gamers too, so we push ourselves to make something fans will love.
Strategy Informer: You've mentioned how you've listened to the community a lot for this game. How do you balance taking on board what the community wants and what you want? Was there anything the community wanted that you didn't want to put in, for example?

Brett Norton: The list of ‘what the community wants’ and ‘what the developers want’ overlapped in many areas. However, there’s a secret third list that we also had to deal with, which is the ‘what things we can actually do’. That’s the most annoying list to deal with because it’s often at odds with the other two.

Fortunately, we hit on a lot of the major items fans wanted to see in Prejudice. There might be a few things the community was hoping for that we weren’t able to sneak in, but we’re confident the big changes will be noticeable and appreciated. There were a lot of ‘out there’ ideas from the community that didn’t make it in this round - ideas such as ‘make a Planetside-esque meta game’ to ‘cross platform play’.

It’s no spoiler to say that we are not including a meta-game in Prejudice or wrestling for territories.

Strategy Informer: It's probably too soon for a release date, but do you have a release 'window' you'd like to target? When did work start on Prejudice? How soon can we expect to see something like a Beta or a playable build?

Brett Norton: Can’t sneak any info out of me just yet, I’m only a designer. Those evil marketing gurus control the juicy tidbits like ‘The beta will be starting in X weeks’ or ‘the release date is in X quarter’. So have mercy on me, I have to work in the same building as the marketing team. I don’t want to see a lot of frowny faces when I come into the office tomorrow.

Strategy Informer: Looking at the screenshots, the various players seem to all be wearing different coloured suits, which wasn't in the first game. Is this part of the improved customization you are offering?

Brett Norton: Ho ho ho. Clever. (Ed: Why thank you.) But even by analyzing our screenshots and turning them against us, we will not reveal that there are multiple different armour visuals in the game, or that they can be set in a loadout like other types of loadout items. You have been outwitted sir, and I certainly will not discuss the criteria for obtaining those different armour suits.

Strategy Informer: Looking at the trailer - we're seeing what can only be described as 'kill moves' between players, those mech suits and players, those mech suits and other mech suits... care to shed any light on that?

Brett Norton: The advantage of a sci-fi universe is that you can take liberties with reality to emphasize the heroic. If you want to rip a limb off another mech and beat him to death with it, who are we to object to such fun?

It’s a pretty simple to use system really, but that doesn’t stop it from being a great humiliation kill. Let’s just say for now that it builds on the mech-on-infantry kill moves that you saw in Section 8 but expands the roster several times over. I think the best one is where the infantry jumps on the ... oh wait, I can’t go into that one yet either.

Strategy Informer: Are there any final words you'd like to impart to our readers?

Brett Norton: Thanks for reading guys! We’re looking forward to sharing some Prejudice multiplayer footage with all of you. More info soon, as soon as the chancellor of marketing lets us talk about it (and show it)!
There you have it folks, as much as we could squeeze from them regarding Section 8: Prejudice. We used torture and everything, but they wouldn't break. As you will no doubt have heard today, a MP Beta is on the way, so we'll probably be visiting this again in the near future.


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By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Oct 20, 2010
If this is going to be as big an improvement as they say, I'm really going to look forward to this.

Although I'm a bit excited anyway.
By Ridgy (SI Core Member) on Oct 20, 2010
"Starts off where Section 8 left" You mean in a dustbin in a dark alley behind Time Gate studios? :P
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Oct 20, 2010
Yeah, I didn't like the original. This one sounds decent enough, but it doesn't make it onto my shopping list.
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Oct 21, 2010
Oh ye of little faith :P
By Ridgy (SI Core Member) on Oct 21, 2010
I believe that in this case lightning strikes twice at the same place.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Oct 22, 2010
For the record, lightning often strikes the same place twice. Imagine the amount of lightning rods if not :P
By Lugiasan (I just got here) on Dec 15, 2010
The BETA is awesome! You have no idea how good this game is.