Bodycount Interview (PS3)

One, two, three, four... no, it's not sheep we're counting, but bodies. Having spent the morning going hands on with Codemaster's new arcade FPS title, we decided to sit down with lead art director Max Kant and talk about how he, in fact, Kan:

Strategy Informer: So Bodycount is the debut title from your studio - what kind of talent do you have working there? What kind of influences and experiences have you got on the team?

Max Kant: A lot of the team were originally ex-Criterion. A lot of our coders and environment guys had worked on Conflict and the like. It's a nice balanced studio, between veterancy of the leads and new blood. We've been working cross-studios as well, so we've got Codemasters head office etc... working with us as well. We've gotten help on the vehicles from people who've worked on games like DiRT, for instance. We've also got people with background in the comic-book industry, people from Games Workshop, 2001AD etc...

Strategy Informer: When it comes creating a new IP and trying to have a unique gameplay experience, how do you balance creating your own identity with making sure you use what the industry has proven works for fames like these?

Max Kant: I think from a gameplay point of view there are some things that you automatically generate differently. So with dynamic treading into an environment that has a meaningful tactical reason for doing it instead of "hey look, a building just fell over!". When you start cutting your way through walls, it opens up more gameplay options and that starts to distance you from some people. You then make the decision to work the prop placement to compliment that way of doing things.

On the flipside, you're still working with a lot of real world weapons, and they come with certain behaviours and expectations - but a lot of the time we have dialled that up so that it's completely over the top. Take the shotgun for example - can it really blow someone off their feet two metres in the air, probably not. We chose to not go down the realistic route, so we're freed up to do a lot of things, but you have to have a bit of common sense though, so a lot of it just works itself out.

Strategy Informer: You've got your destruction engine in Bodycount. When developers talk about destructibility it's always a matter of degrees, so where do we draw the line here? I assume you won't be able to collapse entire buildings?

Max Kant: We don't bring down an entire building, mainly because if we did we'd be screwed, because than that building would become a pile of not very easy to climb over rubble. Usually with things like these it's like "Hey! We blew up a building!" when really you should be like "Well, why did you blow up a building?" We put a different tack on it - in real life, an AK-47 will tear through a brick wall, eventually. But, if you want to try and destroy a factory with an Ak-47 though, it's not really believable. We keep the core structures of buildings around, so you can have fun with it. Especially in Co-op, when you're having a Michael Cain in Zulu moment... you don't want that Hospital collapsing around you. We're telling a story really, and destruction is a prop in telling that story.
Strategy Informer: You can draw some similarities here between Bodycount and EA's Bulletstorm. Now, you're not as over the top and you don't have skillshots or anything, but you're an arcade shooter with a new IP. Problem is, Bulletstorm was officially a financial flop - are you worried that the industry is coming less accepting of new IP's?

Max Kant: I don't really worry about it. We set out knowing the kind of game we wanted to make, we stuck our stake in the sane 18 months ago, and we've been working to deliver on that ever since. For gameplay styles... stuff we were looking at to make shooting and killing people as rewarding as possible. That's why Intel is the currency of the game - the better you can kill someone, the more currency you get, and that unlocks your abilities and options... we want an escalation of killing.

Strategy Informer: In terms of the story - you've obviously going for a more clichéd set-up, but some of the names you've got - The Target, The Nemesis, The Handler, The Network... they sound like Time Lords or something.

Max Kant: We didn't want to do something like "this is so-and-so, she has two kids and a dog"... if it doesn't have direct relevance to you running around and blowing people to pieces, we didn't want to showcase that stuff too much. We didn't want to lead the player through on rails and point out stuff to them. We wanted a free-for-all. The framing of the story is there, a basic grounding for what you were doing, but then let you get on with it how you wanted to.

Strategy Informer: This game as a co-op mode, but no co-op campaign?

Max Kant: With Co-op, it's different from Single player. Single player you're lead through the story etc... we didn't want to do something where it's you plus another guy playing the exact same game. We wanted to do something like, it's you and Michael Cain in Zulu, you're completely swamped by waves of enemies, increasing difficulties. We can then reward you for that ... we wanted a different gameplay experience for that. We're not invested in a huge single player story or anything.

Strategy Informer: That's the second time you've mentioned Michael Cain and Zulu (ED: Best. Film. Ever.), will there be anyone doing an epic rendition of Men of Harlech in this game?

Max Kant: Hah! Maybe if we included a Welsh level. It can get pretty dangerous around Cardiff at night.
Strategy Informer: Finally, do you worry that the more arcade-style shooters aren't doing as well as they're used to? If you look at the wider FPS market at the moment, all the top-dogs are those 'Hollywood' style military shooters.

Max Kant: I don't know. I mean, when I say arcade-styling on this, we're just focusing on the fun side of things, not taking it to be Hollywood realism. I think we're selling something different, something that focuses on second-to-second fun and doesn't take itself too seriously. It's a game that you could choose to play intently for a long period of time, and still have fun, but then you could also pick it up and play for just give minutes.

Bodycount is mere months away from competition, and whilst it looks like a competent game, we worry about how well it will actually perform on the market. Don't forget to check out our hands-on preview for more gameplay thoughts.