Raven Squad Interview (Xbox360)

Last week, we got the chance to talk about Raven Squad, the upcoming FPS/RTS that won our Best Original Game award from E3, with Lee Perez, Producer on Raven Squad. Special thanks to Lee for taking the time to tell us everything we wanted to know about the game!

Strategy Informer: Thanks for the time Lee. So what exactly is Raven Squad? Can you tell us a bit more about the game?

Lee Perez: Raven Squad starts out with three squads going on a mission when they are shot down. One of the squads is killed, and it's up to the other two to complete Operation Hidden Dagger. As you know, it's not your typical FPS, but not just in the additional RTS qualities. We really pushed to have that 80's action-movie feel, with lots of explosions and over-the-top action...

Strategy Informer: Like Tropic Thunder?

Lee Perez: Yes, just like Tropic Thunder. We wanted to make sure there was an element of humor so that players wouldn't just be shooting guys down, or in this case ordering it. And the different controls from the RTS side make for unique gameplay, which is something we really wanted to push.

Strategy Informer: So you said that three squads were going to complete this mission, but one was shot down and the other two...?

Lee Perez: The other two are on the ground, so it's up to them.

Strategy Informer: We already know that Raven Squad takes place in the Amazon. Does that mean the only locale will be the rainforest, with the occasional building, or will Raven Squad be fighting in different environments.

Lee Perez: There are plenty of different environments. Remember, they're infiltrating an enemy base in the Amazon, so there will be very different areas to fight in. For the most part, the Amazon is a rainforest, and we'll be seeing lots of it.

Strategy Informer: First Person Shooters and Real Time Strategy games are about as different as genres get, besides sports and racing games. Can you tell us a bit about the design challenges of incorporating both of them in a single game?

Lee Perez: Sure. When working on a game with two different control methods, the biggest challenge is to make control as simple as possible. For the FPS side, it was fairly easy, since Raven Squad is an average shooter in terms of controls. Anyone who picks up a 360 controller will know the basics right away. Special weapons are easy to control with the D-Pad, and there's unlimited ammo for the standard guns.

Strategy Informer: Unlimited ammo?

Lee Perez: We felt that the game was more fun with unlimited ammo, at least for the primary weapons, and our playtests confirmed it. Secondary weapons, like grenades, rockets and the sniper rifle have limited ammo. Then switching to RTS mode, everything has to be just as simple. So secondary weapons are still the D-Pad, the analog sticks control movement and zoom functions, and the face buttons are commands. Making it all come together as simple as it is now was probably the most daunting task.

Strategy Informer: What about the PC? Raven Squad is coming to both PC and 360, and obviously the keyboard and mouse controls are very different. That control scheme is preferred over a gamepad for both FPS and RTS's.

Lee Perez: Right, the keyboard and mouse is better for both, but we really wanted to make it perfect for the control pad. It just works on the PC.

Strategy Informer: Anything else?

Lee Perez: Making a smooth transition from first person to RTS view. That transition has to be fast, but it can't be instantaneous.

Strategy Informer: What are some of the limitations of using both genres for Raven Squad? Is there anything that had to be left or taken out of the game because it didn't work with the FPS/RTS side?

Lee Perez: Well, there are only so many actions you can do. Some RTS's have tons of different functions in all areas, from movement to attack. Raven Squad's RTS side is simple and to the point: a squad of three can be sent to cover, or they can attack, or they can retreat. The same applies for FPS mode, where there aren't spectacular actions players can do. It's an action game that can be played completely one way or another, but the fun is to switch between them. That said, Raven Squad doesn't have the best graphics, and it doesn't have the most weapons or unique ones at that. Our goal was to make a game where players could take a squad and switch between playing in first person or in third person.

Strategy Informer: You said three man squads. All squads are three man? Can they split up?

Lee Perez: Yes, all of the squads are three man squads, and no, they can't split up. The three man team is something we kept from early on, and they stick together no matter what. There are two squads, so single players can control both, but one squad can't split up.

Strategy Informer: So players can send one squad to flank, for instance, while the other gives covering fire, but not one or two individuals.

Lee Perez: Exactly. The three man team works great because every character has their own secondary weapon, so one may have a sniper rifle, and he'll be in that one squad. No other character has that sniper rifle; they all have a unique secondary weapon. Just the same, if someone gets shot down, the rest of his squad can't run off. They'll be close by, and if they do try to leave for whatever reason, a timer goes off where they lose if they don't revive him.

Strategy Informer: Can characters die? What happens when they're shot down?

Lee Perez: No, they can't die. Reviving is just a push of a button, and they're just down until they're revived.

Strategy Informer: Multiplayer is, at the moment, limited to cooperative play, where each player controls one squad. Are you looking into competitive gametypes?

Lee Perez: It's certainly not out of the question, but we won't ship with it. Right now, our focus is to clean out the bugs, polish it up and release. We have looked at various multiplayer gametypes, but we haven't actually developed anything just yet. We're really adamant about getting Raven Squad out there and done.

Strategy Informer: What about the PS3? Is there any reason Raven Squad isn't set for release on it?

Lee Perez: Like I said, right now our goal is to finish Raven Squad and ship. The PS3's different architecture wasn't something we had time to really work on. That doesn't mean Raven Squad won't ship for the PS3, but it just won't ship now. If there's enough demand for it, because this is a new IP, then definitely, it'll be on the PS3.

Strategy Informer: Why the rush to release so soon?

Lee Perez: We're already halfway through the year, and with a new IP like Raven Squad, putting it up against the Modern Warfare's and the rest of the holiday lineup just doesn't work. So the team's been working very hard to get the game out there, before the holiday buzz.

Strategy Informer: Right, because people are more willing to spend their money on one of those upcoming sequels instead of a new IP.

Lee Perez: Exactly. So we're doing everything we can to release in Summer, before the Fall and holiday madness kicks in.

Strategy Informer: Besides controls, will there be any noticeable differences between the PC and 360 versions?

Lee Perez: [Raven Squad] will look better on the PC. Other than that, no.

Strategy Informer: Well, that's all we've got. Thanks for the time Lee, and we look forward to playing Raven Squad!