The difference between clever and cunning.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Loadout Interview

Mark Nau is the creative director at Edge of Reality, a venerable and largely console focused studio with a release history going back to the Nintendo 64. Mark himself has worked on everything from Spiderman games and the Call of Duty franchise to quirkier fair like the 1998 Hack-And-Slasher Die by the Sword. Mark has graciously agreed to talk with us for a bit about their upcoming fast-faced, highly customizable, free-to-play shooter Loadout
True machismo needs no body armor

Tell us a little bit about Loadout. From the description it sounds like the highly customizable weapons are the stars of game.

Absolutely. That’s the centerpiece right there. Players can assemble all these different crazy weapon pieces together to make any weapon they want.  And I’m not talking about just little number tweaks, either. I’m talking about “Hey I just made a sniper rifle that can shoot cluster-fire proximity mines!”

Many of Edge of Reality’s previous projects have been franchise based, with a single player emphasis. What made you guys decide to tackle a free-to-play shooter?

We’ve got an opportunity now to make a game we love. This game from start to finish was what we wanted to make. The team is making the game the way they want it to be made, because this is our baby. We’re making a kick-ass, high-action, multiplayer shooter with this outrageous weapon customization. And we’re doing it on our own.

Free-to-play is a great way an independent studio like us can fund an awesome game like Loadout and get it directly to the players.

You can only model so many AK-47s.
What has most surprised you about developing a game like Loadout? For example were there any gameplay or design issues that came as a complete surprise?

When we were floating the idea of allowing players to make their own weapons from parts, with like a ka-zillion possible crazy combinations. The designers were all “This is awesome and fantastic and totally horrifying, all at the same time.” We thought we might have to back off, or severely limit the scope of creativity. But no. It’s full-on weapon invention. I’m amazed the team pulled it off, but it’s in there.

As Creative Director, what sort input do you get on game development? Do you wrangle other developers, do design work yourself, or some combination thereof?

I’m the head of the design department at Edge. My style is to find out places that obstacles exist and try to kick them down so the team can do its work. All the stuff in Loadout, that’s 100% the people on the team deciding how to make a great game.

Fiery death is the best death.

Monetization of free-to-play games is a tricky and sometimes controversial issue. Can you share anything about how you plan to make Loadout fun and accessible when played for free while still tempting players to drop actual cash?

We’ve got a list of principles for monetization for Loadout. #1 is “The free player has an awesome time, feels like we’re treating him fairly, and tells all his friends that Loadout is the game to be playing.” Other games have shown that if you make a great game and people love it, they will be willing to pay money for cool extras, to show support, and to fine-tune their equipment. You don’t need a pay-to-win sledgehammer to get people to chip in.

Just from watching the videos many of the weapon types look exotic and quite creative. I saw electric beams, remote control missiles and scuttling explosive payloads, to name a few.  Just for fun, do you have a favorite weapon component or combination?

I sure do! We even make “What’s your Loadout” video clips and post them on our YouTube channel. I just got done making a gun I call “Blue Balls,” because it shoots a huge scatter of bouncing blue balls that careen all around the level. It’s terrible for precise shooting or wide-open spaces, but total magic for close-quarters spray-and-pray.

Thank you very much for your time. Best of luck with Loadout and your future projects!
You can check http://www.loadout.com/ for future update and potential Beta access.

Articles copyright James Cousar, games and images copyright their respective owners.

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