They Came From Hollywood at Action Vault

I didn’t see this mentioned anywhere else here. The Gone Gold boards tipped me off to it:

http://actionvault.ign.com/features/interviews/tcfhollywood.shtml

Some great new info is revealed. Biplanes? Mustard gas? A tanker truck full of liquid nitrogen?!?

I can’t believe what Sparky and Lars are trying to do with this thing – It’s like a point-by-point response to my personal wish list for a giant monster computer game. I’m not really looking forward to any other games this year, but I CAN’T WAIT for TCFH.

Go Octopus Motor!

Until I can rampage through Neo-Tokyo with a giant lustful tentacle monster, my wishlist will remain unfulfilled.

It’s a pretty good interview with a good amount of information but for some reason this question pissed me off:

“Action Vault: Is there much diversity in the AI such as different enemies using different strategies?”

I understand what he’s asking but jesus christ, what kind of an answer do they expect? “No Richard, there is no diversity in the AI. All the units in the game behave in the exact same mannet.”

I’m also getting a little burned out on interviews that don’t have any followup questions. A lot of them just seem like form letters. When someone replies with something interesting it’s just left at that. It’s like talking to someone at a party.

Guy: So, how are you?
Girl: Fine
Guy: What do you do for a living.
Girl: I’m actually a transvestite who kills babies.
Guy: How old are you?
Girl: I’m 5,000 years old, and my vampire name is Hawk.
Guy: So tell us about some of the best features in your upcoming game.
Girl: There are these two paddles. One on the left side of the screen, and the other on the right side of the screen. Then there is this ball that bounces back and forth.
Guy: Tell us about the graphics engine.
Girl: There isn’t one, it’s up to the player to use their imagination.
Guy: What kind of video card will it require?
Girl: Are you listening to a damn thing I’m saying?
Guy: Well, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, it was very informative!

Yeah, I’m extremely excited for it to come out. It’s a rare example of a game that seems seems to look(and sound) better as time goes on, very cool. One of my concerns with it is how building damage will work. I don’t believe I’ve seen any screenshots that show buildings being damaged. They’re either in perfect shape or completely destroyed. I’m also wondering if there is going to be some sort of power bar showing the buildings integrity, or will you use visual queues. While I’m at it I’m also wondering if there will be a lot of blood when you step on people, and if it leaves tracks.

Well, it’s because nobody does actual interviews. What you’re reading should only be refered to as a “Q/A” because it’s basically a bunch of questions emailed to the respondant. With any luck, the “interviewee” is somewhat entertaining, so you’ll get answers that are at least interesting to read.

I actually had this discussion with our PR team earlier this week. I’m trying to encourage them to have the writers schedule a proper interview time – over the phone, likely – so they’ll at least have the chance to ask the important follow up question.

Thing is, most of the writers have little or no interview experience. I don’t know if they even know how to properly interview someone.

Any of the proper Game Journalist here have a thought on this topic? I’m curious…

I’m 5,000 years old, and my vampire name is Hawk.

[quote=“Gladguy”]

Well, it’s because nobody does actual interviews. What you’re reading should only be refered to as a “Q/A” because it’s basically a bunch of questions emailed to the respondant.[/quote]

Aha! I suspected as much and you can pick those email interviews out within the first two questions. It turns into more of an FAQ. Incredibly lame. It makes sense for smaller, lesser known sites, but when one of those shows up elsewhere, it is very irritating and often times I do not read much of it. The questions are predictable and the responses canned. Blech!

Lars (Mr. “Why Post At Qt3 When You Can Just Paste In My Response?”) answers:

"Quite correct. We are in a “transitional phase” as I rewrite some of the underlying code handling collision data as well as redoing the collapse sequences of all the buildings (see Tech FX articles Collapse and Box Lists for more detail). It’s a pretty involved rewrite of a portion of the low level engine code, so it’s taking a while. It also means we have to re-render EVERYTHING, especially buildings (which also need to be collapsed all over again as well). So until that process is finished, we don’t have the building collapse or damage working completely. We’re almost back to where we were.

We do show building damage as a progression (it’s just turned off as we redo the engine fixes and building assets). Basically I take the first frame of the collapse sequence which shows the building at maximum damage (dirty, bits broken off, bent up, broken windows, etc.) and I do a localized blending of that with the pristine state using a plasma map as a mask. This makes for randomly shaped regions of damage that progress into larger areas as the building gets more damaged. I do the same thing for burn damage on buildings damaged by fire, except it’s masked with black & gray noise for a charred effect.

Since we’re a 2D game, we can’t accurately represent every possible damage type in every possible location of a structure, etc. This technique works out as a good compromise and the effect generally looks pretty good without requiring a bunch of new assets to be created. Some of our older screenshots show these effects to a limited degree, and our new screenshots will show it when we’re done with the current task of rewriting the collision system and re-rendering the assets. I might write up a Tech FX article on how that works in detail at some point…"

The people do bleed, but they’re so small that the puddle is only a few pixels wide (actually, only the soldiers are bleeding right now, you can see that in some of the screenshots). Dead people gradually fade away – they don’t linger around infinitely as corpses (monsters won’t eat corpses anyway). The monster itself leaves tracks (footprints, damage to the ground) but it doesn’t leave bloody smears in its wake or anything. We’re not trying to make it a gorefest - that’s really not our style, and besides, you rarely see blood in old monster movies.

I always like the “final” Q in those lame online Q&A articles, especially when it goes something like this:

“Q: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions!”

Brian’s right, though. There probably aren’t a lot of writers working in the business who can do the actual give-and-take of a bona fide interview. Even then, I have to wonder if most readers even care.

But good for you, Brian, for encouraging your developers to actually get on the phone and talk. It can make a difference. Personally, when writing a preview, I’d rather have a thirty minute conversation with the developer than a demo from some producer or PR guy.

 -Tom

Ohh, I do feel like an idiot. I had gone back to look at the screenshots before I posted but failed to look at the old (the late 2001) screens where a number of pics show damage. DOAH.

Anyway, some cool information in the post, thanks for the response. Can’t wait for more Tech FX articles, I never understand what the hell I’m reading but it’s a good way to see some more screenshots and maybe even an animated gif or two.

Very nice. I was arguing with myself whether having a bunch of blood would be good or bad. The point about old monster movies make a lot of sense, gotta stay somewhat faithful to the original styling.

Now if we QT3ers can just convince the two of you to show us a little gameplay footage at the QT3 GDC meet n’ greet :D

Well, our responses aren’t “canned”, but there are only so many ways you can rephrase things – people often ask questions we’ve already answered in other interviews or at our website. Which is fine - I can’t expect writers to read everything we’ve ever said, and I can’t expect their readers to have even heard of us before.

Email interviews read like a bad “Eliza” transcript at times…

It’s often laziness on the part of the writers, and alas it’s become the standard approach to interviews for most sites nowadays. Why do a phone interview, where you have to tape the responses, and then spend hours transcribing them, when you can fire off a bunch of questions and then let your subject do most of the typing for you?

In the few cases where I’ve had to do email interviews because of subject availability, the person I’m interviewing being in Hungary, etc., I’ve at least done follow-up questions to the more interesting answers and then pieced the interview together to include those.

Developer chats seem to be very similar to email interviews, although those are live. The hosts rarely ask any follow-up questions and there’s usually no semblance of real probity at all. You get the distinct impression that the “interviewer” is so happy that the devs chose him to kiss instead of that other girl over there that they’re squelching any potentially uncomfortable questions from the fans.

Well, our responses aren’t “canned”, but there are only so many ways you can rephrase things – people often ask questions we’ve already answered in other interviews or at our website. Which is fine - I can’t expect writers to read everything we’ve ever said, and I can’t expect their readers to have even heard of us before.[/quote]

Shoulda prefaced that with “the majority of these responses…” or some such shit. :) It must be difficult to make those Q&As interesting when you are forced to sum up and maybe attempt some sort of transition between questions and answers on your end or just leave it choppy like that.

Sparky, will you be my Valentine? :wink: My wife has to work tonight.

If I had a dollar for everytime I said that…

As one of the aforementioned ‘lazy’ people I just have to say it was a mutual choice, letting Miss Sparky and Mr. Lars answer the questions on their own terms and at their own time not only gave them time to come up with good, detailed answers, but didn’t eat into the time they are supposed to be using to make me a kick-ass game.

[quote=“Gladguy”]

Well, it’s because nobody does actual interviews. What you’re reading should only be refered to as a “Q/A” because it’s basically a bunch of questions emailed to the respondant. With any luck, the “interviewee” is somewhat entertaining, so you’ll get answers that are at least interesting to read.

I actually had this discussion with our PR team earlier this week. I’m trying to encourage them to have the writers schedule a proper interview time – over the phone, likely – so they’ll at least have the chance to ask the important follow up question.

Thing is, most of the writers have little or no interview experience. I don’t know if they even know how to properly interview someone.

Any of the proper Game Journalist here have a thought on this topic? I’m curious…[/quote]

Yeah, a lot of game companies prefer this kind of interview because they can completely control the answers.

Well,
I do about 5 interviews a month and every single time I request a phone interview rather than the canned email Q&A. It’s more work for me, but it’s also less stressful. I’m in control of when the interview happens and also when I can turn it in. Still, in the past 6 months I’ve had only 3 PR reps/devs agree to do a phone interview. I know for a fact that some companies don’t allow them at all. I’m not sure why this is, it only takes 10-15 minutes of time to do a phone interview (10-15 minutes, I’ve found, yields 1500 or so words), I’d wager that all my phone interviews make me, and the developer, come off better too.

My guess is it’s a control issue. On the phone developers can make mistakes, say things they shouldn’t, reveal too much, or sometimes they’re just plain bad on the phone. Then there’s PR, even if they’re on board in a conference call (which they usually are) some PR reps seem to/perhaps feel out of control, so they don’t allow phone interviews as a matter of course. An email Q&A usually goes through PR again before it comes to me. I’ve seen some evidence of excisions. I can see this, because it’s a risky proposition to go “on record,” live, with a good interviewer. It’s probably more boring to do so with a bad interviewer than anything as “dangerous” as revealing some hitherto unknown feature.

What about follow-up questions? Sometimes an interview can take 5-6 weeks! I send in the questions, but the developer is remote or in crunch mode and I get the answers back a month later. Do you think I have time to send follow-ups then?

EDIT: Heh, Mark beat me to it. More succinctly too.

I’d much rather do a written interview than phone. But then again, I’m one of those people who test well, but when called upon in class suddenly can’t remember whether the earth revolves around the sun or vice versa. Instead, I will stutter “Uh…apogee? Perigee? Pluto?” and try desperately to origami my Peechee folder into some sort of Klingon cloaking device.

Which reminds me of when I was working on the game formerly known as “Ozzy’s Black Skies,” and our lead designer told a magazine writer that we’d gotten the Ozzy Osbourne license because our CEO and Ozzy’s wife Sharon had once had an affair. Apparently he’d overheard someone saying that the two of them had a “prior relationship” and read too much into it.

Frantic calls from our VP of Production the next day persuaded the writer to remove that quote from the article.

Stay tuned for the climactic, triumphant planethate interview!!!@@@!!

We picked major American cities to start (San Francisco, LA, NYC, Chicago, D.C., Seattle)

no Houston? but we are 4th largest city in the U.S. and we have the 8th Wonder of the World - the Astrodome!

i so wanted to crush things in my home town too. :cry: