Interview: LightBox Interactive’s Dylan Jobe On Starhawk

[At this point, the discussion concerns B-Roll being shown.]

J: Do you mind if we have a look at the B-Roll?

D: Sure.

J: I’m excited to see this, the only interaction I’ve had, I’ve watched the trailers (I haven’t missed any of them), but I haven’t looked at much more than the multiplayer.

D: In the beta, we had 3 maps available. Big maps, small maps, and players got to see 3 of them, but there are 10 separate multiplayer maps in the multiplayer universe. In addition to that, you’ve got what you’re seeing here, our single player campaign. I see this a lot on Twitter and Facebook, people who’ve only seen our multiplayer think [single player] is just a bolt-on, that it’s just going to be playing capture the flag with bots, or some other half-assed thing, that’s not the case at all.

Our single player campaign has a very compelling universe, a compelling character. We really wanted to pull out all the stops, like bringing in top notch talent like Ian McKay, who has worked with George Lucas, designed Darth Maul. We worked with him very closely here in Santa Monica to create our hero character, and our world. We brought in great musical talent, great voice acting talent. The single player campaign is very story driven, yet at the end of it, even though you’ve just experienced this great story, you’ll be completely prepared for multiplayer.

J: I don’t want to complain about Warhawk because I got my money’s worth out of that game, but I’m a big fan of single player. I love multiplayer [in Warhawk], I enjoyed it a lot but I wanted that single player experience, and it’s looking like I might with Starhawk-

D: I think they’re very interconnected. You know, multiplayer games are very intimidating, quite frankly. So I think what we tried to do with our single player campaign is first of all, tell a great story about our hero character in the frontier of space. But also, make sure that when the player finishes the game-

J: [Remarking on the B-roll] Oh man, that was a really cool explosion!

D: Yeah, that’s a rift guy actually at a work site. Rifters, who are kind of like miners in our new rush for ‘blue gold’ out in the frontier. The rift energy that you see there spilling out into the battlefield, actually when it hits humans it mutates them. It causes them to lose their mind, their skeletons start to pull out of their bodies, and they become outcasts from the rest of the colonies. (That’s why we call them Outcasts).

J: The hero is kind of the one who doesn’t get the same effect?

D: Of course, he’s the one character in the entire frontier who’s exposed to rift energy but did not turn. So, he’s kind of shunned himself, you can actually see his rift capacitors on his back. When he takes damage you can see them extend and when he recovers you’ll see them retract.

J: Oh, so that’s kind of your HUD.

D: Yeah. Now you were saying you were a fan Warhawk, except that it didn’t have any single player campaign at all?

J: Yeah, though i got so into the multiplayer that after a while, it’s hard to compete with that multiplayer…

D: Well at the time we released Warhawk, the concept of multiplayer only, especially a big multiplayer you can download, that was before downloadable games were the standard-

J: If I’m not mistaken, wasn’t it the first full downloadable game on the PS3?

D: I think it might have been the first big one.

J: I know it was the first I dedicated space on my hard drive in order to download.

D: So you were a pilot, you like to fly?

J: I like to fly, my favorite, and I know we’ve lost the sixaxis control-

D: You were a sixaxis flyer?

J: I wasn’t good at it but I loved it. Finally there was a reason for me twisting back and forth in my chair. Of course I got killed flying and had a lot better luck on the ground.

D: What we did in Starhawk is that we have two of the flight modes. We have arcade mode that we brought over from Warhawk. We also have a new flight mode that’s kind of the out of box setting, which is far easier for most new gamers. Cause flight can be a bit intimidating. But out of box configuration can be very easy for players to get a handle on it. We did that because players shouldn’t fee like ‘oh, because sometimes I have to fly a ship, I’m going to be turned off by this game.’ The flight is super fun, super easy, we took great care to ensure that all the systems in the game, whether it’s ground vehicles or buildings or troop combat or flying, they have ane asy entry point so that you can get the joy of flying and arial combat without having to feel like you’re managing a flight simulator.

J: What I worry about when I hear that, because I’d be tempted to play the out of box settings because ‘maybe it’ll be easier’, but my favorite part was being able to do insane tricks with the sixaxis settings. Can you still do those tricks with the new configuration?

D: Absolutely. We actually added a few more tricks. So, not only do you have the same, if you’re a pro flyer and you took the horizon control off-

J: That’s what I would do. Probably why I was dying!

D: But some players are really great at it, so you can still power slide, do loops, all that stuff, but we added in some additional combos, where you can do all stuff and blend into that stuff, like lateral slides. So you’ll get that really organic missile scrubs like you had in Warhawk, and on top of that, the kind of canned maneuvers that can be completely integrated into normal flight.

[Refers to the B-roll again].

So we’re building a bunker here.

J: That’s what I love to see…

D: This is from the first mission, so we’re doing a little bit of hand-holding, getting the player acclimated to Build n’ Battle. The thing is, there’s so many standard shooters where you’re kind of leisurely going from one place to another, consuming epic set pieces and then moving on. We wanted to make sure that players were really understanding the Build n’ Battle system. Not only so they can really play it they way they want as they advance through the game, but so they’re well prepared for multiplayer.

J: Also giving you the way to think out of the box?

D: Right, because you really need to think about structures being an extension of your weapon set. Just like a shooter might have to make a decision ‘do I want to use a rifle, do I want to use a rocket?’, a Starhawk player has to think a little bit more. ‘Ok, do I want to summon allies to fight alongside? Do I want to build hawks for them? Do I want to wall off an area and create a choke point, or do I want to build bunkers?’ There’s a lot more depth to the game, though it’s still presented to the player in a straight forward manner.

J: It seems like this would just breed teamwork on maps, like it’s all about serving your team instead of your player.

D: Don’t get me wrong, players still love being able to do a straight up team deathmatch or team dogfight, and those are great. But team play in Starhawk is really the bread and butter. And when you’re working with a team that’s well organized, there’s nothing like it. In fact, we’ve put a lot of effort into our community tools, our multiplayer systems, to really foster that team work. So much so that we’ve actually got some really great interest from online tournaments. Organizations like Major League Gaming, they’re going to be doing Starhawk tournaments, which we’re really excited to see.

J: So, I plan on buying Starhawk day one. Well, my grandmother is going to get it for me?

D: (laughs) Really.

J: Yeah, and have you thought about how to avoid confusion? Like, what’s to stop my grandmother from grabbing the 1977 arcade cabinet of Starhawk instead of the new game?

D: Well, if your grandmother can pick up and take a cabinet home, you should put her in a freakshow.

J: On no, my grandma! But more seriously, how big is the game going to be?

D: How big? It fills a Blu-Ray. So about 25 gb? But myself and all the other employers at LightBox Interactive, we’re all gamers, and we created this game with the gamer in mind, knowing how annoying it is to get home and have to wait through a really long install in order to play. So what we ended up doing is creating this create technology where you do a very short initial install, very quick, get some content onto the hard drive, get you into the game as soon as possible.

And we do this really awesome thing on the Playstation 3 where you’re playing through the single player campaign, you finish a mission, and then you seamlessly transition into a movie. Imagine all the world rendered by the PS3, that is high definition, including the cinematics, and that renders on top, so when a player plays the game, you just move from mission, blending into the movie, blending into the next mission. And all the while, the game is loading and installing in the background and players don’t even know it.

J: It looks so detailed and the most impressive part is the quickness, the building of things especially, it all seems to be so instantaneous. I’m sure I’ll find out the hard way, but can you accidentally build on top of yourself, smash yourself?

D: You can. It’s hard to do, and in single player we put some protections in place because of course, you’re the hero. Emmet will know that something’s about to hit him so he’ll kind of get knocked back, but in multiplayer, getting a kill with a structure is a completely viable strategy, so you have to be willing to use that to your advantage. For example, if you have a bunch of people online and they’re hovering around protecting the flag. Maybe you’re low on ammo, or you’re out of grenades and you want to kill those guys, pull out a structure. Drop a wall on them. It’ll crush them all, then you’ve given yourself cover that you can use in a fire fight.

We were originally going to call the trophy you get for doing this ‘Dorothy’ but I think there are legal problems doing that.

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