Online role-playing games are easily the rage right now, especially considering that a game like World of Warcraft has more than 6 million subscribers. However, online first-person shooters are an entirely different story. We're not talking about conventional shooters that can be played online with 16, or even 64, players. Rather, we're talking about online shooters that allow thousands of players to interact online and potentially hundreds to battle it out among one another. While there have been a handful of attempts to date to make an online first-person shooter, none have taken off. However, there's a new game on the horizon from South Korea's Webzen that has captured a lot of attention. Huxley is an online first-person shooter that has an unusual name, as well as some amazing visuals, judging from the early screens released thus far. Based on Unreal Engine 3 technology, Huxley looks to meld first-person shooter gameplay with the scale and scope of an online game. For details, we turned to Kijong Kang, the producer in charge of the Huxley team at Webzen.
GameSpot: What exactly is Huxley? Is it an online shooter with persistent role-playing-game-like character advancement? How did the team come up with the idea?
Kijong Kang: For many years now, I have been asking myself how to make first-person shooters even more exciting. I found the answer in blending them with online role-playing games.
GS: What kind of inspiration did Aldous Huxley's 1932 novel Brave New World provide for the game? (We don't remember too many rocket launchers mentioned in the book, for instance.)
KK: Overall, the novel served as an inspiration for some elements of the game, like the in-game society and classes; however, it was just a part of what went into creating this game.
GS: The major question on most people's minds when you say "massively multiplayer online first-person shooter" is how can you keep the action manageable on such a massive scale? Will we see firefights with hundreds of people, or will the massively multiplayer part mainly be for neutral social areas where players can arrange themselves into smaller groups for instanced missions (a mission created just for a single group of players)?
KK: Gameplay in Huxley will take place both in one of the cities and in battle areas. In the cities there will be upward of 5,000 people who can be together at one time, while the battle areas will support several hundred. Of course there will be multiple battle areas in which people can challenge each other.
GS: What sorts of races are in the game? The screenshots so far show humans, as well as some really big humanoid figures, which we assume are some kind of genetic mutation.
KK: There are two different playable races in Huxley: alternatives and sapiens. Alternatives were created when a mysterious material known as nuclearites caused "allopatric speciation" of the human race. Unaffected humans became known as sapiens, while affected humans are alternatives. As time went on, the human evolution path was once again interfered with by fragments of the moon, known as lunarites. The sapiens were divided into the factions One and Syn, and the alternatives were divided into the factions Alteraver and Alternix.
GS: We've already seen some of the impressive cityscape environments in the game, but what else will the world of Huxley offer? Will you be able to go into the surrounding countryside, and if so, how far? Will there be underground/sewer-type levels? Just how big will the world of Huxley be?
KK: The world of Huxley has suffered destructive earthquakes, massive tidal waves, and dramatic climate changes. Each major city is also pretty isolated. The human race will have two camps: The sapiens live in Nostalonia, and the alternatives live in the city Eska. Meanwhile, the hybrids [a hostile, nonplayable race] live outside of the cities alongside the heathen troops of the Hybrid Liberation Organization. You will be able to explore areas in the control of each of these various entities. It's kind of hard to say how big the world is, but I can say that it's pretty large, and it will be a lot of fun to fight in.
GS: What can you tell us about the character professions in the game? Will players have character classes with different weapon restrictions or special character skills? How will characters grow and improve over time--will they gain experience levels, earn skill points, and buy better weapons and armor?
KK: During the game, players will experience several stages of growth. As they progress to higher grades, players will be able to purchase additional weapons, shields, and skill items. There are ways by which players can also obtain honor and further define their own personalities and so on.
GS: How will combat be handled? Will it feel a bit like an online shooter like Battlefield 2 that rewards fast reflexes? Or will the game offer a more-abstract system that takes into account more traditional role-playing abilities, such as determining whether your shots hit a target based on your character's level, weapon skill, and so on?
KK: Combat in Huxley will be based on the hyper-fast action found in first-person shooters like Unreal. Huxley will be a game where player skill matters. The game will take into account a player's character growth, but not to the extent of your question. Between levels, the intent is not to increase their strength and striking power but rather to increase the kinds of weapons and skills a player can use.
GS: Will vehicles play a role in combat, like they do in Battlefield 2? Or are they mainly for transportation purposes? We've seen the huge wheeled transport, but what other sorts of vehicles are there?
KK: In Huxley, the vehicles are not only strong weapons, but they also serve a transportation function to convey squads in battle. There will be vehicles used for land, sea, or air. Players can also select various types of vehicles depending on their class.
GS: The graphics look absolutely fantastic. What's it like working with the Unreal Engine 3 technology?
KK: The Unreal Engine 3 technology is really great. We are applying it well and are very satisfied.
GS: Huxley has a very interesting art style that seems to combine Eastern and Western themes. What's the idea behind the design of the game? It looks very unique, from the appearance of the characters to the design of the machines we've seen.
KK: Because Huxley was based on the earth in the near future, we tried to emphasize reality as well as science fiction. In order to create a unique atmosphere like today's world, Huxley applies an Eastern and Western, as well as baroque and futuristic, feel.
GS: Huxley is an intriguing game for a number of reasons--like how it's also planned for the Xbox 360. What can you tell us about the 360 version, the development process, and how different the console version will be? How are you handling the game's persistent elements?
KK: It's well known that we are developing Huxley as a cross-platform game. Both versions of the game will share genre features like first-person shooter elements and a basic background. However, we are also developing unique content and features for each platform.
GS: Finally, where are you currently in development of Huxley, and when can we expect to see the game launch?
KK: We will be discussing launch dates in the future. Right now you can expect to play the Huxley PC game in the Webzen booth during E3 2006.