The original Section 8 was an unusual multiplayer shooter that let you and your teammates duke it out online on vast battlefields, armed with custom weapon loadouts, drivable vehicles, and an enhanced type of sprinting called "overdrive." Unfortunately, the game had issues with its multiplayer population and in other areas, but developer TimeGate Studios intends to make good on the original game's potential and produce an even better game in Section 8: Prejudice. Design director Brett Norton explains.
GameSpot: We understand that TimeGate's approach to this new project has to do with its commitment to improving on every aspect of the original game. Can you explain?
Brett Norton: Section 8: Prejudice is a huge evolution of everything we learned while making Section 8 and the incorporation of a lot of great feedback from the community and fans. When we started on Prejudice, we pored through all available resources we had: reviews, community polls, forums questions, post-release focus testing feedback, gameplay metrics…the whole nine yards. We took a hard look at what players liked and asked ourselves, "What do we need to do in order to make Prejudice awesome?"
To that end, we came up with huge list of everything we wanted to do to make Prejudice an amazing game and set out to do it. I'm very happy to say that we've completed nearly the entire list.
GS: Let's get a bit more specific. For instance, one of the most commonly cited issues about the first game was that the single-player game was primarily a primer for multiplayer, and the game's multiplayer experience wasn't perhaps what the studio had hoped it would turn out to be. How is the team approaching single-player play in the new game?
BN: The single-player experience in Prejudice is a stand-alone experience. Yeah, it's still a great tool for teaching new players about the game mechanics, but it has a fully fleshed-out story and vast amount of custom content. In fact, it's one of the most pronounced elements of Prejudice, and we expect the single-player crowd to have a lot of fun with the campaign.
We really wanted to do something grand with Prejudice's campaign, and we were very glad to put as much love into it as we have.
GS: One of the biggest issues with the multiplayer seemed to be the unfortunately low server population, which was an issue that was hard not to notice because many of the multiplayer maps were so huge. How will this be addressed in the new game? Smaller multiplayer maps? More intimate multiplayer modes that function better with smaller groups?
BN: Matchmaking, server population control, and pacing (tied to map size) have been our major multiplayer focuses. Prejudice does a great job of getting players into the right game with a lot of human players, thanks to some hefty upgrades to our matchmaking tools. That's one of the behind-the-scenes improvements we've made that will just make everything better, even if you don't actively see it working.
In terms of pacing and gameplay, we spent a lot of time tweaking map size to provide a better gameplay experience. We normalized a lot of the travel times and generally played to the strengths of the best maps in Section 8. We studied the community's feedback here and focused on the maps that withstood the test of time.
That's not to say we're turning the game into a small-scale corridor crawl. We're still committed to making great large-scale, outdoor experiences. Prejudice really nails that experience by putting all of our knowledge and the community's feedback to the test. You get this feeling of a large, dense, immersive map existing all around you, but you're never bored or without an action hot spot nearby.
GS: Some players also took issue with how the original game's vehicles weren't as exciting or impactful as they perhaps could have been. How will the new game improve on this issue?
BN: Experienced players often did amazingly well in the vehicles, and our goal has been to bring that same experience to everyone. Prejudice solves this by supporting several very different control schemes for the vehicles. This isn't just, "Oh hey, we remapped two buttons for you." We've actually implemented completely different control and camera systems, and we're giving players the choice to use whichever they like best. Veteran players will feel right at home with the advanced controls, and new Prejudice fans will find the vehicles are an absolute blast to drive as well.
[To make vehicles more exciting], we spent a lot of time putting some more substance into vehicle gameplay. Tanks are even deadlier and have a much easier time running down unsuspecting infantry. It's going to be a game-changing moment when one of the heavy tanks comes to the battlefield, and it'll take a coordinated response to bring one down.
We're not going to reveal all our vehicle secrets just yet though; so stay tuned to hear more about them later. There are more vehicle goodies in store…
GS: The original game's primary multiplayer mode was Conquest, but it included elements of team deathmatch and free-for-all. Will we see Conquest make a return? What can you tell us about your plans for multiplayer in the new game? Any new modes?
BN: Conquest is one of the core multiplayer modes in Prejudice, and it has an all-new roster of dynamic missions. There are a few returning faces from Section 8, but we've tossed in a couple of new missions to shake the gameplay up even more. We're pretty excited about seeing how players react to the changes, especially the new Elimination mission. More on that one later.
As far as other modes; yes, there are now multiple game modes. One of the best modes is the dedicated Swarm mode. It was actually a server option in Section 8, but our community loved the option so much we ended up turning it into its own full game mode. The concept: You and a few friends atop a fortress against an overwhelming swarm of enemies, utilizing on-demand turrets and vehicles to stem the tide. The on-demand deployables make building a defensible base such a unique aspect of the game mode. We've seen internal testers play each map several different ways, and it's awesome to see two teams approach the same map using completely different tactics. The harder difficulties really force you to think not only about where and what deployables you'll build, but [also] what loadouts and positions your squad will take around the map. It's basically co-op first-person shooter gameplay meets tower defense.
Swarm's now the favorite game mode amongst the developers, thanks to the intensity and teamwork it brings. The mode's hardest difficulty setting, "insane," is exactly that. Insane difficulty is brutal, but it's winnable and makes you want to come back to try it over and over by refining your tactics and positioning each time until you pull it off.
GS: The first game had a weapon-plus-gadget loadout system that let players customize their experience with different weapons and gadget items. Will this system be returning? If so, how will it be better?
BN: There is a highly customizable loadout system in Prejudice. In fact, that's one of the best parts of the game that is included in all game modes--even the campaign. Prejudice packs more weapons and equipment, and we're pleased with the sheer amount of fun options we can give the player.
When we talk about loadout customization options, we're not just talking about, "Oh, do I take grenade A or grenade B in my grenade slot?" We're more on the lines of, "Do I take the fragmentation grenades, the EMP grenades, or just ditch grenades entirely and take the napalm mortar launcher instead?"
With multiple inventory and radically different items for each slot (plus multiple types of each item), the loadout variety you can achieve in Prejudice will have your head spinning with cool possibilities.
GS: We also recall that the first game had overdrive, an enhanced form of sprinting that players could use to actually frag their enemies at top speeds. Will we see a return of overdrive? If so, will it work about the same or will there be any differences?
BN: Overdrive is a core mechanic in Prejudice's gameplay, and we love it. Fundamentally, it's still the same concept; a kind of supersprint. You can move across fields of fire quickly with overdrive, and combined with the jetpack, you get a kind of mobility that other shooters just don't have. If the fight isn't going in your favor, you can reposition yourself to a new spot quickly rather than make a slow retreat backward or have to crawl between cover points to get to a new location.
And fragging other players with overdrive is still in, and it's still a blast. Slamming into the back of an unsuspecting enemy and watching him ragdoll across the screen is a great humiliation kill. We didn't make a ton of changes to overdrive because it's been so well received. But fans have been clamoring for something to make overdrive fragging better, so we put in a loadout item that lets you perform these kills a little more easily.
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about the new game?
BN: Fans of Swarm and Super Swarm in Section 8 are in for a real treat. Prejudice is going to knock your socks off. We'll be rolling out more details about Prejudice over the next few months, so keep track of us.
Lastly, a big thank you to the community for all your feedback. We listened, and you're going to like what you see. Keep posting on the forums!
GS: Thanks, Brett.