One of the most addictive first-person shooters to be released this year was one that purposely eschewed the same conventions that supposedly make a great action game: plot, scripted events, plot, memorable characters, plot, and intelligent AI. Instead, Serious Sam: The First Encounter, developed by relative upstarts at Croteam, was simply about mowing down wave after wave of enemies, some of which were small, others of which were literally the size of skyscrapers. Serious Sam was a breath of fresh air, and many fans of the genre were drawn to the way that the game harkened back to the simpler times of Doom and Wolfenstein.
Shortly after The First Encounter's release, Croteam began work on a sequel of sorts, cleverly called Serious Sam: The Second Encounter, which was announced only a few weeks ago. Surprisingly, the game is supposed to be released by year's end, even though The First Encounter was also released earlier this year. We recently had the opportunity to talk with Croteam's CEO, Roman Ribaric, who revealed many of the specifics that we'll find in The Second Encounter.
GameSpot: Clear up something for us. Is this an expansion pack to The First Encounter or an all-out sequel?
Roman Ribaric: We have cleared this up a bit in the past week or so, and it is worth restating. Since Serious Sam: The First Encounter was released, we have had fans asking for a look at Serious Sam 2. However, we have planned from the very start to release Sam [games] in an episodic format at lower prices. So The Second Encounter is neither a mission pack nor a sequel; it is simply the next episode.
GS: The original Serious Sam was $19.99, which is relatively cheap compared to most mainstream PC games. How much do you plan on charging for The Second Encounter?
RR: $19.99, same as the first one.
GS: Will you need the original Serious Sam to run The Second Encounter?
RR: No, it will be fully playable on its own.
GS: So, are you guys working on a full sequel? Can you give us some insight on it?
RR: We have not announced if we are releasing a full sequel to the first episodes of Sam's adventures, but when we do you can be sure we'll tell everyone we know!
GS: Fair enough. Let's go back to The Second Encounter. Have you made any technical changes to the 3D engine from The First Encounter?
RR: Well, our Web site had mention of the network code improvement a bit ago. Network code has been upgraded and improved. With this, problems when playing online over the Internet should be marginal. We hired new people to the team, and they will take care of adding new features to the engine regarding network and online play.
Additionally, new [particle effects] have been added to our engine, allowing procedural effects for drawing grass, bushes, and trees. This technology gives us great control over tweaking the game for better overall visual performance. Overall Serious Sam: The Second Encounter is looking better than The First Encounter already, as you can see from the new screen to the right.
GS: Are there particular changes to the style of level design between the two games?
RR: There are great changes between the games. The first episode was very open, but with many indoor areas as well. The second episode will retain the good things about this format--huge open spaces with tons of enemies, seamless indoor/outdoor transitions--and will have even more interactivity, Easter eggs, and other features. There also will be three new environment types besides Egyptian! We have released screenshots of one of those areas--an Aztec rain forest setting.
GS: What other changes have been made to this game since The First Encounter?
RR: Three new weapons have been added, of which we have announced the chain saw. We have added seven new enemies and are including the new and improved Seriously Warped Deathmatch in the box.
GS: You've said that there will be three new weapons in The Second Encounter, one of which is the chain saw. What are the other two? Will all the weapons from The First Encounter still be available in this game?
RR: All the weapons from the first two will be in the game. The second is the flamethrower, pictured in one of the previous screenshots (along with a new area we haven't talked about yet). It does incredible amounts of damage and uses the same fuel as the chain saw--gasoline-based napalm.
GS: Will the creatures you face in Second Encounter be bigger, stronger versions of those from the Egyptian levels, or are there new enemies?
RR: We have only talked about and shown one enemy so far from the game, Cucurbito the Pumpkin. He is very fast and charges at you to attack with the same chain saw you use.
GS: Are you making The Second Encounter harder in order to challenge those who've mastered the first game?
RR: We think serious mode is about the hardest we could make the game, and to make it any harder would be just suicidal. Those who need a challenge beyond serious mode should begin doing time trials or other such methods of challenge.
GS: What in The Second Encounter do you think will most appeal to those who played through the first game?
RR: The new environments and weapons, which add to the gameplay and make Serious Sam: The Second Encounter an entirely new game. Since Egypt was the only setting for the first encounter, having three new environments makes this new encounter feel much more different and even more exciting!
GS: You've previously mentioned plans to license the Serious Sam engine. How did the success of the first game play into licensing efforts, and will we see any third-party games powered by the engine in the near future?
RR: We try not to talk about who has licensed our engine and what their plans are for it until they are ready to talk about their plans. However, we can say that the first game played a huge role in establishing the Serious engine as a major new engine.
GS: Is there anything else you'd like to tell your fans about The Second Encounter?
RR: Just to be prepared for an entirely new Sam experience with over 12 new single-player levels and all the benefits of Seriously Warped Deathmatch in the box! We hope this will expand the play universe, and the three new texture sets should tremendously increase mod-makers' resources for creating cool new mods. Thanks for supporting Croteam and Serious Sam.
GS: Thanks, Robert.
RR: Who's Robert?
Be sure to check back tomorrow as we bring you our own impressions of the game, as well as a video preview complete with brand-new footage of The Second Encounter.