Deep Shadows, the creator of Codename: Outbreak , a first-person shooter from late last year, is at work on a new project called Xenus. The game is based on the latest version of the Vital Engine, the 3D engine first used in Codename: Outbreak, and it features technical innovations that allow the gameworld to transition seamlessly between environments, without subdividing the game into self-contained levels. We recently had a chance to talk to the Russia-based studio to find out more about the game.
GameSpot: First, can you give us a quick overview of Xenus? What kind of game is it, and what's the basic storyline?
Deep Shadows: The idea of the game was born in May 2001. We decided that our next project would be a PC 3D action RPG that takes place in the near future in a huge seamless world. We didn't want to create another 3D shooter game. Our idea was to follow an investigation where there are a lot of rebel forces fighting for power. That is why we selected Colombia as the location for the game. The story begins when Kevin Myers receives a call from the magazine his sister works for. He is told that she hasn't contacted them in more than 10 days and they are afraid she's gone missing in Colombia during her journalistic investigation. Kevin leaves for Colombia and the story begins.
GS: What inspired you to make a game set in Colombia?
DS: Colombia is a country with long, rich history and a very unstable political situation. There are a lot of rebel forces vying for power. I think that a world full of contradictions provides the unique opportunity to create a nonlinear story. I also believe that Colombia has a unique spirit that we are going to express in our game. The wonderful nature, bright characters, and picturesque architecture have inspired us greatly.
GS: Apart from its setting, how will Xenus be different from other first-person shooters?
DS: First of all, Xenus is not first-person shooter. It is not even just action with role-playing elements. It is really an action RPG. In the world of Xenus, everything costs money. Therefore, you have to purchase weapons and ammo and rent a car. All actions take place in a huge territory--25 kilometers by 25 kilometers--that hasn't been subdivided. All the game's vehicles (helicopters, different kinds of cars, and tanks) are drivable. There are six sides in the game: officials, guerrilla, narco mafia, Indian, bandits, and CIA. When you help one of the sides, you inevitably spoil your relations with others. Your goal is to find the main character's sister, so you need to talk with many people to gather the necessary information. And these people will not always be friendly with you. You can choose any line of behavior, and you may play the role you want. You may cooperate, for instance, with the CIA against the guerrillas, or with the guerrillas against the CIA. You decide who to cooperate with and what role to play.
GS: What kinds of weapons will be available in the game?
DS: There are nearly 20 types of weapons that you can use during the game. Most of the weapons are based on the real existing models. You can upgrade any of your weapons to improve accuracy, ammo capacity, rate of fire, reload time, and so on. Also, you may upgrade some weapons with such things as silencers, optic and laser sights, and more. All upgrades, of course, require a certain amount of funds.
GS: The screenshots you have previously released depict some jungle and town environments. What other kinds of environments will be in the game?
DS: In addition to jungles and towns, game will take place in mountains, swamps, rivers, military bases, rail stations, hidden plants, airports, Indian villages, and so on. All environment types are full of interaction and realism--you can find birds in jungles, lizards in mountains, and rats in towns.
GS: What sorts of characters will players encounter while traveling around Colombia?
DS: You will be able to make friends or fight with such characters as government soldiers, guerrillas, narco barons, bandits, Indians, CIA agents, civilians. At the start of the game, most of them are neutral to you, and their attitude toward you will change according to your deeds. There will be a lot of character models in the game. And remember that some of actions can turn your best friends into your worst enemies.
GS: Will the game have a multiplayer mode? If so, what will it include?
DS: I can say that will definitely be in the game. The multiplayer will include cooperative, CTF, and deathmatch modes. As for other modes, we still have time to decide what to include.
GS: What are some of the things you learned from Codename: Outbreak that have helped you in creating Xenus?
DS: We learned from mistakes in both game design and management. The main weakness of Codename: Outbreak is that a very small team made it, and that's why it was impossible to create many models and levels. Due to the same reason, the game's graphics were a bit outdated when it shipped. Xenus will be definitely better as a result of our experience.
GS: Have you made any technical improvements to the Vital game engine since Codename: Outbreak?
DS: Yes. Xenus is based on the second iteration of the Vital engine. Vital Engine 2 is a significantly improved version of the first version. We completely rewrote the render code and significantly changed the physics code. Here are the main features of the engine:
- Unique technology of rendering huge (but very detailed) territory up to 50km by 50km.
- Skeletal animation with blending between up to three bones.
- Facial animation.
- Multilayered, 512 pixel by 512 pixel textures.
- 5,000 polygons per character.
- Light maps.
- View-independent progressive mesh for models and view-dependent progressive mesh for level geometry.
- Rigid body physics.
The most impressive feature is multilayered texture mapping, which erases seams where textures meet.
GS: Do you have a North American publisher for Xenus?
DS: We're currently looking for a publisher.
GS: When do you expect to complete the game?
DS: We expect to finish the game in Q1 2003.
GS: Thanks for your time.