We talk with Red Lemon senior producer Alan McDairmant about the action role-playing game coming later this year from Simon & Schuster. Exclusive screens inside.
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Scotland-based Red Lemon Studios is nearing completion of Farscape, its upcoming game based on the popular Farscape sci-fi TV series created by The Jim Henson Company. The isometric role-playing game will include a combination of fast-paced combat and puzzle elements, and it will let players control a group of up to three characters in a storyline drawn from the first season of the TV show. Unlike many other games based on TV and movie licenses, Farscape will add a number of elements to the Farscape universe that were created specifically for the game.
To find out more about the game's progress, The Jim Henson Company's involvement in the development, and what kinds of combat and puzzles players will encounter in the game, we talked to Alan McDairmant, the game's senior producer at Red Lemon.
GameSpot: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Alan. First, can you tell us how the Farscape game came about? Were there any other projects you were considering instead?
Alan McDairmant: Both Simon & Schuster and Red Lemon saw great opportunity in developing a game based on the show. Back at E3 in 2000, we separately approached The Jim Henson Company. Simon & Schuster acquired the rights and then through Gameproducer.com got in touch with Red Lemon, loved their ideas for the game, and signed them up.
GS: What are some of the unique challenges and opportunities involved in making a game based on the Farscape TV show?
AM: The show is heavily led by dialogue, plot, and character interaction. Only a few episodes, certainly early on in the show, feature action. In addition, the team doesn't always get along. These guys are no crew of the Enterprise, boldly going and righting wrongs. They are outlaws on the run and often don't even trust each other.
It has been a challenge to bring all these elements across and still deliver a fun action-based game. However, the unique universe, characters, and their interaction with each other are things we love about the show, and we feel that they can bring some fun and new aspects to a game.
GS: Where did the title "Farscape: War and Peacekeepers" come from?
AM: The Peacekeepers are one of the major villains in Farscape. The show often has funny titles for episodes such as "Crackers Don't Matter" or "Back and Back and Back to the Future." We have always treated the game as kind of a three-part episode set just after episode 17 in the first season, so we thought we would give it a subtitle to fit with the style of the TV episode names.
GS: It seems like The Jim Henson Company has given you some leeway in interpreting the Farscape license. How closely is the company involved in the game's development?
AM: We had an initial creative meeting back in January 2001 to brainstorm. The show's creator, Rockne S. O'Bannon, also met with us. Right from the start, The Jim Henson Company has been great. They have allowed us a lot of freedom and trusted us to expand and develop the Farscape universe.
GS: What are some of the elements you have included the game that don't show up in the TV series? Did The Jim Henson Company help create any of these elements?
AM: We have created 18 new alien races and a whole host of new creatures and weapons. The Jim Henson Company has given us a lot of freedom in this area, but, of course, they approve anything that we create. Also, our lead artist is a great conceptual artist, which has really helped the process.
GS: How did you decide on giving the player control of up to three characters at a time? Were there any other systems you considered, such as a first-person perspective?
AM: A key aspect of the show is the relationships of the crew of the Moya and how they work, or often don't, together. We decided that a team-based mechanic was best to deliver something appropriate to the series, and that the lofted camera viewpoint worked best.
GS: What percentage of the game is spent in combat?
AM: A fair amount of the game is combat-based, with a healthy dose of puzzle solving and character interaction thrown in.
GS: What kinds of weapons will characters have access to?
AM: The pulse rifle, pistol, and chain pulser will be available, as well as D'Argo's Qualta blade, of course. However, we have also created a number of new weapons such as the Scarran punisher and incinerator.
GS: Can you tell us about the enemies that players will encounter?
AM: The player will encounter many old foes such as the Peacekeepers and even fire-breathing Sheyang. However, new enemies and critters will also be encountered. These come in a number of different forms, depending on the environment. A few examples are energy-blast-firing insects and robot drones that look and move like giant gorillas.
GS: How much time in the game is spent solving puzzles?
AM: It's difficult to be specific, but many missions will require a level of puzzle solving. Combat will always be featured, but it will not always be part of the specific objective.
GS: Can you give us some examples of the puzzles that players will come across?
AM: A portion of the game revolves around the team having to try and shut down a factory that has been overrun by Sheyang. Once this is completed, production can continue on the parts to repair their spacecraft. The player will solve various puzzles to work his or her way down to the reactor level of the factory, all the while dealing with Sheyang, and then work out a way of getting in to shut down the reactor without getting killed by the radiation itself.
GS: Will characters develop over the course of the game? If so, how much control will players have over how the characters develop?
AM: As this is a license, we cannot develop the characters in the way that RPGs do. For example, Chiana could not learn a tech skill because she does not have one in the show. Instead, the characters develop by unlocking items and new weapons as the game progresses.
In addition, the team is unlocked as you play, so the player is always aiming to get to the next stage to unlock the next character and get a chance to play as that character and use his or her skills and weapons.
GS: Farscape was originally scheduled for release in early 2002. Have there been any surprises along the way, or has the game just taken longer than expected?
AM: The license is growing and growing in popularity, with two more seasons signed up for production. We simply wanted to use a bit of extra time to polish the game.
GS: How far along is the game at this point? What parts of the game is the team working on now?
AM: We are racing headlong toward beta. Right now the art team is refining the game environments and adding new effects. The level designer is doing initial balancing refinements and revisions, and the programming team is making final refinements to the AI, the audio, the interface, and the mission scripts.
Things are moving fast right now, as they always do at this stage of development.
GS: Some of the Farscape cast members have done voice work for the game. What's their reaction to the game so far?
AM: Yes, all the main cast members are lending their voices to the game. Ben Browder, who plays Crichton, is a gamer himself, as we understand. He has chipped in with a few suggestions of his own for the game.
GS: Are there any further plans to add multiplayer to the game after its release?
AM: Can't say too much right now...
GS: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
AM: No, that pretty much covers it. We, Red Lemon, are enjoying making this game. We think it's a great show, and we have great working relationships with Simon & Schuster and The Jim Henson Company.
As always, this is just one of many ideas we have for games based on Farscape. It's a rich and original universe, and we hope to work on more titles set in it.
GS: Thanks for your time, Alan.
Simon & Schuster plans to release a playable demo of the game in April. For more information about Farscape, take a look at our previous coverage of the game.