Full Spectrum Warrior Q&A
We check in with Pandemic Studios to see how its upcoming tactical Xbox game is coming along.
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Pandemic Studios' upcoming Xbox strategy game, Full Spectrum Warrior, has an interesting pedigree. It began life as a classified simulation and training tool for the US Army, but the company is now working on an updated and more gamelike version for Microsoft's console. The game will provide a tactical, squad-based play experience in a modern military setting, and you'll be in control of your squad throughout a full day of active duty. In light of Full Spectrum Warrior's approaching release date, we caught up with director Wil Stahl of Pandemic and asked him a few questions about how the game is progressing at this late stage.
GameSpot: Where are you right now in development?
Wil Stahl: We are currently a week from our internal beta. Our goal is to submit to Microsoft in early May. We are essentially feature-complete and content-complete. We're bug-hunting and balancing now.
GS: What has been the most challenging part of working on the Xbox game?
WS: Well, the most challenging part of making the retail version was trying to stay true to the roots of the original Army game. We always felt that one of the strongest aspects of the game was how authentic it was, how the gameplay stayed true to Army doctrine. When we started to make the retail version it became apparent that "realistic" isn't always "fun," so we've made abstractions to real-world elements in order to raise the enjoyment level and make the game more accessible. We always took baby steps when changing these elements so that we could stay as close to a real-world experience as possible.
GS: What has the new ship date allowed you to focus on?
WS: Mostly balance and polish. Bumping up frame rates and adding more player-feedback-related touches so that the game doesn't have too harsh a ramp-up. The game can get overwhelming pretty quickly.
GS: What have you learned about the Xbox hardware throughout FSW's development? Any surprises?
WS: It's a very flexible platform. That allows you to spend more R&D time on certain features without risking blowing your entire schedule.
GS: Given FSW's emphasis on strategy, have the testers used any surprising tactics in the missions that you hadn't expected?
WS: We have some outstanding testers on this project, and it's amazed us how they can exploit certain tactics in the game. Suppression fire, for instance, has proven to be very powerful. Some of the checks that balance out suppression fire in the real world aren't present in the game, so we've had to find other ways to balance its effectiveness.
GS: Now that the Xbox version is turning into its own unique game, how much does it differ from the original Army version?
WS: On the surface, they look very similar, and the gameplay is based on the same principles of fire and maneuver, engage and flank. However, underneath, the games are very different. I think if regular gamers ever played the Army game, they'd think it sucked because it's not really a game. It's more of a tool/game. I prefer playing the retail version over the Army version much more.
GS: What are some subtle details you've included in the game that players may not be looking for?
WS: There are a lot of subtle systems in the game. I don't know if people will even realize we have a wind simulation, and that the wind changes speed and direction during the game, until they throw their first smoke grenade and it ends up blowing in the wrong direction.
GS: What will you be showing off at E3?
WS: We'll probably be showing the finished product on the floor. Our goal is to ship two weeks after E3, so the game better be done by then! I'm sure THQ will be demonstrating the cooperative play over Xbox Live. I don't think we've shown that to anyone yet.
GS: Thanks for your time.
To see a new, exclusive trailer for Full Spectrum Warrior, check out our media page for the game.