Hard Reset Q&A - What's Old Is New Again
Michal Szustak explains how Hard Reset is adapting the classic shooter style of Doom and Quake for the modern age.
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Hard Reset is a futuristic first-person shooter that isn't afraid to buck the trends of its modern-day counterparts. This PC exclusive harks back to a time when exploration was necessary and regenerating health was a luxury. The team behind it hails from all across the development landscape, including members from CD Projekt Red (The Witcher 2) and People Can Fly (Bulletstorm). We recently talked with Michal Szustak, CEO of developer Flying Wild Hog, about this upcoming shooter set for release in September.
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GameSpot: We understand that Hard Reset is a PC exclusive. Why make this choice? What do you think the game gains by being a PC exclusive?
Michal Szustak: For a new studio it's always easier to make a single-platform game, and we really wanted to create and use our own tech. Our engine was built with one thought--to be used in a first-person shooter that uses lots of physics and destruction, with outstanding graphics and also optimized to do the job well. There are many games published on PCs that are just ports from consoles, and we all know that today the power of a current-gen console is similar to a four- to five-year-old PC.
If you want to show some amazing graphics, it's better and easier to develop the game for PCs. Also, in the era of movie-like shooters almost "on rails," with player-environment interaction as limited as possible, we wanted to create a game for old-school PC players, raised on all those forgotten Dooms, Quakes, and Painkillers.
GS: With a release window of September 2011, there's not a lot of time between now and when your game comes out. How long has the game been in development? Why only reveal the game now?
MS: We started developing Hard Reset in April 2009, so now it's been more than two years. Why reveal so late? We believe that players don't like those two or three years of hyping, with lots of web site counters and teasing all the same assets. And after three years of waiting you finally get information saying the game will show up half a year later than promised! Then, after those six months, two more months of waiting! Personally, I really hate it. So we decided to show our game when it's ready. When it's literally done. No postponements. We want the players to trust us, and we will do our best to get them good games in the future.
GS: We understand that Flying Wild Hog actually consists of members from numerous other studios. Why form this new studio?
MS: I think most of our employees were tired of this corporate style of management implemented nowadays in all the "big" studios. We wanted to create a place with a flexible management system, sort of an old-school "garage" studio. For many years different people were trying to convince us that it's impossible to create a good game without all this fancy corporate structure, time sheets, almighty producers, etc. It's not true, and we will prove it. We are trying to create a place without everlasting, constant crunches--a place where every member of our team can and should add something to our projects, without the limit of a glass ceiling.
GS: What can you tell us about the story of Hard Reset? We understand it's set in a cyberpunk future reminiscent of movies such as Blade Runner.
MS: Yes, Blade Runner is one of our major inspirations, but of course not the only one. The thing that I really like in cyberpunk is that most of the protagonists aren't meant to save the entire world; they are just trying to survive in a world dominated by powerful forces such as corporations or authoritarian regimes. And our background story is just like that--you are not supposed to save the world or humanity; you just want to discover what's really going on and survive. So we have our hero, Major Fletcher, who is a "proud" soldier of the Corporation, and after a regular mission he discovers that he is unable to distinguish a friend from a foe and the other way around. It's a typical story, but adding to this, Fletcher is hiding his mental disorder--some pretty surprising stuff can happen!
GS: What type of game is Hard Reset? Is it more of an open-world shooter like the Far Cry series, or something more linear, such as the Modern Warfare games?
MS: Hard Reset is definitely not an open-world shooter like Far Cry, but it's also not a shooter on rails, the kind that Modern Warfare is. It's rather similar to old-school shooters like Doom, where you had to search the level to get a key card, and where you will find secrets--sometimes really challenging ones.
GS: We couldn't help but notice that the main character wears a spiffy eye patch in the teaser trailer. How will this device be used?
MS: This eye is a part of our thrilling cyberpunk setting, but it is also used in some weapon modes--I don't want to spill too many beans for now, but you will be able to unlock some fancy weapon add-ons that make use of Fletcher's implant.
GS: On the topic of gameplay, what more can you reveal about the interface featured in a few of the screenshots you've released? What do the different bars and icons refer to?
MS: As you know, we don't have regenerating health, so one of the bars is used to display health. We also have a shield meter, stamina for sprint, energy/ammunition for weapons, and, of course, the N.A.N.O. bar. N.A.N.O. is the currency that you will gather to buy new weapons and upgrades.
GS: Given that Hard Reset will be a PC exclusive, how hard will it push modern computers? Will PC gamers need a space-age computer in order to run it, or will the performance be fairly scalable?
MS: We will announce official hardware requirements soon, but I'm sure you will be surprised. We've got some really good engine programmers, and I can promise you that even a five-year-old PC will be sufficient to play Hard Reset. But if you own a pimped-up gaming rig, the experience will be much more intense.
GS: What were some of your sources of inspiration for Hard Reset, either for the story or gameplay?
MS: A lone hero lost in a dark, futuristic city--I could list many cyberpunk books or movies utilizing this motive. William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Philip K. Dick--we love them all. Regarding the gameplay, we wanted to create a game where you eliminate hordes of enemies, using not only interesting weapons, but the environment as well. There are many destructible objects in the game, such as cars or explosive barrels that you can blow up, dealing damage to your enemies, and we also have a spectacular electricity system; for example, destroying a cash machine will electrocute all nearby enemies. So the main inspiration were games with such a gameplay style--again, Doom, Painkiller, or Serious Sam--but I must say that Hard Reset came out pretty unique since there are loads of destructibles that you can use to your advantage.
GS: What can you tell us about the game's multiplayer?
MS: There is none! Seriously, you can gather achievements and level scores and compare them to your friends--that's all. Why? Because nowadays there are just too many games focused only on multiplayer. We had to choose whether we wanted to put all our efforts into creating the best single-player experience or add a multiplayer mode just to fill the check box and still get it done worse than in other games focused on multiplayer modes.
GS: Are there any other points you'd like to highlight about Hard Reset?
MS: If you're tired of all the boring shooters on rails where all the encounters are heavily scripted and you can't even move too much, Hard Reset is for you. Hard Reset gives you the opportunity to eliminate hordes of enemies each time in a different way, so maybe you'll want to play again and again just to see how you can use our gravity mines in different ways or why an electric grenade and stasis field are such a great combo. And you want to beat the game at least twice, since finishing Hard Reset once is not enough to check out all the cool weapons and upgrades.
GS: Thank you for your time.