Metro 3D Discusses Next-Gen Development Plans

Metro 3D's Mark Jordan talks about Armada 2, Dark Angel: Vampire Apocalypse, and rest of the company's development plans for the Dreamcast, the Xbox, and the PlayStation 2.

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Metro 3D is relatively new to the industry, but its Dreamcast space shooter Armada has been a surprise hit and was released in October 1999 to widespread critical acclaim. The company has now turned its attention to the development of Armada 2 Online for the Dreamcast and the Microsoft Xbox, and it has big plans for its other franchise, Dark Angel. Mark Jordan, vice president of development at Metro 3D, spoke with GameSpot regarding the company's next-generation development plans.

The original Armada was an ambitious project at its inception, but several elements, including online play, could not be included in the game's final release. With Armada 2, Metro 3D plans to include all the features that were missing from the original version and many more. "Armada 2 is still based on moving your ship around and blasting aliens," said Jordan, when asked about the features that will be specific to the sequel. "But it is set in a far richer universe filled with rescue missions, trade opportunities with isolated colonies, military challenges, and chances to change the universe. In Armada 2, you can own your own region of space and govern it, and [you can] set policy and upgrade space stations at higher levels. The universe of Armada 2 is infinite - the systems of Armada 2 can generate infinite numbers of interesting missions, enemies, and items. When you go to trade an item, chances are that nobody else has seen it."

The company has already begun development on a Xbox version of the game, and Metro 3D plans take full advantage of the broadband capabilities of Microsoft's console. According to Jordan, Microsoft has provided a considerable amount of support throughout the game's development, which makes it easier for Metro 3D to take advantage of the powerful Xbox hardware. "Microsoft is very supportive," Jordan explained. "They are making a lot of solid decisions based on developer feedback to optimize their system and the approval process. It is a very civilized experience. Also, the hardware specs give us great freedom. Armada 2 is pretty far along. We've built the server, and the action mechanics are very smooth. We have not started with the XDKs yet, but we will make the shift from the PC prototype to the XDKs in February."

Also helping in the development of the Xbox version of Armada 2 is the fact that Microsoft's development tools use DirectX drivers. The crew at Metro 3D is very familiar with that environment, which should lead to a quick learning curve when the team finally gets its hands on the XDKs. One of the themes that Jordan and his team at Metro 3D hope to convey with the gameplay in Armada 2 is cooperation. "Armada 2 is a huge simulated universe," Jordan explained. "You can go where you wish and engage in many different types of interactions. The game emphasizes cooperation above all - aspects such as trading and teaming up are very important." A PlayStation 2 version of Armada 2 is also planned, but according to Jordan, "there are some issues that are being worked out," so the game cannot be confirmed at this point.

The company's other project, Dark Angel: Vampire Apocalypse, is currently in development for the Sony PlayStation 2 and the Sega Dreamcast. The PlayStation 2 version should be released sometime near the end of Q1 2001, and the Dreamcast version will be released a couple of months afterward. The game itself is a third-person action-RPG where the player has one year to defeat the evil that plagues the world and save the people of the land. The game's action moves in real time. In Vampire Apocalypse, one game day equals one hour of actual time. So, date and time play a major role in the player's quest to complete the adventure. The Dreamcast and the PlayStation 2 versions will share the same characters, plot, and gameplay, but Jordan promises graphical enhancements for the PS2. "Dark Angel makes extensive use of the PS2 alpha processor, and we do some scene lighting with four-point light sources," Jordan revealed. "We also do a lot of real-time simulation to generate real-time amorphous fog, exploding/bouncing character parts, and particle effects. Plus, we can throw more monsters at you on the PlayStation 2."

Vampire Apocalypse will be the first game released under the Dark Angel franchise, but the company has further releases planned that will use the characters and locations from the game. When asked to confirm that the company plans further games in the franchise, Jordan said that the company has "started development on a new game set in the world of Dark Angel, but it is too early to discuss it in detail." Although Jordan could not go into specifics, the new Dark Angel game is currently planned for the PlayStation 2. It will be in the first-person shooter genre, and it will be a side story to Vampire Apocalypse. Jordan expects to show the unannounced Dark Angel game at this year's E3 show.

Several other next-generation projects are also in the works at the San Jose, Calif., offices of Metro 3D. "We are working on a brand-new unannounced Xbox online title and another PS2 title, but it is a bit early to discuss them," said Jordan. Given Metro 3D's relatively short but impressive development history, we'll be sure to keep a close eye on the development of those titles. The company has current projects on the Dreamcast, the Xbox, and the PlayStation 2, but its hands might be a bit full, and according to Jordan, the company has no current plans to develop games for the Nintendo GameCube or the Game Boy Advance. However, the company has released games on the Game Boy Color, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see them developing games for the GBA sometime in the future.

Thanks to Mark Jordan for taking the time to speak with us. GameSpot will continue to follow the development of Metro 3D's projects and will bring you the latest.

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