Next-gen deal dawns between Day 1, LucasArts

MechAssault-maker inks deal with Star Wars publisher to make all-new game for next-gen consoles.

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Traditionally, Day 1 Studios has been linked with Microsoft and its platforms. The company's first two games, MechAssault (2002) and MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf (2004), were both published by Microsoft Game Studios. The pair were also both exclusive to Microsoft's sole platform at their respective times of release, the Xbox. The shop is currently working on the Xbox 360 version of F.E.A.R. for Vivendi Games.

Today, though, the Chicago- and Maryland-based studio announced it has a new publishing partner with which it is developing games for a new platform. Speaking with GameSpot, Day 1 president Denny Thorley and director of business development John Kimmich revealed that they have inked a deal with LucasArts to create an all-new original intellectual property for next-generation consoles.

The as-yet unnamed and undated game will be the first collaboration between LucasArts and Day 1. Thorley said he was drawn to the San Francisco-based publisher because of its focus on putting a larger amount of marketing muscle behind a smaller slate of titles than other publishers. "They had done a tremendous job with their games with their 'less is more' approach," said the veteran developer.

Day 1 executives also praised how LucasArts dealt with independent studios. Kimmich cited 2004's free-roaming action hit Mercenaries, which was developed by Pandemic Studios and published by LucasArts, as an example Day 1 would like to emulate. "They embraced the ideas we represented, instead of just focusing on making games prettier and focusing on the same old kind of gameplay, they want to radically change the way games are played," said the executive.

Though they steered clear of specifics, Thorley and Kimmich said that the new game will focus on the online play that was a hallmark of the MechAssault titles. They said it would feature innovative but "approachable" multiplayer modes that would draw on "our heritage...with the MechAssault series." Kimmich said that "co-op is going to be an important part of games going forward," but would not say specifically whether or not the new game would have a co-op mode.

For his part, LucasArts vice president of product development Peter Hirschmann said Day 1's proprietary development tools were a big factor in LucasArts beginning talks with the studio around the time of last year's Electronic Entertainment Expo. "The phenomenal technology created by Day 1 directly affects gameplay in extremely innovative ways," he said.

Since MechAssault was among the first games to offer downloadable map packs via Xbox Live, it should also come as little surprise that Day 1's new game will also feature online content. "We watched very closely what downloadable content did in terms of player interest in a game, and it was very noticeable," said Thorley. "[Downloadable content] does a good job of keeping the product in the forefront of the player's mind. We've gone to school on it and we intend to incorporate it into our next product."

However, while the Day 1/LucasArts mystery project will feature downloadable content, Thorley would not say if it would adopt an episodic model a la Half-Life 2: Episode One and its two models. "With the way [console certification works] the challenge is the economics of [episodic content]," he said. "While we're not prepared to say whether we'll have episodic content for this new title, under certain circumstances it makes a lot of sense."

Last but not least, although Day 1 wouldn't reveal which next-gen console its new game is for, its president did drop some hints. "We're not announcing the platforms [for the game], but I imagine you can guess," said Thorley. Though the seasoned developer wouldn't elaborate, given Day 1's long history with the Xbox platform, his comments appeared to imply that the game would be coming to its successor, the Xbox 360.

That said, the game announcement says specifically it will be a "multiplatform" release. And just because Day 1 has an extensive history making games for the Xbox doesn't mean it will rule out making games for the PlayStation 3 or Nintendo Wii. "The consumer is going to vote on that," said Kimmich regarding the victor of the next-gen console war. "Nintendo and Sony have a ways to catch up in terms of online play, and Microsoft is going to continue to raise that bar. But [the competition means] the consumer is going to benefit, and in many ways the developer's going to benefit, because we get to do more interesting things on the screen."

LucasArts and Day 1 Studios expect to announce more details on their first collaboration later on in the year.

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