Project Eden Exclusive Q&A
Created by members of the team that did the original Tomb Raider, Project Eden is a squad-based action-adventure that combines first-person shooting and character interaction.
GameSpot: Project Eden is being designed by members of the original team that did Tomb Raider. How long have they been working on the game?
Adrian Smith: We've been working on the game since the end of Tomb Raider II - about two and a half years to date.
GS: Although Project Eden uses a third-person perspective reminiscent of Tomb Raider, it's an all-new 3D engine developed exclusively for the game. Can you describe some of its changes and improvements over what we've seen in the Tomb Raider games?
AS: Actually, Project Eden can be played in both first- and third-person - in fact it was originally conceived as a first-person game, but we had a third-person view for testing the animation system and found that it worked really well, so now the game has both! One feature of the game is that when you play in first-person, you can see your character's body when you look down rather, than an empty space as found in other first-person games.
The engine is all totally new and very different from the one used in Tomb Raider. The main difference is that the blocky maps that Lara loved are gone, to be replaced by far more complex geometry with a much greater level of detail. The levels are all lit properly with shadows, and the surfaces of objects can be shiny, bumpy, self-illuminated or even reflective. We have volumetric fog, so that you can pass in and out of isolated regions of mist.
The animation system is also far more advanced - we can dynamically in-between from any animation to any other animation smoothly, which gives very responsive, yet fluid movement. We can also play different animations on different parts of the body at once, so we can have facial expressions (the character's eyes move too!) and characters operating switches, etc. whilst still moving. Some creatures in the game morph in real-time - you can see a normal-looking dog change into monster in front of your eyes.
GS: Many contest that Tomb Raider's Lara Croft is the most famous game character of all time. Do you anticipate that Project Eden will approach the success of your previous game?
AS: Lara is a phenomenom - no one on the original Tomb Raider team anticipated that she would become such a big deal. Whether Eden can approach that level of success we wouldn't like to predict!
GS: Project Eden lets you command a squad of four characters. Can you talk about these four heroes and describe how they're different? Will there be more than four characters to choose from?
AS: The four characters are members of the UPA (Urban Protection Agency):
CARTER: The squad leader. He is the only one that can access certain high-security systems, and is the one who communicates with Control. He is also the only character that can make the whole team move together in 'follow-me' mode.
MINOKO: The computer expert. She can download useful information, and gain access to remote devices such as cameras and security systems. If needs be, she can hack systems to gain access.
ANDRE: The engineer. He can repair devices that are broken, and can locate weak spots to destroy walls and machinery if necessary.
AMBER: The robot. She has the greatest firepower and can withstand extreme conditions (such as high temperatures, lack of oxygen, etc).
In addition to these four characters, the team can also remote-control other devices such as a hover camera, rover (small tracked vehicle used to retrieve things from confined areas), and sentry guns. Carter also has a 'mind probe' weapon that allows him short and limited control over people and creatures he uses it on.
GS: In the single-player mode, you'll have to coordinate your four characters to accomplish your goals. While you're directly controlling one character, how will the other three characters act? Will they remain idle, or will you be able to set behavioral actions or something like that? Will you be able to readily switch between your characters?
AS: You can switch between the four characters quickly and easily at any time - you can also view through their eyes without actually taking control of them if you need to (you can do this in multi-player mode too, so you can check what other people are up to).
We've deliberately kept things simple on the control and action side. Basically, when you leave characters, they will stay where they are and defend themselves if they need to (this means you can set them up in defensive positions to guard/defend areas). They can also be left performing a simple action such as pulling a lever. The other thing they can be asked to do is to another character if you want to move together. And that's it - no waypoint/order planning systems or characters running off into trouble every time you leave them for a moment - we want the player to be in control, not the computer.
GS: Can you give an example of the sort of objectives your team of four will have to face, such that all four of them are necessary for the mission to succeed?
AS: Because of their different and unique abilities, you will always need the four characters to succeed - for example Minoko could be off in a control room overriding the security systems and remote-operating a door which allows Amber through a dangerous environment. Once through, Amber finds a control to extend a bridge to allow the other team members across - but it isn't functioning, so Andre has to repair the motor. Meanwhile, Carter is defending Andre from attack from some gang members who are out to stop you.
GS: How will Project Eden's campaign be structured? Is it a linear, mission-driven game? A long, branching campaign? One continuous plot?
AS: The game is mission-structured over 11 levels with a continuous plot (the team is out to investigate a particular disturbance and find out its cause).
GS: What sort of equipment will your operatives get to use? Will they gain experience, new skills, or new abilities as the game progresses?
AS: The team has various bits of equipment; the hover camera, rover, and sentry guns have already been mentioned. There are also mines that can be left, explosive charges, a 'time-shock' weapon that slows time for all but your team members, the mind probe, and a bouncing frisbee explosive(!). The team can remote-operate cameras, security weapons, doors, and other machinery. In addition, there are all kinds of specific pieces of equipment on levels - a cleaning robot, skytrain, and other such things.
An interesting feature of the UPA equipment that the team is given is that it can be regenerated when needed - so if the team has a Rover, they can choose to use energy to create it, but if it gets destroyed then it can be regenerated by expending the required energy again. The idea behind this is:
A) we can have puzzles where you need to use a specific piece of equipment and don't have to force a reload when you mess up
And B), the player can feel freer to experiment rather than hang on to equipment 'just in case'.
As for abilities, skills, etc. - we've steered clear from the traditional RPG element, so your characters have their specific skills built in and gain abilities from equipment they are allocated by Control at various stages in the game.
GS: Can you talk about some of the enemy characters you'll face in Project Eden? Is there a master villain behind the proceedings?
AS: The enemy characters range from humans to strange mutant creatures. The whole mission of the game is to find out what the source of these 'mutants' is and who, if anyone, is behind it. The big deal with many of the creatures is that they morph from one state to another - sometimes a bird is a bird, other times it can be a monster in disguise.
GS: What's been the most challenging aspect of developing the game?
AS: Everything! The amount of work involved in creating a state of the art video game is phenomenal - we've been going two and a half years with a bigger team than Tomb Raider, and we've still got masses to do to achieve our vision! I think one of the biggest challenges is getting the game to play as well in first- or third-person - people expect ultra responsive controls in first-person games, which a third-person game like Tomb Raider didn't have - fortunately, we have a great animation system to make this possible.
GS: Thanks, Adrian.
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