Q&A: Splash Damage on Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Splash Damage on modding Quake Wars, GDF versus Strogg differences, and playing solo.

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Enemy Territory: Quake Wars' release for the PC is just around the corner, but that didn't stop us from tracking down Splash Damage owner and lead game designer Paul "Locki" Wedgwood and asking some quick last-minute questions about the upcoming game, how important modding will be to Quake Wars, what (if any) single-player goodness can be found, and more.

GameSpot AU: Given that so many members of the Splash Damage team came from the modding community, what sort of tools and support are being included with the game to enable user-generated content and modification?

Paul "Locki" Wedgwood: This area has been a real focus since the start of development. We immediately put up an internal wiki server, and started furiously documenting everything we did to make it easier for mod-makers and level designers in the future. Our approach to the way we build tools has maintained that focus, too. Our tools programmer was one of the lead level designers back in our mod-making days, so he's very familiar with the hurdles that community members face, and has done his best to overcome them with our tools implementation. For example, level designers will not need to hand-paint the huge MegaTextures--he's implemented tools to automate a lot of that work. The Software Developers Kit for Enemy Territory: Quake Wars will include the source code, the level-design tools, MegaTexture tools, and all the necessary documentation (including tutorials) for making maps and modifications.

GS AU: The GDF and Strogg sides are significantly different, with more than just equivalent weapons separating the two teams. What was the rationale behind that choice, and what are some of the play-balancing challenges you faced because of it?

PW: Well, with Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, the teams were really just re-skinned versions of each other. We'd see huge flamewars break out on forums about the relative merits of an Axis versus an Allied gun, while in truth they simply had different audio effects but the exact same attributes and values in terms of spread, damage, clip, and reload time. With Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, we could really see the value in having asymmetrical teams, as an extension of what had already been achieved by id Software, and asymmetrical maps as far back as Return to Castle Wolfenstein Multiplayer. Having asymmetry between the two teams' vehicles, weapons, items, deployables, tools, and rewards just opens up so many cool tactical options for players, and the way their teams approach the assault of defense of an objective. Essentially it heavily contributes to the longevity of the game because it leads to much greater player immersion.

In terms of the balancing challenges, with Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory we could elegantly equate weapons based on their damage over time: if weapon A did two damage per round, and fired 30 rounds per minute, then weapon B would be roughly balanced equally if it did one damage per round, but fired 60 rounds per minute. In Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars, there's no straightforward synergy between, perhaps, a Strogg technician's abilities to create a spawn-host in the field from an incapacitated human, and a GDF medic's ability to revive a teammate. Instead, we conduct thousands upon thousands of hours of play-testing, secure extensive feedback from public betas, and then argue passionately in the studio for hours on end about the relative strengths and weaknesses of each team, ensuring that every weapon, item, tool, vehicle, deployable, ability, or reward has an opposing counter on the enemy team.

GS AU: Obviously the game is team-based, with objectives needing to be completed as a group. Is there still room for lone gunmen on the battlefield?

PW: Absolutely! One of the great things about being able to select a combat role that suits your preferred playing style, is that--for example, as a soldier, you can be right on the frontlines, destroying alien vehicles with your rocket launcher, or pulling off midair headshots with an assault rifle; while as an engineer, you can play more tactically, hanging back a little from the frontline, repairing vehicles, deploying defense turrets, building guard towers, or planting land mines--it doesn't really matter how you play, you'll find yourself doing something that benefits the team. As a covert ops, you could base-jump down into an enemy base, having flown to a nearby mountain, and then hide in the shadows waiting for an opportunity to steal a disguise, plant a third-eye camera in the enemy spawn (relaying intelligence to your team), then sneak around the base hacking into their artillery and intelligence deployables, before perhaps returning to the mountainside to snipe at the aliens from afar.

GS AU: Paul Wedgwood, thanks for your time.

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