Ageia has been the backbone of the emerging next-gen era. Their physics processing unit has delivered the gaming community an astounding physical edge in development and innovation. One of the developers currently making good on Ageia’s PhysX technology is Artificial Studios. Their remarkable Combat Training for Cell Factor sent shockwaves of awe through numerous conventions...but that’s not the only project currently under their belt. Monster Madness is a multiplayer coop title that brings back the nostalgia mowing down hundreds of zombies and monsters with a couple of your buddies. We had a Q&A with Artificial Studios and looked to get a little insight into their upcoming Monster bashing game, for the Xbox 360 and PC.
VG Core: What made the team decide to resurrect the cooperative, multiplayer top-down genre? Was there aim to bring a little nostalgia to the next-gen era?
Artificial Studios: While they're rapidly growing in popularity, co-op games are still something of a niche, especially those which also contain only play. Whether it's Contra, Halo, or Resident Evil Outbreak, some of the most memorable experiences I've got from 20 years of gaming have been playing through a challenging game with a buddy -- or 2, 3, or 4. Unfortunately, co-op games usually involve split-screens, which I think diminishes some of the party-oriented fun. However, a few genres give the opportunity to put several players into the same view. One of those genres is the "top-down shooter", with such storied entries as "Smash TV" and "Zombies Ate My Neighbors ". Our goal with Monster Madness has been to harness the electric, action-packed coop fun of games like those while bringing it up to date in terms of interactivity, graphics, and online play. And yeah, from the standpoint of the game's style, we really love 80's horror movies. We figured they were pretty ripe for some loving parody, giving us a lot of ideas for crazy enemies, weapons, and boss fights!
VG Core: Console gamers have been ga-ga over so many first-person games. How do you think gamers will take to a game that's actually re-inventing and doing something different with the action genre?
Artificial Studios: It's a bit of a risk, but for an original franchise like Monster Madness it's actually beneficial to try some new mechanics and types of action. The game doesn't play quite like any other game, even other top-down action games. Because unlike, say, a hack-&-slash action RPG, Monster Madness emphasizes ranged gun combat, and controls like a shooter with dual analog sticks. This is a similar mechanic to "Geometry Wars", but now in 3 dimensions. Being able to unload massive firepower on a veritable army of monsters with 4 players on the same screen is just plain fun. Meanwhile if players are in a competitive mood they can go up against each other in trap-filled "Arena Deathmatches", or jump into 16-player online games. I believe that shooter or action fans looking for a unique experience will have a blast with what this game has to offer.
VG Core: Originally, this game was marked as a project using the Reality Engine. Is it true Monster Madness is now using the Unreal Engine 3? And if so, why the change?
Artificial Studios: Reality Engine was a proprietary game engine that we developed a couple years back, before Artificial Studios switched to game development with "CellFactor." Reality Engine is a great PC game engine, which is why we're still using it for CellFactor PC, but it was not an Xbox 360 or multi-platform technology. So, while we prototyped Monster Madness for the PC with it, when time came to move the game content to Xbox 360 we found that Reality Engine wasn't going to be very practical for that purpose. Enter Unreal Engine 3, the industry gold standard for rapid, multi-platform development. Thankfully, in UE3 Epic has created a very elegant solution for game development. In addition to having a beautiful renderer, advanced physics capabilities, and well-tuned network systems, UE3 really just makes the task of multi-platform development a whole lot easier, so that you can write your game code once and have it work the same across the different consoles and PC. UE3's allowed us to focus our attention on the high-level game design, rather than on the low-level guts of the technology.
VG Core: A while back there were a couple of articles that mentioned Monster Madness would support vehicles. How will vehicles be used in the game, and what sort of vehicles will be available?
Artificial Studios: Oh yeah, vehicles are a huge part of Monster Madness. Think "Metal Slug"-- how tanks and airplanes in a game like that are useful as a temporary advantage against the overwhelming onslaught of enemies. It's similar in Monster Madness, where you'll find vehicles in the environment that you can hop into to start tearing up the monsters with built-in weaponry. Occasionally there are stages, or part of a stage, entirely devoted to the use of certain kinds of vehicles -- such as driving a go-kart along a highway that's falling apart, or fighting pirate zombies on the open sea in a rocket-equipped pedal boat (no kidding). Some vehicles support up to 4 players, with different seats for different uses, while others only can fit one player, allowing each player can simultaneously drive their own vehicle. The vehicles run the gamut from cars to mini ATV's, to UFO's, mechs, boats, and hovercraft. In competitive multiplayer, vehicles are present in some of the 4-player deathmatch arenas, as well as all of the 16-player team-battle stages. As you can probably imagine, laying siege to the enemy team's base with a squad of death-laser equipped UFOs is quite amusing!
VG Core: Will stages sport multiple routes?
Artificial Studios: Yep, there are often multiple ways to get through a level, and players are rewarded for exploring them. The back alleys, backyards, and side areas usually contain valuable "weapon parts," power-ups, and sometimes entrances to bonus levels. They also may contain monster ambushes and other traps, so players will have to weigh the danger of exploration with the potential prizes to be found...
Levels also contain bonus objectives (sometimes listed, sometimes secret) to earn more points, and each level has a "Grade" scheme based on certain level-specific criteria that must be met -- players can try to achieve the best grade in each level to unlock bonus content. Furthermore, a remix "Madness" mode becomes available after beating the game, which changes around many of the objectives and the enemies within each level, providing a different (extremely tough) kind of experience for expert players.
VG Core: Bosses were a pretty big part of the SNES and Sega Genesis gaming era. Will Monster Madness sport bosses and will there be any gimmicks attached to any of the boss battles?
Artificial Studios: Bosses will be a HUGE part of a co-op game, especially when they require the combined effort of every player to bring them down. As such, we've spent a lot of time working on the major boss fights in Monster Madness, and each one has a unique "hook" to it. While all bosses require some firepower to bring down, practically none of them are straightforward "shoot & dodge" affairs. Many of them require you to destroy some form of protection before they can be damaged, or fight them in vehicles, or with unique items. Most are also multi-staged, so just when you think you've beaten them, they're ready for another round!
For example, in the Mall chapter of the game you fight a "loveable" children's show-host in costume, and to take him out you first need to electrocute his thick-skinned self by luring him into various traps in the environment. Once his costume is significantly damaged, you then need to dispel his mystical "love shield" by pelting him with hundreds of toys spread throughout the environment. Only then is he ready for a good shotgun blast to the face. This is but one example of many, I do so enjoy a good boss fight.
VG Core: With up to 16 players able to go at on-line, are there any other modes available aside the deathmatch, capture-the-flag and king-of-the-hill?
Artificial Studios: The competitive online mode has turned out to be a huge part of the game for us. As development progressed, we found it to be a ton of fun, which is frankly surprising given the ubiquity of online FPS games. It turns out that the crazy weapons and vehicles in Monster Madness, coupled with the simplified "planar" shooting of the game, make for some very accessible, yet equally intense online combat. To give the online play some extra legs, we've indeed focused on adding additional competitive game modes. They include online 4-player arena deathmatches (with guest support!), monster hunter (a single powerful monster versus a team of human characters -- where the monster can turn dead players into zombies to form his own team), monsters vs. humans (an all-monster team versus an all-human team), and a mode devoted to racing and vehicular combat. Between this and the co-op play, we're covering a pretty wide variety of tastes. Some of the most aggressive people on the dev team just love the competitive stuff!
Our thanks go out to the guys and gals at Artificial Studios for answering our questions. Be sure to stay tuned in for more information here at VGCore.com.
Article By: Cyguration