Live Section 8 interview Finished
TimeGate Studios producer Robert Siwiak and community manager Drew Rechner have been answering your Section 8 questions live on Eurogamer.
They are a talkative pair and they went into plenty of detail about the ambitious, multiplayer-focused first-person shooter, which has jetpacks, lest we forget.
Thank you to both Robert and Drew for taking part, plus a big thank you to all of you who submitted questions.
What follows is the full transcript of our Section 8 live text Q&A. The earliest questions and answers are presented first.
Our live coverage has now ended. Here's what you missed: Updating...
Super Moderating Hero: Hello! Section 8 producer Robert Siwiak has just joined us. Drew Rechner is running late and will join us later. We'll begin in just a minute.
Super Moderating Hero: Drew has his skates on and is now here. Here we go!
Super Moderating Hero: OK! First things first, Drew and Robert, can you tell us a bit about who you are and why you're so famous, please?
Robert Siwiak: Heh, sure. I'm Robert Siwiak, and I'm the producer on Section 8. My previous projects at TimeGate include F.E.A.R. Extraction Point, as well as F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate and F.E.A.R. Files. And Section 8 is definitely my baby at the moment, and has been for the past couple of years.
Drew Rechner: My name is Drew Rechner and I am the Community Liaison for TimeGate Studios.
What's Section 8 all about then, in your words? Why should we be excited - it's just another FPS, isn't it?
Robert Siwiak: We're big-time FPS fans here at TimeGate, so we know what's out there on the market. With Section 8 we've set out to shake the standard mould of what an FPS is. Why do you need to stare at a 30-second timer to respawn into a game? Why do you put up with players team-killing each other to fight over a single vehicle?
Why do you have to put up with rounds that become so predictable because it's about memorisation of the map, and less about tactical gameplay?
And most importantly, why do players in other shooters feel like they can hardly make a difference on the battlefield?
In Section 8 we set out to empower the player and create a rich playground with lots of tactical options. And we truly feel that no two games of Section 8 will ever play the same as a result.
Hi guys - what's the point of the this dropping in from 15,000 feet rather than respawning? What do you reckon it'll add to the game - particularly in multiplayer? Once we've dropped can we go back up to the sky?
Robert Siwiak: Burn-in spawning is our primary mechanism for spawning the player into the game world. Rather then choosing a fixed spawn point, you can select any point on the map to spawn in to from the tactical map. Once done, you will actually start free-falling towards the map, and you'll have a tactical birds-eye view of the battlefield.
If you're a sniper and you see a tank driving on the road in front of you, you can hit the brakes and start drifting behind a rock ledge to find cover. So rather then just "popping" out of thin air at a point that you can't control, we're letting you choose exactly where you want to deploy on the battlefield. And once you've made that choice, you can change your mind at the last minute and fine-tune your landing.
You can even land on top of a tree, a narrow ledge, or any surface on the map. So for snipers wanting to get into good spots, you've got the perfect mechanism to setup your ambushes. And - it looks pretty frickin' cool when you look up at the sky and see these fireballs dropping in!
Drew Rechner: It's all very functional for the reasons Robert mentioned but it's also a ton of fun and an incredibly cool experience.
Robert Siwiak: Once you're on the ground, keep in mind that you're in a powered armor suit with a jetpack and a long-distance overdrive mode. You won't ever feel like you need to hit the suicide button and respawn because you're very mobile once you're down there.
Super Moderating Hero: How long does it take to drift down to earth? Won't that get boring for people who want to get straight back into the action - or are we looking at a more tactical, slower-paced affair?
Robert Siwiak: It's definately fast-paced. When you burn-in, you can control a brake that will slow down your descent. If you don't tap the brakes, you'll be back on the ground in about 8-10 seconds, slam your fist into the dirt and kick up a huge cloud of debris.
If you tap the brakes you can slow your respawn to about 15 seconds, but you gain greater control so that you can perfectly land on-top of something - Or to make a softer, less-noticeable landing so you don't announce your presence to the enemy as much.
Within about two seconds of dying, you can be right back in and dropping. So from death to being back on the ground, it's about 15-or-so seconds.
*Disclaimer - All time measurements and gameplay data are subject to change based on internal testing between now and the game's release!
And, of course, you're actually seeing the entire battlefield on your way down, so you're being exposed to tactical information, such as enemy and friendly troop movements, during that entire period.
Is this run-and-gun then, rather than a cover-based shooter?
Robert Siwiak: To make one thing clear, there are no one-hit kills in Section 8, and you also won't be ducking for cover every second.
The soldiers in Section 8 are protected by state-of-the-art powered armor suits, and these are equipped with shields and thick armor plating. Between weapons and equipment that you can customize in your suit, you have a lot of tactical options.
Combat is a little bit more tactical in that respect. Sure, you can just hold down your machine gun and lace into the guy in front of you. But maybe you want to use your Jetpack to get over him, launch a mortar from your suit to drop his shields, and then finish him off with a few rounds from your rifle.
Taking down a person is slightly longer compared to other shooters, but its very satisfying - you earned that kill, and it wasn't from a spray-and-pray head-shot.
Drew Rechner: But don't expect to frolick around the battlefield, dodging bullets all the time.
Robert Siwiak: Some of the weapons we have can bypass shields when used at close range, so it can be advantageous to get in close to the enemy and bypass his shields completely.
Hey Robert. I love the idea of being given some more mobility with the jetpack in an FPS. How do you see players making the most of it and how has it affected the layout of levels?
Robert Siwiak: Expect a lot more vertical gameplay in Section 8. Keep in mind that you can burn-in spawn on almost any surface on the battlefield, but you can also access these areas using your jetpack.
It's relatively easy to setup shop on top of a building, a cliff face, or any other surface on the battlefield. In Section 8, saying "heads up" has a lot more meaning, because players can literally be anywhere.
Oh, and all players get jetpacks!
Overdrive is pretty cool - it basically lets you run at the speed of a light jeep, and pops you into third-person. When you pair up the speed of overdrive with a burst from your Jetpack, you can make some pretty killer jumps in Section 8.
The overdrive also makes you feel like you never need to wait for a vehicle. Again, you are a vehicle! No more waiting for a lift! And using the jetpack in combat adds a new dynamic as well, since it allows you to better evade attacks. Just keep in mind that it's not an unlimited jetpack... it's more of a jet-assisted jump, so you won't be flying per-say.
Drew Rechner: The jetpack also allows you to really traverse the battlefield quite effectively by being able to leap over obstacles and buildings alike.
Robert Siwiak: Once you exhaust your capacitor, you'll need to wait for it to recharge. So, it's not as jumpy/arcady as say Tribes or other games with jetpacks.
Drew Rechner: All our maps take advantage of jetpack usage, so there's a lot of opportunities for a strategic player equipped with a jetpack to find some really cool sniping spots or other tactical advantages.
How will the playable classes work? For example can you skill up your soldier in different areas or do they come packaged as a specific type of unit ie medic/heavy/sniper etc? What sort of customisation is there?
Robert Siwiak: We have a system that we call Loadouts, where the player can customize 1) weapons 2) equipment 3) passive modules in his suit.
You can choose between two primary weapons, so you can choose to be Sniper Rifle/Missile Launcher, or Light Machine Gun/Shotgun, or Assault Rifle/Pistol - anything you want.
You also have the ability to customize different equipment in your suit, so this includes things like shoulder-mounted mortar launchers, hand-thrown grenades, repair tools, jetpack explosives, micro-sensor arrays, etc. These are used much like weapons.
And if that wasn't enough, you can customize passive modules on your suit as well. This is somewhat like choosing what stats you want in an RPG.
If you want to create a character who is like a "tank", you can allocate more armor and shield modules to your suit so you have more health on the battlefield.
If you want to be stealthy and fast, you can allocate stealth matrix passives and speed modules to decrease the chance you're detected by players and increase your movement speed. So, a great deal of customization to create an avatar that suits your particular play style.
But, if you want to just get into the action, there are preset templates you can choose right out the box. These align to familiar "class" archtypes, like a "sniper" loadout, "assault", etc.
Drew Rechner: Essentially the player has the freedom to choose to play as any class they want to play as. They get to create their very own classes or pick one of our pre-existing ones; there's quite a bit of freedom in this respect.
Robert Siwiak: So, if you want to be a sniper that can repair other players/vehicles, who also has a missile launcher, and is harder to detect because he has stealth boosters, you can be that person in Section 8. Just as easily as a person can have a light machine gun, shotgun, detpack explosives, mortar launchers, and extra shields/armor.
Super Moderating Hero: Are there any other RPG elements like levelling up added to the mix?
Robert Siwiak: Yes, the game has persistent stats, so you can expect your player to progress through ranks and compare his stats against other players on leaderboards and through our stats browser. I can jump in right now and see that I've got more kills with the light machine gun then Drew... you know, because I'm better than him.
Drew Rechner: He's doesn't, by the way!
Robert Siwiak: Lies! I also have admin access to the stats backend, so I can reset all of Drew's stat information if he keeps lying. 'scuse me, that's "Private Drew" now.
Drew Rechner: hmmm... I'll keep that in mind.
The game certainly sounds interesting. Something to keep my eye on that's for sure! Is this a multiplayer focused game? With the ability to 'drop in' to the battlefield, I imagine the maps must be fairly large? What sort of player count are you hoping to achieve?
Robert Siwiak: Is definitely a multiplayer-focused, large-scale, outdoor FPS game. These are pretty huge maps - somewhat analogous in size to say something you would see in the Battlefield franchise. As far as player counts, you will see 16 on player-hosted listen servers, and 32+ on dedicated servers.
A listen server is where you're both hosting a server and running the game from a single machine. A dedicated server is when you have a machine that does nothing but host the server.
Drew Rechner: The maps are absolutely huge, but they're quite easy to move across because of Overdrive and jetpack as we mentioned earlier.
Robert Siwiak: Between now and release I expect that 32 number to go up! There's nothing quite like seeing 32 fireballs dropping in at the beginning of a match in Section 8.
Super Moderating Hero: Are those numbers for both PC and Xbox 360?
Robert Siwiak: Yes.
With the emphasis on the multiplayer, why did you decide to include the single-player mode and what, do you feel, makes the single-player stand out?
Robert Siwiak: We have a whole new universe that we need to introduce to players, so a single player mode was an obvious choice to accomplish that in Section 8. You'll be able to follow a recent addition to the 8th Armored's 1st Recon unit. A soldier by the name of Alex Corde.
Drew Rechner: He's the one that's featured in our trailer if you've seen that.
Robert Siwiak: Throughout the story you'll be introduced to the two major factions in Section 8 - the 8th Armored Infantry and the Arm of Orion. You'll also be introduced to all of the game's major features in preparation for multiplayer.
Also, I should mention there are two single-player modes in S8. One is the story mode, which I mentioned above. The other is the Instant Action mode, which allows you to play all of the multiplayer maps with full bot support. So, even offline, you can get the complete Section 8 experience.
Going back to the story, again, we have a rich universe that we wanted to get players into.
Super Moderating Hero: Is the single-player story long and involved or simply an introduction to the multiplayer game?
Robert Siwiak: It certainly stands on its own. My comments earlier were more from the standpoint that many other FPS games feel like the single-player and multiplayer are two different games with completely different mechanics.
That's not the case in Section 8. In the single-player story mode, you'll stop burn-in, customize loadouts, call in vehicle and deployable deliveries, etc. Once you complete it, you'll find you won't need to re-learn the multiplayer components of the game.
The single-player story itself is a few hours in length, and you will experience all the major battles of the war between S8 and the Arm, be treated to cut-scenes that explain the story progression, etc.
Can you tell us more about the Dynamic Combat Missions? Can we really order our friends around and they have no choice but to obey? That sounds brilliant.
Robert Siwiak: Well, you can't really order your friends are... you can certainly join up in squads together, though. And, as Squad Leader, you can tell them to go places... and then kick them out of the squad if they disobey.
For the Dynamic Combat Missions, or "DCMs" for short, these are a pretty cool feature. These operate on top of the basic "conquest" game mode where both sides are fighting to take control of different control points on our huge maps.
But, based on what actions your team takes, you might kick off a DCM that will alter the flow of gameplay. If your team is having trouble taking over an enemy control point, you might kick off a "Commando" DCM, where a special bot drops into the game world. He's a pretty souped-up soldier with extra shields and firepower, and he'll spearhead an assault on the enemy's base.
You'll also have missions like the "Convoy Escort" mission, where you will need to find and escort a convoy back to your control point. If you succeed, you're rewarded with tons of requisition points - which you can personally use to purchase vehicles and deployables.
It also contributes to your team's score in a big way. But keep in mind that for every DCM there is a counter-DCM for the other team. They will get "Convoy Destroy", and will get the payout instead of you if they blow up that convoy.
There's also a cool "Bomb" mission where your team can plant a huge explosive in the enemy's base. If it detonates at the end of the DCM, it will blow up all of their base defenses and make it easier for your team to attack.
So, DCMs can change the course of combat in very big ways. And again, these are dynamically kicked off based on your team's actions during the round. You can influence which DCMs will occur based on what you do.
Are there any vehicles? If so, what kind - tanks, robotic juggernauts, aeroplanes? Please say we can run over our friends and break their legs off! [That's the spirit! - SMH]
Robert Siwiak: Definitely... umm, to both the question and the comment. [I might have said you are strange, Eurogamer readers - SMH]
So, in S8, I'm sure you're familiar with our mantra at this point - everything is controlled by the player. So, yes, players can choose anywhere on the battlefield that they want a vehicle to be delivered. You pull up an interface and, provided you have enough requisition points, you can request a Tank or Heavy Armor delivery at your location.
A drop-ship will then fly-in from off map and deliver your vehicle to the requested location.
Drew Rechner: I like how it wasn't asking if they could run over their enemies and break their legs off, but their friends instead. They sound a lot like Robert !
Robert Siwiak: Hey! If only there were a rank lower than Private... Wait, Recruit!
Anyway, yes, vehicles - we have them. They can be used to blow things up, run over people, etc.
Drew Rechner: By the way, the Heavy Armor is incredibly cool and destructive; it's definitely my favorite vehicle!
Robert Siwiak: You also have access to deployables, too, so things like Supply Depots and automated turrets that you will drop in from orbit and allow you to create choke-points on the map - again, wherever you want to.
You never have to wait in line, you will never have the urge to team-kill your friends - well, save for the guy who wants to run his friends over. should mention we have some different friendly-fire modes as well. Heh. On, off, and partial - the last one will only allow you to damage friendly shields, so it's the best of both worlds.
Oh, and take a guess at what happens if a tank or deployable is delivered on top of somebody! Heh! Or, for that matter, what happens if a player burn-in spawns on top of another player. I guess I need to take back that comment about no one-hit kills. Then again, do those count as "weapons"?
Has the beta already started? When and how can we get involved?
Robert Siwiak: The beta is scheduled to kick off this summer. We're still working on finalizing dates on it at this time, but please stay on the look out for updates as soon as they're available.
Super Moderating Hero: What about a release? Is that still later this year - among games like Modern Warfare 2, Halo 3: ODST and so on?
Robert Siwiak: Yes, Section 8 is currently slated for a fall release.
And, again, we're looking forward to bringing a "fresh" gameplay experience to the FPS community.
This game sounds awesome, thought how confident in the game's technical strength are you; what compromises did you have to make technically to include all the aforementioned features? How good does Section 8 look, how many frames can we expect every second? Let's get the nitty-gritty out!
Robert Siwiak: Well, given the title is still in development, its difficult to give exact numbers. It's not like we'll release a game that will chug and drop your frames to unacceptable levels.
I'm actually quite pleased with the technical strength of the title. Compared to other shooters, and other titles using the Unreal Engine 3, we're doing many things differently. The scale of our maps, the ability to drop in from a great height, and having a wide list of gameplay features (vehicle deliveries, loadouts, deployables, lock-on, DCMs, etc.) are certainly distinguishing points.
From a technical standpoint, there are certainly compromises you need to make. For instance, you can make a really small room and cram tons of detail, destructibility, and physics objects into it. But at the end of the day you still have a really small room. Or, you can create a really huge room with lots of variable geometry and more of a playground, but you have to spread some of those other elements out.
Drew Rechner: Currently, the game performs quite well and I would expect it to only get better as we polish and optimize the game.
Super Moderating Hero: Post-release, how are you going to support the game and community? Is there clan support, matchmaking features, videos, anything like that? Are you planning DLC or even expansions?
Robert Siwiak: The game will certainly have matchmaking - this is a multiplayer FPS, after all. There is also clan support, so you'll be able to designate a clan tag for your account. You'll also be able to compare and view stats by clan, etc.
And yes, the game supports DLC, so you can expect to see future Section 8 content after the game releases - definitely maps and probably more.
Drew Rechner: From a community standpoint there will be a lot of things planned, so stay tuned!
Super Moderating Hero: We've only got time for one more question, one we ask everybody - would you rather have lasers for eyes or be able to turn invisible? And why?
Robert Siwiak: Invisibility! Then I can sneak into a lab and steal those lasers - get the best of both worlds.
Drew Rechner: Invisibility for sure.
Robert Siwiak: Copycat.
Drew Rechner: Haha! Okay, lasers so I can zap Robert right now!
Robert Siwiak: I'm looking at him - he was sitting there, waiting to see what I would type. I will steal Drew's laser eyes...
Wait - can we still see with the lasers? Is it like Cyclops from X-Men? Sounds like something we should put into the sequel. Hmm. Better not be painful, either! If it's painful for the laser eyes, sign Drew up.