Eurogamer: What does your post-apocalyptic picture look like?
Tameem Antoniades: We projected forward to a time of peace. Our future is colourful, bright and beautiful. There are no more wars simply because there are not enough people left to fight them. In the 100+ years after humanity has been all but wiped out, nature has reclaimed the cities. The desolation and beauty is captured in Nitin Sawhney's unique musical vision.
In a sense, this is a post-post-apocalyptic setting. In this world, only around 50,000 people are still alive in the North American continent and these numbers are heading towards extinction.
Humanity is represented by small pockets of communities trying to eke out a viable existence or lone feral survivalists existing in the wilds. Trip comes from the former and Monkey is one of the latter. When they meet, worlds collide. Monkey and Trip were born long after the apocalypse and can only guess at the purpose of the derelict artifacts they see around them.
The age of man has been replaced by the age of drones: autonomous, hunting, killing machines left behind from forgotten wars, asleep for decades until activated by the few remaining survivors. This scenario is partly based on the current landmine problem. Landmines currently maim or kill 10,000 people every year long after the wars that spawned them. In places like Afghanistan, where I originally come from, millions of colourful "butterfly" landmines dropped by the Soviet forces continue to maim and killed children who mistake them for toys.
Today we are witnessing the advent of drone warfare, the rise of despot nuclear nations and the possibilities of large-scale casualties in bio-terrorism. In the comfort of our privileged western world, post-apocalypse equates to fantasy. In places like Afghanistan, people are living day-to-day in a post-apocalyptic nightmare.
Eurogamer: Can you talk a little about how the story is structured? It's a linear quest, presumably?
Tameem Antoniades: By linear you mean focused, right? Joking aside, linear is often reserved as a derogatory term for games that offer limited interactivity. Ours is a story-driven action-adventure with a bit of a road-movie vibe that requires brains as well as muscle. It's far more tactical than your average adventure game as you have to protect Trip in order to survive.
There are often many ways to approach a particular situation involving combat, clambering, puzzle-solving and making use of Trip's hacking and reconnaissance skills. Overall it will be a tough game to play on the brains and brawn front. Hopefully, you won't feel that this is limiting when you are playing it!
Eurogamer: Will there be any kind of upgrade system or experience-based ability tree or anything along those lines for Monkey?
Tameem Antoniades: The simple answer is yes to all of those things but we haven't locked all of that down yet. The idea is that Trip comes from a community of people who scavenge technology and so you can ask her to upgrade equipment for you throughout the game.
Eurogamer: How are Monkey and Trip going to complement each other over the course of the game?
Tameem Antoniades: At the beginning they really don't. She's scared and wants to go home but is not equipped to survive outside of her own community. So she reprograms a slave-headband from the slave ship and puts it on Monkey while he is unconscious. With it she can control him through pain or even kill him. She doesn't do it out of malice but because she knows that he is the one person who can help her get home.
Monkey is able to survive and has done so all his life. He has a multi-function telescopic staff with which he battles and an energy shield to help protect himself, albeit temporarily. He fights rough and ready, like a raging beast. His skin bears the scars of searing hot metal from the countless battles he has had with the machines. Even so, every battle is a test of strength. Go up against one or two robots and you may take some damage but survive. Go up against three or four and you are probably going to lose.
That's why you are encouraged to exploit enemies and use their weapons against them. So you can do things like rip off a gun-scout's machinegun and take out a dozen enemies with it, or turn an enemy into a ticking time bomb and throw him into a crowd of others. That is part of what makes the combat become tactical.
Trip comes in with her own set of skills, none of which involve fighting. She's much more of the brains and is technologically savvy. She can cause distractions to decoy robots and turrets. She appropriates a flying CCTV camera, called a DragonFly, and reprograms it to scan for enemy positions and weaknesses. She can hack machinery that still has some residual power.
Together, you are stronger than apart and you slowly learn to trust and depend on each other. When in a new area, Trip will typically scan the area with the DragonFly. You will see the enemy positions. Should you go in fighting? Should you risk clambering over that one robot and take him out first as he is the weakest of the lot? Should you ask Trip to draw gunfire and put her at risk while you flank the enemies? Will Monkey and Trip ever see the value in each other's worldviews?