British developer Rebellion are probably best known for their recent hit first person shooter "Aliens vs Predator". We talked to the company's co-founder Jason Kingsley about how they got started, the Aliens connection, and their new game - Gunlok™.
"Rebellion was started about 7 years ago by me and my brother Chris in the basement of our shared student house", Jason told us.
The company started out "doing a lot of early work on the Atari ST, Amiga, C64 etc.", but until recently they were probably best known for the original Aliens vs Predator game, which they designed for the now forgotten Atari Jaguar console...
"The Atari Jaguar was a 64 bit computer that was well before its time. It had true colour texture mapping and various other next gen features at the time, so it was quite a beast to work for. The only problems were the software support and the numbers of purchasers in the end!"
Despite being one of the most powerful gaming machines of its time, the Jaguar had failed to take off. Poor sales of the console and a lack of games for it left the console floundering, and although Rebellion's Aliens vs Predator was a great game that didn't translate into good sales figures.
Aliens vs Predator might have failed to sell on the doomed Atari Jaguar, but the game had succeeded in impressing Fox Interactive.
"We were contracted by Fox Interactive on the basis that we were the first, and so far one of the few games developers capable of taking a movie licence and making a great game out of it, whilst maintaining the high concept of the film", Jason explained.
Fox's latest attempt at an Aliens game had been Alien Trilogy, a first person shooter that had tried to jump on the Doom bandwagon and fallen rather short. Now they wanted Rebellion to produce a new Aliens vs Predator game for the PC.
"Aliens Vs Predator wasn't so much a new version, but a complete re-working of the original concept of being able to play each of the main characters - something which Chris and I came up with initially. That is the key feature of the game, the fact that you can be any of the good or bad guys."
"Additionally only our 3D engine could cope with the running on floors and ceilings - no other engine could do that just yet, so there was design originality, atmosphere, and completely unique technology."
It proved to be a winning mix, and the game went on to be a critical and commercial success. No developer is ever 100% happy with their game though, and Jason is no exception. "You can always do more in a game, it's just that you run out of time", he explained. "There are tons and tons of features that we had to leave out just to avoid the scale of the game getting too large."
"The only mistakes I think we made were the lack of in game save (which was a conscious decision, but split the fans pretty much down the middle as to whether it was a good thing or a bad thing), and the difficulty level. We should have made an even easier difficulty level for beginners."
"You always learn many things from completing a game", he added. "Finishing is always the hardest part of the development."
With one hit PC game under their belts now, Rebellion's latest project is Gunlok™, which Jason described as a "squad based action RPG" set in their own grimy futuristic world.
"Gunlok comes from Chris' and my imagination, and probably more than a little influence from sci-fi films and comics, as well as a general sense of modern paranoia and conspiracy. It is set in an original post apocalyptic world where there is technology and forces that past generations would have considered to be magic. The few remaining humans wield incredible 'Earth Powers'. The robots are struggling into consciousness as they re-invent themselves as beings with dreams and emotions."
"The game takes place in three acts. Initially you must work out what the hell is going on and gather a team of fellow sentient robots to help you in your search. The second act involves uncovering a conspiracy. The third act takes you to the heart of the machine in a cataclysmic battle."
And the battles promise to be truly cataclysmic, with an impressive array of weaponry at your disposal... "Gunlok features a range of futuristic weaponry and novel robotic upgrades. Unusual weapons include the Nanofrag that sprays nanomech dissemblers that dismantle enemies, and the Epulsar that fires super-charged lightning bolts."
"I can't give away more, suffice it to say that the full range of weaponry and upgrades gives the player access to an awesome amount of firepower."
As well as having an epic story-driven single player game, Gunlok will also feature all the usual multiplayer options...
"There are a number of multiplayer modes that may be played on specially optimized levels adapted from the single player game levels - deathmatch, CTF, and we're working on some wholly original ideas."
"There are 15 huge single player levels, and a similar number of multiplayer levels. The environments vary from devastated city ruins to high tech fortresses, from rocky canyons to oilrig bases Each is built up of many hundreds of thousands of individually crafted polygons - we're not making a height field or grid style environment here, but a real deep 3D world."
And although Gunlok was only announced relatively recently, the game is apparently nearing completion. "We're almost finished", Jason told us. "Officially we're between alpha and beta stages, though our code is exceptionally stable for an alpha version. We're perfecting the AI and enemy behaviour, and tweaking the level difficulty too."
Rebellion are also finalising a publishing deal for the game at the moment, having gone it alone up to this point. "We're very close to deciding on which one will get the deal with us - there are several great publishers interested. We won't go with the one that will pay us the most, but with the one that will do the game the most justice and make sure it gets the exposure it deserves."
Gunlok might be the project that is getting the most attention at the moment, but Rebellion have their fingers in several pies at the moment. And although they are probably best known for Aliens vs Predator, they aren't limiting themselves to PC development.
"We'll look at any type of platform that will allow us to deliver the sort of game that the consumer deserves. We've completed a couple of Colour GameBoy titles, some licensed and some of our own design and ownership, like Klustar™. We are doing a game for a major movie studio right now that will be probably be announced at E3 on multiple formats like PlayStation and Dreamcast. And we've completed the gold pack for Aliens vs Predator."
"So we're really busy right now on a ton of stuff, but our main focus is of course Gunlok!"
We'd better let you get back to it then...