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Dark Void dev explains Capcom choice

Ed Fries on why he didn't go back to MS.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Dark Void creator Airtight Studios has said that it chose to partner with Capcom on its upcoming cover-based third-person shooter because the publisher allows developers to innovate.

"A lot of other companies are like, 'Make it just like the last game that came out because it sells well worldwide'," lead designer Jose Perez told journalists at Capcom's Captivate 08 event in Las Vegas last week. "Capcom is known for innovation...and I just want to see their logo come up before our game."

An interesting side story in Dark Void's creation is that it sees a family of figures who worked on Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge for Microsoft Game Studios brought back together nearly five years after the game shipped on Xbox.

Airtight Studios was founded by members of the Crimson Skies team at FASA Interactive, along with Ed Fries, who helped build Microsoft Game Studios, and soon after Capcom signed Dark Void the publisher's US arm installed another former MGS figure, Scott Baylis, as its US development head.

"Scott came from Midway and before that EA, but before he was at EA he worked for me at Microsoft, and worked with Crimson Skies. In a way it was like this homecoming - all these people coming back together," Fries explained.

Fries himself became part of Airtight because, he joked, he had ruled out including on-foot gameplay in the original Crimson Skies and had promised the development team that he would be let them do that in the next game - only to leave in early 2004 after 18 years with Microsoft.

Given the group's history with the Xbox platform holder, we wondered why they had turned to Capcom with Dark Void rather than go 'home' to Microsoft.

"When we got together as a company Microsoft had just recently cancelled Crimson Skies, so we didn't feel like it made sense for us to go back and pitch Microsoft again on a title that had a lot of similar elements to it, and certainly the original pitch was more like Crimson than where we ended up," Fries told Eurogamer.

The original pitch was an action game that would see players fighting their way out of a pyramid, hopping onto a motorbike, flying a plane and shooting it out with a gigantic boss character all in the space of one level, but Fries said that despite the ambitious prototype, produced in four months, the developer ended up with a good demo but no one element that stood out from the crowd.

Capcom felt the same, but saw something in Airtight anyway and decided to fund development - a reaction that left the team with mixed feelings. It wasn't until subsequent meetings back at the studio that Dark Void started to take shape. The concept of vertical cover-based combat, which applies the gameplay of something like Gears of War to ascending a cliff-face, was what got things back on track.

If Fries is bitter about Microsoft's decision to ditch Crimson Skies though, he wasn't showing it at Captivate 08, and he believes that Dark Void will justify Capcom's faith, hoping to achieve a "95" rating on aggregators like Metacritic and Gamerankings. "I think if we took Dark Void back to [Microsoft now] they'd probably be pretty interested," he told Eurogamer. "But it really took somebody betting on us early when the IP was pretty unformed to get to where we are today."

For more on Dark Void, check out our preview from Captivate 08.

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