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Pavel Sinagl of 7FX

Interview - Czech developers 7FX talk about their multiplayer-focused tactical action game, Team Factor

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Image credit: Eurogamer

While ECTS was relatively quiet this year due to a lack of major publishers attending the trade show, the quality of games was as high as ever, and not all of them were from companies that we already knew. One of the pleasant surprises which we stumbled across between meetings was Team Factor, an online-focused tactical action game in the vein of Counter-Strike, created by a small Czech developer called 7FX and due to be published by British upstarts Singularity Software within the next few months. After the show we caught up with 7FX's Pavel Sinagl to find out more...

How to avoid being spotted, lesson one - don't stand on the bloody roof!

First Steps

"Two years ago Marek Trefny (our lead programmer) started writing his own 3D engine called LightForce, and to gather a team for games development", Pavel told us. "With financial support from Czech IT company I.C.C.C. he managed to get the team together, and the basic concept of Team Factor was written last summer." The company then travelled out to London for ECTS 2000 and presented their early work on the game to several companies. "As the echo was positive we proceeded with the work, increasing the total number of full time working artists and programmers to 10-12 people around the end of the year. Until then we had worked as a project team of I.C.C.C., but at the beginning of 2001 a subsidiary company 7FX s.r.o. was established." This made 7FX the latest development studio to pop up in the Czech Republic. Despite the small size of the country (just ten million people live there), Czech developers are responsible for award-winning games such as Operation Flashpoint and Hidden & Dangerous. Both of these are, like Team Factor, tactical action games. When we asked Pavel why the country seems to have this obsession with the genre, he replied "I would suggest it is just coincidence - we simply love tactical first person shooters". And as Pavel told us, the Czech gaming industry "is a relatively small scene, so a lot of us developers know each other".

Everything's gone green

Second Strike

Perhaps the biggest influence on 7FX's debut game though has been Counter-Strike, the Half-Life mod that took the world by storm, outstripping titles such as Quake 3 Arena, Unreal Tournament and Tribes 2 to become arguably the world's most popular multiplayer action game. "A lot of games have inspired us for sure, but you can bet we have played Counter-Strike for months!", Pavel was quick to admit. "Actually it was one of the very few games which could satisfy our players' demands for tactical shooters, but we still thought about making an even better game where players could choose different character profiles with more drawn differences between them." The result is a little like a cross between Counter-Strike and the classic Quake mod Team Fortress, with several player classes to choose from. But it also includes some basic role-playing elements, with your character gaining experience as you play the game. "Players can choose which core skills they want to pick out from an offered set of skills, which are different for each of the specialization class", Pavel explained. "The skills affect your game performance, like precise shooting, breathing, movement speed, equipment load, endurance, stealthiness, surveillance ability etc. Skill points are computed depending on the player's actions in the game related to each skill, but winning or losing the game will also affect the final skill point score."

That's the last time I let you drive

Three Sides To Every Story

Something else which should set Team Factor aside from other tactical games is the fact that three teams can fight it out on a single server, compared to the more straightforward two sided battles seen in Counter-Strike and most other online action games. This means that although objectives are broadly similar to those found in Counter-Strike, there is the added dimension of a third team with its own agenda to contend with. "Basically one team has to defend or protect something or somebody; it could be a geographical spot, a hi-tech device, or a VIP. The other two teams must seize, capture, steal, scan, destroy or kill that something or somebody. The point is that after the mission time elapses, there is clearly just one winner." "The best feature of three team play is undoubtedly the fact, that each of the three teams is outnumbered by two at the very beginning", according to Pavel. "Imagine playing Counter-Strike - your team starts with ten players, so everybody is quite courageous, running and trying to get the best position for the first battle. But after three minutes there is just you and one of your teammates alive on your team and the enemy is still seven. You act much more tactically at that point, first looking around corners before you dare to go there."

Sniping by the Mekong

Optional Extras

If all of this sounds a little overwhelming, you will be glad to hear that Team Factor will include a wide range of options which will allow server ops to customise the gameplay to some extent. "There is always an option in the server setup to change the number of teams to just two, as well as to change the number of players per team, time limit, etc." Friendly fire will also be optional and, to avoid the kind of reprehensible behaviour seen on some public Counter-Strike servers, even if it is enabled persistent team killers can still be punished. There is a kind of "three strikes and you're out" rule, which means that "the server will kick out everyone who kills a teammate for the third time in the game". And although Team Factor will ship with a selection of impressive looking maps out of the box, players will also be able to design their own, although it won't be quite as simple as for Counter-Strike. "We do not plan to develop our own level editor as a development tool, as we are quite happy creating the levels in 3D Studio Max", Pavel told us. "But for those who are able to work in this or similar software we will release a full SDK, formats and plug-ins."


Team Factor was already looking impressive when we saw it at ECTS 2001 earlier this month, but there is apparently still a lot of work to be done. "Right now we are working on the internet version of multiplayer, importing the rest of the animations into the engine, programming the RPG factor, detailing the levels, optimizing and testing". A demo version of the game should be available in the not-so-distant future, but Pavel told us that "the release is greatly depending on the multiplayer functionality and some other things", so no fixed date is being given yet. Still, with a little more polish and some solid net code, Team Factor may just join the likes of Operation Flashpoint and Hidden & Dangerous as the latest hit game to emerge from the tiny Czech Republic.


Team Factor preview

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