'Our approach is different' says UK studio as it talks up design for new Conflict game and in-house tech

Pivotal takes aim at FPS genre cliches

2008 sees the release of Pivotal’s first next-gen Conflict game, which sees the brand move into the FPS genre – but the team is taking aim at the staples of the shooter category to devise something new.

Conflict: Denied Ops is being built for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC, and while it is another instalment in the successful series, it’s also a new direction for the franchise, says MD Jim Bambra.

Opting for a first-person view, co-op gameplay and a grittier storyline ripped from the headlines, Bambra promises a politically sensitive story above and beyond the pulpy fodder found in most other action oriented games.

“The locations and basic backstory is that the Venezuelan government has been overthrown and the new ruler is antagonising the US with a nuclear threat. Investigating that takes players around the world,” Bambra told Develop.

“Matters like this are part of our political backdrop and it’s more interesting to me to set the game in this real world locations and deal with things that may happen in
the real world. Rwanda was a scene of intense violence last decade and we will touch on that.”

Design-wise the studio has dispensed with a few staples of the FPS genre in a bid to secure player involvement, added Bambra.

A non-linear mission structure is designed to let players take their pick on where and what they do, with co-op gameplay a key part of the action. But most important is the decision to effectively give players unlimited ammo.

“We’ve made the game very accessible for people and have been aware that squad-based games are hard to play – how can you enjoy that without just feeling like the quarter master,” he explained. “The big thing for us is that we’ve removed ammunition – the game is a tactical situation that will keep you engaged, not the fact that you’ve got just three clips and ten minutes spent finding more ammo.”

The key result has been removing a crutch that other developers think is a way of creating tension and pace, but which Bambra says is artifical and frustrating.

He explains: “Our approach is different – it’s the enemies you come up against and how you approach them that should be more interesting. We really want to avoid the scenario where a player won’t want to enter a room because they’ve got no bullets left.”

The game has also helped inform the creation of new technology Puncture, a geometry creation runtime that can create gaps or holes in different materials in the environments in order to let players set up locations for shoot outs.

Explained technical director Alex McLean: “It’s not predetermined shapes or gaps, it’s exactly where you shoot. And we’ve got lots of other destruction elements such as grand scale buildings collapsing or small items coming apart.”

McLean says they technology team is also building elements that let designers create believable environments: “One part of that is keeping the debris on screen so it doesn’t fade away or alpha out.”

Bambra and McLean discuss at length the studio’s plans for the future, it’s in-house tech and the state of play for studios in an exclusive Develop interview here.

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