In an exclusive interview with Develop, senior Codemasters execs have outlined amibitious plans for the company's internal engine EGO - and a brand new project being developed at its recently opened Codemasters Guildford.
Codenamed 'Project Strike Team', the new game is described only as a 'character-driven action title' which takes the Codemasters Studios proprietary tech's ability to create vast environments and the firm's previous work with automotive games such as Colin McRae DiRT to the next level. The only other clues as to the game's content have been in the gritty style shown in recent recruitment ads and the art supplied for our recent cover feature (pictured - featuring members of the development team), but otherwise the team are aiming to keep the lid on the project.
“There are some rumblings and speculation in the industry already about what exactly we’re making,” commented Aidrian Bolton, head of the new Guildford studio making the game. He added that the new IP has been key to helping attract talent and build the studio's staff roster: "People are excited to try something genuinely new."
Bolton was the former development director of nearby Criterion Games - and the local set of games development firms, which include EA and Lionhead, proves that there's a vibrant community of talent to draw from.
The game is being produced by the team at the Guildford from an original concept dreamt up at Codemasters Studios' Southam, Warwickshire HQ.
But while the game has an overall concept dreamt up by the developers at Southam, the finer points of its design are to be bashed out by the Guildford team. With the game due in 2009, there’s clearly still some time to finalise the plan and plenty of long-term thinking.
“A lot has already been done on the groundwork, but I think that’s a great benefit for the new team – they can now come in with some set parameters but start adding to it in their own way," Bolton added, making it clear that Codemasters' board of directors haven’t handed the team instructions for a ‘GTA clone’, but rather simply set out a mandate for the development team to take its development skills and exploit them in the adventure/action category.
Key to this is building the game with internal technology EGO (formerly called Neon) which was used for the creation of Colin McRae DiRT and has been upgraded for work on Race Driver GRID, Operation Flashpoint 2 and 'Project Strike Team' - it's clear that Codemasters wants to prove the technology can be used to support brand new ideas as well as its well-known franchises.
Bolton told us that it was this which helped tempt him to work at Codemasters, and that the firm's ambitious plans to create shared technology for next-gen systems will pay off.
“I’ve seen a lot of people try to do shared tech, and there’s plenty of reasons not to do it. There’s plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t, because there are pressures to just get things done and out the door. Everyone in theory likes the idea, but in the practice, in the blood sweat and tears you just think ‘we’ve just got to get the game finished’ and the idea goes out the window.”
He added: “Looking at it from an outsider’s point of view, I’m not convinced that many companies can do it. Structurally, most just can’t do it. Many publishers just buy studios, and you can’t retro-fit them with new technology. You need to be a certain size to get it right – not too big, but not small. So people have talked about this for years but they have never done it, but now we, a big company, are doing it correctly.”
To read more about Project Strike Team, the EGO engine, or Codemasters' overall plans for games development, click here.