As part of its licensing agreement with Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 3, Capcom and developer Airtight Games are utilizing UE3 to power the new sci-fi action game, Dark Void, an original intellectual property from the Japanese game publisher designed by an American developer for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Set within a parallel dimension, the action blends traditional third-person perspective shooting with jetpack-fueled space battles that open up a vertical dimension to combat and cover.
“Dark Void came about as a natural evolution of some of the things we were talking about doing on Crimson Skies for Xbox, namely getting out of the plane,” said Jim Deal, president, Airtight Games. “We had a demo of just that for Capcom early on in the process that featured on-foot, in-air jacking, motorcycles, and giant robots, to name a few gameplay elements, but it still needed something.”
Deal worked with Airtight co-founder Ed Fries and lead designer Jose Perez III to come up with the concept of vertical cover. From there, everything seemed to fall into place.
“Wwe invented the Void as a world to support the game we were now making,” explained Deal. “Other games were set in a horizontal world, we reinvented the world to support the vertical and in-air experience. We had to rewrite the story and reinvent the enemies. In essence, this one feature changed the whole intellectual property.”
Helping the team craft this new game around vertical cover was the UE3 engine, which Deal said serves as a very good base for the things they were doing.
“It is great to have a platform like UE3 to get up and running quickly,” added Deal. “The tools and core functionality are necessary to get a game to the prototype stage. It allows the focus to be on content and not so much on core functionality. With the high bar expected of the graphical and game-play user experience, we can no longer afford to wait while our tech gurus re-write the graphics engine.”
Jared Noftle, Airtight’s technical director, has found creative way to use UE3 and add to the Unreal base, according to Deal. The fact that Epic built UE3 for the Gears of War cover system made for a natural fit, as well.
“We took the Unreal cover system and bent it to our needs,” said Dean. “As the team that created Crimson Skies, we brought flight to the table, which we parlayed into the rocket-pack and aircraft, then blended it all together with the grip system. The mixture of all the features creates a varied and rich palette of cool things to do in the air on the ground and all points between.”
Deal said the flexibility of UE3 actually helped the company change gears quickly. They were developing a different game that had a more cartoon-like feel and the artists were easily able to shift to Dark Void. “UE3 is, in essence, a flexible platform that allows the content people to do their thing,” said Deal.
Dark Void focuses on the story of a cargo pilot named Will, who is just scraping a living together when he takes a delivery run through the Bermuda Triangle. A violent storm causes him to crash land in a strange inter-dimensional world called “The Void.” Will gets caught up in a huge conflict between an ancient enemy of mankind called the Watchers, and the local resistance fighters, the Survivors.
“The story throughout the game puts Will into circumstances that are unfathomable in everyday life,” explained Deal. “He starts out on foot, gets a hover pack that allows him to jump up and battle on vertical surfaces, then gets a rocket pack that allows him to fly in the right areas and also jack enemy aircraft and fight giant bosses. As the game progresses, you get to play with more and more powerful tools against larger enemies and do it all transitioning from on-foot to vertical climbs to rocket packs to enemy UFOs.”
Early on the team decided to cut ground-based vehicles. Deal said the original demo had a pretty cool motorcycle in it, but it was reluctantly cut because it didn’t support the kind of game Airtight was making. But Airtight’s specialty, as anyone who played the Crimson Skies games can attest, is fluent air combat. With the advent of next generation consoles and the Unreal Engine, the team has already created a game that allows players to smoothly switch on-the-fly to multiple types of combat action.
“You might start out a mission on foot, find yourself head-to-head with a giant boss, decide to use your rocket pack to help you to jack a much more powerful enemy UFO, and then go head-to-head with the boss using almost equal fire-power,” explained Deal. “Or you might want to use your hover pack to jump on the back of the giant and take it down the hard way, hitting weak spots with your hands and small firearms. Through it all, you will be driven by the story, which follows the main character on an epic journey through a strange world against a brutal enemy race.”
When it comes to alien enemies, Deal said they will increase in difficulty as the story progresses and the character gains experience and weapons. “Picture lots of explosive action in vehicles and on the backs of giant bosses, all the while dangling over unimaginable precipices,” added Deal.
Even with a year of development time left, there’s a lot that Deal is proud of with this game.
“As executive producer and one of the founders of Airtight Games, I am most proud of the way the team has kept together a new IP and a newly forming game company,” said Deal. “To keep the quality bar high and develop the team all at once has been a lot of hard work. Admittedly, we have a great publishing partner in Capcom. Scot Bayless and the rest of the team over there have been fantastic. They bet on us when we were just a start up and have supported us the whole way.”
Deal hopes that when the game ships across platforms – something the Unreal Engine is allowing to occur smoothly – Dark Void is a new and interesting action adventure experience for the gaming world that they enjoy playing.
Bookmark/Search this post with
About the Author
John Gaudiosi has been covering videogames for the past 20 years for outlets like The Washington Post, CNET, Wired Magazine and CBS.com. He has focused on the convergence of entertainment and videogames for outlets like Video Business, Home Media Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of Gamerlive.TV and is also a freelance game columnist for Reuters and writes for outlets like Forbes.com, NVISION, Official PlayStation Magazine, EGM Now, Geek Monthly, PrimaGames.com, and Yahoo! Games. John also serves as the video game expert for NBC in Washington D.C. and has produced videogame documentaries for The History Channel and Starz Entertainment. John was named one of the Top 50 Game Journalists in the world by Next-Gen.biz in 2007. He is the co-author of Scholastic Books' How to Get into Videogames, Prima Publishing's Madden: Twenty Years of Videogame Football and Electronic Arts: The Official History.