Recently I got the chance to direct a few questions to Ritual Entertainment Co-Founder Richard "Levelord(tm)" Gray about the highly anticipated episodic Shooter Sin Episodes. I want to thank Richard and Tom at Ritual Entertainment for taking the time out of their hectic schedule to answer the questions for us.
1.What is the setting and storyline for the game please and what has happened in the world of Sin since the last game?
John Blade is the main character on the side of good. He is the commander of HardCorps, a freelance security force dedicated to protecting the people of
Blade went after her, but before he could bring her to justice, she managed to get away. Fast-forward four years to SiN Episodes: Emergence. Elexis has returned and, much to Blade's frustration, she has managed to spin past events and was never officially prosecuted. Unaware of her actions, the public still reveres her as the greatest scientific mind of her time. Obviously the law is powerless against her, so Blade decides to take her down himself - whatever it takes, he'll make it happen. Elexis, meanwhile, has her own special plans for Blade, so the two of them have kind of a strange obsession with one another for various reasons. It's almost like a love / hate relationship.
2. How did the decision to release the game in episodic format rather than the traditional form come about?
Ritual believes that episodic gaming will be the next big step in game development and distribution. The model offers too many benefits to be anything less than trend-setting.
There are benefits to the developer and the gamer. The first is that we, the developer, will deliver a steady stream of content to gamers. Instead of having to wait for the usual years to go by for a follow-up to their favorite game, gamers will only need to wait a few months. The mod community greatly benefits from this by getting a regular influx of new textures, models, and so on, for their projects.
Episodic distribution also has the advantage of coming with a lower price than non-episodic games. Instead of having to pay $50+ for the typical 8–10 hours of gameplay, they can get one of our episodes for significantly less (under $20 dollars for 4-6 hours of gameplay). If they enjoy the game, then they can invest more, if not, they can walk away without losing so much money. Another upside of episodic content is the ability to incorporate community feedback into upcoming episodes. Ritual will be closely monitoring player feedback and using this to steer future episodes.
3. What are some of the weapons players will be able to use and will vehicles be included?
The primary weapon is Blade's Magnum. Players of the original SiN will immediately recognize this weapon. The Magnum is not just a simple, first-weapon-given first-weapon-forgotten as is typical with most games. In SiN Emergence, the Magnum is a powerful weapon from the start and is excellent even at long range. It's secondary fire shoots off a DUAG (Depleted Uranium Anti-Gen) round. A DUAG round is lethal, and strong enough to penetrate most walls. So taking cover behind a wall is not always a good solution for the enemy.
Blade also has the Scattergun. The primary fire works like a standard shotgun, excellent for close quarters combat. The secondary fire also operates like the traditional shotgun, but it has the added edge of ricocheting projectiles. Again, enemies hoping to find safety behind walls and obstacles can find themselves riddled with bullets echoed from a nearby wall. The secondary fire from the Scattergun is also great for holding defensive positions.
Blade’s third weapon in his arsenal is the Assault Rifle. Individually, the bullets don't pack the killing power of a Magnum shot, but the rate of fire more than makes up for this. The weapon is great for taking on heavier foes or facing down unfavorable odds. The secondary fire shoots a rocket-powered grenade for when distances outreach Blade’s ability to land a hand-tossed grenade.
Each of these weapons has zoom capabilities, as well as a melee attack.
4. It has been about a decade since Wages of Sin hit the market. What were the reasons behind such a long delay and how did the decision to return to the world of Sin come about?
Yes, yes, …everyone keeps reminding us that it has been so long. I feel so old!
This time period was not an intentional delay. We have wanted to continue SiNning since the first game was released. We have tried many, many times. We even went as far as making demos in various engines, including Source a few years ago. It just never happened. Now, we have saved enough money to self-fund the game. It seemed like a long time, but it has been worth the wait.
5. What forms of Multiplay will the game offer and how will this change with each new episode?
SiN Emergence will be single player only at its initial release. We decided very early during the design process that we wanted to focus on single player. We will be following with multiplayer soon after the release of the single player game.
6. Roughly how many episodes will be released and how long (how many levels) would the game be as this looks to be one very long game.
No way we can answer that question. Much of that decision will depend on the game’s popularity. We foresee a long trail of many, many episodes. We even, similar to episodic television and stories, see split offs from the main story and characters.
7. What are some of the enemies Blade will face and how will his reported sidekick play into the action?
We’ve already described Elexis well. There is one other enemy named Viktor Radek. He is the newest face among Freeport's local crimelords. Blade and Jessica suspect that he's somehow tied to Elexis, so they plant a tracker on him to find out what exactly he's up to. This is where Emergence picks up and he is kind of the main bad guy in this episode.
J.C. is Blade’s righthand man and will be familiar to all those who played the original SiN. He is HardCorps' tech whiz, and through an uplink, he sees whatever Blade sees. He often helps Blade to solve puzzles and to get past obstacles. His other hobby is hacking into foreign computer networks, so Blade will be depending on J.C. to take down security systems and whatnot.
Jessica is a new character we're introducing in SiN Episodes: Emergence. Unlike J.C., she'll actually go on missions with Blade and help him out in the field. She's got a fairly hot temper and doesn't hesitate to speak her mind, which sometimes gets her into trouble. Jessica can't remember much about her past and that is one of the things we'll be exploring over the course of SiN Episodes.
8. Has the Source engine be tweaked in any way and if so, what new features will players be able to look forward to?
RG: We have made many changes and added many enhancements to the engine. The biggest and most profound is our Personal Challenge System. This is a self-tuning system that tailors the gameplay for Emergence to each individual's play style. It constantly monitors the player’s abilities, movement, and how effectively the player deals with the enemies and challenges. There have been “dynamic” systems in other games, but these systems merely tracked the player’s skill level. Ritual’s system goes much further to track the personality of the player and then delivers the experience that the player is personally looking for when you sit down to play the game.
9. With the long break from the original, how much continuity did you attempt to have with the previous games and was there a temptation just to treat this title as a remake rather than a follow up?
SiN Emergence is set four years after the original story of SiN left off. There is obvious continuity with the previous property, but this is by no means a mere remake. We brought over the essentials (characters, weapons, aspects of the basic story) and then continued from there. I believe it is best to say that players of the original SiN will surely enjoy the game, as will people who’s first experience will be Emergence.
10. What have been some of the biggest challenges in designing the game and how much has the program changed from its initial concept to the present form?
With our decade-long experience with working on so many games, SiN Emergence has been the least “challenging” and the most fun to make. Making games is always fun, but too often there are indeed these “challenges” that plague our lives. SiN Emergence had great pre-design and even better design. These made the development process a snap and a real pleasure. Because we put so much forethought into the game, we deviated little from the initial design. We also have one of the best teams around. This was a tremendous help.
Thank you again.