Boss Battles

Following the trend set by George and Dustin in the last post, one of our AI programmers, John, wrote this up about his work on the Colossus Boss.

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For a moment I am Hayden Tenno, trapped in the heart of Lasria, on a mission to kill a fellow agent infected with the Technocyte virus. It was supposed to be simple, a quick, efficient termination of the target. The cold metal creeping up my arm is a stark reminder that I am now also infected. I feel myself evolving, the virus slowly infusing me with great power. The Glaive growing from my hand is crucial to my survival. I am trapped inside a warehouse. The Hazmat teams sent to help me are laying down heavy fire. I am the enemy. I haven’t switched sides, I am on my own, and everyone is out to kill me.

I take cover in the warehouse and dodge the bullets from the troopers firing through the windows all around me. I pick them off one by one with my superior gunplay and their frequent shouts to surrender are silenced by dispatching my Glaive to slice off their heads. The blood starts to flow; each trooper’s termination achieved with a volley of bullets or the slicing of limbs. The fight is almost over when the ground convulses, shaking terror into all of us. The few remaining troopers scream as a giant ape-like creature crashes to the ground and joins the fight.

For a few seconds there is relief as I watch through the shattered glass. Bodies are thrown around and dust fills the air as the creature destroys everything around him. I feel safe inside the warehouse, the creature far too big to get through the locked doors. A moment later my sense of security is gone along with the wall in front of me. Rocks thrown by the creature smash away at the fortress around me before he charges straight through the remains of the building. Anything in his way is pulverized.

I run from the broken warehouse and grab the weapons dropped by the troopers. A tense fight develops with the colossal monster. His skin looks soft. Each bullet producing a spray of Technocyte blood as it pounds into his grotesque skin. My glaive slices into him spraying even more blood. His attacks continue; there is nowhere for me to hide. Any solid object I attempt to cover behind is soon gone, smashed by the flying rocks or his formidable body.

My ammo begins to run low as I bravely fight on. Then a strange shockwave spreads across Lasria causing the creature to run. He disappears into the distance as he jumps across the buildings. I can finally relax but sense that my fight with the Colossus is not yet over…


As the programmer responsible for bringing the Colossus to life I often go through the above experience. My name is John Newton, an AI programmer working on Dark Sector. With the release of the latest Dark Sector videos it was great for me to see the Colossus boss being shown to the public.

I was initially given the task of making an exciting boss fight inside the church. At this point in the game the Colossus had evolved bulletproof metallic skin and could leap around inside the church, jumping between pillars and throwing rocks at Hayden. Somehow Hayden had to find a way to knock the Colossus from the pillars and eventually kill him. It was an exciting character to work on and was great fun playing the completed fight. At the start I was given the basic level design and the great looking Colossus model. I then worked with the talented animators while developing the AI code. We would have regular reviews of the fight to iron out problems and come up with new ideas to make the fight fun. Once I had the Colossus working well, we put a lot of effort into perfecting it by fixing bugs, adding sounds, effects and polishing the church interior. It was a great team effort.

After the church fight was finished we added the Colossus to an earlier mission in the game because he had become such an exciting character to play against. This took some additional work to customize him to a new scenario but it has turned out amazing.

I’ve worked in the games industry for 8 years now on many top selling titles but the Colossus is certainly one of my favorite things to have worked on. I’m glad people can finally see him in action and will soon get to fight him.

Sound Design

The star's of our Vegetable Abuse video, Dustin and George, wrote up a great piece on some of the ways they went about working on Dark Sector. Enjoy!



Monster Sounds Through Human Performance

Trying to come up with a convincing 'monster' sound is a difficult task. You want it to somehow sound realistic in a way that the player could believe these characters were real, but at the same time you don't want it to mimic like other generic monster sounds out there.

Through much trial and error we found that laying down a human performance as the core of our sound was the best way to get that realistic feel. 'Acting' out the vocalizations of a character is much easier to match to animations, and can get the point across as to what that specific creature is doing, or trying to do. Also, adding an ounce of humanity to a character can make it more terrifying as players can relate to what they're hearing...something that maybe used to be human but is quickly becoming something else.

Once the core elements are in place, then processing and other layers to the sound would be applied (depending on the situation). Hopefully players will be a little on edge when they get further into the game and the 'less-human' characters start to emerge.

Dwight Schultz became the voice of Robert Mezner. We needed someone who could portray a larger than life character and be able to develop a voice that you would remember. Dwight did an amazing job of making Mezner come across as this psychotic half beast half monster enemy. Hayden often hears the voice of Mezner in his head throughout the game. Through the use of various signal processing techniques we were able to shift Dwight’s voice and make it sound like he’s taking over Hayden’s mind. It turned out really cool, so listen for it when you pick up the game!

Voice Acting the Main Characters

A great performance for all the characters in a game will only help draw the player in that much more. When you're not sitting back and making comments on how poorly the voice over is acted out, you're paying more attention to what's happening on screen. Finding the right talent is key.

The cast of characters for Dark Sector come together and work really well. Michael Rosenbaum (of Smallville fame) pretty much nailed the overall vision we all had of Hayden Tenno, while Dwight Schultz (which everyone around my age group remembers from the A-Team as Murdoch) does an amazing job voicing Hayden's rival, Robert Mezner.

When we set out to find character voices for Dark Sector we wanted to find actors who we all admired and thought would make the voices of Dark Sector come alive. We got the amazing opportunity to sit back and listen to Michael Rosenbaum become the voice of Hayden Tenno. Hayden was voiceless for a long time in the development cycle and so it was great to give our main character a voice after being mute for so long.

Working with these talented actors was quite and amazing experience. Though we monitored the recording sessions remotely from our studio here, it was almost like being out in the L.A. Studio. We could communicate back and forth as if the talent were in the next room, helping with direction as necessary.

Coverage = WOW

Between the latest Webisode going up and the press tour that Steve (our Project Lead) did last week, we've definitely had the biggest interest spike in the game. I said I'd stop this blog from being an aggregation tool, so I'll just say that you should check out all of the main online web outlets -- chances are they'll have new images, videos, and interviews with Steve up.

While it's cool to give the journalists their look, I also want to give you guys new stuff that you can't get anywhere else in terms of insight into how we are making the game.

This time, I thought I'd drop a blooper video. A couple weeks ago, we decided to play with the force applied to grenade explosions. Our theories on trying things like this is usually to crank it up to 11 and then scale down from there (which is how we came up with some of the amazing decapitations and dismemberments).

In the below clip I just cut off a trooper's leg (hence the moaning you hear to start) and am now being hammered by another guy from a bunkered in machine gun nest. One way to kill him is by tossing a grenade into his little fortress.

So... while this isn't the force of grenades in the game now -- here is a look at what they could be - cranked to 11 ;)

video

Enjoy

Sheldon

P.S. Sath - we wanted to get a demo out roughly a month before the game ships... so its coming soon, but likely not before the holiday season.

New Blood

We have been in full-out "polish the game" mode for the last few months. It's been pretty awesome to see the types of improvements that we're able to do with that extra time.

One of the places that really stands out to me, has been our blood effects. Dark Sector is a game in which you throw a sharp metal glaive, so we've iterated on the blood many many times trying to find that perfect color/thickness/hotness.

Here are two screen shots which compare our blood from 2 months ago, to the blood we have today:


Shot 1 - This trooper (I'm guessing he is left handed now) - looses his arm and leaks a few pints of grainy brand X blood.



Shot 2 - His short sleeved friend realized that you can't save your arms... but unfortunately for him, he still lost his leg. Notice the new blood :)



When we spend hours debating the quality and pouring over different kinds of blood, spatter patterns, and thickness -- I know I made the right career move and my parents must be proud ;)


I'll answer another set of questions later this week.

Sheldon

Q&A

Thanks for the questions!

“Can you say anything about how many levels/stages there will be?”

We divided the game using chapters that made sense for the story. Each chapter is an important piece in you understanding the evolution of Hayden both physically (gaining new powers) and morally (the types of choices he makes). So from purely that perspective, Dark Sector has 10 chapters.

“Is there still a place for stealth? Or there's only one solution?”

Dark Sector is clearly an action game. Once you start using the glaive to ‘power throw’ and ‘after touch’ you’re going to feel like a super-hero, not a super-spy.

That said - Can you play sneaky? Hell yeah.

At the beginning, you can approach an enemy from behind and slit his throat and avoid detection from enemies by smartly sliding cover to cover. That does the job pretty well until you get your third evolution power. It changes the concept of stealth completely and is very satisfying for players that like to get the drop on enemies and perform brutal finishers. There is more on that evolution coming in the future webisodes, so I don’t want to spoil that too much for you.

Sheldon

Finally - a developer has returned to the developer blog

It’s been a long while since a developer actually posted on this blog – so I’m going to break that trend hard from now on. I’ll be posting at least twice a week and I’ll do my best to change this from a Dark Sector news aggregator, to something that you can learn about the game from.

Where to start? I guess that is really question for you? Hit the comments at the bottom and tell me what you want to know about any aspect of Dark Sector. I’ll do my best to answer (or if it’s something we’ve answered in an interview – I’ll point you to that).

I’ll start with a pretty common question that I get about mechanics and how we balance gun and glaive.

This was a big one for us. As we were moving closer and closer to our original ship date, we kept watching our focus testers fumble with that balance. People would play through the game completely using one or the other – only occasionally switching for sniping or puzzle solving. When I look back, its actually pretty crazy how long it took us to figure out that the solution was dual-wield.

It’s so good for the game that we had the extra time to implement this -- the difference dual-wield makes is staggering. There is nothing more badass than kicking in a door, decapitating a few enemies with a “power-thrown” glaive toss on the right, while at the same time blazing down the guys on the left with your dual-wielded Uzi.

It also allowed us to change a few enemies to require gun and glaive combos in order to beat -- I think these are now some of the most fun enemies in the game. There are also bonus style points for shooting from cover when dual-wielding…



That’s all for now,

Sheldon