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

Webisode #2 and Forza Cars

Hey all, sorry it has been a while, but we're back with more. First things first, the 2nd in our series of webisodes is out - you may have seen it, if not here she is


OK, now that you have enjoyed that - on to our Forza 2 car contest. So, yeah, it took us longer to get back to this than we thought, but hey, we got a game to finish. While we didn't get quite as many entries as we hoped, we were super excited about all the ones that we got, you people out there have some great talent. Thanks to everyone out there who did such a great car design and we will be getting in touch with you (somehow) to get you your swank faceplate. And to make sure everyone sees how great these cars are, check em out:

TheKretinousQ



Little Vixen


RoboRaunag



So, thanks again to everyone... maybe we will see those cars out on the Forza racetracks and we can admire them in motion.

Thats all for today, more to come soon!

XBOX Live Marketplace

Hey all, just a quick note to let you know that an awesome new Dark Sector Theme and Picture Pack went live on XBOX Live Marketplace today. So, get out there and download it... spread the word and show your support.

Webisode Numero Uno

Over the next few months we are going to be releasing a series of short webisodes that dive a little deeper into the world and story of Dark Sector. We just launched the first one and you can see it below. If you want to see it in glorious HD, you can check it out on Gamespot right now, and I think it should be up on other sites soon too. Oh, and for all of you out there still disappointed that Hayden is no longer in his outer-space-cyber-ninja suit... keep an eye open near the end of the video...

Get to know me

In the first of an (probably sporadically) ongoing series, we are going to use this space to let you get to know the DARK SECTOR team a little better. You might laugh, you might cry, you just might learn something. And as always, if you have questions, post em up in the comments and we will see if we can pull these guys away from crunch time long enough to answer them. First up is from the publisher side of things - Josh Austin, the Producer at D3 working on Dark Sector. If you can't tell from his picture, Josh is totally f'ing metal.


1. Just who do you think you are? Josh Austin, Producer at D3 Publisher

2. How did you get into the game industry? I was living at my friend’s house sharing a bunk bed with his 6 year old brother after losing a place to live pursuing a career in music. After many failed job attempts and getting stuffed animals thrown at my head for an alarm clock, someone got me a job as a tester and I moved up the ranks.

3. What other projects have you worked on? Too many

4. Where do you draw inspiration for your work? All over the place. Books, music, movies and from other games. I like trying to find stuff that isn’t in a game, stuff that happens in real life or what makes it feel real in a book or movie but doesn’t always happen in games.

5. What is your favorite game EVER? And why? I can never commit to a favorite because my taste changes quite a lot. But at the moment I’ve played Shadow of the colossus twice through and started the hard difficulty. It’s the first game that I don’t mind not fighting stuff, exploring and then when I want I can go fight bosses. I could waste hours just soaking up the atmosphere. Runner up would be Zelda: Link to the Past, I’ve probably played through that game more times then an unnamed actress has appeared on the headlines, well, maybe not.

6. What was the last game you paid your own good money for? God of War 2. Most of the time I buy something for the library at D3 but this one I couldn’t give up.

7. When you’re not spending every waking hour to make Dark Sector the best game possible, what do you enjoy doing? Music - nothing relieves the stress of a hard day then screaming till my throat bleeds and beating the crap out of an instrument with some close friends, that and raising my seeds (and by that I mean kids, not vegetables)

8. And finally, what is your favorite thing about Dark Sector? The atmosphere and the brutality. The main character is one of my favorite characters ever created because he’s believable.


That's it for this time, keep your eyes out for future profiles and as always, check WWW.DARKSECTOR.COM for the latest info.

Oh yeah, in case you haven't entered a car for our Forza 2 contest below, we're going to extend it a few more days... so get on it.

Penny Arcade Expo and a new website

Hopefully everyone noticed that the countdown on the site (with the 3D images) was counting down to today... and came back to find that there was a killer brand new site in full effect. Explore, enjoy, return - this is the new hub for Dark Sector WWW.DARKSECTOR.COM

Also, in other big news, Dark Sector will be playable by the public for the first time ever at Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle this weekend. If you are attending, please stop by, check it out and let us know what you think. It's just a small bite, but it should definitely whet your appetite for the full course meal (not sure why the food analogy, but it works). Dark Sector is going to be in D3's booth at the show, not sure of the booth number, but you will find it.

And just in case anybody missed the 3D screens that were up on the site (they will be added to the new site soon) you can find 3 of them here

IGN also posted a short preview of our showing at Games Convention in Leipzig... you can find that here

So... that happened...

OK, first off, sorry for teasing big changes to the Dark Sector site that didn't actually end up happening. We had some DNS problems that just got resolved, so things are back on track.

If you go now to WWW.DARKSECTOR.COM you can see the new and cool stuff.

Sorry, our bad.

Keep your eyes on...

WWW.DARKSECTOR.COM tomorrow and you might just see the start of something really cool...

I'm just sayin...

Final Box Art

Just a quick post. We recently let the final box art loose upon the internets and have been getting some great feedback. Thought we would go ahead and post it up here as well:


Thats all for today. And don't forget about the Forza 2 car contest in the post below. Let's see some great entries.

We need a car for Forza 2!


As we said in the last post, August is shaping up to be a big month for Dark Sector, so we thought we do something fun to kick it all off.

We have been really digging on Forza Motorsport 2 and keep seeing all these awesome custom cars floating around in the game and on the internets - and we thought to ourselves "Hey, we need a shiny, new Dark Sector ride". Unfortunately we neither have the time nor immense skill to make something that would compare to what we have seen out there.

So, we are reaching out to you - Dark Sector fans, Forza 2 junkies and the gaming community at large - to make us a killer Dark Sector ride. And to reward you, we will be giving out some limited edition XBOX 360 faceplates (like the one over there to the left). Here's how it works:
1. Make a sweet Dark Sector car in Forza Motorsport 2
2. Take a picture of it and post your best image to the Flickr group here.
3. At the end of the month, we will select the 10 best entries and the winners will get a faceplate
4. Hopefully you will gift us (or sell to us cheaply) the car so we can use it in the game

To help with inspiration, we posted some Dark Sector logos and images to that same Flickr account, so you have some reference.

So that's it... the blog contest to kick off August. Any questions or comments just post em below.

E3, a New Look and More

So, I know it has been a while since our last post, but give us a break... making a game is hard work. In all seriousness though, Dark Sector is coming along amazingly and we are just about ready to really give everyone a deeper look into the game itself. To celebrate we put a spiffy new image at the top of the blog (hence the "new look").

We just finished E3 (very different than previous years and pretty much everyone is still trying to figure out what to think of the show itself... will be interesting to see how it evolves next year...) and we got a ton of great coverage and feedback on Dark Sector, a bunch of which you will find posted or linked to below


IGN video interview with Producer extraordinaire Josh Austin


GameSpot Live E3 stage demo with our very own Sheldon Carter


Gametrailers E3 interview with the all-appearing Sheldon

There are a bunch of other videos on those (and other) sites, so please go take a look (would have embedded them all here, but didn't want to bog everything down).

August is shaping up to be a big month for Dark Sector - we are definitely in the home stretch and feeling good. Keep your eyes on this space and around the web because there are definitely lots of cool things coming soon.

Vegetable Abuse

Working in a talent-based industry is an experience in and of its own – this becomes even more apparent when you line an empty room with plastic sheets and pulverize a variety of fresh produce to capture the sounds of breaking bones, splattering blood, and tearing flesh. And all this happens on a Tuesday afternoon. Along with insightful commentary provided by sound designers Dustin and George, Digital Extremes is proud to present the results of a Foley session that left the 17th floor of an office complex smelling like cabbage…

- - -
For the longest time I had wanted this recording session to become a reality. I would keep watching the 'making of' videos for various games and movies and thinking that I really wanted to do something like that. Plus, we'd have a library of gore sounds to draw from whenever we needed them. Pretty much a win/win.

The whole process from concept to creation probably took less than a week, and things moved along quickly. After finding a suitable location for the recording, it was just a matter of getting the gear set up and letting loose. We had put some thought into how we were actually going to set up the session, but it turned out that a single microphone is all we really needed. We chose the C1000S as our source recording microphone as it's good at picking up what's directly in front of it, and it blocks out a lot of the background noise. Plus it already had a semi-decent splatter guard in place with its wind filter, and our selection of mics was limited. My biggest fear was that we were going to capture more of the hammer impact than the actual 'splatter', but it actually worked out pretty well.

As you can see from the video, our 'mobile recording rig' is an Mbox 2 recording interface running on PC with Pro Tools LE. It got the job done.

We hit up a local market down the street from the office to pick out the days victims, and it was a lot of fun to browse through different fruits and vegetables, wondering what type of sound they'd make with a full velocity hammer ripping through them. I wish he had the video camera with us at the time, merely to capture the look on the market guy's face at the completely random assortment of items we were buying.

Over the years I've entertained many questions concerning my profession; mainly, “how do you make sounds?” It is a mystery to many people how this whole sound design process works, and I think one of the major misconceptions with the game side of sound is that we use mostly prerecorded CD libraries. It’s true that libraries do come in handy, and I'm definitely not saying they're useless. They're a great time saver, and you can create some truly unique sounds from recordings you wouldn't be able to easily obtain on your own (ie. recording a lion). They also help to beef up some of your own recordings. With this video though, I wanted to show that a lot of time is also spent 'out in the field', gathering and collecting our own selection of sounds. Many of the same processes for creating those big budget Hollywood film sound effects hold true for game sound design.

After reading over some of the comments posted online about this video, the ones that stuck out the most were the ones that expressed an interest in becoming a sound designer. If in any shape or form we've managed to inspire the next generation of great sound designers, then mission accomplished.

Dustin Crenna
Sound Design

- - -
A lot of the fun in sound design is recording your own unique sounds to work with. That was probably one of my greatest motivators to get into sound design, as it allows you the most control from concept to integration. The ability to work with technology to capture fruit and vegetable sounds can be very entertaining as well.

Quite often in professional circles there is much discussion about technique and tools. The important thing to remember is that the recording equipment you use is really only 20% of the battle. WHAT you record is probably the single most important determining factor in a successful sound design project. That, along with the ability to ‘think outside the box’ will allow you to come up with new ways to use sounds that you normally wouldn’t think of using.

It is an interesting exercise to just close your eyes and actually pay attention to the sounds around you. We take hearing for granted because it does its job in the background, without our noticing it. Quite often our eyes will tell us that we can’t use a particular object to create a sound when in actual fact it will work really well. The trick is to be more aware of our hearing rather than sight.

This session was particularly fun to do because it not only allowed us to get some really cool bone crunching, neck snapping, and blood splatter for Dark Sector but also enabled us to make different sound combinations from everyday items.

Enjoy!

George Spanos
Sound Design

Gameplay Footage, Near Death Experiences, and Happy New Year

So things keep moving right along with Dark Sector going into this New Year. It has been a busy couple of months since my last post, and we are all stolked about the progress we are making and the coverage that the game has been getting.

Steve and I were in San Francisco at the beginning of December to demonstrate the game to some of the online press. In spite of a good number of drinks, we managed not to pull a “Jaffe” and kept it together through the whole event. Steve did a few on-camera interviews that are linked below.

The surprising thing about the event was the gameplay video that came out of it. Essentially, our good friends in Marketing wanted some “b-roll” footage of the game that they could use as a back drop for Steve’s interviews. It was a bit of a last-minute request, so we cut together some stuff from the actual demo. As it turned out, the video was released by itself and I think that, combined with the teaser trailer, you can get a pretty good feel for both the gameplay and atmosphere of Dark Sector.

On the flip side, the flight back from San Fran was crazy – Essentially, aside from ‘the pillow incident’, we mirrored the plot of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Our plane couldn’t land in our hometown of London (Canada, not UK), as a freak snow storm shut down the airport, so we were forced to land in Detroit. Unfortunately, Detroit was having wind gusts that, at the time, I was sure meant that a 30-seat prop plane was going to be my coffin. Once on the ground, we were told that we could be waiting in the airport for about 24 hours. So, we crashed at the Detroit airport hotel, then grabbed a car to take us across the border, and then hoped on a train back home. One and a half days, for what is usually 6 hours. Traveling sucks.

But, getting back to the game…. Another thing that came up recently was the decision for us to not do a PC version of Dark Sector at this time. Basically, this came from respect of our PC audience and the large number of PC gamers we actually have in the office. We have to focus our efforts on the console versions, and that would have meant that the PC version would be a port. Being the “victims” of a few games that took this approach ourselves, it just didn’t sit well.

It’s great to hear all the comments people have on the game. I know there is a plan to get a forum up and running on the site in the coming months – as soon as I have more details on that, I’ll definitely post it up. Speaking of more posts, we have made a resolution to post here a little more frequently.

Happy New Year from everyone here at Digital Extremes.

Sheldon