By Andreas 'Interman' Misund

Jonathan Chey, the lead designer of Freedom Force, recently had time to discuss his newly released game with us. Freedom Force is one of this year's most original games, and we were excited to hear his feelings regarding the design of the game, and generally information about the development.

Freedom Force Screenshots

- Starting off, who are you and what was your role in the development of Freedom Force?

Jonathan Chey, I'm the lead designer and project manager. That means I did a lot of the design work on the game and tried to make people stick to their schedules.

- For those who have been hiding underneath a rock recently, could you briefly explain what kind of game Freedom Force is and what you do in it?

It's a bit hard to precisely categorize the game as it doesn't fit into a convenient niche. But, we call it a tactical RPG with a super hero theme. You control a team of heroes and lead them into combat in a destructible 3D environment.

Between missions you can recruit new heroes and improve or change the abilities of your existing heroes. So it combines tactical gameplay with light role-playing elements.

- Freedom Force deviates a lot from other regular role-playing games by not including elves, dwarves and other Lord of the Rings-like beings. How did you come up with the idea of using 60s comic book-like super heroes?

It's kind of a natural concept actually. We've been wanting to do a super hero game "right" for a long time now. And the RPG format fits the subject very well.

- A lot of the replayability in Freedom Force does in my opinion come from the great ability of customizing and upgrading your heroes. Would you mind explaining the possibilities the gamers have?

Sure, well this is where a lot of the depth of the game lies. For a start, characters gain experience in the usual sort of way from going on missions. This experience can be used to purchase new attributes and powers for your existing powers. The powers are stacked in tiers so you have to purchase low-level powers before getting access to the more exotic ones.

But the true power of the system comes into play when you create custom characters. Here you can set the stats, attributes, powers and material of your new character as you see fit. In fact, you can even build new powers for that character from scratch. For example, you can choose to purchase a beam power, set its damage type and magnitude, how much energy it uses, what its range is and so on. You can even choose which animation the character uses to fire it and which effect will be attached to it.

As well as this, characters are defined by stats including strength, endurance, speed and so on and by attributes that determine things like whether the character can fly or burrow and so on. Finally, the material the character is made from determines their vulnerabilities to different kinds of damage like heat, cold or radiation.

Basically, it's a system for building your favorite comic book characters.

- What is your all-time favourite comic book (series)? And why?

I like the second generation X-Men. To me it's sort of the classic team-based hero story which matured the genre beyond the more simplistic Silver Age stories.

- What comic books have you gotten inspiration from?

More than I could possibly mention. But because Freedom Force is set in the Silver Age (60s) we did get a lot of mileage from reprints of the classic 60s comic series.

I also love Astro City, the Watchmen and lots of more recent stuff that isn't necessarily directly related to Freedom Force.

- Could you name something funny that happened during the development of Freedom Force?

Yeah, well, I'm guessing you're not asking about things like the server blowing up the night before a Gold candidate was submitted or things like that. The truly funny, as opposed to tragic, things that happen during game development are when things go slightly wrong like when elasticity was set wrong and people started bouncing around the level like rubber balls or when cars didn't slow down for obstacles and ran people over mercilessly or when we found a level with all the streetlights hanging upside down underneath the ground... There was also the great mix that someone did of all the monosyllabic grunts from the game that went for several minutes...

- How can the heroes interact with the environment in which they roam?

In quite a few different ways. Firstly, they can pick up and throw things like cars and dumpsters. Alternatively, long things like streetlights can be picked up and swung at enemies (great for big groups of thugs). If neither of these are applicable (for example, with a building) then the object can always be destroyed. Also, some powers interact with objects in more specific ways, for example, charging it up so that it works like a bomb or just igniting it in a fireball.

- A few websites have commented on how the multiplayer part of the game lacks more options. Can we expect some additions in a future patch, or addon?

Yes, this is more limited than we would like. We are looking at extending the game by adding a skirmish mode as well as various ways of replaying campaign missions with different characters. Additional multiplayer modes are less likely at this stage.

- The design of Freedom Force is in my opinion brilliant, and something that definitely stands out of the crowd. Do you and Irrational Games have plans for something equally innovative in the future?

Well, thanks for the nice words. We plan to continue working in the same way and bringing the same level of quality and attention to design to all of our future projects. Some of these will be related to the Freedom Force franchise and others are completely new and different (for example, the Lost, which we are currently working on for the PS2 platform). Stay tuned for other new projects too...

- What do you love the most about Freedom Force?

I love the tactical combat model and the way it works in conjunction with a cool physics system. It means that you can never know exactly what is going to happen in any given combat situation. That's fun to me. (I also love the custom character builder too though!)