Starting off, who are you, what was your role in the development of the title and what did your team develop in the past?
My name is Andy Muir and I am lead programmer and co-founder of Silverback Entertainment. We are currently working on our first title: Harbinger.
Can you tell us something about game play and some details about your upcoming title, where does the name, Harbinger, come from?
Harbinger is an isometric action/RPG set in a unique science fiction universe. Harbinger is the name of the giant starship that serves as the game's primary setting, so it seemed like the obvious choice for the title.
At the game's opening, the player is serving as a raider among the ship's heavily hunted underground community. Despite these lowly beginnings, the player quickly finds himself entangled in a power struggle between Harbinger's warring elite. The story twists and turns based on the player's decisions and actions. By the game's end, the secrets of the mammoth ship are revealed and the player's ascension will be complete.
Which platforms is it headed to? How far in development are you and have you got a release date set yet?
Harbinger will be released for the PC by this Christmas.
Which multiplayer support is expected, LAN and in particular internet?
Early in the design phase, we chose to make Harbinger a single-player only game. The main reason for this decision was that we wanted the player to take center stage and have his actions strongly affect how the game unfolds. It was impossible to reconcile this design goal with multiplayer, so we decided to forgo multiplayer and focus on building the best single-player game that we could.
Talking about an isometric action/RPG, Diablo comes to mind, how much did you get from it, and how does the game rate toward it in your opinion?
Diablo is such a great game. It delivered such a satisfying gaming experience and established the whole action/RPG genre. One of our goals here at Silverback is to take that genre push everything as far as we can. Harbinger is a heavy industrial game filled with giant machinery that looms over the player. Our enemies are extremely detailed and intensely animated. Our bosses have these really elaborate spawning sequences. Instead of using simple portals to traverse levels, we built these intricate umbilical machines that fold around the player. Pretty much anything we add to the game, we try and take as far as possible and I really think that this is what's going to set us apart from the rest of the games in this genre.
Will Harbinger be mission based or how are you going to get it going, how much will the average user take to complete the game and will there be some sort of replayability?
We are shooting for between twenty and thirty hours of play for each character. We are fostering replayability a few of different ways. First off, each of the playable characters has a unique play style complete with unique abilities, items, gadgets, goals and missions. Secondly, since the game's story unfolds based on the player's actions, it simply isn't possible to explore the entire game world with just one playing.
Which features do you like most about your title?
The thing I like best is the game's overall feel. It sounds like a cop out, but it's just paced really well. We hit this sweet spot where we are constantly feeding the player new stuff. New toys. New enemies. New machines. New areas. New scripted events. I'm a sucker for instant gratification and Harbinger plays to that completely.
What's the combat system in Harbinger and what about the control system in general?
The control system uses a very straightforward point-and-click interface. We've streamlined this wherever possible to keep the game from becoming a click-fest. For instance, while you are battling one enemy you can select your next target. Once the current enemy is killed, you're character will immediately re-target without having to re-click. This is a simple example, but it makes the combat interface feel very natural.
Harbinger's combat system is something that we're very proud of. First of all, each of the playable characters has their own class of gadgets that can be used in combat. The human has traps and mines. The gladiator can control helper cameras and robots that allow him to explore and fight without putting his character in harm's way. The Culibine has amplifiers that can be launched for a short bursts and orbit her as she moves about and fights. We have different classes of amps including some that leave their orbit to attack nearby enemies.
Every enemy in the game has its own set of strengths and vulnerabilities and the player's weapons can be rigged to take advantage of these vulnerabilities. For instance, the energy based Scintilla are highly susceptible to disruption damage. It the player knows that he will be facing Scintilla on a particular mission, he can rig his weapon with disruption chips. This will allow him to change firing modes and make quick work of his enemies.
Finally, we have a number of environmental devices that the player can use to his advantage. For instance there are energy pillars that cause the player's weapons to rapidly re-charge.
The real power of our combat system is that it always keeps you constantly thinking and planning. You find yourself making mental notes of potential fallback positions or environmental hazards. You're constantly evaluating your weapon, armor and gadget choices and tailoring them to the enemies that you are facing. The feedback is immediate and smart gameplay is always rewarded.
What about NPC and the Artificial Intelligence in general in Harbinger?
A lot of effort has been put into the design and writing of Harbinger's NPCs. We wanted to make sure that the player has, at the least, a certain degree of affection for our non-player characters. This is facilitated by the fact that they haven't been seen in movies, or other games. Without getting too far into it, anything can happen to our NPCs and rarely are first impressions accurate.
The AI is constantly being hammered and as we approach beta, it's feeling very tight. We're focused on making the enemies aware of their environment and effectively using it to their advantage. It's a tricky balance trying to find a sort of reasonable smartness. For instance, it's reasonable for a greedy enemy to break combat to pick up some money that's been left on the ground. It isn't reasonable for the same enemy to run around opening all of the chests looking for money. Well it may be reasonable, but it isn't a whole lot of fun running from one sacked room to the next :
Who will publish the game and why should I pay for it?
Harbinger is being published by DreamCatcher Interactive. I'm not going to say why you should put your hard-earned money on the counter for it. I only ask that you play the demo when it is released and let the game speak for itself.
What graphics engine is the game based on?
We built Harbinger's engine in-house at Silverback Entertainment. There really isn't a game engine out there that met the needs of this game, so we built the engine ourselves.
The current trend of everyone licensing engines is really interesting to watch. It's such a double-edged sword. You get a huge amount of work done for you, but the work was done without you having any input. You get instant name recognition because the engine was already used in a published title, but if people didn't really like that title you just bought another obstacle. Even worse, you shell out the cash for one, and someone else depreciates the brand name's value by releasing a crappy game built with it. In the end, we felt we were better off taking charge of our own destiny. Succeed or fail, we will take credit for both.
Anything funny happened during the development? Willing to share it?
It's the little day-to-day things that keep me laughing. Hardly a day goes by without something crushingly evil happening to at least one of us. It's so completely unbelievable that you have to laugh. I just go into work hoping that God is more pissed off at somebody else than he is at me for the day. Once you have confirmation that someone else will be playing the role of Job, things get really funny. For instance, one of our artists blew out his pants at lunch the other day. It wasn't really that funny except that it was laundry day and he was going commando (not wearing underwear). Even that wasn't really funny. What was truly funny was the tremendous relief I felt that it wasn't my day to get screwed by the big guy upstairs. Pretty much anything, I mean anything, that could go wrong has gone wrong twenty different ways since we started this project. Yet somehow, it is still the best thing that I have ever been a part of and I couldn't be more proud of the dedication and love that has been poured into this game.