Available: Q1, 2003
By: MiST Land / Buka Entertainment

Interviewed by Dennis Sloutsky

As a part of our Buka week special, we've managed to have a long chat with Vitaly Shutov of MiST Land, the developer of futuristic cyberpunk tactical RPG Paradise Cracked and get some very interesting questions answered about their game that is already out in Russia.

Hello, please introduce yourself and your company to our readers.

Hi. I'm Vitaly Shutov, game designer of Paradise Cracked. I work in MiST land. We’ve been in the games biz since 1996. Now the team includes 20 people. By now we’ve released 2 games –the real-time wargame ┬┬źNapoleon┬┬╗ and the tactical RPG. Both were published in Russia by Buka Entertainment.

Please briefly introduce Paradise Cracked and its concepts.

Basically, is a tactical game. Some of its elements will remind you of X-COM, Jagged Alliance 2, Incubation. The action takes place in the futuristic world of cyber-utopia. Most of the gameplay is turn-based tactical combats. But apart from this, there are NPCs, who give you information and quests; there are playable characters, each with a set of parameters ( strength, intellect, dexterity, etc.), which can be improved in the flow of the game by gaining experience and getting new levels; there is a huge game-world to wander about. And that is why we call it “tactical RPG”.

What is the main storyline behind the game?

The game is set in distant future in a huge megapolis. The humanity is controlled by The Central Computer. People are happy. All their dreams came true. Now their lives are a set of virtual pleasures. They spend most of their time in cyberspace, having fun...
You play the part of a young hacker. Once, while in cyberspace, you come across a series of strange data packets. You manage to copy a few files to a memory crystal, but activate the alarm system... In a few minutes, you hear a sound of the police siren, then a bang at your door a demand to open...
Your goal is to know, what it was in this data pocket that made the police chase you. In the game there are no characters, who know everything. The player will have to pick up the information from different characters. Besides, very often different characters have different opinions on what happened. The Head of the Syndicate (the largest criminal organization in Low Town) will view it in one way; the Head of the Police will have a completely different opinion. Moreover, even at the very end of the game, the player may still be unaware of the real answer, and will have to replay the game in a different way to find it.

Which books, games and movies influenced the development of the game?

The style of the game is influenced by films like "Blade Runner", host in the Shell”, and "MATRIX", books like novels by Philip K. Dick and various cyberpunk writers, games like "Syndicate", X-COM, for example.

Is the gameplay linear or dynamic?

The plot is non-linear. You have one major goal and a number of ways to reach it. Everything in the game depends on your actions. .

Which kinds of quests can/should the player fulfill in the game?

Apart from the main storyline, there are a lot of other missions, which various NPC may give you. You do not have to perform them, but if you do, you’ll get a prize, and, of course, experience. In Paradise Cracked quests are not as important as battles, as the game is a tactical one in the first place. As to types of quests, some of them are quite ordinary ( to kill some person, to go and bring something, etc), some are more complex, and may involve up to several NPCs.

How big is the game world?

The game world is a huge futuristic megapolis, divided into a few levels, each including a number of game maps (locations), between which the player can move back and forth. Some of the maps become available only after you complete certain quests, that is why we keep the number of maps per level in secret.
When on the particular level, you can visit any of its locations at any time (except for the secret maps, of course). But you can not go from one end of the level to the other in a moment. To reach the opposite end of the level you will have to cross all the locations, which are in between. There are a lot of robots and vehicles in the city streets – trams, buses, advertising robots, etc. And you can use all this machinery for your own purposes. But remember that your enemies can use robots and vehicles as well. All damage done to buildings will be stored in the memory, and if there are many fights on the same map, the location will be completely ruined.
Each level has its “style”. The Low Town is dark slums, criminal areas, and plants. High Town is residential areas, municipal buildings, and huge hypermarkets. Sky Town is a set of arches and crystal towers in the cloudy sky..

What's the maximum amount of party members that the player will be able to have?

In the flow of the game the Hero will meet a number of character, who will offer to join his team. Some character will become “available” only after you complete certain quests. Totally you may have 6 characters in your team at the same time ( including the Hero).

How long does it take to “level up” in the game, and can all characters “level-up” all their abilities?

The character development system is similar to that of DIABLO, for example, That is you gain experience by killing you enemies and by fulfilling quests. As your character’s experience points reach a certain value, the character gets a “level-up” and a number of IMPROVEMENT POINTS to distribute between his\her abilities.
As I have said before, the number of improvement points is different for different characters. All the parameters (abilities) are interconnected in such a way, so you cannot develop one parameter without limiting some other ( thus Strength limits Intellect, and visa versa).
Each character has 2 “non-combat” parameters, and a number of “combat” ones. “Non-combat” parameters include Intellect and Driving. Intellect enables to use high tech weapons, and is very important to hackers. The higher is the parameter the greater chance the hacker has to unlock a door or to break a cash dispenser. In addition this parameter determines the hacker’s ability to break robots. The higher is your hacker’s Intellect the greater is the chance the hacker has to break up a robot.
Driving determines the character’s driving skills. Good driving skills will enable your characters drive any military vehicles, including heavy tanks. But even a mini-bus may be of great help in combat, because you can simply run over your enemy with it, instead of engaging into a fight with him\her.
Each parameter has a maximum value, which your character can reach. But “level-up” is not the only means to make your character more efficient. You may develop your character by setting up special cyber implants into your character’s body And once implanted an implant cannot be removed. Therefore you should choose implants carefully, and think twice before implanting a cyber device in your character’s body..

What kinds of weapons are included in the game? What about vehicles?

There are about 60 types of weapons in the game, each using different shells. There are also energy weapons, which do different damage, and you need special protection to resist it.
As for fire-arms, some of them can do additional damage with SHOCK, FIRE, or ELECTRICITY. Shock decreases the character’s number of AP. Fire burns the character, and he is loosing health for three turns. Electricity affects the character’s accuracy.
Also, there are rockets and grenade-launchers.
There are various types of armor, from a simple body armor of some gangster to a heavy space commando suits. In additions, there are special devices, which create a protective force-field around a group of characters
Armors protect different parts of the body differently.
All the machinery in the game is divided into two types: robots and vehicles. Robots can be broken. To break a robot you must have a hacker in your team.
Vehicles can be of two types. The first type is public transport (trams, buses, monorails). Trams and buses follow their routes. They cross game maps every three turns and stop only at their stations. When using public transport your characters can only be passengers. They can never change a route of a tram (a bus), and cannot go from one level to another, when on it.
Monorails are used to go between levels. Sometimes taking a monorail is the only way to reach a particular place.
The second type of vehicles is those vehicle which you can drive. There are numerous vehicles of this kind: from cars to heavy tanks. But to use vehicles you must have a good driver in your team, so do not forget to develop one of your characters’ driving skills, because often vehicles prove very useful in combat.

Which special abilities do the characters possess?

First of all you have you decide what parameters you will improve, because some of them are limit each other. Each character who joins the player’s party has a particular set of parameters, and thus the best way to do is to improve the higher ones, of course.
Some parameters can only be improved by cyber-implants. Some ( like Sight or Health) depend on other parameters. Besides each character has his\her personality.
The number of improvement points, which your character gets when goes up a level, depends on the character’s race, gender, and age. Cyborgs get less points, mutants get more. Women get more points, than men do. Younger characters get more points than older ones.
Each character has the following set of parameters:
Strength determines the character’s number of AP ( action points), his\her health, and the weight the character can carry. In addition, some heavy weapons require great strength to be used
Dexterity determines how many AP the character will spend to actions (walk, run, open doors, etc)
Dexterity и Strength limit each other.
Accuracy determines the character’s accuracy of shooting.
Reaction the parameter, which influences the character’s ability to react to enemies’ appearance. If during the opponent’s turn your character, who has good reaction, catches sight of an enemy, the character will automatically interrupt the enemy’s turn and open fire at the enemy. This parameter is especially important to snipers.
Intellect enables to use high tech weapons, and is very important to hackers. The higher is the parameter the greater chance the hacker has to unlock a door or to break a cash dispenser. In addition this parameter determines the hacker’s ability to break robots. The higher is your hacker’s Intellect the greater chance the hacker has to break up a robot.
Driving determines the character’s driving skills. Good driving skills will enable your characters drive any military vehicles, including heavy tanks. But even a mini-bus may be of great help in combat, because you can simply run over your enemy with it, instead of engaging into a fight with him\her. Driving and Accuracy limit each other.
The other parameters (sight, health, resistance to fire, electricity, or shock, etc.) depend on the main parameters. Some of them are increased automatically when you increase your main parameters. Others can be increased by special cyber implants.

How intelligent is the enemy AI? Can it do something that AI in other games can't do?

Enemies have different tactics. Thus SpecOps are different from the criminals of the Syndicate not only in the way they look but also in the way they act. The former are a well-organized team, the latter are just a crowd, who shoot at all directions, and often hit their own allies. Enemies can chase, call for reinforcements ( usually they call for stronger units), heal each other, exchange various items ( med kits, for example). Also, if , for example, you have two enemies, one of whom has a pistol, and the other has a heavy machine-gun, then if you kill the machine-gunner, his friend can take his machine gun, and go on shooting it. Your enemies can panic, retreat, go berserk. In Paradise Cracked you cannot do what you probably have often done in other tactical games: I mean, you have your enemy around the corner, and you know it; you appear from around the corner, shoot at the enemy, and go back; in the following turn you do the same; and then again and again until you kill the enemy. In most tactical games AI can easily be cheated in such a way, because was not “taught” to reach to such actions. In Paradise Cracked, your enemy will react to such a trick immediately. What else? If you kill an enemy, his death will be noticed by his friends. There are a lot more things to tell, but you’ll see them yourselves...

How accurate is the damage and physics model? Please give some examples.

The engine is very powerful in terms of damage and physics modeling. Thus almost each object in the game can be destroyed, and you’ll see debris scattering in all directions.
Damage done to a character depends on the part of the body, which has been hit. There are 4 main parts: arms, legs, torso, head. In addition, a bullet can do greater damage, if a character has been hit in the back.

Which graphics engine was used for game development?

We use our own engine, which we developed especially for tactical games ( we are going to develop a set of games based on this engine). The engine allows for hi-res 3D graphics, a lot of visual effects, dynamic lighting, customizable speed, skeletal animation, destructible objects, and many more.

What are the strengths of this engine?

The main feature of the engine, I think, is that it makes the game very scaleable. That is the minimum system specs are relatively low, but if you have a hi-end machine, you’ll be able to give it a job to do . At the same time, you can play it on some average Celeron and TNT2 simply by tuning some of the graphic options. If you need any figures, each character model includes 1000 triangles, each map is about 30000 triangles, dynamic shadows, etc...

What kind of a soundtrack does the game have?

The soundtrack is one of the strongest points of Paradise Cracked. In Russia the game was awarded a medal for “the best soundtrack of the year” As for the music, it is dynamic, that is, as the situation around the player’s party changes, a new theme starts playing. Each level of the city has a different set of themes. Thus in Low Town we have dark guitar passages and industrial, and in Sky Town we have smooth and soft ambient, which turns into electronic break beat, when the player’s party starts a combat.
Totally, there is over an hour of music, and over two hours of sound. But..it’s hard to describe all this in words...I think, music and sounds should be listened to :)

What are the unique features of the game?

To sum up everything I’ve said above:
* Elaborated and full 3D game world:
* Realistic physics and spectacular visuals;
* Best quality soundtrack;
* Great amount of weapon, armor, etc;
* The player’s ability to create a team of 6 characters, each of whom has his\her own “specialization” and even a personality;
* Numerous quests
* User-friendly interface and camera controls
* Non-linear storyline

When can we expect to see a playable game demo?

In Russia the demo way released 3 months ago. As to other countries, it will all depend on local publishers\distributors of Paradise Cracked.

Do you currently have any plans for a sequel or addon to Paradise Cracked?

Not so far. We would like to wait a little and see, if the game will be successful. And only then we’ll make a decision. In Russia the game has been a great success though. Some gamers have already made a few mods. We are going to support the game by releasing some mods and additions ( new weapons, characters, etc).

Any last words for our readers?

Hope you’ll like to spend some time in the world of Paradise Cracked. Cheers :)