Available: Q1 2004.
Developer: People Can Fly
Publisher: Dreamcatcher

Interview by: Burt Carver

Painkiller is an upcoming First Person horror Shooter, based on the proprietary PAIN engine and using Havok 2.0 physics, that is due to come out in spring of 2004. As you can see from our preview we were very excited after seeing it at this year's E3 show, when it was still marked as “Fall 2003”. It seems like a lot of “big” games that we've originally expected for 2003, including Doom 3, Half-Life 2, Stalker, and of course Painkiller, have slipped away into 2004, leaving us, the gamers, rather dry this holiday season – that's one of the topics that we were discussing live with People Can Fly's Adrian Chmielarz (of course this couldn't have happened without the wonderful people at Dreamcatcher). Read on for the full interview and check out some exclusive screenies from the game.

GH: normal stuff - title, role with Painkiller?

Adrian: Adrian Chmielarz, project lead, game designer

GH: In 2 sentences or less, please describe Painkiller to the uninitiated

Adrian: First person shooter with a touch of horror and focus on intense over-the-top action. Insane gameplay, insane visuals, insane physics.

GH: What is the anticipated release date of Painkiller?

Adrian: March 10th 2004.

GH: Your promo movie on the official site reads, "Winter 2003"... does the movie know something you don't?

Adrian: If I am not mistaken, our first release date was Winter 2002...

GH: the current movie pop-up (this morning) reads Winter 2003. Housekeeping issue?

Adrian: It happens rarely, but Dreamcatcher really is a publisher that cares more about the quality of the game than the release date. When we knew we were going to be late with the game, we prepared the demo that we hoped would blow their socks off and help them understand we need more time.

The plan worked.
But March 2004 is the real deal. So forget what the movie says :-)

GH: Quote from one of the official sites, "Graphically, Painkiller is unmatched." Interesting statement. Unmatched compared to what? I know game developers turn into cave dwelling troglodytes during development but do you honestly expect your graphics to exceed Doom3?

Adrian: Oh no, it's exactly the opposite. Not only we do not "turn into cave dwelling" things, we check what others do on daily basis, including the world of consoles. We run an internal website that I update with the coolest new stuff from various games and we are always aware what others do. We live games here.

GH: Re: graphics?

Adrian: It's a bold statement, but yes, I haven't seen anything, with the possible exception of S.T.A.L.K.E.R., that looks as beautifully as Painkiller. Doom 3 is completely different technology and it's hard to compare its gfx to PK's. Some people will prefer D3's real time lights and shadows, but some will call the whole thing plastic. But anyway it's completely different technology.

GH: The screenshots of the game are quite visually stunning. When rendering '100x more polygons' it’s not hard to see why. What specs are you going to need to run it @ that detail?

Adrian: The screenshots don't do the game justice. Most 3D games look much better in action than on screenshots, and PK is not an exception. Our engine is scalable, but if you want EVERYTHING, you'd need fairly powerful PC. 2 GHz+, Radeon 9800+ / nVidia5900+, 512 MB RAM

GH: Does the game scale graphically in a similar manner to Serious Sam?

Adrian: Why Serious Sam?

GH: Because that game is reknown for its ability to scale to the system.

Adrian: Oh, ok. Well, frankly, I don't know, we haven't studied their technology. So probably our game will be scalable in a different way. The main problem is that PK uses a lot of real-time physics. Very advanced physics. And you need a good metal for that. P3 700 MHz is not going to cut it anymore. So we have scalable graphics, but limited physics scalability.

GH: A quote from the site: "You'll be constantly attacked by hordes of monsters..." Don't you think the Serious Sam style WAS refreshing, but now is trite?

Adrian: With all respect to Serious Sam (bloody fun game, played and finished both parts), we don't do it SS style. Our inspiration is Doom 1 & 2 and Quakeworld. The whole problem with action-focused FPS games is that there is really not that many of them, and every time someone does action-oriented shooter, people automatically go "Oh, it's a new Serious Sam!" - because there's nothing else to compare it to. And there are tons of differences between PK and SS.
Anyway this "hordes" thing is not exactly true. Yes, you have A LOT of action, but it's not that you're stuck in a large room and the door opens after you kill 1000 enemies. Our bodycount is probably smaller than SS's, but there's more action, blowing up stuff, interaction with environment, scripted sequences, monsters cooperation, etc. not to mention the horror theme. In short, the gameplay experience is quite different from SS.

GH: Where does the truth end and the spin begin? Are you co-promoting the game or is Dreamcatcher in charge of the media circus?

Adrian: We are co-promoting, after all it's us who know the game best.

GH: You had a working demo of Painkiller @ E3. Six months later you delay it to spring 04. Revamping something or miscalculate?

Adrian: Pure miscalculation. We forgot we always add more and more cool stuff. We cannot let it go. It's a bad habit, but the game will benefit.

GH: At the expense of the technological edge?

Adrian: On the contrary. We're adding shaders like there's no tomorrow.

GH: Running 'Intelligent AI' eats up gobs of processor time... is this going to slow to 9 FPS unless you have a 3+ Ghz processor? Is that part of the reason for the delay to let people adopt technology that will actually run this program?

Adrian: No, we are not that sneaky. And we have damn good programmers, so our AI doesn't eat your processor that much. The whole AI thing is overrated anyway.

GH: "Plug in the Havok 2.0 physics engine, and you get a realistic environment in a totally fantastical setting."? Realistic Physics? I thought the physics were exaggerated.

Adrian: When we started PK, we didn't know we'd end up adding so much physics. So some objects were static, for example the chairs in the Prison level. After we did some other levels and got used to the fact you can move most of the stuff around, we played Prison again and when we realized our chairs were static and unmovable, we were shocked how fake the world becomes. Believe me, after you play a game with real physics, there's no going back.

GH: is that a shot @ Doom3?

Adrian: Do they have static objects? Last time I checked they were talking about their physics, so I guess they'll have moveable chairs?

GH: The HL2 source code leak - touchy subject - Guess you have mixed emotions about that one?

Adrian: What? HL2 code leaked?!? Just kidding. Seriously though... No I don't have a mixed feeling. It's BAD for us. Now everyone will say we have good shaders because HL2 code is available ...well, everywhere.

GH: couldn't you counter that by releasing a shader rich demo level in the next few weeks?

Adrian: We were thinking about RARing that and adding our own 1337 .nfo. Painkiller pre-alpha or something.

GH: need someone to leak it? *smiles*

Adrian: *grimaces*

GH: With regards to the physics, why do you think bouncing around like a ping pong ball will appeal to today’s gamers?

Adrian: You mean bunny hopping?

GH: No, getting thrown around like a shuttlecock in a badminton match.

Adrian: Oh that. Yeah. Most PC games lack good dynamics. They're boring. We want to have action, action, action. And that comes with good dynamics and physics.

GH: One of the main features of the game is the gothic art. What’s the deal with that? Everyone in the office has dark eyeliner on or did you run out of bright crayons?

Adrian: It's a well known fact that one of our animators worked a couple of years in mental institution. Others are not that sane either. But a) the gothic thing is a myth, we have tons of levels that do not fall into the gothic genre (actually most of them are like that), b) we were just fed up with science fiction / world war 2 settings like most current games and we wanted something unique.

GH: If you were looking for different, why not 'lollipop and bubblegum'? I don't think that has been overused.

Adrian: We wanted demons, blood, fear, explosions. Pink bubblegum might spoil the atmosphere.

GH: What can Painkiller AI do that other games can't?

Adrian: Ok, I don't think this has been revealed before, but some of our monsters cooperate with each other in unique ways. For example, One of the monsters is a demon named Skull. He has no respect for Hell Bikers. So when he feels threatened, he snaps Hell Bikers neck and uses his body as a shield.

GH: Niiice.

Adrian: Yep.

GH: will they attack each other?

Adrian: They can do damage to each other - but only by accident. We didn't want them to fight on purpose. It's technically possible of course, but there's so much action going on in PK that after a while you may have felt like a mere spectator...

GH: Why would Joe Sixpack Gamer pick up your game? How do you differentiate yourselves from the pack?

Adrian: Name one FPS game with focus on over-the-top action, spectacular physics and horror theme.

GH: Published? None. Including yours.

Adrian: Yep. There's this myth the market is flooded with shooters. It is not.

GH: Are there going to be any spoiler weapons in the game? What is the painkiller version of the BFG?

Adrian: Our BFG is the player. After he collects 100 damned souls (from the fallen enemies) he turns into a demon himself. In this demon form he is literally an uber-powerful killing machine.

GH: how will this be implemented in multiplayer?

Adrian: We don't know yet :-)

GH: any unique multiplayer modes? Pin the tail on the 10-storey monster?

Adrian: We have lots of refreshing original stuff in MP, but we're not messing with classics like free for all or team deathmatch. One of more interesting modes will be Vhoosh, when EVERYONE gets the same weapon/random power-up every 30 seconds. It's a very simple idea (not ours), but it's a lot of fun.

GH: coding for Xbox vs. PC is quite similar, why the indefinite release on Xbox? Licensing too onerous?

Adrian: It's not exactly similar with 64 MB of RAM... We need to rewrite a lot of code and redo a lot of graphics.

GH: but the Xbox release is a go no matter what?

Adrian: It's just time consuming and we don't know how long it's gonna take. But yes, Xbox is official etc.

GH: any other consoles planned?

Adrian: No, PS2 and GC are great machines but won't be able to handle PK. Too much physics, too much graphics

GH: Well, Thank you for your time and we look forward to the eventual release of Painkiller.

Adrian: Thanks for the questions, that was fun!