Games: ‘Enemy Territory’ brings new elements to hot 'Quake' franchise
The classic struggle between the human race and the alien Strogg heats up again as "Enemy Territory: Quake Wars" hits the console market.
The M-rated game, which will be available on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, follows a PC version that came out last fall.
It also follows in the footsteps of "Quake II" and "Quake IV," first-person shooters that featured beam weapons and space ships. However, veterans will notice some major changes. "Enemy Territory" is actually a prequel that covers the early days of the conflict — the days before humans had sci-fi weaponry. It also features a different style of game play, with different classes of soldiers and a team-based dynamic during online play.
Following are some insights into the game offered by Kevin Cloud, executive producer and co-owner of id Software, and Edward Stern, senior game designer at Splash Damage who developed the original PC version of "Enemy Territory: Quake Wars."
Q: "Enemy Territory: Quake Wars" is set in the relatively near future. Why the switch from the last few Quakes?
KC: "Enemy Territory: Quake Wars" tells the story of the initial invasion of Earth in 2065. Later in the "Quake" series, through years of combat with the alien Strogg, humans develop advanced technology like plasma energy weapons. But in 2065, the Earth Defense Force is equipped with advanced versions of current day weaponry.
We chose this time to give players choices between two very different armies. The level of variety, with rail guns against sniper rifles and mechanized walkers against tanks with their own strengths and weaknesses gives players more weapons to have fun with and more game play depth and strategy to explore.
ES: We love "Quake." We grew up playing "Quake." We got our start in the industry as a mod team working with the "Quake III" engine. We wanted to know and show what had happened back on Earth before you got to strike back at the Strogg in "Quake II" and "Quake IV." So that’s why "ETQW" is really a prequel to the previous games. This meant we got to reverse-engineer the classic "Quake" weapons, so you get to use their ancestor prototypes: if you’re familiar with the rail gun, hyperblaster and rocket launcher, you’ll see what we mean.
Q: Why the switch to a more team-oriented form of combat?
KC: "Enemy Territory: Quake Wars" is set in the Quake universe, but the game mechanics are from id Software’s "Return to Castle Wolfenstein" and from "Wolfenstein Enemy Territory" rather than "Quake." "Return to Castle Wolfenstein" was the first game to allow players to choose a military role and work together to accomplish a common objective.
We developed the ideas for these classes based on how people liked to play various online games and their skills. So, each role whether it is soldier, medic, covert ops, engineer or field ops is designed to provide players something fun they can accomplish to help the team even if they aren’t the most accurate first person gamer.
In "Enemy Territory," a soldier with a rocket launcher cannot do it alone. An assaulting team is tasked with accomplishing a series of objectives or missions. This creates a focused front line resulting in strategic and intense combat. To accomplish these objectives, the team needs to work together. Covert ops may need to hack defenses or deploy radar to provide field intelligence on enemy positions. Field ops may need to call in air strikes to clear out enemy units. Medics follow behind the assault force providing supplies and reviving downed teammates.
ES: We come from a pretty hard-core multiplayer background, and the one thing we’ve found is that the most fun you can have in an online game is playing as a coordinated team rather than just DeathMatching or Capturing-The-Flag.
Splash Damage’s previous game for id Software was "Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory." The "Enemy Territory"-style game play is really all about that. It’s a bit more complex for players at first so there are tutorials to get you up to speed: only certain classes can complete certain objectives, or get certain weapons, only a medic can revive or heal a teammate for example.
But having dynamic objectives that have to be completed in a set order focuses the combat and moves it through the map. As the attacking team wins objectives, they spawn further forwards and the defending team spawns further back, so you always know where to go and what to do when you get there.
It’s a bit more challenging than just running around shooting stuff, but provides lots more for players to get good at, and we’ve found they really respond to that sort of depth. And you can still just run around blowing stuff up.
Q: What was most challenging about bringing "Enemy Territory" to the new generation of consoles?
KC: Each of "Enemy Territory: Quake Wars" battlegrounds stretch over a square mile. With two very different teams, the players have access to a wide variety of classes, weapons, items, deployed systems and vehicles. Getting a game with this much depth and variety looking great and playing fast and fun on next-generation consoles was our primary goal. Next, we wanted to take advantage of all of the great Live functionality for the Xbox and deliver that same capability for the PS3. So, regardless of whether you’re playing the PS3 or Xbox 360, you’ll be able to easily jump into a game that is the best match for you.
ES: We’re really impressed. Nerve Software and Activision have done an awesome job of making "Enemy Territory: Quake Wars" accessible for console gamers while retaining everything that’s cool about the original PC version.
Q: Much of the human weaponry looks like it’s just a few steps ahead of what’s available to today’s soldiers. How did you decide what tweaks to make to today’s arms to create weaponry that seems forward-looking, but not too futuristic?
ES: We knew the Strogg have weird alien weapons tech — the violator pillar-of-fire scorching across the battlefield instead of air strikes, rail guns instead of bolt-action sniper rifles, laser-gatling hyperblasters instead of belt-fed GPMG’s — so we needed the GDF weapons to look future-cool without looking Stroggish, or too unrealistic or too unfamiliar to civilian players. We went through a lot of revisions to get it right.
The same went for the vehicles, like the GDF’s Anansi hover-copter, but the better we got to know the real stuff and our backstory, the easier it was to extrapolate.
If the GDF really is a global outfit, they’re going to need a lot of equipment, which means lowest bidder contracts. So we gave the GDF’s N80 assault rifle a cheap knock-off version of a well-known holographic battle sight.
In fact, there are quite a few tips and winks for those familiar with the real-life inspirations for the human weapons. Anyone who’s struggled to close the feed cover of the M249 or M240 while retaining the ammo belt may enjoy the reload process for the GDF’s GPMG.
Q: What’s your human favorite weapon? Why?
KC: I love playing the medic class, because my aim and reaction skills are best suited for targeting dead bodies that can’t move. Plus, everyone loves the medic regardless of his accuracy. So, as a result I spend most of my time with an assault rifle. However, my favorite human weapon is the heavy machinegun. It carries tons of ammunition and delivers heavy fire power at a medium distance.
ES: I retain a strong affection for the dumb ol’ shotgun - very handy for taking down the flier drones remotely flown by the Strogg infiltrator class. Even though it seems to have acquired some of the M16’s charging handle on its rear sight. But then the GDF field ops class gets to call in artillery deployables. Does a massive field gun or MLRS aimed via a handheld laser designator count as an actual weapon? Your readers probably have stronger opinions on that than we do.
Q: What’s your favorite Strogg weapon? Why?
KC: My favorite Strogg weapon is the flier drone. There are some great maps where infiltrators can teleport into air vents to hold up and deliver some nasty explosive drones to the GDF. It’s great for disrupting campers. You can see the surprise in their eyes when they hear the drone nearby and turn unsteadily to see it explode in their face — very satisfying.
ES: The lightning pistol is pretty spectacular, even if it doesn’t do a huge amount of damage. I often use it as a sort of mildly-lethal laser designator to point out enemy snipers to my teammates while also putting some hurt on those pesky GDF snipers and jogging their aim. And the obliterator (that prototype "Quake" rocket launcher) has a certain discrete charm.
Q: What were your goals in developing the combat tactics used by AI characters?
KC: "Enemy Territory: Quake Wars" has some key advantages when it comes to AI. For example, unlike most games our computer opponents are not guided by a set of nodes but through a sophisticated area awareness system that enables the computer to route his way to any location in the map from any location in the map. This allows for the AI to react more realistically to the often organic and unexpected situations on the battlefield.
Our primary goal for the AI was to develop a computer opponent that played like any other player. So regardless of whether you’re offline the computer is filling in for missing players, you can’t easily differentiate between player and computer. Our second goal was to provide a computer opponent that could match the player’s skill whether he’s beginning or has been playing for months. So, players new to this type of game can learn the basics offline before challenging their friends online and advanced players can fill in the ranks of their online matches regardless of when or where he’s playing.
ES: We’re really happy with how the AI bots turned out. We’ve often seen regular players and even journalists having no idea that they’re actually playing against bots rather than human players. The goals were that they’d do everything a human player would do (except be a bad sport). They’ll take cover, try to flank you, change weapons to engage you. And it’s awesome how they’ll do human-like things at all the different difficulty levels: you can even set separate bot expertise in aim, tactical smarts and decide if you want them to complete objectives for you.
Q: How have recent developments in real-world weaponry, tactics and events played into the game’s design?
ES: We looked long and hard at contemporary and future developments in weapons tech, equipment and tactics. But ultimately our goal was to make the game play immersive and fun rather than simulate or replicate the realities of combat. The things that professional soldiers do in combat are pretty much all about making it no fun for the other team (to put it mildly). Fire and movement, indirect fire, enfilade fire from defilade positions and so on. We have to cheat – we make things seem combat-like, while actually maintaining a level playing field. We do a lot of behind-the-scenes tweaking to make things seem realistic while actually making sure your player never dies without you knowing who killed them, from where, with what, so you can do something about it when you respawn.
Q: What will soldiers and Marines appreciate most about the "Enemy Territory" experience?
ES: It’s more fun and there’s a lot more tactical depth than most shooters. If you’re looking for a game that’s going to keep on giving you fun things to get good at, you should check it out.
And there’s lots of cool stuff to blow up and even cooler stuff to blow it up with!