We recently had an opportunity to speak with Matthew Karch of the Will Rock Team, an upcoming FPS.
What is your name and what is your role on the Will Rock team?
MK: My name is Matthew Karch and I am the Internal Producer of Will Rock.
Can you tell us a little bit about how Saber Interactive got started?
MK: I started Saber Interactive with two programmers, Andrey Iones and Anton Krupkin about a year and a half ago. I had been in software project management for quite a while and was looking for something new. These guys had about 5 years each experience in game programming and were capable of just about anything. We put together a business plan, set-up an office in New York and in St. Petersburg, Russia (where our artists work) and we have been running smoothly ever since.
What are some challenges of running a start-up game company in today’s economy?
MK: Gaining credibility. In this business, you are only as good as your last title. When you are new to the game, so to speak, you need to be that much better than anyone else in order to get a deal. A second challenge would be cash flow. You need to pay salaries for quite a while before you can make a profit. Luckily, we have solid financial backing and have been able to find creative ways to make some money with our technology.
How did you get started in the gaming industry?
MK: Fate. I have worked with a lot of technical people, but when I met Andrey and Anton and saw what they could do, I was blown away. I just knew it was something that I had to get involved in. I have always been a gamer and to combine a profession with a passion was too good to pass up on. If I hadn’t met those guys, I would never have gotten involved in gaming.
What do you do for fun when you’re not developing games?
MK: I play the electric guitar – mostly blues and some rock. There is nothing like letting loose with the amp turned up after a 12-hour day of work. Of course, I live in a Manhattan apartment, so my neighbors may not agree.
How did you decide on the storyline and locations depicted in the game?
MK: We wanted to recreate beautiful places from the past. Most FPS games take place sometime in the future on a remote planet or a spaceship, or on some battlefield in Europe. We wanted to do something a little different. We decided on Ancient Greece/Rome and Southeast Asia – we felt that they were both visually beautiful and not overdone. It is difficult to make accurate recreations of beautiful settings, but we have some great artists who have proven up to the task.
The storyline was created because we wanted the main character to be someone that players could relate to. We thought there were enough muscle-bound, steroid-injecting, grunting heroes in the FPS world. Will Rock is an everyday guy who is bored with his life and, in an act of rebellion, leaves it all behind and sets out on a treasure hunt. We think that most players will relate to Will and will have an easier (and more fun) time living out his fantasy.
Can you explain in detail the aspects of the game? Will there be any multiplayer aspects?
MK: The best way to describe the game is that it is an arcade-style FPS, where the focus is more on action and less on story. The objective of the game is to collect treasures described in an old journal. These treasures are protected by supernatural elements such as mythological creatures and interactive environments (statues that come to life, morphing mosaics, etc.). Thus, you must battle your way through hundreds of opponents with varying types of attacks. As the player progresses from level to level, he fights ever increasing numbers of opponents and gets new, high powered weapons. The game is all about high-adrenaline, heart-pumping action. Our objective is to leave the player a little breathless after a lengthy battle, with just a short rest before the next one begins.
The game will have various multiplayer challenges. We are working to create some new twists, but we are still in the testing phase, so we are trying to keep it under wraps until such time.
Is the net code set up to support more than 32 players on the server?
MK: No. At the moment, we do not support more than 32 players on the server. This could change, however, before the game is released.
What are the game’s modes?
MK: The game currently has two modes, single-player and multiplayer.
How does Will Rock differ from other FPS titles out there today? What makes this title look so realistic?
MK: Most FPS games in development today involve lengthy stories and interactivity. We wanted to create a throwback game that focused more on action and less on story. Our game is more in the mold of Doom and Serious Sam than it is in the progeny of Half-Life. We have distinguished ourselves from other titles in the genre in that our environments are much more interactive than in most games. Not only can you break lots of stuff and spray holes everywhere, but the statues, the paintings and the walls themselves pose a threat to the player in that they can come to life. Will Rock is kind of like an FPS in a massive haunted house.
The reason our title looks so realistic is a function of both our engine and artwork. We have tested the Saber3d Engine on scenes with as much as 150,000 polys visible at one time – on a Pentium III with a GeForce 2 – and we maintained a frame rate of close to 30 fps. Because our engine allows for the handling of such large on-screen geometry, we are able to create detailed models with high resolution textures. Our artists all have experience in creating high-poly cut scenes for major game releases, and they have been able to produce beautiful artwork that can be handled by our engine with relative ease.
Can you tell us a little bit about the Saber3d Engine? What makes this engine stand apart from other game engines?
MK: As I mentioned above, our engine has the ability to render large indoor and outdoor environments and to maintain a high frame rate with a high poly count of static and dynamic geometry. Thus, we can handle large scenes with relative ease. In addition, our engine has a very large feature set including: projected shadows, reflective surfaces, detail textures, level of detail, real-time dynamic lighting, character lighting, particle effects, procedural texturing effects, character and environment morphing, seamless level reloading, volumetric animated fog, proprietary technology of vertex and polygon shaders, and a host of others.
How does the Saber3d Engine compare to the Serious Engine used in Croteam’s FPS Serious Sam? We have seen in the screenshots that both Will Rock and Serious Sam have massive enemy attacks which require a pretty hefty engine to render the polygons, is this a reasonable comparison?
MK: Although we haven’t compared the engines head-to-head, it is fair to say that both engines possess similar feature sets. One of the reasons that both engines can handle massive enemy attacks is related to level of detail, a technology which alters poly count depending upon the distance the camera is from a particular piece of geometry. I may be biased, but I think our engine programmers are among the best in the world. I don’t think there is an engine or a programming team more capable than ours. Our goal is to keep our engine on the cutting edge of technology and we have the right team to do it.
What are the strong points of the engine and game?
MK: The strongest point of our game is the combination of beautiful graphics with frenetic gameplay. Our guys have done a really good job of making a game that is not only beautiful but fun to play.
Have you tested this game on both a powerful and low end system? If so, did you experience obvious differences in game performance?
MK: We have tested the machine on a Pentium II 450 and a Pentium III 1 Gig. Although there are some differences in performance, they are slight.
What system would you recommend in order to run Will Rock to the max?
MK: I think a Pentium II 450 is sufficient to get good performance, anything above a Pentium II 550 with a Radeon or GeForce should run without any hiccups.
In looking at your newly released screenshots, we cannot help but notice the detailed weaponry. Would you please elaborate on the weapons found in the game?
MK: We have implemented three weapons to date: the Lewis gun – a machine gun that was popular at the turn of the century, a bazooka – which was modeled on a grenade thrower called the PIAT (also in use at the turn of the century) and a Colt Peacemaker - which is only now being integrated into the game. We have plans for some different types of weapons that we haven’t seen elsewhere – we are keeping them secret for now, but we will keep you up to date.
Can you explain any special effects you have created to immerse the player in the game?
MK: We have several effects that we feel are very cool and keep the player on his toes. We have statues that come to life, minotaurs that regenerate into smaller minos from chunks of flesh, and statues that shoot lightning bolts at the player. We have a ton more in the works. We want the entire game to be laden with effects and interactivity.
What tools did you use in the creation of Will Rock?
MK: We have used three tools for our game: 3dsMax, Photoshop and our engine – that’s it. Well, our programmers are using Microsoft Visual C++ and MS Source Safe.
Will this game be created for any platforms other than the PC?
MK: Possibly. We think an X-Box version would look awesome.
Do you plan to release a public demo?
MK: Yes, but probably not for a few months and not until we sign an agreement with a publisher.
What percent complete is the game?
MK: We are just completing our first level, so we are probably about 10% complete – we have a long way to go!
Do you have a publisher? If so who is it? If not, can you tell us who your prospects are?
MK: We have not yet signed a publishing deal, but we anticipate that we will do so shortly. We have had considerable interest in our title and we are confident that we will ink a deal soon. We can’t yet mention our prospects, but when we have something definite we will let you know right away.
Are there any special items of note you would like to share with us?
MK: Well just that we are very excited about Will Rock and that we hope that we can add to the tradition of great FPS games that have preceded us. I think that PCShooter is a great meeting place for fans of the genre and we are open to any comments, advice or criticism by your readership. Thanks for the time and interest in our company and game!
Thank you very much for doing this interview. We look forward to playing this game.