Updated Mon, May 26, 2014 by Ethec
Jeff emphasized that the prototype and earliest parts of the game are very much rock 'em sock 'em robots - the emphasis is on action, but there is a story arc where parts of the main character's past come to light."We have two key collaborators working with us. One is Daniel Wilson, author of NY Times Bestseller Robopocalypse (the film rights to which were recently picked up by Steven Spielberg. He helped us write all the backstory for the universe of World War Machine."
With a high powered author aboard, I asked if World War Machine would have storyline branching, different outcomes for being a good or evil machine, etc. "The way that we're telling the story is that we're planting facts throughout the game. You'll be able to look into data banks and logs from both general humanity and of your own personal backstory. How you piece those bits together is left open to your interpretation. It's not really branching, it's a collection of narrative fictional elements."
WIth the story so wide open, Jeff confirmed that there's plenty of room for expansion. "What we have is a general above-ground world that is generated procedurally and is different from one saved game to the next. We also have missions that randomly spawn throughout the world, which have a bunch of variables that make them fresh. Apart from levels and loot, these missions have other achievements - time, score - that you can compare with other players.
Jeff wasn't telling much about the specifics of the story - what, for example, caused human extinction. "What I can tell you is that there is a world-ending event. We know that it's coming ten years ahead of time. We have to do something about it or we're not going to survive as a race. There's a breakthrough in technology really close to the actual event, and we manage to upload our consciousness into synthetic form. We do this and try to safeguard against this by putting these synthetic forms into three mainline nodes around the world. During the event those mainline nodes get fractured and partially corrupted. Some of the robots stray from being in sync with the others."
World War Machine also tells its story through visuals. "The robots themselves are designed to be very organic-looking. We're working with WETA's Aaron Beck,and he's one of the key people behind movies like District 9, Elysium, and Avatar. The Abbadon node, the node live now in the demo, are very animalistic. The other nodes that we'll be introducing take influence from other parts of the animal kingdom. Further down the road we'll get more toward bipedal, human-looking nodes. It's a progression from very robotic, very cold to more organic towards the end."
Looking through the concepts, I asked Jeff how it was possible to animate some of these designs. "We asked ourselves the same question. They're not just classic bipedal - they have weird joints all over the place. It's a real challenge for us."
"We have a very extensive loot system. You can either get raw materials of varying rarity that you can craft weapons or components from. The weapons have different classes - rocket class, sniper class, etc. - and then the components are chips which you put into your machine that offer different improvements to specific systems. We call that [weapons and components] hardware, and it can only be earned by playing the game - you can't buy it.
"We also have gear (and that name is probably going to change because its confusing for players). Gear is the cosmetic look of your machine. Different plating for torso, legs, and arms, different heads, plus we also have some pretty funky human-style gear - capes for example - that are really just for looks."
One classic reason to choose isometric perspective is to allow for competitive multiplayer. While no PvP plans have been announced for World War Machine, I asked Jeff if competitive online gaming was on his mind. "Right now its PvE, it's eventually going to be PvP - that's definitely a direction we want to go. For us, the gameplay is geared toward crowd control, 360 degrees of danger, and its not fun in a first-person shooter when you're always attacked from the side or from behind. It made a lot more sense tactically to have that top-down camera. Competitive gameplay is definitely something we're going to add in the near future."
"It's not a game that's for everyone, to be completely blunt. If you're expecting more of a character game with big cinematics, this isn't that kind of game. This is a game that's about visceral robots vs robots, customizing to your liking, stretching the game systems to see what's possible, and developing your own playstyle."
Our thanks to Jeff Hattem and the folks at Tuque Games for telling us more about their upcoming title. World War Machine is currently in prototype phase while in funding on IndieGoGo , where $15 will get you beta access and a digital edition of the game.