Darkest of Days Shooter Changes the Pages of History
Publisher Phantom EFX and developer 8monkey labs have created a new PC and Xbox 360 shooter that changes the pages of history. Darkest of Days thrusts players into some of the most bloody engagements in history and asks them to save key figures in an effort to pave a new history. Bill Wadleigh, producer of Darkest of Days for Phantom EFX, talks about the new game and digs into its historical significance.
How large was your team for this project?
At the onset of engine development in 2005, the original 8monkey labs team consisted of five people working to create and adapt what became the Marmoset Engine to the needs of Darkest of Days. In the fall of 2007, full development began and the core team expanded to 10 developers in our Cedar Falls, Iowa offices, but it took a larger virtual team worldwide to bring the game to life. Most members of our team have years of experience in all types of games for multiple platforms.
Who are the main characters and factions in Darkest of Days?
The game features a struggle between two future organizations for the control of history. One, lead by a woman the player knows only as Mom, is obsessed with preserving history at all costs. Indeed, most of the game is led by Mom giving the player orders to fulfill to win her favor, and in turn, the player’s freedom. Secondly, there is a group called the Opposition which is from farther ahead in time that is looking to align history to their own (unannounced) goals. The player needs to preserve history at all cost, which means you must be aware of your surroundings, weapon selection and usage as you complete missions, solve time puzzles and engage other time agents.
What types of game play innovations are you adding to this genre?
There are two interesting twists Darkest of Days presents, time travel and what we call the Aura Systems. The way time travel is used is unique to Darkest of Days; rather than a re-winder or tool to move you along the path of a level, it’s integral to the whole game. The travel portals are the mechanism of travel. However, against the backdrop of preserving history and leaving a minimal footprint, the portals cannot just be used anywhere….if people saw the portals, that in itself would change history, so keeping their use out of the eyes of the “locals” is important. You are often dropped into an area believed to be just off the beaten path of a conflict, and once you are there, the you have an overwhelming feeling of being “dropped in the middle” of it and needing to begin to figure out where the target is, and how to get him (or her).
What’s the gameplay experience like?
During almost every battle there are certain soldiers that are supposed to live on. With the game’s Aura system, the player is able to see these important characters. If the player accidentally kills these opponents, there are swift, real and dangerous consequences. It’s up to the player to navigate through their missions without killing or allowing these people to be killed. Of course that isn’t always possible, at that brings with it more challenge. Some players will no doubt enjoy this added level of difficulty that killing these targets will present.
What are the challenges of creating games in this genre?
There have been many a war based FPS, so the big challenge is to make a game that plays different and feels different. Our Marmoset engine was a great tool to make the game different. It has a different look that games using other engines, and Marmoset was built from the ground up to support literally hundreds on NPC’s onscreen at the same time, making our game much more wide open. Playing Darkest of Days allows players to literally find their own pathway in some areas, they are given detailed orders to follow but there are many more that let the player roam free, explore the level and engage opponents or not as they try to complete the missions.
What types of weapons/vehicles are in play?
In each time period the player uses the appropriate weapons for the age. In the US civil war, the 1861 Springfield rifle and the Colt Navy Pistol are standard issue. Each weapon has its own pros and cons – the Springfield as a single shot black powder rifle that takes time to reload but has devastating stopping power, while the Colt Navy has a speed reload feature but diminished accuracy and stopping power. From a tactical standpoint, this means each weapon provides a different experience.
Can you talk about the tactical aspect?
When using the Springfield, the player should take into account the reload time by perhaps finding cover, using the bayonet to melee opponents or stay back a bit from the front lines to use his friendly forces as living shields. In any time period, the player and the opponents have similar firepower and capabilities. The Mosin-Nagant and Gewehr98 rifles are the mainstays of WWI battles but there are also hand grenades available for new forms of attack and game play. In addition, the player could be using some of the overpowering future weapons in the KronoteK arsenal, which really provide a one man army feeling. These are used throughout the game and especially in Pompeii. There are vehicles in the game and the player is going to be surprised at some of the new situations and weaponry (bombs for example) that come with these “special” transports.
Will there be any online gameplay?
Building a new game engine, the game creation tools and a compelling first person experience has been the primary focus of the team. The first release of the game will be a single player campaign. We are considering options for multiplayer, but we will release those details at another time.