HND Talks to Craig Hubbard, Principal Game Designer of F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN

Posted by Peter Hall - October 23rd 2008 @ 10:34 pm

HND was recently given the opportunity to exchange some questions with the driving force behind F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN, the few months away multi-platform sequel to hit first person shooter F.E.A.R.

I think the Q&A session went well, to be honest.  It is the first of its kind on the site and I’d like to thank Matt W for coming up with the questions (save the last one, that’s mine).  He even thought of one so perfect it should be a required inquisition to any game designer.  I think you’ll recognize that question when you see it.

The first F.E.A.R. borrowed very heavily from Japanese horror. Are you planning on incorporating any other elements from other horror genres (such as Lovecraftian or survival horror)?

We draw inspiration from all over the place. There’s an element of skin-crawling supernatural suspense that you find in ghost stories like Ring or The Shining. There’s plenty of shocking gore in the best splatter horror tradition. There are scampering fiends leaping at you like you’d get in a monster movie or a Resident Evil game. There’s even a dose of Lovecraftian existential terror.

And I think at one point Alma wears a hockey mask and eviscerates someone with claws made from garden shears while humming the theme from Halloween.

I loved the AI in FEAR. The first time I was flanked by an enemy and killed, I was excited. How many tweaks have been made to the AI and could you give an example?

We’ve made a lot of improvements to the AI’s situational awareness and decision-making processes so they’ll react more convincingly and strategize more effectively to defeat you. They have more options for how to move around in the world, create cover for themselves, and target you indirectly, such as by shooting a fire extinguisher near you to try to cause splash damage if they can’t get a clear shot.

What can we expect in terms of new weapons? Is there anything innovative (ala Gravity Gun) on the way or just the time tested classics?

F.E.A.R. is all about over-the-top combat, so we focused on trying to provide gratifying and varied ways of dispatching enemies. Of the new weapons we’ve revealed so far, there’s a napalm cannon for roasting enemies and the laser for carving them up. But there are some other fun new items as well.

How many expansions are you expecting for this game?

No plans have been announced at this time. Even to me.

Will the “bullet-time” ability be the same as the original, or will you be making modifications?

With the reflex-time the only functional difference is that enemies are highlighted slightly to signify that your perception is on the same level as your reflexes. We’ve also improved it visually and aurally.

Will the environment be destructible? Will the physics of the environment be available to the player? [ie, if a grenade is thrown behind a couch or another solid object, (theoretically) the couch could be flown across the room and into an enemy.]

One of the things people really liked about FEAR was how battle-damaged the environments tended to be after a firefight, so we’ve taken that further. A lot of stuff blows up real good.

The original F.E.A.R. was made for the PC first, consoles later. FEAR 2 seems to be made with more of a “Console first” focus. What do you think will happen to PC gaming in the future and will Monolith Productions continue development for the PC?

I hope we’ll always continue to develop for the PC. The PC market is changing, but I can’t imagine it’ll ever disappear.

Is a sequel already being talked about/designed?

That’s a big TBD.

What steps are being taken to ensure Uwe Boll will not make this into a movie?

Even reading that question makes me feel a little nauseated.

Performance wise, how well will this run on mid to lower-end PCs?

As with any PC title, it all comes down to what sacrifices you’re willing to make. If you have a lower end system, you have to sacrifice looks for performance or performance for looks. But the specific answer is that we’re targeting 30 fps if you’re playing at the settings recommended for your setup.

With the game’s level design being centered on a destroyed city, how linear are you planning to make the levels? How open will the environment be?

Similar to FEAR, progression is fairly linear but many areas are fairly porous to allow for exploration and flanking opportunities in combat.

Will there be multiple endings?

No, just one. Although it’s pretty transgressive and wrong in a horror movie sort of way. We already used a Carrie-style shock ending in the first game, so this time we’re trying to traumatize players in a way that’s less predictable and more appalling.

Will there be any new storytelling elements/methods present?

We’re using the usual mélange of first person narrative sequences, updates via radio, intel items you can find in the levels, overheard dialogue, contextual storytelling in the environments, etc.

With the game not recognizing Extraction Point or Perseus Mandate, can those expansions be considered non-canon with the overall theme and plot?

Definitely non-canon.

In the team’s opinion, what is the most impressive technical improvement to FEAR 2 that other developers will admire, but unassuming gamers will take for granted?

A lot of technical improvements go unnoticed because they come down to making a game look less artificial. You generally don’t notice something that looks right, only something that looks wrong. For example, we have things like fast volumetric lights and ambient occlusion that most players aren’t even aware of unless you turn them off, in which case something will suddenly seem not quite right. Really, though, that’s the goal. When players are aware of tech features, it’s usually due to overuse, like back in the days of lens flare overkill.

I am sure that Craig is unaware of my conviction that any product can be accurately judged by how many lens flares are involved, but that last answer is like a nerdy whisper of sweet nothings.  Count me interested.

F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN releases on XBOX 360, PS3 and PC February 10th, 2009.

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  1. October 24th, 2008 | 9:06 am | #1

    Was the first F.E.A.R. any good? I think I played about half-way through the demo, but couldn’t stop thinking to myself, “I have other games I could be playing.”

    Also, if this guy works for Monolith, why weren’t there any questions about BLOOD? Like, “Do you bastards regret selling the rights over to GT Interactive who, in turn, seem to have fucking lost the goddamn thing?”

    (Sorry, Monolith is a touchy subject for me.)

  2. October 24th, 2008 | 9:30 am | #2

    I dug the first F.E.A.R. Not earth shattering, but it’s a nice balance of being a more tactical shooter than an average run and gun FPS without being too cautious a la RAINBOW SIX. Plus it has a nice horror influence, particularly when you see a person walk across, say, a door frame, but once you chase the phantom is never to be found.

    RE: BLOOD, touche. Didn’t even think about it. May be able to field some follow-up questions, if there are any requests along those lines.

  3. October 25th, 2008 | 11:05 am | #3

    Yeah, I liked the first FEAR, so some reason I had an itch to play the expansions. I’m currently 60% through the first one and plan to get a review written on it, although my time is being devoted to the new Castlevania that came out for the DS.

  4. October 28th, 2008 | 1:21 pm | #4

    I want the cover of FEAR 2 to be just one big Lens Flare.

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