The lights are on
Fans of blowing up insectoid aliens in snowy environments got excited when Capcom announced Lost Planet 3. The reveal came with an amazing trailer and some basic details, but we wanted a little more information. We conducted a Q&A with Andrew Szymanski, producer and project lead for Lost Planet 3. Read on to learn more about the decision to make a prequel, new protagonist Jim, and working with the Unreal engine.Why did you decide to make Lost Planet 3 a prequel?
Our core concept for the game from the get-go was what we call “the return to extreme conditions;” in other words, returning to a frozen EDN-III that features the snow and ice landscapes that are synonymous with the franchise. As some readers might be aware, EDN-III went through a global-warming phase beginning at the end of LP1 and through LP2. Thus, we extrapolated that if the planet was warming in the future (due in no small part to human intervention) then it must have been at its coldest in the past when there were few humans on the planet. In addition to this, we were very keen on exploring the frontier nature of the initial colonization efforts on the planet, with a small group of pioneering people forced to work together to tame the wilderness. This is an era in Lost Planet history that had never been explored before and we felt it was ripe for telling compelling stories. In this way, the idea of setting the game in the past before LP1 came together quite organically.What can you tell us about the new open world-mechanics, NPC interactions, and RPG-style quests and upgrades?
Lost Planet 3 is not a true open-world game in the sense of being able to go anywhere at any time and do anything. What it is, however, is a departure from the very linear sequence of levels that characterized the past two installments in the franchise. In LP3, we have what is called a “hub-and-spoke” system of level design that takes large outdoor hub areas and connects them with multiple branching paths to other smaller areas in which various missions take place. Many of these areas will be accessible from the beginning of the game, while others will require upgrades and unlocks in order to be able to access. This is all meant to give the player the sense of exploring a vast, largely uninhabited planet as new areas are constantly being revealed as the game progresses. Missions will drive the player to explore these various areas, and are largely grouped into two types: story-based missions that move the narrative forward and are completed in order, and various side missions and optional quests that can be tackled in order to earn rewards and explore more of the planet of EDN-III and delve further into the story of the game. The player will have access to “home” areas that feature NPCs, who give out missions and can be spoken to for hints and further background on the world. There will also be workstations, where the main character (Jim) can upgrade his personal equipment and weapons as well as expand the capabilities of his Utility Rig vehicle.
Why did you decide to focus on a single protagonist this time rather than the nameless pirates of the last game?
When looking at the setting of Lost Planet 3 and thinking about the type of adventure that we wanted players to experience in this world, it was a natural conclusion to return to a narrative-driven story campaign strongly focused on a compelling main character. Our hope is that the player will step into Jim’s shoes and relate to him, root for him, and grow to like him. We want the player to feel as though they are learning about EDN-III and taking Jim’s journey with him as he explores the mysteries of the planet and helps to shape its future.What can you tell us about Jim's character?
Jim is a tough, dedicated, charismatic, blue-collar laborer who has left his wife and newborn son on Earth in order to attempt to make a better life for them by taking hazardous, well-paying jobs on the newly discovered planet of EDN-III. Jim is not highly educated in the classical sense, but is naturally intelligent and has had his fair share of lessons at the proverbial “school of hard knocks.”
Jim’s love for his family is evident, as is his desire to work together with the other colonists to create a foothold on the planet. While not one that wantonly seeks out trouble or adventure, Jim knows how to hold his own and deal with adversity. He quickly learns that things are more complicated on EDN-III than he initially expected and finds himself becoming an integral part of the events that unfold over the course of the game.What kind of multiplayer can fans expect?
Since we just announced the game, we are not speaking much in detail about the multiplayer just yet… other than to say that it has always been an important part of the Lost Planet franchise and we intend to continue that tradition.
Why move away from Capcom's MT Framework engine to Unreal?
The MT Framework engine is a very impressive piece of technology that was developed in-house by Capcom engineers in order to enable the sorts of amazing games that Capcom has produced at its internal studios, including the first two Lost Planet games. In choosing to collaborate with an external development partner for this installment, we needed to carefully choose the technology platform that would be best able to achieve the vision that Kenji Oguro (the Lost Planet franchise creative director and father of the franchise) and I had set out for Lost Planet 3. As Spark Unlimited had copious experience working with the Unreal Engine 3, as well as the drive and ability to make our shared vision a reality, it was only natural to base the game on the Unreal platform. It allows for rapid iteration that has vastly benefitted the collaboration between Spark and Capcom Japan, and features a high level of visual fidelity that has allowed us to uphold the reputation of Lost Planet as one of the best-looking franchises of this console generation. We believe that, through creative use of Unreal and a very unique art direction, we have achieved a visual style that is unlike any other game developed on this technology.Will all mech combat switch to first-person?
Jim’s vehicle in Lost Planet 3 is called the Utility Rig and is a predecessor of the Vital Suits found in LP1 and LP2. As it is from a period in EDN-III’s history before the development of faster, maneuverable weaponized units, it is a massive lumbering piece of construction equipment that Jim uses to fulfill his contracts on the planet. It is also the largest vehicle ever featured in the franchise.
In order to further accentuate and emphasize the scale of the Utility Rig, we have made a deliberate choice to present the game in a first-person perspective whenever Jim is piloting the Rig, including in combat situations. There are two goals in this: first, to indicate just how massive the Rig is by allowing the player to look down upon landscapes and enemies that towered above them while on foot; and second, to show the visceral nature of the Utility Rig combat as Jim and the player use the Rig’s attachments as improvised weapons to grab, tear, and shred hostile Akrid creatures to bits in front of their eyes.The trailer sets a more western tone than we've seen in the past from Lost Planet. Is this a deliberate direction?
As mentioned earlier, we have made a deliberate choice in the story campaign to focus on a cinematic, narrative-driven experience showcasing the exploits of Jim, and I believe the tone of the trailer reflects that. Certainly, with the choice to work with a Western development partner, the tone of the game will take a turn towards being more deliberate and atmospheric in order to properly express our themes of the hardships of colonization and the struggles facing the pioneers on the frontier. That being said, all of the core team members that worked on the first two games have been heavily involved with conceiving the fundamental game concepts and working to shape the final product, so we are confident that the game will exude an aura that is unmistakably Lost Planet. How does Spark’s past experience within the shooter genre help inform the development of this game?
The team that is currently working on Lost Planet 3 at Spark is an all-new team composed of some skilled Spark veterans, along with a large portion of industry heavyweights that have been gathered in Los Angeles specifically to work on this game. As such, we are blessed with some of the best talent available in the area as well as a very strong creative leadership in the team working closely with Capcom. Spark and its creative leads have a long history of working in the shooter genre and are bringing to the table a strong foundation in core shooter mechanics, such as intuitive controls and a robust player package. At the same time, they have gone out of their way to make sure that the feel of the game stays true to the franchise without some of the more frustrating elements that have been present in past games in the series. As a result, I am confident that we have a shooter experience that will be inviting to both newcomers and series aficionados alike, while still remaining unmistakably Lost Planet.With major games like Halo, COD, and Battlefield dominating the charts, competing in the multiplayer space is tougher than it’s ever been. What are you going to do to differentiate yourself?
Once again, we are not commenting on details of the multiplayer modes at this juncture. However, I will say that some of the core defining aspects of the Lost Planet franchise for me is the interaction between multiple human factions, the Akrid creatures, and the pilotable machines… that is something we will definitely be leveraging in our multiplayer implementation.
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