VGB Feature: F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin Pre-Launch Q&A With Monolith’s Primary Art Lead Dave Matthews

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With F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin‘s February 10th ship date rapidly approaching, we were recently able to sneak in a quick pre-launch Q&A with Monolith Productions’ Primary Art Lead Dave Matthews to get a few last questions we had burning away answered before getting our mitts on the final product and beginning work on a review. Here’s what we learned.

VGBlogger: The FPS genre has evolved quite a bit since the original F.E.A.R. came out, with games like Crysis, Call of Duty 4, Far Cry 2 and many others really taking the genre to new heights. How have advancements within the genre impacted the development from the first game to this true sequel? Have any modern shooters influenced features that you’ve incorporated into F.E.A.R. 2?

Dave Matthews: We haven’t tried to bring direct influences from other First Person Shooters into F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, however, we are mindful of the fact that when players pick up a game of this genre there are certain expectations. An example would be that most FPSs on consoles now default the right trigger button of a controller to firing weapons. There is no need to reinvent the wheel with something like this. Using pre-established conventions on things like controls help players jump quickly into the game without having to overcome the hurdle of learning how to play the game and interact with the world.

VGB: Personally, the AI in the original F.E.A.R. is still some of the smartest, most realistic enemy AI I’ve ever gone up against in any game, so I certainly have high expectations of the AI in F.E.A.R. 2. In what ways have the Monolith AI whizzes improved upon the original game? Can we expect even more dynamic enemy behavior this second time around?

DM: You’re going to see enemies that are far more aware of their environment, and a lot more capable of adapting to the way you play. We’ve added awareness to environmental hazards such as fire and electrified areas. An AI that catches on fire doesn’t just continue fighting with complete disregard for being engulfed in flames, They will now drop their weapons, try to extinguish the flames by patting, the ever popular stop drop and roll, or if there is water nearby run to it. If they can douse the flames, they’ll either switch to their secondary sidearm or find a weapon nearby, pick it up and re-engage in combat.

There will be plenty of opportunities for the player to experiment with new and glorious ways to bring about the demise of their foes. The goal is to make players not notice that the enemies are controlled by the computer.

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VGB: Despite its success, F.E.A.R. was widely criticized – even by fans – for its lack of variety, both in terms of level and enemy designs. Did this constructive criticism fuel the team’s effort to bring more diversity to F.E.A.R. 2?

DM: Variety has been the cornerstone of the development process. We agree with the fans completely that we’ve seen enough offices to last us a lifetime, and this time out you’re going to have a lot more places to explore. I don’t want to ruin too many surprises, but players will not be disappointed. I want to be clear though, we’re not throwing out what was great about F.E.A.R. There will still be plenty of opportunities for close quarters tense standoffs, we’re just adding more to the equation, making it bigger, making it more exciting.

VGB: The first F.E.A.R. was one of those rare games that was genuinely scary. The tense atmosphere and visual tricks really made you play on the edge of your seat. What’s been done to up the fright factor for the sequel?

DM: As with F.E.A.R., our initial inspirations came from Japanese horror movies, Alma is a testament to that. A lot of those themes return in F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, but we felt that just bringing Alma back as the scary little girl wouldn’t have the same effect as she did when F.E.A.R. originally launched. As a result, we have tried to enhance and expand upon her character and how she will interact with you. Your encounters with her will be a lot more personal, she’s going to touch you a lot more.

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VGB: What are your thoughts on the F.E.A.R. franchises current stature in the industry? Do you think the sloppy ports and expansions (and they were sloppy!) Sierra produced with other studios after the original PC release have damaged the series’ credibility? And if so do you think Project Origin, now with the F.E.A.R. branding back where it belongs, will restore any of the lost luster?

DM: Fans of F.E.A.R. are really going to like what we are bringing to them in the sequel. F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin builds on strengths of the first game while addressing some things that were considered weaknesses. Monolith has an extremely active fan base, so when development on the sequel began, we really wanted to address a lot of the issues players had with the first game. The EPA was born out of that and expanding the world is another example. If players enjoyed the first game, or enjoy First Person Shooters, we really think that F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin is going to impress.

VGB: When the 360 and PS3 were first coming out, there was always a lot of comparing going on between how games on both platforms compared to each other and their PC counterparts, particularly on the PS3 front given the console’s more complex development architecture. But in the past year, differences between multi-platform games have finally started to dwindle. How do you see that multi-platform divide at this point, and in the case of F.E.A.R. 2 how was development handled across the three platforms? One turn out more difficult to develop than another or do you guys have a grasp on all the technology that it didn’t make much difference anymore?

DM: There are certainly a lot more variables involved when developing a multiplatform game, but the potential for rewards are much greater as a result. Because we are developing all three versions of F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin in tandem, this allows us to take advantage of the strengths of all three platforms. We aren’t building the game on a primary SKU and porting to the others. Each platform has its own team and, as an example, when a piece of art is generated we make sure that it works as intended on all three versions. Our goal is to make sure that regardless of what platform you play our game on you’re going to get the best possible experience, and play the game exactly as intended.

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VGB: I’ve been eagerly following F.E.A.R. 2 as far as the single-player content is concerned, but up to now I haven’t heard much about the multiplayer. What’s on tap for the game’s multiplayer? Player limit, maps, weapons, match types, etc.?

DM: F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin has six different multiplayer modes including standard death match and team death match, control, and our variation on capture the flag. One of the most exciting aspects of multiplayer though is the inclusion of the EPA. Armored Front gives each team an EPA that they can climb into and wreak havoc with. The mode itself is a variation on control, but a giant walking mech has a tendency to shift tactics. Multiplayer has all of the weapons from the main game including one that is exclusive to the mode, and it supports up to 16 players.

VGB: With F.E.A.R. 2 less than a month away from release, what are the demo release plans? Also, will there be a multiplayer beta at all?

DM: The demo is live now. You can find it on the PC, Xbox, and the PS3. The really impressive aspect of the demo is the fact that it wasn’t taken out of single stage of F.E.A.R. 2. We’ve spent a lot of time putting together some of the highlights of the final game and weaving them together so what players get is almost an interactive teaser trailer. We aren’t planning a multiplayer beta, but with the game so close to launch, people will be able to get their hands on it very soon.

VGB: Thanks, Dave!

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!