Interview: XIII's producer speaks

CVG caught up with Julien Bares, producer of cel-shaded shooter XIII. Hear what he had to say on this interesting-looking game...

Why make a cel-shaded FPS?

Bares: Our first decision was to make a different game. I think we were quite fed-up with realistic games and we knew we could do it, and we're expecting people who play first-person shooters and action games have the same desire for different things. .

Isn't the point that realism is what sells, though?

Bares: I like to play realistic games, but we wanted to do something different. The same way you can watch a romance or an action movie, you may want to play a very realistic game or a cel-shaded. You can play Amped on Xbox and SSX Tricky, but they're both very different games.

The game certainly seems more geared towards console formats - are you concerned about how XIII will be received by PC gamers?

Bares: Yes, I agree - PC is going to be very difficult because all the special effects are more geared towards consoles. On PC we'll need to have very good AI as we may look like we are making a childish game or a console game. PC is going to be difficult, that's why we're refining the special effects system specifically for PC.

How will the PC version differ from the console versions?

Bares: The story is the same, the background is the same, the base of the levels is the same; controls, AI levels and some detail are different and something really important for PC is that it is the platform for multiplayer. We have classic mode (Deathmatch and Capture The Flag), but we are also developing some specific team modes: one is called "Cover Me," for example, which involves a sniper covering someone; another is based on gameplay found in the game, so we are really trying to give to the PC version the things that the PC does well.

Will the console versions be the same, though?

Bares: No. The story will be the same, but we have developed different features for everyone. Again, on the multiplayer side we're developing different modes for different versions, but we want to keep the same story because we imagine someone buying the game on PS2 is not going to buy it on GameCube and Xbox. We will use each console for what it is good at - we just don't expect people to buy the game three times, so the story will be the same. That would be cool, but...[laughs]

The XIII licence is popular in French-speaking countries but not really anywhere else - why use it?

Bares: The same reason we went for this graphical style - the story is good, and has always been good, but we think the graphical style is really French. It's funny, but when we took the comic to some English people and Italian people, they were all like: "Ah! It's ugly!" - it's almost too French to be good outside of French and Belgium. This is why our style is really different from that of the comic. We wanted something that would be appreciated in countries other than France.

Were you given relatively free licence to do what you pleased or were you quite restricted with what you could do with character and setting?

Bares: We were very lucky. The script writer for the comic was working with us, more at the beginning than now, because now it's right on track and writing itself. We've had to transform something that is full of dialogue into something more action-orientated.

You've mentioned that in XIII you want players to fell the knife is better than the gun - can you explain this?

Bares: A guy with a big gun is not a hero, because he's no smarter than the next guy with a big gun. The guy who can progress using a knife, however, really is a hero. We want to develop the capacity of a player to get out of a situation using only a few weapons. This guy isn't James Bond - he's not full of gadgets and Ferraris - he's relying on what he has around him. In this way it's better to use a knife.

Can you tell us a little about the Sixth Sense system in the game?

Bares: When you are a well-trained commando, you know what's going to come - you have an instinct telling you when there's danger ahead. Sixth Sense is, in this way, like a personal radar telling the player what going on around them. We have found visual ways of showing this, so a player can sense danger, stop for a while, then think what to do next.

How does this affect the gameplay

Bares: It's kind of like a radar - if there is someone in the room just in front of you, you'll know if he's armed or not, and whether you can just open the door and enter a room, or need to be cautious. It's really to tell you more about what's going on. It doesn't work all the time - only for a few seconds - so you have to make the choice to listen to your instincts.

Can you explain the 'onomatopoeic' effects you plan to include?

Bares: When you have an explosion, you have visuals and sound. What we wanted to do was to illustrate the sound of what it makes, which is really comic orientated. So when a tank explodes, you hear a big boom and you see a written "Boom!" zooming towards you. It's the same when people are surprised, a bit like in Metal Gear Solid 2. This works in the sense that, if a guy is far ahead you can see what's going on.

Visuals aside, what makes this different from other FPSs?

Bares: I guess the commando way of playing. We are not working towards having a lot of weapons or futuristic weapons, because we want the player to master several easy weapons like the knife, crossbow etc. What we're trying to bring to the genre is that you don't need an M-16 to be a hero - you rely on yourself more. Also, with stealth we have some cool ideas tied in with the Sixth Sense.

Do you have plans to turn the game into a franchise?

Bares: Yes, I guess so. It's the first game and we are at mid-stage, but there many ideas on paper that we want to explore, also the script is just a third of the comic books and there is much more story to tell, and thirdly when you have good characters and settings you want to explore this.

At the end of the presentation you showed the picture of a young women, labelled "XVII" - how does this relate to the story?

Bares: There are twenty major people within the conspiracy and she is one of them. XVII is someone you meet in the game early on - you knew her before but because you lost your memory, you need to rediscover her. She's neither friend nor enemy - she's different.

Can you clarify the situation regarding online play?

Bares: PC and Xbox definitely; PS2 - we are ready and we're just waiting for them to be ready.

Will all versions be released at the same time?

Bares: All will be finished at different times, but released at the same time early next year. The only problem is with the GameCube version, which we want to do something different with. We got GameCube last, so our knowledge isn't as good as with other formats, and the controller is so simple it requires you to simplify the game, which is good actually. We have several new ideas we want to implement on the GameCube.

Source: Computer and Video Games

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