Terminator 3: The Redemption Interview
With Paradigm Entertainment's Josh Hackney
Terminator 3: The Redemption is Atari's newest effort to make a succesful Terminator-franchise game for the current generation of consoles. While Atari hasn't done so well with the Terminator franchise in the past, this time they have Paradigm Entertainment at the helm of a title that's turning out much better than most of the past Terminator games. If you haven't seen our recent preview of T3:R, you might check that out as well to get a more rounded-out description of the game.
Many of my basic questions about Terminator 3: The Redemption were answered by Paradigm's Shawn Wright as he gave us a fairly extensive look at how the game plays. But when it came time for the one-on-one interviews, I still had some questions left - I got the privilege to pick the brain of Paradigm's Josh Hackney and get a bit more detail on how this upcoming action title is turning out.
One of the game's major plot elements revolves around the Terminator being sent forward through time from the present day to an "alternate" future where the machines have won; John Connor, leader of the human resistance, is dead, and Skynet roams free doing whatever it wants. The Terminator must escape this future that's even more grim than the game's "normal" future. While a good chunk of T3:R follows the events of the movie, anyone who's seen the movie will realize that this alternate future is something completely new.
When I asked about the inclusion of this alternate future into the game's plot, Josh explained that Paradigm didn't want players to start off in the future, then travel back in time to the present day and stay there for the rest of the game. Variety is important, and the levels in the alternate future help pace the game better by giving you very different goals while in the alternate future. On top of that, they felt the need to add something new that is totally new to the franchise yet is still built off of the movie.
Josh shared my opinion that the Terminator movies' post-apocalypse future scenes, where humans can barely hold on against mammoth Skynet tanks and machines, were excellent but way too short. In adding the alternate future, Paradigm is getting to extend the amount of time the player spends in the future without getting too far off of the movie plot. They did consider doing some sort of flashback plot instead without the alternate scenes, but then there would be some confusion - few gamers want to piece together a plot's timeline - especially when you're trying to be Arnold blowing up everything in sight.
We talked a little about the original T3 movie footage used in the game, and it seems that their aim is to integrate the gameplay with key movie scenes while skipping the two-minute conversations. To that end, many of the original movie scenes were carefully edited and shortened to answer the basic "what just happened?" question without going into a ton of detail. Josh also assured us that even if you haven't seen the movie, you can still enjoy the game and get a good grip on the basic plot.
While Paradigm and Atari were only able to get Arnold's voice for the movie - the rest of the cast is voiced by sound-alike actors - it seems like they are making sure the sound-alikes will be pretty accurate. Still, the Terminator is the focus of this game, so the most important actor, Arnold himself, was crucial to giving players the feel of being the Terminator. In fact, during the game, Arnold is the one that generally explains the mission out loud to the player. No random Tech Com lackey gives orders to this Terminator.
Josh explained a bit about the Tech Com Force mini-game, which is their homage to the classic Terminator 2: The Arcade Game. It's for two players and works on a single screen, and it's pure arcade action where you take control of two said random Tech Com lackeys. Since this mini-game uses T3:R's fairly advanced 3D engine, the amount of programming required for this project was minimal; still, it's by no means a brainless addition just to beef up a feature list. There are multiple levels to complete, and new content for the standard game will be unlockable by those who can do well at the mini-game.
I brought up one specific level in the game, which takes place in the future; the Terminator dives into a Skynet tunnel hanging on to one of their own machines in order to get to the core of their base. The basic style of this level feels similar to the classic arcade game Tempest, where the player must spend more time dodging obstacles and enemies than actually shooting at things. Of course, shooting stuff down does help a bit, and you might even open up some alternate paths through the tunnels. Since this game's missions are timed, opening up these new passages might help you with a faster completion time. As a reward for finishing the level quickly, you could then spend the bonus "terabytes" on new combos, better targeting, or any of a number of abilities that stay with you throughout the game.
I asked Josh a question that I've found some console game developers have trouble answering: "Why would someone want to buy this game rather than rent it?" Josh told me that they are trying to make the game's initial "wow" factor overwhelming. Then combine that with the game's Tech Com Force cooperative mode and the Terminator's upgrade system (where you can revisit previous levels with new abilities to do even better the second time around), and he's confident that players won't be content with only playing T3:R for a few days.
Josh also went into some detail on the extra eye candy we'll see in the Xbox version of the game. Since this isn't a first person shooter, there are no close-up views of the textures to show off any high-resolution art. This left Paradigm with the question of how to impress Xbox owners visually without sacrificing anything else. Their solution is to combine improved texture quality that works at a medium distance along with some subtle bump mapping for extra detail. When I asked just how much better it'll be, Josh says that the Xbox version's texture quality will be "noticeably" better than the PS2 or GameCube versions.
As far as frame rate is concerned, Josh told me that they are shooting for an average 30 fps for all versions of the game; they're currently working on frame rates now, and I do have to admit that from my time spent playing the PS2 version, some work still needs to be done. Josh did say that they're confident that frame rates won't be an issue by the time the game ships, as they still have plenty of room to work on optimizing the game's code.
With regard to the GameCube version of T3:R, it seems like Paradigm has had to spend more effort to get everything in the game working on Nintendo's console. In fact, the GameCube version is currently the most behind, but things are starting to come together nicely and they are still planning on a simultaneous release on all consoles.
I'd like to thank Paradigm's Josh Hackney for answering every question I could throw at him during our interview. Terminator 3: The Redemption is currently set for release on the GameCube, PS2, and Xbox this coming fall.