It’s often quite hard to be a gamer in Australia. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there are some advantages to being a gamer in Australia, not the least of which is that we get to stay out of the burning ball of death that hovers in the skies above this wide brown land, while also avoiding the wide range of toxic creatures that walk upon its surface, but there are some clear downsides.
One of those downsides is that too often, we’re the forgotten children of the gaming world. We’ve got a smallish population, a ratings system that has only just begun to accept that adults play games, mediocre Internet connections (56th fastest in the world. Just edging out Madagascar) and a general lack of convention culture. We bear a general increase in game prices just for living in Australia, which is known locally as the Australia Tax. Access Steam through a US based proxy and suddenly the prices drop – It’s $USD 59.99 for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare in the US and $USD 78.95 if you’re Australian.
Stack these in a nice pile and you can see how we start to think of ourselves as an afterthought. But that has started to turn around for us recently, with Penny Arcade opting last year to make Australia home to the first PAX to be held outside of the United States. And boy did we respond, selling out the convention and flocking to it in droves, making Melbourne a haven of gaming for three days in July.
This year, for the second PAX Aus, the stakes were raised, with a bigger venue, right in the heart of Melbourne. Bethesda came to the table with a playable build of their upcoming online team-based combat game Battlecry offered on the show floor, along with the unexpected announcement of an exclusive Battlecry beta for Australia and New Zealand in 2015. Now, if there’s anything you should have taken away from the chip on my shoulder in the first two paragraphs is that this is not the kind of thing that happens here.
To try and get my head around what was going on, I was able to sit down with Rich Vogel, Executive Producer on Battlecry and ask the hard questions.
What design inspirations were there for this game? Obviously it’s a very unique style, was there anything in particular you really wanted to achieve with it?
Our Creative Director, Viktor Antonov, was responsible for the look, with several of our art team members. He did Team Fortress 2, Half-Life 2 and Dishonoured in that direction and one of the things we tried to do with our game is develop a kind of a unique look and feel and what we tried to do… for the Warzones, for instance, the Warzones we wanted to make very bright and using an allegory of Death. You know, you’re about to die, and things just kind of change. So the shapes in front of you are really sharp, the shapes behind you are just shapes. You really can’t tell what they are, so to speak. The sun, how big it is and the clouds and how it kind of turns red as you near death. All of that is about dying.
The timeframe in our game is 1914, which is the time of ages of empires, when uniforms were coloured by the country, not camouflage. So, we took a lot of inspiration and illustration from comic books, to illustrations of that time period, to video, to film and other things. That’s kind of a mix of how we got to our look.
In terms of story, obviously it’s got a very distinctive concept with the removal of gunpowder from warfare. What inspired that and where did you want to go with that?
We didn’t want to make an FPS, so we had to come up with something that kind of creates this backstory, this alternate history and so we decided that a huge war took place one hundred years before World War 1, in which they banned gunpowder in the same way that they’ve banned chemical warfare. Treaties were formed, nations and alliances were formed and basically now any conflict or political issues were settled in these warzones by warriors, and that’s the backstory. We’ll have more backstory shown on our website with digital comics and things like that.
The levels also have stories behind them with graffiti on the wall and plaques and things like that. If you look around, you can actually see some of that as well.
Obviously the big question. Why Australia for the exclusive beta?
We love Australia because of its very hardcore community, it’s a very small community that we can use and tap into and get some feedback loops going. They speak English as well, and their buying habits as well as playing habits are very similar to Europe and the United States, so that bodes well as well.
In terms of the exclusive Australian beta, how long is that expected to go for?
We’re not sure yet. We’re going to start it, we’re going to see how things go. We have certain goals we have to meet before each phase of the project goes to another, wider audience and we have metrics that we measure those about and we’ll see where we are.
So, it is intended to be ultimately opened up worldwide?
How has the response here at PAX Aus been compared to other conventions worldwide?
It’s been very good. The audience here really just embraced our game. Number one, is they knew that we’d have servers in Australia that we’re actually launching here first. It puts a new twist on things because they’re always the bastard child, geography-bound, no one cares about them. So this is the first time that they’ve actually seen devs come all the way here, talk about their game and say “Hey, guess what, you’re going to have an exclusive hands-on, before anybody else.” And that was a twist that they all kind of embraced and loved.
I must admit, that was exciting for me as well. In terms of actual game mechanic, when I was playing Battlecry, I felt that just clicking at things, as I was developing my own skills, button mashing could me so far, but ultimately, there was a big degree of strategy to the game. How deeply did you want to go into the strategy, compared to the FPS side of things with this game?
Actually, a lot of our designers are from Call of Duty, Halo and the like, so we have a lot of that in our maps. We have verticality, we have line of sight. All this is designed to foster the different classes we have in the game.
You’ve got three classes on display here, along with another two that are being hinted at. Are there a lot more beyond that which are coming in the future?
Right now there are five that we’re going to launch with, the Enforcer, the Gadgeteer, the Brawler, the Duellist and the Tech Archer. We have more that we’ll be releasing as the product goes along.
And my last question. Have you be adequately warned about Dropbears?
Yes, we have been.
Excellent, and you’ve been well protected from them?
We hope so. You never know when they can hit you, so I always look up when I go under things.
That’s good to hear. Thank you very much for your time.
So there we have it! BattleCry looks amazing, plays amazing and we’re extremely grateful that they thought of us for the exclusive beta. Thanks again to Rich Vogel for taking time out of PAX to chat with us. Keep an eye on MMOGames.com for more information about BattleCry in the future.Related: Australia, BattleCry, Developer, Event (Real Life), Interview, PAX