Section 8: Prejudice Interview

Interview with Design Director Brett Norton

1. This is a sequel to Section 8. What major improvements and enhancements have been added?

Lots! Both large and small updates went into Prejudice. First off, we revamped nearly all of the graphics in the game, especially on the interface and maps. Prejudice looks remarkably better than Section 8, and the framerate is just as good as the original (if not better!).

Next up, we put together a bigger, better, and longer campaign for Prejudice. The campaign for the first game was mostly a tutorial for multiplayer, but this time around, we've made it into its own proper game mode. A lot of custom work went into the campaign, from cutscenes to boss encounters, and we're really happy to be one of the few digital titles to have a solid singleplayer component.

On the multiplayer front, Swarm is now its own co-operative multiplayer mode. Four players team up to defend a single control point against waves and waves of overwhelming enemy bots. The players have access to an arsenal of deployable turrets, resupply stations, and vehicles, but you can only call out a limited amount. It's a very intense co-op experience, and there are five different difficulty levels to challenge players of any skill level.

The last big change to mention is the addition of over 40 weapon and equipment variants. Players who come into Prejudice basically get the entire Section 8 to start with. As you play more games, you unlock tons of new weapon and equipment variants. For example, you start out with regular Frag Grenades that explode when you hurl them at enemies. Score a few achievements and levels online, and you'll unlock EMP Grenades and Napalm Grenades. The EMP Grenade deals more damage to enemy shields, slightly less to enemy armor, but also drains the target's jetpack and overdrive. The Napalm Grenade does slightly less initial damage, but it sets enemies on fire and leaves a temporary fire pit on the ground. It's a great tool for defending chokepoints and other key objectives.

There are a lot of under-the-hood mechanics and several new weapons and vehicles, but hopefully this gives you a taste of just how much better, and bigger in scope Prejudice is.

2. What advantages does self-publishing have on the end result of Prejudice?

Well, we owe our ability to distribute digitally to self publishing. We originally started out thinking that Prejudice would be a retail game, like Section 8, but halfway through development we got this crazy notion to go entirely digital with it. Since we're self publishing, we were able to seriously pursue the idea, and it came to fruition as a result.

Beyond that, self-publishing gives you a lot of flexibility, because you can shape-and-reshape your game without getting into a lot of external red tape. TimeGate was very fluid and fast with development on Prejudice, which is what let us accomplish so much in just a bit over a year's timeframe.

3. What other games made an influence on how you have made Prejudice?

A lot of the same games that influenced Section 8 also influenced Prejudice; games like Tribes, Battlefield 1942, Planetside, etc. We're fans of big-team-battle games, and we generally like sci-fi games, so you can see our leanings.

Recently though, it's worth noting that games like Bad Company 2 have really up'd the ante in the shooter space. I think it's fair to say that Bad Company 2 was a huge improvement over the original Bad Company. Once we saw how good BC2 turned out, we really felt the pressure to make Prejudice a much better game than Section 8.

4. What has been the most rewarding part of working on Prejudice?

The best part was being able to use Section 8 as a sounding board on which to test all of our improvements. When we were developing Section 8, we didn't have a community, didn't have an engine, and didn't really have a lot of gameplay until later in the project. With Prejudice, we had community feedback and a lot of tools that less us quickly iterate on ideas.

As for specific moments, I have to say that the beta we ran with our PC players was amazing. We really hoped that we'd make them proud with Prejudice, and thus far nearly all of the hardcore Section 8 fans that participated are really excited with how Prejudice turned out. That gave us a lot of confidence that our changes not only made the game better for new players, but would still be popular with the original fans of Section 8.

5. What type of gamers would be most interested in Section 8: Prejudice?

Shooter fans and action game fans. If you like to run around and shoot sci-fi weaponry on vast outdoor battlefields, you'll have fun with Prejudice. Given the game is only $15, it's also a great buy for gamers looking to get a lot of gaming value for their dollar. Between the campaign, the competitive Conquest mode, and the co-operative Swarm mode, there's so much to do in Prejudice that there's no way you're not going to get your money's worth.

6. What is one of your favorite features of the new game?

I have to go with the new weapon and equipment variants myself. I like options when I play shooters, and the arsenal is so large in Prejudice it boggles my mind. I love being able to mix-and-match so many different weapon and equipment combinations. There's always some new combination to try, some kind of new role to create, and it keeps the game very fresh even after you've been playing for hours.

7. What are some of the weapons? Which is your favorite and why?

We've got a selection of core, recognizable weapons in Prejudice, plus a few oddballs. Standard equipment includes the Assault Rifle, which excels at medium-to-long range combat, and the Machine Gun, which excels at medium-to-short range combat. We also have other staples, such as a Sniper Rifle, etc. What makes the weapon system fun, however, is that each one has several different sub-variants that alter its damage and can add special effects. The Machine Gun can switch to Crash Rounds, which do extra damage against vehicles and structures. The Sniper Rifle can equip Frag Rounds, which explode on impact. Each variant offers a slightly different playstyle, so even if you're the type of player that picks one bread-and-butter weapon and uses it heavily, you've got familiar alternatives to try and master.

Of the weapons, I'm a bit of a sucker for the Shotgun right now, usually equipped with Concussion Rounds. Using the overdrive speed burst, I'll run straight into a base and start blasting defenders at point-blank range. The Concussion Rounds have an extra slowing effect on them, so it makes followup shots even easier to land. It's hard for enemies to escape in this case, so the firefights are fast-and-brutal.

8. This isn't your average FPS, what sets Section 8 apart from other games?

Large-scale combat and dynamic battles are what we consider our most-unique themes. By large-scale, I mean that our multiplayer Conquest mode supports 32-players on both consoles and PC. You get an awesome sense of the chaos in all the modes, but Conquest is the one that really drives home that powerful feeling and really rattles your cage. Despite the scale of the combat though, the powered-armor suits have a lot of mobility, due to their jetpacks and overdrive. Even though we have these huge battles going, you never feel like it's a slow or dull game. The scope is large, but the combat is fast, and you get back into the action quickly thanks to the drop spawn mechanic.

'Dynamic battles' is the term we use to describe how all the various weapons and vehicles in Prejudice interact. You're not just fighting against enemy infantry in Prejudice; you've got to contend with enemy Minigun Turrets, heavily-armored Tanks, and even the occasional recon Bike. These turrets and vehicles are deployed by players during the game, at different times and at different locations, so you never know what to expect. Prejudice is such a fun game to replay because, even if you've played a map a hundred times, you can never predict how your opponents will use their deployables. In one game, you might face off against a mix of infantry and Missile Turrets, the next game you could run face-first into a Tank defending the same base. Deployables give players the strategic tools to change the course of a battle and make a comeback. It adds a very player-driven feeling of unpredictability to the game.

9. What other tasks will the players have other than just taking out the enemies?

In Conquest, victory is mostly about capturing control points (CPs) and holding them for as long as possible. Your team scores points by holding onto control points, and defeating enemy players is secondary to that goal. Beyond just capturing CPs, we have additional objectives called dynamic combat missions (DCMs). DCMs will start at varying times, and offer alternate objectives such as Outposts to destroy, Convoy vehicles to escort, and Intelligence to steal. DCMs add a lot of variety to each mission because they don't play out in a set order, and where they start is based dynamically on the current state of the battlefield. Having trouble capturing an enemy base? An Airstrike DCM may start and help you clear out the defenses with saturation bombing! We have 9 different DCMs in the Conquest mode, and each one plays out very differently. We're really proud of the DCM system, as it adds even more variety and replayability to Conquest (on top of all that other stuff I just ranted on).

10. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Prejudice is out on April 20th on Xbox LIVE Arcade, for only $14.99 (1200 MS Points). We're also out on PC May 4th and PS3 in early Summer! We hope to see you online!