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AREA 51 (PC) Interview
(hx) 11:05 AM CEST - Apr,06 2005

GGMania got a chance to talk with Erin Anthony of Midway Games as she talks about AREA 51 PC, their upcoming firt person shooter with "a backstory obviously drawn from all those alien autopsy stories and conspiracy theories that were inescapable in the '90s." She provided us with pretty interesting information and three exclusive screenshots. The game will be released on April 25th.

GGMania: Could you introduce yourself to our readers and tell them a little bit about what you do on Area 51?

Erin Anthony: My name is Erin Anthony and I am a game designer on Area 51. A few other people on the team helped out with some of these answers. I would like to give credit to Steve Broumley, Darrin Stewart, Ken Anderson and Bey Bickerton for their help with this interview.

GGMania: Can you give us a little background on the development team working on the PC version of Area 51?

Erin Anthony: The PC port is being developed by Mock Science, headed by John Talley. John previously worked at Origin and Ion Storm, both here in Austin. Alex Duran and Doug Gesler are also working with him on the project. We are very proud of what we have seen so far and impressed with the quality of their work.

GGMania: To start off, can you give us a brief overview of Area 51?

Erin Anthony: You are a member of a Hazmat team sent in to clean up a spill at the secret military base, Area 51. After arriving at the base, you soon realize that this is not just a routine mission.

GGMania: What sort of missions will be a part of the single player game? Can you give us an example?

Erin Anthony: We utilized all of the player's tools - human weapons, alien weapons, mutant abilities, and player moveset to create a wide variety of missions. In the first missions, you will have a squad fighting along side you to help clear out the hordes of mutated humans. The missions change quite a bit as you venture deeper into the Area 51 base. More strategy is required against the super intelligent Black Op forces. The strategic use of your mutant abilities will be crucial in these areas.

GGMania: The weapons arsenal, always important in first person shooters. What kind of weapons will we get to use in the game?

Erin Anthony: The weapons were designed to empower the player and give them the tools they need for any situation. The enemies are tough and relentless - and choosing the right weapons will be your key to survival. Above all, our major priority was to make the weapons fun and addictive to use. It took months of tweaking and refining to achieve these goals, but the results are definitely worth it.

Area 51 has the most powerful shotgun ever seen in an fps. One is enough to stop your enemy dead in its tracks, so of course we had to give you two. And if that isn't enough to put a smile on your face, we added an alt-fire that instantly unloads an entire clip at any poor soul standing in your way. The rapid firing pistol is another one of my personal favorites!

We were able to use even more freedom and creativity when designing the alien weapons. The bouncing projectiles from the BBG can make for very entertaining situations - especially in multiplayer. An unsuspecting player, hiding around the corner, can be hit without putting yourself in danger. These same techniques can be used in the single player version as well. The bouncing projectiles stick to their target, then explode after a couple of seconds. This is fun to use against enemies that are running straight at you. They will continue running at you after hit with the BBG projectiles, unaware that their attack is in vain, and then fall at your feet as the bullets explode.

GGMania: What kind of enemies can players expect to find in Area 51? Can we expect some really weird mutants or alients? :)

Erin Anthony: Let's just say that the creatures running loose through the government facility are enough to bring in half of the U.S. military troops and special forces (most of which just keep falling victim to the alien virus anyway). There are mysterious creatures lurking in the shadows of the Area 51 spreding the alien virus to anything they get their hands on. The player will be fighting humans in these various stages of mutation, and eventually even get to meet up with the virus spreading creatures themselves.

GGMania: Will A.I. have enough power to put the veteran players into a decent challenge? How strong will it be?

Erin Anthony: Area 51 offers three different difficulty settings: easy, medium and hard. To beat the game on the hard setting will be impressive and challenging to say the least. The A.I. at this level will do more damage, and be much harder to take down. Even on normal difficulty, however, the A.I. will put up quite a fight. The human-like A.I. is especially difficult as they are very perceptive and will often catch the player off guard. For example, hiding around a corner when a Black Ops is aware of your presence is risky because you might find a grenade landing at your feet.

GGMania: Will there be vehicles in the game players can use?

Erin Anthony: Because the majority of Area 51 takes place inside a military base, we felt that this was not the proper setting to introduce vehicles.

GGMania: What can you tell us about the 3D engine that is being used for the game?

Erin Anthony: The 3D engine was started on the PC for use in our level editor, and then found its way onto the consoles, where it was really beefed up and had lots of new features added to it. Once the engine was solid on the Xbox, the PC version was completely re-done to incorporate all of the features that had been added. In addition, artists have been hard at work taking advantage of the power that modern graphics cards have. Texture sizes have been increased and have more detail than their counterparts in the console version so the game looks great when cranked up to the higher screen resolutions. The final product should make full use of shadows, detail maps, and dynamic lights all while maintaining a good frame-rate.

GGMania: Two of the big things being introduced into first-person shooters at the moment are soft-body physics and interactive environment "physics". Are you including this sort of technology in Area 51?

Erin Anthony: Of course every FPS has to have an impressive rag doll system and Area51 is no exception. We developed a system which seamlessly kicks in when you blast and kill any game character with your weapons or a grenade explosion. Shoot an alien in the head and watch their head fling backwards and flop lifelessly to the ground. Throw a grenade in a crowd of aliens and watch as the fatal explosion launches them cartwheel style into air - most satisfying!

Environmentally wise you can shoot and push around various objects such as barrels, chairs etc. (you can even interact with coke cans from the vending machines). There are also various cloth objects such as hanging flags, hospital bed curtains etc - not only can you interact and shoot bullet holes in them, but they are also used for dramatic effect such as in the "DrCray" level - where you'll suddenly be ambushed by an aliening jump off a hospital bed from behind a curtain - realistically pushing it out of the way.

We also set out to make lots of the environment destructible using various damage stages and a sophisticated particle/debris system. Throughout the game there are lots of objects to damage and basically just blow up - some just for fun, others are part of your mission - have you ever blown up the engine core of a UFO? - now's your chance!

GGMania: Will there be significant differences between the console and PC versions? Will there be Easter Eggs and other features exclusive to the PC single player game?

Erin Anthony: Visually, the PC version will be much higher quality and have more detailed textures.

GGMania: Can you talk briefly on what you have planned for multiplayer?

Erin Anthony: We have a total of five different modes consisting of Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Capture and Hold, and an all-new mode called Infection. Each mode supports up to sixteen players and all of the single player weapons are present. One feature that I'd like to touch on is what we call Per Player Zoning (PPZ). Essentially what this feature does is grow or shrink the map depending on how many players are currently on the server. For example, you could have a match start with eight players and 50% of the map would be open. As the player number increases, doors and forcefields would open to allow more access. It helps keep the action intense regardless of how many players are on the server.

GGMania: How many multiplayer maps are planned? Will the environments resemble locations in the single-player game?

Erin Anthony: There are 18 maps in total. Many of the art themes used for multiplayer mirror what you'll be seeing in the campaign but there are some MP specific themes to help with variety. There are a few maps that players will recognize from the campaign that have been massaged and adjusted to accommodate multiplayer.

GGMania: Will there be co-op mode?

Erin Anthony: We felt that devoting technology to a cooperative mode would distract from our plans for single and multi-player.

GGMania: What are you currently focussing on in the game, in terms of development?

Erin Anthony: At this point, we are working on submitting the game. We have spent some time working on the strategy guide during the waiting period: creating maps, and gathering information for them.

GGMania: What, in your view, is the most exciting aspect of Area 51?

Erin Anthony: Wow, that's a tough one, there are so many areas I really enjoy. From the gore autopsy scenes to the eerie blackened hallways, the game will always take you by surprise. In fact, I don't want to give too much away! Go buy the game and see for yourself!

GGMania: When can we expect to see the game hit store shelves and at what price?

Erin Anthony: It hits store shelves on April 25th

GGMania: Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview, is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?

Erin Anthony: Whether you are a first person shooter fan, or simply fascinated with alien lore and conspiracies, you will enjoy this game. Go buy the game and see for yourself!

genre: first-person shooter
release: April 2005
developer: Midway Studios Austin
publisher: Midway Games

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