Some properties are just begging to be made into an awesome video game, and Transformers is one of them. While the franchise has fared better than some licensed properties over the years, fans are still waiting for that one game that absolutely nails it. Developer High Moon Studios (“Darkwatch,” The Bourne Conspiracy”) believes they have created the game fans have been waiting for – “Transformers: War for Cybertron.” High Moon is working on the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game, and if what we’ve seen and heard so far is any indication, there’s good reason for the developer to feel confident.
For this game, High Moon wasn’t bound to the recent movies or animated series, which allowed them to create an original Transformers story. They decided to set the game in a place all Transformers fans have wanted to explore – Cybertron. “Transformers: War for Cybertron” will give fans an in-depth look at the conflict between Autobots and Decepticons on their home planet, and the storyline introduced in the game is being recognized by Hasbro as official canon for the Transformers universe. This week CBR caught up with Game Director Matt Tieger to find out more about how High Moon approached the project.
CBR News: Matt, what do you feel are the central elements to the Transformers experience that you wanted to incorporate into “War for Cybertron?”
Matt Tieger: Selfishly, I wanted to make the game I have been waiting 25 years to play. The team at High Moon Studios are all huge gamers as well as Transformers fans. Early on we committed to an old-school nostalgic vision of Cybertron that was true to the spirit of the enormous Transformers history. Creating an excellent shooter was central to that vision because if the foundation wasn’t strong the entire game falls apart. This meant incorporating transformation as a key component to the player’s arsenal.
High Moon Studios has worked with a licensed property before in “The Bourne Conspiracy.” Were there lessons you learned from that process that you took into working on a Transformers game?
I feel like we have found a way to create core gameplay and layer the license into the game in a way that makes sense. We have refined our process since "Bourne," and the result is our current design philosophy – create a great game first and layer the license on top of that. This is a really fun shooter that just happens to be a Transformers game.
In looking back at previous Transformers games, what are some things that you feel worked or didn’t work that have helped inform the development process of this game?
Controls for one, is a big change since the previous game. We adopted a much more standard 3D person scheme so that the player can focus more on using transformations as a key strategic choice in combat and less on learning the controller map. However, there are lots of things to point to in previous Transformers games that we liked – audio, FX, etc. We absorbed everything that had been done before and then chose our own path.
How closely have you been working with Hasbro over the course of development?
We talk to Hasbro all the time. They are involved in everything that we do and have taken a keen interest in this game. My confidence that we are getting it right for the fans is supreme because of that relationship.
Since this game is being considered 'canon,' do you feel extra pressure to answer a lot of the questions fans have had about Cybertron and the Transformers origins over the years?
There are decades of source material on Transformers, and it is an overwhelming property to work on. We spent time doing our homework and we cultivated an awesome relationship with Hasbro. We tried to tackle many of the questions that we have always wanted to know, but with such a big license you can’t possibly cover even a fraction of it. I believe we made some smart choices.
How will you be structuring the campaigns in terms of the Autobot and Decepticon storylines?
The two campaigns are very different – unique stories, characters, levels; even the tone of each is very different. The Decepticon campaign is a prequel to the Autobot campaign (however you can play them in either order). Megatron and his quest for power is the focus of the Decepticon campaign, while the Autobot campaign centers on Optimus (who is not yet a Prime) and his journey to bring hope to Cybertron.
With all of the glimpses we've seen of Cybertron over the years, was there one version from the shows or comics that inspired the version we'll see in the game?
Tough question. We drew elements from the “War Within” Transformers comic series as well as from the original TV show – G1. But we were also influenced by some of the great sci-fi movies like “Blade Runner” and “Aliens.”
One of the things you've revealed about the multiplayer component is the ability to create your own Transformer. How does the class system work, and how deep will the customization options be?
There are four classes to choose from: Scouts, Leaders, Scientists and Soldiers. As you play you will earn experience points and unlock new stuff. Each class has unique Weapons, Skills and Abilities to choose from, but you have to make good choices because you can only take a limited number of Weapons, Skills and Abilities into combat. What kind of leader do you want to be? All about the team? Good at a specific map or game mode? All about the kill-to-death ratio? We allow players to make multiple versions of each class because you can craft characters for specific roles in the game. All those tough decisions are the same for the other classes because they each have unique Weapons, Skills and Abilities.
On top of all that, players can for the first time "make their own Transformers." This is something that I am extremely excited about. You can choose the chassis and robot, as well as color them the way that you want – who doesn’t want to make their own Transformer?
How large can we expect the cast of this game to be in terms of playable characters?
More than too few but less than too many – I guess the answer is exactly the right number.
Will you be including Easter eggs or unlockables that feature nods to the animated series, the toys, comics, etc?
There are many head nods to the uber-Transformers fan – you are just going to have to be on the lookout.
“Transformers: War for Cybertron” will be releasing on June 22, 2010 for the DS, PC, PS3, Wii and Xbox 360. For more information on all versions of the game, check out the official website at www.TransformersGame.com.