An Exclusive interview with the creator of Privateer: The Darkening - Erin Roberts
This promotional interview with Erin Roberts was conducted by Introspection Wing Commander Home Sector staff member Dan Hardwicke in 1996. Questions were provided by Ben Lesnick.
Introspection Wing Commander Home Sector (WCHS): First off, I would like to thank you taking the time away from the production to take this interview with us...
WCHS: Now, before we get into your current project, What other computer entertainment projects have you worked on? Did you ever work on any of your brother, Chris Roberts's, projects?
Erin Roberts: I worked with my brother pretty much all my life until I came back to England two and a half years ago. I worked on all the projects that Chris worked on while we still lived in England back in the early eighties. When Chris started working at Origin I used to work there part time during holidays while I was in College, and then after I graduated I became a full time employee at Origin. While there I worked on Times Of Lore, Wing Commander 1 & 2, Stike Commander, Privateer and then I spent a period of time working with Richard Garriott and his projects before I moved back to England.
WCHS: How does this game's plot relate to the story of the original Privateer? Will we see any characters from that original epic or prehaps from the original WC series (Mark Hamill, John Reyes Davis, etc.)?
Erin: When I first came up with the concept for Privateer, The Darkening I wanted to work in a fresh approach to the Privateer Universe. I wanted to create a next generation flight sim, mixed in with all the cool trading, exploration and mission based aspects which a Privateer game can deliver on. Then taking it one step further I wanted to include full motion video, which would deliver an emotional and realistic aspect which CG's on their own can't achieve. What we have come up with is just that. Due to all of this however, Privateer, The Darkening is set in a different, unexplored area of the Wing Universe, where humanity knows nothing of the struggles which have taken place elsewhere, that is an adventure waiting to happen in the future. Due to this, characters you meet are very different from those in Wing Commander, as the environments and cultures of the planets you visit.
WCHS: Reports have said that in this installment of Privateer that we the player will not accually pilot the cargo hauling ships, but rather escort them in hot new fighters. What inspired this new approach?
Erin: After finishing off the Original Privateer there were a number of approaches which I wanted to try differently next time. One of them was the way trading worked. In Privateer, you could fill up your ship, take off and afterburn all the way to your destination, avoiding confrontation. I wanted to try a different system. In Privateer, The Darkening, you have a choice of a number of different Cargo ships you can rent, which vary in size, and defences. Small Cargo ships may be quicker, but they hold fewer goods, and have little to no protection, while bigger transports although slower, can carry many more comodities and have multiple turrets, which pack a mean punch against any pirates who fancy their chances. This way the player after buying his cargo has to protect it all the way to it's destination, if the going get's to hot, then you have to think twice about bugging out, as you stand to lose your cargo. On the other side however we have bumped up the amount of money the player will make through trading, it stands to reason that a greater risk deserves a higher reward.
WCHS: Will we be able to fly any of the fighters that we originally off limits in the first Privateer, such as the Demon?
Erin: Nope, all the fighters in Privateer, The Darkening are brand new and native to this area of space. But we have created a huge wealth of objects for space, including over 60 ships, which the player can fly at least 18. As well as space stations, satalites, cargo depots, space labs, floating turrets, asteroids, mines etc. Privateer, The Darkening can support a large amount of objects in space at one time. So far we have had battles involving well over 50 ships simultaneously, including Capital ships. In fact in one test bed we had over 100 ships flying around.
WCHS: How did you decide that Christopher Walken was right for the main role? Did he have any knowledge of the series before this project? How did you come in contact with him?
Erin: I've always liked Chris Walken's work and felt he would fit into the role of David Hassan, so I went after him. I believe he had no previous knowledge, and our contact was through his agents in New York and London.
WCHS: Did Privateer: The Darkening's flight engine have any roots in the code from the combat engine in WCIII and WCIV, or was it built from scratch?
Erin: The flight engine is completely new, and has no roots from the Wing III and IV engine. It is a version of B-Render which has been customised by one of our in-house programmers, it's very fast and handles a multiple of different lighting features, including gouraud shading and lense flare and many others.
WCHS: Has there been any improvements in the video from that shown in WCIV? Will it be viewable in 24-bit color or a higher resolution? Has there been any other improvments that you can let us in on at this time?
Erin: The video player is different to WIng IV's, it is a utility first created in our Canadian office, and has been customised internally here by another of our guys, I think you'll like it.
Erin: On top of all the other things we've talked about, I think the other item I'd like to mention is the attention we've given the mission system in the game. The player will find that there is well over 100 missions, not including the tasks the player will be set when following the main plot, or when meeting the large number of filmed people in the different locations in and around the different worlds within the Tri-System. Anyway I hope everyone enjoys playing Privateer, The Darkening as much as we've enjoyed putting it together.
WCHS: I am sure we will. Thanks again for this interview and good luck on this latest Wing Commander epic.