If you're just waking up to the new GamerTagRadio Arena interview podcast, then you should listen right away... but just in case you're unable to do so, here's a complete transcript of their fifteen minute session with Wing Commander Arena Producer Sean Penney:
Host 1: And also we, we also have a interview with EA about their new Xbox Live Arcade that's coming out, hopefully, I think next month maybe or in August sometime. Wing Commander, that our friends up in Gaia Industries developed this game. I can't wait, I think this game is going to be pretty good. You know, sixteen players online, that's the first for an Xbox Live Arcade game.
Host 2: That's huge, dude, that's definitely a good sign of things to come.
Host 1: Yeah, yeah, so that's gonna be cool and I can't wait, man. Definitely, I'm into those, those types of games, and so right now let's play this interview with Wing Commander over there at EA. They're gonna give us a couple... information about the game and stuff that's coming out pretty soon. Alright, so right here we have Sean from EA. What location... are you in San Francisco? Canada?
Sean: No, I'm Electronic Arts Canada.
Host 1: Canada, okay, cool, cool.
Host 1: Alright man, I know, I know you guys have been working on this title, Wing Commander, the Xbox Live Arcade for a while now, and I'm very excited for this game cause it has a lot of cool features in there that other XBL games doesn't have. So give us a brief history about this game.
Sean: About, about Wing Commander Arena?
Host 1: Yeah, Wing Commander, yeah.
Sean: Well, you know, I guess about a year ago we were looking at the, the Xbox Live Arcade platform and, you know, we're all, we're all pretty excited by it. It's sort of a brand new way to make games and it's a, it's a, it's a new way to distribute games. Love the instant access part of it, really a pretty innovative approach. And you know, as a company we see that as a new opportunity, a new place to go, and you know that always excites, excites you and the developer. So we, you know we were thinking about what would be good, what kind of game we want to bring there. And you look at the games that are currently there and there are a lot of ports of older games and some newer games coming out, and and we looked at the quality of the games. And really you know, you could count the number of games on one hand that we thought were really top quality games kinds of games. You know, so a lot of the other games had nostalgia factors and they were great games in their day, but we wanted to do something brand new. And, and we all loved the Wing Commander IP, and everyone's always... you know, you look at IPs like that and these are games that you played as a kid and then you look at the arcade platform and you think to yourself, well, let's do a space shooter. You know, let's, let's bring back Wing Commander and, you know, and make a version of Wing Commander that would fit this new unique platform. And that's, and that's you know, essentially how it came about.
Host 1: Yeah, my, my friends, Gaia Industries, were the ones that developed this game, and I've been to their studio up in, in New York City and I got to see, like, pictures, like they have like on the wall pictures of, from drawings drawings, the artwork of the game like the ships and the characters. And I want to know why you guys, what made you guys step up to Gaia Industries to develop this game?
Sean: Well, the computer game is, we're a pretty incestuous lot, right, and everybody knows everybody. So just like you know somebody at Gaia, we know somebody at Gaia. And it was really, you know, that's really what it came down to is we were, we were searching around for some developers, and you know young developers, fresh developers are always great for something like this because, you know, they're really hungry and you know they wanted to do a really good job. And somebody was in the studio, a line producer peer of mine actually knew the guy that, or knows the guy that that runs the company. They went to school together, or maybe they were childhood buddies, it might have even even, might even go that far, far back, but I know they worked together for sure. So, he recommended Gaia, and we had a few other offers on the table, and we went with Gaia.
Host 1: Yeah basically, how does this differ from, like, you know the, like the previous Wing Commander games that we've seen?
Sean: Oh, it's significantly different. I mean, you know the previous Wing Commander games were, they were on a different platform and they were a different style of game, you know, very much story driven, very much from a first person, you know, point of view, it's, it's you as some unnamed pilot going, you know, going on a, you know the first first one you were a pilot on an aircraft carrier. Or, an aircraft carrier, spacecraft carrier. And you know all the FMVs and the massive cutscenes and, I guess how it really differs is this is a multiplayer game. This game isn't about just you and your spacecraft, it's about you and potentially fifteen other people having a common experience together. So that's really brand new for the franchise. There've been versions of Wing Commander where they've tried to get the multiplayer going, a lot of fan projects have put all that kind of stuff together, so it was obvious to us that people wanted this type of game, and with the platform we were in a unique position to offer it.
Host 1: Like you were saying, this game offers sixteen players to play online on Xbox Live Arcade. And like, is it a file... is, is it... how big is this file anyway is it for the game? Is it more than fifty megs?
Sean: Fifty megs.
Host 1: Wow.
Sean: Fifty, it's under fifty megs, it'll fit on a card.
Host 1: Wow. I'm impressed man. I mean...
Sean: Yeah, it looks pretty good for fifty megs, doesn't it?
Host 1: Yeah, yeah. But what, what kind of modes we can play online with sixteen, with other sixteen players?
Sean: Well, so there's, there's team based game and there's free-for-all games. Most of it, so we sort of divided up between environments and, and game modes. And some of the environments you can play multiple game modes and some of the environments are specific to specific game modes. So, for example, we've got a capital ship versus capital ship game and in the environment you've got each side has their own capital ship and these capital ships move towards each other firing massive neutron guns, and your job is to defend your own capital ship or to take out the opposing capital ship or both. You know, you can switch different, depending on the type of ship that you've chosen to go in with will really dictate the type of role that you'll play. If you choose a bomber you're going to go in and try to hit hard targets on, on the opposing craft, if you choose a light fighter maybe you're going to be defending the bombers, and if you choose a medium fighter, you know, maybe you're going to be in the defensive role or you could go on an offensive role or you could, you know, there's a variety of things you can do, and actually because there's an actual unlock progression in the game, depending on where you are in the unlock progression will sort of, you know, dictate what you do. So there's a variety of bombers, a variety of medium fighters and a variety of light fighters and they all have different capabilities. But if you're only half way through the progression you're going to have a couple of each type, but you may not have, you know, the specific bomber that, you know, you might want to use because you want to go in and hit ships with tractor beams and blow up the bombers that are coming in after your hard targets. So maybe you might choose a medium fighter and go in and blow up other, other light fighters and stuff like that. So there's a lot of strategy involved in that specific type of game and it's specific to that environment. And then we've got other environments like we've got this massive space station that you can fly around inside and you can do team based games in there or you can do sixteen player free-for-alls. It sort of, you know, depends on, on what you feel like doing in that particular case. We've also got a specific environment for one on one duels, so you go in and pick a ship, your opponent goes in and picks a ship and you can do like a best out of five or a best out of twenty five or however you want to go, and every time you respawn you can choose a different ship.
Host 1: Can you create like your own team and invite your friends and go to like rank, ranked games, like, with all your friends?
Sean: So, I mean, Xbox Live Arcade actually offers the functionality where you could, you know you can set up your own leaderboard online to allow you to do that. You can create your own groups and, and do all that jazz, so we sort of leave that in the hands of the player. Xbox Live Arcade has a lot of functionality that allows you to make your own friends lists and invite private, you know, people to, you know, into your game. So a lot of the functionality was there, we didn't really have to go too deep into that area. It's mostly about going online and having a social experience.
Host 1: So what, what about the single player game? What you can tell us about that?
Sean: Well, single player is... there's four separate modes in single player. One of them is just a straight up training mode. There's no leaderboards or time limits or frag counts or anything, it's just a massive wide open environment filled with AI driven ships, of all types of ships, and they'll scale up, so the more frags you get as you're playing the more difficult the AI becomes. This is just a great place to, as you unlock ships, to play around with them and discover their abilities and, you know, play with tactics and practice your fighting. Then there's three other modes that all have leaderboards that are actually Xbox Live leaderboards. So even though you're playing a single player experience your scores go on an online leaderboard. So in a way it's sort of online as well, you can compete against other people online for, for top dog in a particular mode. One of the modes is called Gauntlet and in Gauntlet what you're doing is you're, you're defending a Midway class carrier against waves of opponents that come in. Wave after, each wave will be more difficult, either more ships or more difficult styles of ships, or more difficult AIs, it scales. Another mode is called Melee. This one's a free for all, basically, against AI ships. So they're fighting each other and you're just another ship in that group. And this is a timed game mode, too, there's a certain amount of time to get your frag count up and that's what goes up on the leaderboard. The fourth and final mode is, we call it Meteor Storm, and you're in a smaller environment and there's space stations that you have to defend against meteors and against bandits that come in to attack the space stations. So you get wave after wave of meteors coming in so you get more and more meteors and more and more spaceships coming in, and that's all about waves, which level you manage to get to. Yeah, actually, it's a lot of fun that one, I really enjoy it, you can waste a lot of hours just playing Meteor Storm.
Host 1: So that, so that means I'm definitely going to be checking out the leaderboards to see how my friends are doing, so I can compete with them. See how the highest score and stuff, so that's pretty cool.
Sean: Yeah, for sure. And we've got achievements attached, you know, to a lot of the different modes as well, so you know people can compete in different areas for high scores but also for different achievements. There's a lot of, there's a lot of stuff to explore within the game. You know, the, the, the ship progression, you can unlock ships in all the different modes, and achievements are awarded in all the different modes, and of course high scores go to online leaderboards in all the different modes. There's a lot of depth to the game, there's a lot of different stuff you can do.
Host 1: Yeah, in terms of like achievements, how are they spread out? Like how many different achievements are we doing to see and is it going to be something real easy or are there going to be those ones that you really have to sit down and play for a couple hours and maybe not even get them then.
Sean: Well, you know for us, the achievements... I've seen some pretty bad achievements, you know, listed on some different games, and I've seen some really good ones. So, you know, we took a look at the different types of achievements that were out there and we wanted to make sure that, you know, we offered a good cross-section for the different types of, the different types of gamers out there. So we've got some pretty simple ones. You know, we've got stuff like, that there's one called Dogfight, and it's, you're, you go in online and you win your first one-on-one engagement and you'll get the dogfight award. Right, and that's a small one, that's worth ten points. But then we've got, you know, probably the most difficult one we've got is called Paladin, and this of course is named after one of the famous characters in the game, and this is getting one thousand kills.
Host 1: Is that online?
Sean: Yeah, go online and get one thousand kills. That's worth thirty points. And, and that's going to be a lot of fun for people to do as well, I think. Basically you just, you play the game and you go online and these things, they'll just come. Some of them you might have to be specific about. There's, there's jump gates in the game. We've got one called Navigator and you have to jump through every jump gate in the game to get this, to get this, to get this achievement, you know. We've got one called Ace which is, which is about getting five frags in a single game without being shot down down, so five frags in a row.
Host 1: Oh, I can, I can see myself doing that one.
Sean: Heh heh heh.
Host 1: So, so what, how many ships are we going to see in this game, and can we customize them?
Sean: No, so what we've got is we tried to simplify this as much as possible, so of course it's Kilrathi and Terran ships and there's nine ships on each side and they're based off of six hulls. So each side has a light hull, a medium hull and a bomber hull and there's three variations of each ship attached to each hull. That equals eighteen ships in total. So three light fighters, three medium fighters and three bombers for the humans and the same for the Kilrathi, but they're all different and they match up in very interesting ways. Some of the ships have cloaks, others have tractor beams. Some, you know, a lot of the ships have flares or sonar pings for discovering cloaked ships. Some of the ships can drop mines. There's torpedoes, you know there's all sorts of stuff that the, that the different ships can do. Some of the ships have a lot more armor than other ships and they're not as fast and as maneuverable as the later ships, but they can carry more weapons and take more damage. This is one of the areas where we deviated somewhat from the classic Wing Commander for the reason that in the original Wing Commanders it was a first person point of view, and you pretty much, you were looking out from a cockpit view, but in this game you've got ships all over the place and you sort of want to know what you're up against. And the upgrade path in a typical Wing Commander game was that you would improve your armor type, but it wouldn't really change the look of your ship, you would just, you would just become stronger. We've set this in the frontier where technology has been logged back, knocked back after the encounter with the Nephilim and so some of this technology is no longer available. So what people have been doing is they've been adding armor. The durasteel, just piling more durasteel on the same hull types. So in the three types of light fighter, for example, you can have three armor types. So, and type three is the most heavily armored version of the, of the light fighter available and it carries more armaments. But it's not quite as fast and it's not quite as maneuverable as the lightest type. But it can take more damage. You know, it's more of a straight up pounder. It's the same for the medium fighters, you know. The heaviest medium fighter is actually very similar to the heavy class of fighter that you'd get in a classic Wing Commander.
Host 1: So you guys haven't released the price of this game yet.
Sean: Oh, yes we have. It's up for, it's up for 800 points.
Host 1: And when is the release date so far?
Sean: We're really... we're hoping really soon. Really, really soon. We're, you know, there's, there's a period where, in which Microsoft gets the game and they can take up to thirty days to release it. So it's hard to predict an actual date.
Host 1: So I mean I know you guys have an Xbox Live Arcade EA section on your website. When are we going to finally going to hear, like, of new games coming from you guys.
Sean: Well, that's sort of inside information. I can tell you that, you know, there's an appetite for Arcade games in the studio and we do want to make more. How's that?
Host 1: Alright, cool, cool. Hopefully at E3 we might find out a few, right?
Sean: Yeah, that's true.
Host 1: Alright, cool man, thanks a lot man.