By Al Giovetti
Interview with Julien Bares, Executive Producer of XIII
How would you describe the plot of the game?
Julien Bares: XIII is an epic conspiracy driven, political thriller. The story is inspired by several infamous conspiracies including the Kennedy assassination. The game’s action takes place after a mysterious presidential assassination. You embody a man rendered with complete amnesia, who wakes up on a beach just a few days after this murderer. The only clues that link him to his past are a tattoo and a key to a New York bank deposit box. He soon finds himself hunted by killers from a mysterious organization, the XX, and by FBI agents who accuse him of having shot the president. Players must first survive being exterminated by the XX or capture from the FBI, in order to recover their past to discover who XIII’s true identity. Have you really shot the president, were you member of a conspiracy against the US government or were you trying to thwart it? XIII is a game where you can trust no one, and the plot twists and turns will keep players guessing to the very end.
I understand that the game is based on a French comic. Is the comic still running? When did it start?
Julien Bares: The first comic was published in 1984 and was a huge success in France, Belgium and Netherlands. The game is based on the first series of 5 comics but the whole collection contains 15 episodes and new adventures are being developed. Although the comic may be European, the story’s themes have real American ties, which are loosely based on popular American history. We feel XIII really appeals to the masses; the stylish action qualities of the game really have universal appeal.
It sounds like there are a lot of story elements in XIII, such as the conspiracy angle, the amnesia, clues pointing to your identity, and so forth. How are you telling the story in the context of what seems like mainly an action game?
Julien Bares: XIII is a truly original FPS experience. We have fully integrated XIII’s deep story into actual missions and gameplay scenarios. As we previously described, the structure of the missions develop into the story, so the missions and objectives change each time something new happens. Players have multiple ways of achieving their objectives allowing the gameplay to feed into its graphic novel roots. Every decision players make will impact the next mission and unravel the story.
So for many maps, you will face new developments that will lead you to new objectives and gameplay. Obviously you are quite free to find your way to proceed. For example, on a stealth mission, you can choose to kill everyone so that at the end you can walk without any risk or you can choose to kill only when you are forced to do it.
What's going to separate XIII from the rest of the fps pack?
Julien Bares: XIII is the first FPS to immerse players into a highly-stylized graphic novel world, where gamers live out a political thriller in an action-packed comic book universe. We wanted the player to have the impression of playing inside Sin City or 100 Bullets with tons of events and new developments. The style is therefore a mix of cell shading with a lot of comic elements (windowing, pop ups, onomatopoeia, contrasted colors) with a strong stylization of violence. Moreover, we have created situations with a lot of scripted events to reinforce the immersion. For example, you escape from a military base in a cable car. You think, everything is OK but soldiers are attacking you with bazookas so you have to leave the cablecar before it crashes.
For the gameplay, we developed a lot of features that enable us to provide a lot of different challenges for the player according the story. So we have created the objects as weapons: objects like bottles, chairs or ashtrays -- you can grab them and knock people out or throw them to people. Thanks to that, you can be stuck in a bar without any weapons and you have to fight drunken customers without any weapons.
How many weapons will you get? What are some of the puzzle elements like?
Julien Bares: Apart the object weapons, you have 15 “traditional” shooter weapons. You have the classics ones like the Uzi, Magnum, M60, Sniper rifle and also silent weapons that are really useful for stealth levels (knives, crossbows, and harpoon). Each weapon has two types of uses. For example, you can use the shotgun in traditional shoot or use it to hit people with the butt. For the M16, you can use traditional bullets or special grenades that explode when they touch a target.
Concerning puzzles, we really wanted to make them simple and accessible. So you never need to ask yourself where you have to go or what you have to do. You just have to figure out how to succeed in it. Additionally, some pop ups can be displayed on your screen giving you advice or clues.
What sort of multiplayer options will the game have? Will it have any online support? (If so, what?)
Julien Bares: For all formats, you will have traditional modes like Deathmatch and capture the flag. Each format will have also its exclusive mode. We will be online with Sony Online, Xbox Live and for the PC.
How many locations are there in the game?
Julien Bares: There are 13 different chapters in the game for a total of 35 maps from indoors (military facility, bank) to outdoors (cliff, jungle, etc.) .
How many mission types/gameplay modes are there in the game?
Julien Bares: The two basic gameplay modes are action and stealth. In each chapter, there is a progression from stealth gameplay to action-oriented gameplay. As for the specific gameplay, we have roughly one unique gameplay style for each chapter.
Describe the collaborative style of gameplay.
Julien Bares: The game features collaborative gameplay between the gamer and NPCs with extremely advanced AI. We are heavily focusing on this aspect of the game. For example, the first time players meet Major Jones, the mission is to progress on the roofs of a city infested by gangsters. Players must cover her when she is climbing, and she will in turn cover players.
How have you dealt with character interaction and dialog?
Julien Bares: Of course, the story is very important for us, and the story's conspiracy element serves as large a role as the characters themselves. With XIII, we are trying to develop a FPS in the Half-Life style where the story comes to the hero. For this reason, we did not want to have a lot of cinematic cut-scenes.
Why was Epic's next-generation Unreal technology picked as the basis for the game?
Julien Bares: Epic’s next-generation Unreal technology was a natural choice because we wanted to utilize the best technology! Seriously, our objective was to develop unique rendering and an original gameplay experience, and our examination of several solutions -- internally and externally -- lead us to Unreal. Unreal was the best and will result in an amazing game, I can promise that much.
When is XIII expected to release worldwide?
Julien Bares: Expect to see XIII in stores worldwide in October!###