Following our preview of Lost Planet 3 at E3 2012 we attended a more in-depth presentation for Spark Unlimited’s action adventure game presented by Capcom’s Andrew Szymanski, while also in the presence of Spark’s Matt Sophos as well as series steward, Kenji Oguro from Capcom.
After the presentation, we had the chance to discuss third-party developer collaboration experiences and lessons learned from the past, the dynamic weather system of Lost Planet 3, and much more:
The demonstration showcased new weapons and enemy Akrid types, all wrapped up in a new mission in Lost Planet 3 that saw protagonist Jim Patton journeying to a frozen cavern in search of a thermal post in order to retrieve valuable T. Energy from the location.
Szymanski showed off the job log menu which collects your current mission details and allows you to track multiple missions, all from one screen, while your map is also accessed in this way.
As we worked our way further into the cave system, we encountered a number of smaller Akrid enemies which were easily dispatched with regular pistol fire ‒ your starting weapon in the game which has unlimited ammunition. In Lost Planet 3, you’ll be able to carry two ‘long guns’ in addition to your pistol, so you can mix and match between combinations of shotguns and rifles as you find them.
The Hunting Rifle was shown off and is unique in that it’s a single shot bolt action weapon with devastating power ‒ if you hit, it’s game over for your enemy but the reload time is not insignificant, so if you miss, you might have to scramble and switch to another gun to take care of encroaching enemies. In Lost Planet 3, this particular Hunting Rifle is a family heirloom that’s been passed down from generation to generation ‒ a small story detail that’s sure to manifest in other ways throughout the game.
While there are lots of new types of enemy Akrid in Lost Planet 3, there are a number of returning ones, too, so we’ll see creatures such as the ‘Papaya’ again, a smaller insect-like enemy.
The gradual transformation of environments in Lost Planet 3 will also be evident as the adventure continues, and as we continued through the cave Szymanski said that the next time we come through that particular cavernous hallway it was going to look quite a bit different.
Further in still, we came across a horrifying sight as countless (well, maybe there’s a number) Akrid egg sacks lay strewn across the floor ‒ Szymanski says that the creatures have taken over the cave and turned it into their nest. If the eggs ‘sense your presence,’ they’ll hatch little annoying Akrid, so the best approach is to destroy them before you get near to them, resulting in a small explosion (with area of effect damage, too). Of course, the Akrid don’t like you killing their babies so expect retribution in the form of a swarm of the creepy creatures.
Szymanski went to great lengths to explain that the development team has ensured that the core gunplay system in Lost Planet 3 is just as good as in previous franchise entries, so even if you’re overwhelmed by enemies, you’ll still feel completely in control of the action as you aim at and shoot down your foes.
What’s unsettling about facing off against the Akrid in such an enclosed space is that they’re very adept at negotiating the terrain and can very easily scuttle or fly (as the case may be) to you in order to attack. “They also provide a satisfying crunch when you shoot them ‒ you’ve got goo and body parts flying everywhere, so that’s nice,” Szymanski casually remarked.
Once we found our objective (the thermal post), Szymanski spoke about extra, optional missions players will be able to take on during Lost Planet 3 by finding ‘survey maps’ in the world, which will guide you to the location of ‘thermal pockets’ in the game. If you choose, you can visit these thermal pockets, plant a thermal post, and extract valuable T. Energy in order to use as a currency to buy extra equipment and upgrade current abilities.
Tied into this, Szymanski notes that there’s an interesting risk/reward system at play here. The longer you leave that thermal post, the more T. Energy will accrue so you’ll be able to revisit that area to harvest it and get a bounty of energy, or currency. Akrid are attracted to the warmth of the thermal post, however, so the next time you come back the entire area surrounding the post might have been encased in eggs, which means you’ll need to fight through swarms of Akrid again in order to cash in on the T. Energy. A very interesting system indeed.
Another optional quest you can task yourself with is the discovery of audio logs scattered around the world. You can eventually listen to all of the audio logs and slowly piece together the clues they provide and find out more about just what happened here on the planet of EDN III before you arrived.
On the way out of the underground, the previous areas are now changed by an ‘Emperor Class’ storm that has blown in through the network of caves, resulting in a new challenge to escaping the caverns alive. Szymanski says that this is an example of Lost Planet 3’s dynamic weather system that the developer is able to trigger at any time without the need for players to load into a new area.
There is the chance that this weather system will be employed dynamically during the game, too, meaning you might simply be making your way from one area to another and a gigantic storm could kick up without the developer specifically scripting it into existence for that portion of the game.
That concluded the Lost Planet 3 demonstration, but we were given the chance to ask a few questions ‒ here’s what the room came up with, including El33tonline’s own queries:
You said there’s a dynamic weather system and it can be scripted or unscripted ‒ is this an open-world game?
“It’s not a true open-world in the GTA sense where you’re able to go anywhere at any time, it’s much more of a situation where we’ve got what we call a ‘hub and spoke system,’ where you have these hub areas connected to these other spokes, and once you’ve accessed and unlocked an area you can go back and forth at any time.
“Some of those will only be accessible to you as the story progresses, while others will be optional and a lot of that’s tied to the upgrades as well, so if you’ve got a lot of thermal energy and you buy an upgrade, for instance, to the grappling hook, you can get up to areas that you might have seen before, but not been able to get to, that might have collectibles and things like that.
“So it’s really a combination of the world opening up as you explore through the course of the story, and also the player’s own exploration. It’s definitely much less linear and much bigger than any previous Lost Planet games.”
Are you using MT Framework?
“This is running on Unreal Engine 3.”
You mentioned the optional thermal posts hunts ‒ is there any other optional content that will drastically change the environment?
“Yes there’s plenty of optional content ‒ we’ve talking about the thermal posts and we’ve talked about the audio recordings. The survey maps that you need to find the thermal posts and they’ve also got all sorts of other information on them, and then there are also a lot of other collectibles.
“In fact the entire upgrade system is not only based on thermal energy but there are also some collectibles in there too. I don’t want to give away too much right now, but we’ve got a lot of different types of collectibles.
“The key is always to give somebody a reward, you don’t just want to go off and explore for the sake of exploring, you want to make sure that there’s something there to do or find, or some other kind of reward.”
Can you talk a bit about the other kinds of environments we’ll see in addition to snow, ice and indoor areas?
“We’ve got a lot of variety in the game but the thing to remember of course is that the world of EDN III at this point in time is a frozen ice world, so we always want to make sure that we’ve got that ‘cold’ coming through. You’ve got the big external landscapes where you can see way in the distance and see spires and things like that, and once again, the weather will change how you view those different areas.
“You’ve also got the abandoned bases which are man-made structures that have been frozen over and these natural cave formations. Everything we’re showing here at E3 comes from the first few hours of the game and we’ll be showing more of Lost Planet 3 over the next few months. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the amount of variety in the different areas we’ll be showing.”
Are you strictly singleplayer or is there a multiplayer component?
“There’s definitely multiplayer. The biggest change from Lost Planet 2 is that the campaign is very much a singleplayer experience focussing on Jim and his story. We’ve spent a lot of effort to make sure he’s a relatable character who you can sympathise with, with the performance capture with his face and the acting and writing. We also want to bring across that desolate feeling of loneliness out in the wasteland which wouldn’t work with a copy of Jim standing next-to you.
“We do have a separate multiplayer suite that’s very robust and we’ll be talking more about that in the future.”
Can you talk a little bit about the process of working with Capcom as a Western company ‒ how your design philosophies and your ideas for a game combine with Capcom.
“I can give you the take from the Capcom side and Matt (from Spark Unlimited) can give you the take from the developer side. From what, I’ll say, when we were coming up to the end of development on Lost Planet 2 (which I wasn’t personally involved with, but Oguro-san has been working on all the games) and Oguro-san came to me and said, “Hey look, we’re wrapping up LP2 and I really want to do a third game but I want to make it a lot more cinematic” and he wanted to go back to his original ideas from way back when regarding the nature of the world and how the colonists had to struggle to survive and things like that.
“In order to do that he wanted to have a cinematic presentation, so that’s where we came up with the idea of taking the next project out of house and into Los Angeles in this case and working with a developer that’s used to cinematic presentation.
“We sat down with Spark and the three of us basically sat in a room and said, ‘here’s Capcom’s idea for a third [Lost Planet] game.’ They had ideas about what they wanted to do and improve for Lost Planet and it very much became a collaborative effort.
“So from day one we’ve had artists and directors from Capcom Japan to tell Spark ‘This is what we’ve tried in the past, here’s what we think works for Lost Planet, here’s the things we want you to follow, here’s the things we’re flexible on,’ and of course Spark has brought a huge amount of expertise with the writing and the cinematics and the solid feel of the shooting, so it’s really been a great collaboration.”
Can you cite any specific lessons learned while working with third-party developers on any of Capcom’s main franchises, such as Blue Castle working on Dead Rising 2?
“Well I’ve been working on Lost Planet 3 for the last two and a half years, believe it or not, so I haven’t been personally involved with the other titles but I can tell you on a more general sense that the best way to collaborate with an external team when you’re dealing with an existing Intellectual Property (IP) is to, once again, work closely with one another.
“You don’t want to just throw it out there and say ‘Go ahead and do whatever,’ but you also don’t want to go in with an iron fist and say ‘You must do this, this and this,’ because if you are, you might as well be with an internal team. So it’s much more difficult than it sounds, to find that middle-ground, but I think it’s about identifying what’s core to a given franchise.
“You look at Lost Planet 3 and, it’s very different from the past games, but I like to think it still feels very much like a Lost Planet game, so I think we were successful in saying ‘This is what need to have, these are the things we absolutely need to do, here’s what we want to convey,’ but we let the development partner bring a lot of their expertise and their ideas into the equation as well instead of being very strict with that.
“I think it’s a gradual process, there’s a lot of growing pains, but I think that over time building that relationship is the way to make a great product.”
Lost Planet 3 is out in early 2013 across Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. El33tonline’s previous coverage of the game will provide more screenshots as well as videos, while Lisa’s Captivate 2012 coverage (here and here) will clue you in even further.