Just a few weeks ahead of its release, LoreHound sits down with Lead Designer Jared Gerritzen to discuss the title’s entrenched competition, unique partnership with Perfect World Entertainment and on-going player support.
LoreHound: Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer our and the community’s questions. We’ll start you off with a softball. Who are you and what’s your role?
Jared Gerritzen: I’m Jared Gerritzen, Creative Studio Head and Lead Designer on Blacklight: Retribution.
LH: There’s a good portion of gamers that may not realize Blacklight: Retribution is actually a sequel. Care to discuss the title’s origins and what Zombie Studios plans to do on the follow-up?
JZ: We have been working in the Blacklight world a couple [of] years now, with the first game being Blacklight Tango Down. It originally started as a F2P game, but in the end we had to move it to a retail digital download title. We learned a great deal with that title and had a number of things we had to cut and tons of stuff we just didn’t have the time or resources to do. We got the opportunity to move forward with Blacklight: Retribution as a built-from-the-ground-up F2P shooter and have been able to make the shooter we originally set out to make with Tango Down.
LH: Congratulations on the Open Beta milestone! Are we closer to a concrete release date? How about launch feature sets, such a number of game modes, shop options (cash, in-game and earned) and number of maps?
JZ: Thanks! We just recently set the launch date for April 3rd, 2012! We are burning the midnight oil getting all the final touches into the game. As for new features and maps, we are still nailing down all the final details on those.
LH: BLR has had the PC platform in its iron sights since the beginning. How has this affected development, aside from it being graphically stunning? What about the decision to develop with the F2P business model from the start?
JZ: We love the PC platform. Being a small studio making games for the PC allows us to have a certain level of flexibility and quickness that we wouldn’t have if we were on a console. Since the beginning of Tango Down, we wanted to make the best FPS F2P on the market as we think F2P or Games As Service is the future and we wanted to be the leader. Making games for the PC we can’t forget to mention graphics though. Being on the PC also lets us show our talents by pushing the platform. We are using Unreal Engine 3 for BLR and are thrilled to be the first DirectX 11 UE3 Game released, so we are using the latest technology available and the game looks amazing.
LH: Any trepidations of going against major competitors like Electonic Arts’ Battlefield and Medal of Honor franchises and Activision’s 600-pound elephant/gorilla/hippopotamus [Ed. Note that’d be a small elephant or hippo] commonly known as Call of Duty? Not only in striving for the same customers, but attacking their base via a different model.
JZ: We love and play those games as well. I’m a huge fan of Battlefield, but we think we are bringing something new to the table with BLR. I think when people play BLR, they will see the value that they are getting as we are giving them a AAA game for free.
Hit the jump for the rest of the 411.
LH: Zombie Studios has teamed up with Perfect World Entertainment to deliver Blacklight: Retribution. Was there any worry in making the partnership? Has PWE and its eastern design philosophies made their way into BLR in any way? What about the publisher’s pedigree in the MMOG market?
JZ: Working with Perfect World has been a great partnership. They have tons of experience with the F2P market, and we have the experience building great FPS games.
LH: F2P titles often obtain a large casual following due to the low barrier to entry. Yet BLR is decidedly a hardcore shooter. It requires map knowledge, impeccable strategy and lightning-fast reflexes to earn the top slot across multiple modes. How does Zombie Studios plan to manage and merge these drastically different market segments?
JZ: One of our goals is to get more of the hardcore audience to play our game. We have been working hard to tell players that BLR is a AAA game with all the mechanics and graphics horsepower you are used to from a retail game. We go to events like PAX or GDC and a hardcore FPS player will try it out and say “That’s awesome! I’d buy that for $60!” and they are shocked when we tell them it is free, like we are tricking them or they are stealing it from us. As for the more casual players, we have worked hard on our matchmaking system and scoring system so even as players learn the game they feel rewarded.
LH: What ideas are in the near future for BLR’s continued expansion, drawing in of new players and enticing old ones to continue playing and returning?
JZ: We have a number of plans in the works for the future of BLR. More modes, more weapons, more maps. They are all on the table right now. We also have a number of contests planned and double CP weekends over the coming weeks.
LH: Private matches: Can we haz dem?
JZ: What do I get out of this deal?
LH: The community is hungry for additional in-game and out-of-game support, from guild support to the hoped-for eSport expansion. How far is Zombie planning to go with friend/guild support and will the company actively push for eSport adoption?
JZ: We are looking more into making BLR as eSports friendly as possible. We have clan support in BLR right now, and we hope to do more over the coming months.
LH: Beard, mustache, goatee or baby face? Or more directly from the community: “When do we gets Andy’s stubble to balance out the obviously incoming beard of Gerritzen in-game?”
JZ: My beard beats everything!
LH: Let’s finish by starting a community war. What’s your favorite currently announced game mode and currently playable map?
JZ: I always enjoy using my secret account and laying waste on people in deathmatch in Vertigo.
LH: The only none query. Thanks again for taking the time to address the community comments and questions.
JZ: Thanks and go play some Blacklight: Retribution!