At a preview event at San Diego Comic-Con 2012, we had a chance to chat with High Moon Studios' Greg Agius about Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, a game that's reportedly pushing Unreal Engine to its limits. It also has more in common with the Bible than you might think—check out the interview for that and other juicy details, and let us know what you think in the comments or on Twitter.
Complex: There's a divide between old and new fans of Transformers. How are you going about pleasing both camps?
Greg Agius: I classify it as this: you know, we have some fans who are kind of my age, early 30s-late 20s, who grew up with G-one Transformers, and their kids, who they kind of can expose to G1, and then there's a group in the middle, younger 20s, teenagers, who know the franchise because of Michael Bay's films. So what we're doing is—I'd classify this, this is Transformers begins, right? This is a gritty retelling of how Transformers started. You're on Cybertron, it's their home planet, no matter how you came into the franchise, whether it's because of the Michael Bay films, or because of G-one, you know that the Transformers left their home planet of Cybertron. This is that story. So by telling a genesis story and by doing something that's gritty and realistic, and yet feels right, great gameplay, you hope to attract a very, very large tent of Transformers fans.
Has this story been told before?
You know, it's been told and it hasn't been told. I mean, we're definitely borrowing from a lot of different places. If you look at our game, you know I like to—I'll go back and I'll watch generation one, the original cartoon series, 1980s, first episode, the first five minutes. There's a lot of our game in that first minutes. So we've kind of taken that first five minutes and expanded it into a giant, huge, epic story. It's obviously very different in a lot of elements from that story, but it's a great place to be in the lore. And it also, in working with Hasbro, we've been able to do things that make it continuous with the rest of the canon. So that if you're watching like, the Prime cartoon series, you're going to see a lot of things that make sense and feel right to you.
One of the things that you seemed excited to announce was that you'd be exploring the origin of the Dinobots. Were you excited to get into that?
Well look, I mean—if we were going to make another Transformers game, one of the things that we had to have was Dinobots. And here's kind of an example where, you know, we're inspired by the lore, but because of our great working relationship with Hasbro, we're able to kind of break new ground and create a new grounding for the canon that can live and breathe going forward. So we actually looked at some of the comics series for the Dinobots' origin story, and we found inspiration there.
So in our story, you know, the Dinobots aren't created on Earth. They're created on Cybertron, because Shockwave, the Decepticon super-scientist, sees [dinosaurs] through the the space portal and realizes that they would be a powerful form. He tries to corrupt a team of Autobots into the Decepticon side by basically Frankenstein-ing them into the Dinobot form. So I think it's a great sotyr, it's inspired by the G-one, it's wrapped up in a huge part of our game—I mean you're going to unravel how these were created and it's going to feel right to you in the end.
How much of the game is fan service? Would you classify it as that?
I mean, look. I think if you're listening to the story and what's going on, you know, you're going to find a lot of—I mean, fans are going to find nugget after nugget of fan stuff. But ultimately the game is a very simple story, kind of a band of brothers, like the Autobots, who are desperately outnumbered and trying to survive, trying to escape in their Ark, you know a very classic, almost Biblical story, where you know they're trying to survive in this Ark against a vastly superior force in the Decepticons. The Decepticons are about order, the Autobots are about freedom. I think this is a very classic tale. You know, you've got the Ark, you've got maybe some hints of like the fall of Troy in there.
And then in the gameplay you have fantastic third-person shooter gameplay. I'd put the gameplay of this up to any other game on the market, you know, you can become a vehicle at any time. You know, one of my favorite levels you're playing as the character Vortex. He transforms into a helicopter. And as you're playing in this space, you've got this giant open-world space. It's one of the largest spaces we could cram into the Unreal Engine, pushing the technology. And this guy is jumping off ledges in robot form, turning into a helicopter in mid-air, taking people out, you know, left and right. Fantastic fun whether you're a Transformers fan or not. And then you know, we get into things where, like, okay, you're going to be a 75-foot-tall combiner robot. You're going to be a giant fire-breathing space T-Rex. I think even if you only have a passing interest in Transformers fans, this is going to be a fun game. You know, one of the things that I'm excited we're going to put a demo out there. People are going to try a little bit of this game and see what we have and I hope that it'll bring new people into the franchise, because it's really—I think it's just a great game in its own right.
While we're on the topic of gameplay—the game is not fast-paced like a typical action game. It very chunky, but not in a bad way, like Gears of War. Was that intentional?
Well, you know, look. We work in the Unreal Engine. We're big Gears of War fans. I think in terms of gameplay, we certainly—that's one of the sources that we draw inspiration from. And then, you know, it really—I think it allows you to play at your own pace. I think, you know, we're really going to put you in spaces where you can transform into a fast-paced car, or you can transform into a flying jet. How you deal with those spaces is up to you. A lot of people are going to blaze through there in you know, in their vehicle form, and play that space very very fast. Some people are going to play that very slow, plodding, methodical. It's really up to the player. I'm really pleased that just in a huge part of our game the strategic choice is really up to you on how you want to play the game.
What's been the most challenging part of creating Fall of Cybertron?
The most challenging part of Transformers is the fact that you can become a vehicle at any time. There's a lot of other games where you can—you're a guy with a gun, and you can get into a vehicle, right? But those gameplay spaces are really set up for that, right? I mean if you've ever played one of those games where you're in the vehicle section, and you get out of the vehicle, there's not a lot of fun to be had, right? But in Transformers, you know, you can become a vehicle at any time. So we have to have the space constantly fun no matter what form that you're in. And how do you adapt the artificial intelligence, the A.I. you're battling against, to that? And how do you deal with multiplayer? It brings up a lot of challenges that really no other game developer has to deal with. And I think we tackled it extremely well. Better than it's ever been done, and Fall of Cybertron is going to be the best Transformers game to date.
What are you most confident with?
You know, I'm confident that we've got a tight third-person shooter that feels good to play, that our game looks beautiful, and then—you know, what I'm most overwhelmingly confident with is that our team, High Moon Studios, we get and love the Transformers franchise, and we have poured our—the team has poured their love and energy into this game, and gone above and beyond to make this the best Transformers game of all time, so I'm confident that if you have any interest in Transformers at all, and you have a game console, that this is the Transformers game you need to pick up and play.