Interview / The Conduit developer High Voltage Software talks shop

TVGB: High Voltage has mentioned before that the Quantum 3 engine allows the use of bump-mapping, but how about normal mapping? There’s been great debate whether this technique can be used extensively on the Wii.

MC: The technique that we’re using to generate the character models are exactly the same for a PS3 or 360 game. All of our models are being built in z-brush and then we’re applying them to the lower res models. What you’re seeing in the game are normal mapped characters. The thing we need to work out is the lighting systems. The more we continue to tweak, the better it will look. I don’t know what the debates are but we are in fact running full normal maps on everything, not just characters.

EN: In the game when you run up next to a wall it clearly has it on it and that’s true of pretty much everything in the game.

TVGB: What about aliasing?

MC: Like everyone, we’re restricted to the 480p resolution that the Wii puts out. As far as dealing with that, we’re coping.

EN: There are some hardware limitations with the system and we’ve said from the start that we want the game to look as close as possible to the 360 and PS3. We can’t somehow do a pack-in that will allow us to kick out at 1080p. It’ll look as pretty as it can look within the resolution.

TVGB: Sounds like you’re promising a lot with this game and as you know gamers can be demanding. Got any worries that you won’t be able to deliver?

EN: All we can absolutely guarantee is that what will be in there is going to be the best in there. The things we’re leaving off the table can’t be done right now in the time frame. The things we are targeting are what are important to the game and we know we need to do them very well. Our expectations are very high. That goes not just for the leadership level at High Voltage but every person on this team, they all want to make this the best game they can possibly make. We’re about 9 months out from shipping and we’re going to be working hard to get everything as perfect as possible. The short answer is yes, we are making a lot of bold claims and yes, we think we’re up to the challenge of delivering on those claims.

MC: There’s no benefit for us to build hype and make a bad game. It’s going to be good.

EN: All the things we have been claiming in press we feel confident we can deliver. We’re aware that’s a lot. But we’re all gamers here too and we want a lot out of our dollar too.

TVGB: Let’s switch over and talk a bit about developing without a publisher. You said before that other games have come out less than perfect because of publishers. How has not working under a publisher pushed this game to be better?

MC: I can say from a creator perspective High Voltage is a full service studio, so we handle everything we do here. We can take our own game from concept to completion and do all the bug fixing and have it ready for street without a publisher. The Conduit has been great to develop because we’re doing something original and it frees us to make decisions that are actually better for the game as opposed to licensed rules. We can create whatever is necessary for the game itself to make sure the game experience is maximized. The other thing that is great is that when a publisher is getting down to the wire and you’ve got 15 great levels the publisher will always push back and will require you to make 25 levels spreading yourself thin, doing lesser quality so you can meet their expectations. The Conduit‘s been great because we’ve added things and removed things and changed things and as result this is a game that has been designed for gamers from the start.

EN: We’ve had some experience with publishers and developers that have been closer to what we’ve done with The Conduit, but we still had a lot of details to fill in on our own. With a licensed game you get a lot of information up front, like story and characters. We don’t have material handed off to us here, these things are provided for you with publishers and that saves time. But with this, we had to create everything from scratch, which is more time consuming and more challenging. But it’s very creatively fulfilling. We’ll continue with our licensed properties but we also hope to continue with our origin.

RN: With publishers, from the beginning they sort of mandate what the game is and that can change over time. You say you want one type of gameplay and they say they want three types, so you have to squeeze three games into one. We knew we wanted to make a FPS and we were able to stick to that since there was no publisher. We didn’t have to redesign it and the quality is better as a result of that.

EN: It is tough when someone comes to you and asks you to combine GTA3 and StarCraft and attach it to a license. It sounds outrageous but it’s not far from the truth.

TVGB: Do you have any ideal publishers you would like to work with?

EN: We’re in talks with a number of publishers. We’ve been approached by a lot of publishers. We’re taking it slow. That seems to be a concern on a lot of forums, that this is bad but it’s really not the case. We know there are a lot of publishers who want The Conduit and we want to make sure it’s a great partnership in the true sense of the word, not just motivated by a strictly financial or gameplay thing but a meld of many criteria. It’s kind of fun to not have a publisher right now because we can just hop on a phone and talk to folks like you. We’re not at liberty to answer (who our favorite are), but there are some shining stars that we think would make some great partners.

TVGB: If it comes to it, do you see any advantages in publishing the game yourselves?

EN: Other independent games we will publish ourselves for sure. Being a publisher is a big deal in that there is a lot involved in it. Not just the cost associated with manufacturing but distribution, marketing and PR. As you might imagine from what you’ve read in the news, videogames are pretty litigious and it’s pretty ridiculous because every joker is throwing suits out there. You need a strong legal team, we do have legal support but we need the level of legal support that a publisher has. If we wanted to be a competitive publisher we’d need to double in size. It’s something to strive for in the future.

TVGB: Anything else you guys like to add?

RN: I would like to throw out a big thank you to guys like yourself who generate this hype around the game. I’m just totally blown away by the response and when we see that it really helps us out.

MC: Yea we want to thank everyone very much.