very own William Mull
had a chance to ask Raven Software's
Project Administrator Kenn Hoekstra
some questions about Star Trek Voyager: Elite
Force, and got some very informative answers! Enjoy!
1) What do you think the next Star Trek television series should be?
One of the concepts that has been floating around is a series
focused on Starfleet Academy. Personally, I think that idea has a lot of potential.
I could really see following the careers of several cadets for the first three
years of the show (along with guest appearances by cast members from TNG and DS9
as guest lecturers) and then following them out on a ship or other assignment
after graduation. I like this idea more than a series set in the past (as in before
Picard and after Kirk) as has been suggested.
2) Have you found fan feedback and suggestions on the game to be useful? Or
has it been a hindrance?
So far the fans have been a great help. We've posed questions
to them on the message boards and we've gotten a lot of great ideas. They've also
provided great material for multiplayer taunts and the kinds of things they want
to see in the game. There have been a few people who get a little out of control
on the boards, but all in all it's a great atmosphere. We've always enjoyed gamers'
feedback at Raven.
3) The Carcass skeletal system? What is it and why is it good?
Carcass is a set of tools we use to get our motion captured
and hand-made animations from SoftImage into the game. It uses skeletal compression
to store the animations instead of mesh deformation like Quake3 did. This results
in files better than 10 times smaller than the old system, which means we can
have 10 times more player models loaded at a time for the same amount of memory
that the old system would have taken. In Quake 3, the Sarge model (including LOD)
was 2561 KB on disk. In EF, our Munro model (with the same number of animations
and Levels Of Detail), is only 234 KB. Carcass also draws from GHOUL the ability
to merge texture coordinates from 3D Studio Max with the SoftImage animations.
4) How about that Elite Force comic? What can you tell us about the making
Activision and Paramount liked the idea of a comic book
adaptation of Elite Force and we thought it was a great idea as well. WildStorm
(www.wildstorm.com) did the comic and
it's being published by DC (www.dccomics.com).
We provided the WildStorm crew with a rough story outline, character sketches,
concept art and other basic reference materials from Elite Force and they did
the rest. Brian Pelletier, the project leader and Raven art director, worked closely
with them on the detail side of things as did Raven artist Mark Nelson. They were
good about sending us updates as the comic progress and we've posted some of that
material on our website at http://www.ravensoft.com/eliteforce/fun.shtml.
Perhaps the coolest part of doing the comic with WildStorm and DC was that they
asked our art department if they'd like to contribute artwork to a pinup section
in the comic. Several of our artists took them up on the offer and their artwork
appears in the issue.
5) Describe the voice acting process. How did you choose the voice actors and
what's involved in getting the work done?
Activision has some of the best contacts in the industry
when it comes to professional voice acting. Paramount and Activision worked together
to get the Voyager television actors to participate in the game and then Activision
lined up auditions (or readings) for the remaining roles. We were sent tapes of
the readings and chose which actors would play which parts. Michael Gummelt, the
Elite Force script writer (and Raven programmer), flew out to Los Angeles for
some of the sessions to assist Activision with the direction of the recordings.
Some of the tapings were piped into Raven via conference call so we could listen
in and give immediate feedback. Each line is recorded several times, numbered
and then sent to Raven. Kevin Schilder, the sound design manager, takes the recordings,
edits them, formats them and puts them into the game. It takes a lot of organization,
but Kevin has a great system.
6) What is the player movement speed / jump height / etc. in single player
The movement in the single player game is slightly slower than in multiplayer
to make things a bit more realistic. When attempting to recreate the ship and
other Star Trek environments, having characters with a 10-foot vertical leap and
super speed isn't very conducive to solid gameplay. In multiplayer, however, it's
all about speed and fun. The characters are significantly more superhuman in the
holomatch games than in the "real" world. After all, you can do anything on the
holodeck, right? If players want to tweak the player speeds, they can do so in
the advanced server options menu as well.
7) Can you describe what we can expect from the upcoming Elite Force Demo?
The demo will feature approximately six single player levels
and 2 multiplayer levels. There will be four weapons in the single player levels
and maybe 1 or 2 more in the multiplayer levels. Multiplayer will be strictly
deathmatch (or free for all) and will feature some of the usable items that appear
in the multiplayer for the full version. The main cast and crew plus a few extra
characters will be available multiplayer characters for DM. The demo will be approximately
120MB in size and will feature Bot support.
8) How would you describe Paramount's involvement in the development process?
Paramount oversees and approves the content of the game
on a regular basis. Raven wrote the design document and the script for the game
and then sent it to Paramount for their approval. We send new material to them
on a nearly weekly basis along with a form and they return the form with comments
that either say, "approved", "re-submit with changes" or "not approved." We've
had the good fortune to work closely with Harry Lang, who has been quite active
in the community and on the message boards as well. Paramount has allowed us a
great deal of creative freedom in what is generally considered to be a restrictive
license. We've been fortunate to be able to create new aliens, weapons, environments
and characters within the Voyager universe with Paramount's blessing.
9) How would you describe the game's target audience? Do you think this is
a game for hard core gamers, casual gamers or both? Or perhaps another group?
I truly feel that Elite Force has something for everyone.
It has action, adventure, a strong storyline, great characters and a great representation
of the Star Trek universe. I really think that Trek fans will love the authenticity
of the game and gamers in general will like the game play and the full set of
single and multiplayer features that Elite Force has to offer.
10) What is your favorite aspect of the game so far?
I really like the Hazard Team. They're a unique set of characters
filling out a role that is desperately needed in the Trek Universe...space marines.
They have great weapons, great personalities and a nose for action. They way their
personalities develop over the course of the game is cool. By the end, you really
feel like you know them.