Dev Talk: “Section 8: Prejudice”

Is retail dead? Will we buy all of our games online in the very near future? More and more, game makers are finding ways to use digital distribution to revolutionize the business models and basic practices of the gaming community, leading many to wonder if the days of leaving your home to buy a game are dead and gone.

Consider “Section 8: Prejudice,” sequel to the 2009 cross-platform multiplayer FPS. Developer Time Gate Studios is forgoing the path they tread with the original, instead releasing “Prejudice” as a $15 digital download without skimping on the features; they’re even self-publishing (Kevin Smith would be proud).

I had a chat with game designer Mark Yetter at Time Gate about why they’re going digital, the challenges involved in developing for this new medium, and whether he thinks brick-and-mortar retail is going the way of Blockbuster and the Dodo bird.

The original “Section 8″ was released at retail, whereas “Section 8: Prejudice” is coming out as a digital download. What led to the decision to change release mediums?

It happened very late in the development. After “Section 8″ came out, we were approaching this sequel as another full retail release, and we really wanted to make an even better game. But we were self-publishing and self-funding, and as we were evaluating the cost of getting this retail stuff out there, it started to make a lot more sense to go digital. For one thing, by not working with a publisher, we could bring the price way down and still be making nearly as much per copy. Secondly, this is a multiplayer-focused game, so we wanted to just get it out there inexpensively, get a lot of people playing, and build the community.

Are there limitations involved in making a game for digital download?

There are some, but not a ton. You can use almost any engine you want, and there’s no limit to how high quality a game you make. But you do have to consider, for instance on XBLA, there’s a pretty tight restriction on the size of the game. That was probably our biggest challenge, just optimizing everything to fit inside this pretty small memory package.

What was your number one axe to grind after the original game? What did you want to improve?

We liked the core concepts of the first game a lot, but there were a few things we wanted to address for “Prejudice.” The campaign was one of the biggest ones, we really wanted a longer, more story-driven campaign. The team spent a lot more development time on that than they did on the original.

“Section 8: Prejudice” features 32 player battles. Is this difficult to pull of on a digital release?

It’s a difficult thing to pull of in general, not just as a digital download. But one of the defining characteristics of “Section 8″ as a franchise is big battles. So yeah, it was incredibly difficult, but there was never any question about that being included.

You’ve also got bots.

Yep.

I love bots. I have since “Unreal Tournament.”

(laughs) Yeah.

But they’re not as popular anymore. Why include them here?

We like bots, they’re just a fun thing to have around, and they make the game challenging even offline. But they also fit well online, because if you have only 20 people in a 32-player map, it’s much better to fill out those remaining spots with A.I. than for them to remain empty.

Will you have control over that?

Yes, you can set the server to “Bot Enabled,” in which case the game will automatically fill in how many players are missing. Otherwise, the spaces remain empty.

Do you all have any DLC planned?

Yes, absolutely. As soon as the game was finished, we went straight into DLC, because we not only want to support “Section 8: Prejudice” really quickly, we also want to keep supporting it over a long time, and keep the community really active. I can’t get too much into it, but I can say that we’re working on new maps and game modes, and a few other things like that. And actually, we’re going to be trying a few different models with that. We might do the standard thing with a map pack, where you have a bunch of maps for a small price tag. But we’d also like to patch stuff like new game modes into the game for free.

So, digital download is becoming more and more prevalent. Do you think retail purchasing is basically on its way out?

I kind of do, yeah. I don’t think it’s going to happen immediately, but it’s trending that way, especially on the PC. More than half of game sales on the PC are already digital, I can’t even remember the last time I bought a hard copy of a PC game. The consoles are a little bit behind there, some people still want that experience of playing with friends on the couch. But no question, retail for PC games will go away very soon.

-AA

blowin the spot like I was sendin out mail bombs

  • http://padinga.com/members/maul42/ Maul

    Some good insider stuff here. Digital Download, here we come!