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Gaming Interview

Eric Nofsinger ('Conduit 2')

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Conduit 2

© SEGA

The original Conduit was something few companies had done at the time - develop a dedicated first-person shooter for the Wii that featured highly customisable controls and a strong online multiplayer component. The team is to release a follow-up in a few months' time, so DS sat down with chief creative officer Eric Nofsinger and discussed addressing the original's complaints, new control schemes and the future of the franchise with regards to other platforms.

The original was described as a Wii title for the hardcore gamer. Could the same be said with Conduit 2?
"For the first game we definitely wanted to bring a first-person experience to the Wii, that at the time didn't have a solid first-person shooter for the system. So we were trying to bring that experience over. I think we got some things right, and there were also areas that we didn't get quite right. We needed some areas of improvement, but we did enough right that people bought enough of them to allow us to do another Conduit. I'd say as far as a hardcore experience... Yeah, I'd say that it's something that appeals to hardcore folks, but I guess why I have reservations about specifically that label is that [at] some of these trade shows that we've been at, like PAX, people come up and say they've never played a first-person shooter on the Wii. They pick it up and start playing it right away, and people that aren't normally first-person shooter fans, something about pointing a Wii remote, there's a natural, analogous feel to that and holding a firearm."

Conduit 2
What feedback did you hear about the first game and how did it influence the sequel?
"Some of the feedback we received was that people appreciated the technical innovation that we were doing on the Wii, that we were pushing the graphical capabilities and the aesthetics further than other games had. People really liked the multiplayer, and people really liked the controls. Things they didn't like very much was that they felt the story wasn't very deep, and they didn't like the way it was presented. People felt that the single-player campaign was kinda shallow, and it had some rough design edges. People felt that the setting wasn't fantastical enough, the fact that it all was in [Washington] DC made it feel like the same kind of thing over and over, which were all fair assessments. This time round how we addressed that was, for the story side, we bought in some external writers who are very good, like [novelist] Matt Forbeck and Jason Blair, who worked on Borderlands and Prey. Having the single-player campaign be a lot stronger was a lot easier to figure out this time because, with the first game, we were developing the engine technology while we were making the game. This time around, we mostly had the game engine in place, so we were just focused on making a really good game. So the level design was a lot better, a lot less linear, and a lot more branching and patching, and we have introduced a hub system."

Split-screen and co-operative play have been added - was it important to feature these this time around?
"Absolutely. It's something that I think is an expectation with a first-person shooter and we wanted to bring a solid FPS to the Wii. I think in the last year there's been some pretty noble attempts at bringing that, with GoldenEye and Black Ops, and those are decent games. We'll also be bringing other things to the table that will be very well received - you've got the perk system and our upgrade systems, which I think are very deep, and we're offering a lot of different modes. We still have people playing online for Conduit 1, but we got complaints from fans about glitches and hackers online that are disrupting the gameplay experience. That's why we've introduced a patching system, that after release we can go back up and tweak things if people find exploits."

Conduit 2
Was patching difficult to implement?
"Absolutely, it was very difficult, and there wasn't a standard for that through Nintendo. High Voltage and Sega have been working closely with Nintendo to make sure that could get in, and that's why towards the tail end of the game here, we're largely done but we are utilising this extra we've had for tweaking and balancing and to ensure that the game is really good. Part of the reason why our end date has been a little bit sketchy is that we're in no-man's land, we're doing things that Nintendo doesn't have a specific standard for, so it requires a lot more back-and-forth to get those approvals."

The game supports multiple control schemes, such as Wii MotionPlus and the Classic Controller. Have they been balanced to ensure all are equal for online play?
"With Classic Controller, Classic Controller Pro and MotionPlus, all of those you have the same customisation options that we have for the Nunchuk and Wii remote, so you can go in and remap all of your control configuration exactly how you want it. I think it will be fairly even. We've done a lot of playtesting on this. This is something we started in June, July of 2009, which was when we first started having grey box tests. With Conduit 1, when it shipped, we rolled the team over and had them start testing things, but we already had a fully functioning multiplayer. We've had a long time to tweak and balance this stuff and make it right. We knew that was one of the things a lot of people were asking for, so we integrated that early, and from there, we find that internally a lot of the people that are good - the testers and other people that are brutally hard to play against – there's people that are crack shots with the Wii remote and nothing else, there's people that are really good with twin sticks. It's about what you are comfortable with as an interface."

You mention the work undertaken for audio and online features - things would probably be better supported on other platforms. Have you been tempted to jump ship and develop elsewhere or are you committed to the Wii?
"Well, we are developing on other platforms right now; we're doing some work on Kinect and we're doing some work on 3DS. We're doing quite a bit of work on other things. Really our goal with Conduit has always been to do something special for this system. We feel that most publishers and most developers have written Wii off as a kid brother, kid sister kind of system. Our statement has always been that the system's capable of a lot more than people are doing on it. There's no reason why you can't make games that look better and sound better on that hardware. To be frank, I think there are lots of GameCube games that look a lot better than a lot of Wii games, and I think that's a crime."

Conduit 2
So would you say Conduit is a Wii exclusive series?
"Well, I'd say that Conduit 2 is definitely committed to the Wii. But I'd also say that right now, we are also very keen on the 3DS. I'd say that Conduit is definitely a Nintendo series for us. I'd never say never, but it just seems like there are so many great FPS on 360 and PS3 already, but there aren't so many on some of the Nintendo hardware systems, and that's been our focus - let's do something that can shine and be something special on different kinds of systems."

> High Voltage to reveal 3DS title next month
> Conduit 2 Wii Speak omission explained

Conduit 2 will be available for Wii on April 19 in North America and April 22 across Europe.

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