Paul Wedgewood, founder of Splash Damage, loves his game. Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is distractingly fun to play for him. It's so fun, in fact that there were times during our talk with him that he seemed to forget for a second or two that we were sitting there with him, interviewing. He seemed to get lost in the game... the best sign, I think for a game still under development.
And it makes sense, after all Splash Damage started out as a mod group, one that landed the multiplayer aspect of Return to Castle Wolfenstein. After completing the game, which was released for free, they landed the full triple-A retail build of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars."When Wolfenstein Enemy Territory was released it proved there was a market for a pure multiplayer combat game," Wedgewood said. " Enemy Territory: Quake Wars tried to break down boundaries."
Wedgewood said the current office remains to their modding roots despite their triple-A aspirations.
"The office is still essentially a mode team culturally, though we are more efficient now," he said.
For instance, the team spent nine months "screwing up the technology " for this new game, as Wedgewood described it, before they went to John Carmack, hat in hand, to tell him they had screwed up the technology.
"He fixed it in about nine minutes," Wedgewood said.
He said that while both Quake Wars and Wolfenstein have a lot of core similarities, one is not simply a mod of the other.
The biggest difference is that Quake Wars is a much deeper game one that, while multiplayer, is still very story driven. Specifically, the map creation is all based on a pre-Quake storyline. The game will ship with 12 maps spread over four campaigns located each on different continents. Each of those maps will be based on key battles central to the storyline.
Wedgewood said he also hoped to create a game, with Quake Wars, that gave gamers an experience that was deeper than the typical shooter.
"The typical gamers' experience was that they would run around and shoot at people, and hope to hit them and then they stand by a flag for awhile," he said. "I always wanted to give experiences to games that matched what the outside of game boxes said."
In Quake Wars you can play the game and have fun without firing a bullet. You can build turrets, you can parachute from cliffs, you can drive helicopters and yes.. you can still shoot each other.
The premise is based on a strong infantry combat system, one that stripped away the complexity of the game by relying on a subtly deep interface that relied on a point and click command system.
The system automatically follows along with what's happening in the multiplayer matches to create missions for the right types of units. Telling them, for instance, when they need to take out specific targets, construct things like radar or anti-aircraft artillery or help transport someone.
But it's also not a game that nerfs the controls to the point that it isn't worth playing for serious gamers. After all, all of the design team, up to and including the president of the company, are hardcore gamers. Wedgewood himself was one of the original members of one of the original Quake Clans. And the team, all of the team, are constantly play-testing the game.
"They're obsessive," he said. "They'll count the number of footsteps between different points in the game."
Wedgewood showed off different maps in the game, playing, perhaps a bit more than necessary, through different classes to show that you can have fun in the game without even firing a gun. He also demonstrates, out of hand, how effortlessly good he is at wailing in the game with a gun. Wedgewood stops his play only once, after Mark and I get a little too obsessed with a mosquito buzzing the room and another Splash Damage team member flattens it with his palm.
"Hey, don't kill it, that's bad Karma. I'm a vegetarian," he explains, seemingly unaware of the irony.