GN: Tell us about your personal involvement and responsibilities with Iron Phoenix...
Tim Hess (TH): I’m the Lead Producer. My responsibilities include managing development schedules, budgets, design issues as well as working closely with our Quality Assurance, Marketing and Public Relations departments. I’ve had my hand in the creation of our HUD, UI, cinematics, weapon effects, level design, you name it.
Brian Urquhart (BU): I’m an Associate Producer, and I handle many of the day-to-day logistical details that are part of publishing the game. I am also point man on editing and writing the back story.
Aaron Habibipour (AH): I am an Associate Producer. I also handled the art direction for the title.
GN: What can you tell us about some of the various fighting styles that will be featured in Iron Phoenix?
BU: Well, you could say there are as many fighting styles as there are weapons, but all have their roots in Chinese and Japanese martial arts. The fighting style essentially corresponds to the weapon you are using. For instance, the Flame of Heaven derives from the Japanese katana, so it uses a very Japanese draw and cut style of attack. Most of the other weapons are based on traditional Chinese weapons and their attacks have elements of both “soft” and “hard” Chinese martial arts schools. But their various styles derive primarily from the hard school traditionally associated with Shaolin Kung Fu and its many descendants. The most important aspect we borrowed from the soft styles such as T’ai Chi is the concept of Chi. You can expend Chi energy in the game to execute special attacks or to charge attacks and make them more damaging. You’ll also find unusual weaponry such as the Phoenix Wings that were used in esoteric soft styles.
"Iron Phoenix should be -- something different
that tries not to take itself so seriously."
GN: At E3 2004, we saw a relatively strong presence at the Iron Phoenix station which suggests attendees were intrigued and optimistic. How do you expect the gaming community will receive the game when it’s released?
TH: Aaron and I had spent three weeks in Shanghai and Taiwan to get the demo ready for E3, and we flew in the day before the show with the build in our hands. We had been playing it every day so we knew it was fun, but to see people lined up all day, every day at E3 to play your game demo is an amazing feeling. We also featured the game at a consumer video game trade show in New York City called GameOn, where, people came back again and again to play. And in all the focus groups we’ve held in recent weeks participants have really had fun with the game. The more we show it, the more reassured we are that we have a game that is fun and that people are going to like. The buzz on IP is lower than we hoped it would be, but it seems we are picking up steam with the recent screenshots and gameplay movies we’ve released.
AH: Right now, most people who see or read about Iron Phoenix give it this cock-eyed "what is this?" look. Once they sit down and start playing the game, they find that its exciting, fun, challenging, and UNIQUE. Anyone who picks up the controller will tell you that. I feel it's going to do very well because people are starting to get bored with the same-old same-old, and really just want to discover something new. It’s becoming clear that the industry needs more innovative games like “Iron Phoenix.” It’s not another role playing game, it’s not another action title; it's an online fighter with 16 players…
GN: Sixteen players is quite an ambitious number of people to assemble in a fighting game at one time. Initial media impressions indicated a certain levity in combat situations due to the massive fighting environments. How will that be addressed?
BU: I think the media’s initial impressions can in part be explained by the fact that it does take time to make the transition from one-on-one fighting to sixteen-player fighting. It takes even more time to adjust to the action-oriented elements of “Iron Phoenix.” Players new to the game will often immediately rush to wherever the most people are and try to just slug it out. But Iron Phoenix offers powerups, ranged weapons, special items, and incredible character mobility – in a short period of time, players learn that all these elements really open up the gameplay dynamic. What at first seemed like a massive fighting environment suddenly seems like just the right size.
TH: Yeah, we invested many months of development time to make sure that all of the levels work well with the unique combat style the game offers.
AH: The environment is designed both artistically and mechanically with the player’s experience in mind – we hope each environment provides a unique visual experience as well as an entertaining, functional game play environment.
GN: Is it possible that the development team might consider constructing a few smaller levels to balance the fighting parameters?
TH: The levels have been designed to allow the players to use all features of the fighting mechanic, from running on walls, using ranged attacks, and throwing other players and objects. The levels are as varied in locale as they are in size. Our levels range from the decks of ships to ancient temples; they are indoor and outdoor, large and small, round and square.
GN: Aside from the online multiplayer component, will Iron Phoenix also offer downloadable content (e.g. new weapons, stages) further down the road?
TH: Yes, we are supporting downloadable content. As to what that content will be, we are keeping that secret for now.