Welcome to the first in a series of development diaries straight from the team here at Crystal Dynamics! We’re hard at work putting the finish touches on Project: Snowblind, a frenetic first person shooter which puts players in the boots of a bio-enhanced, super-soldier, smack-dab in the middle of a war for humanity’s future. We’re pretty excited about some of the surprises and innovations we’ve cooked up for you. I’m Zak McClendon, one of the designers on the project, and I’ll be taking you through some of the great stuff we’ve got on tap for the player’s awesome arsenal.
All About the Weapons
It’s impossible to overstate how important weapons are for a first person shooter, so we knew right from the start that the player’s arsenal was going to be one of the major focuses of Project: Snowblind. Not only did we want to put the player in the middle of an epic warzone, with dozens of live combatants, but we wanted to give them just as many tools and tactics they could use to tackle these battles in any way they wanted.
By the end of the game, super soldier Nathan Frost is practically a one-man army, with dozens of different weapons and abilities – offensive, defensive, stealthy, you name it. Designing and balancing all of these was a monumental challenge, but the big pay off came when we saw the testers tackling battles and situations in ways we never dreamed of initially.
Pushing the Envelope
One of the great advantages of Project: Snowblind’s near-future setting of Hong Kong 2065 is it let us straddle the line between the realistic and the fantastic in the weapon design. We knew that we wanted to give the player weapons with functions and attacks they’d never seen before, but we also didn’t want to alienate the more traditional FPS player. So our first design goal was to meet those baseline expectations with the ol’ genre favorites like the shotgun, rocket launcher and carbine.
Thankfully, we didn’t stop there. Every weapon in the game has its own alternate fire; unlike many games, our alt fires are a lot more than just souped-up versions of a weapon’s primary fire. A great example is the shotgun. The primary fire is your standard, room-clearing boomstick. The alt fire, however, shoots out a half dozen “sticky bombs,” which adhere to terrain, vehicles and, yes, enemies. Taking down an enemy soldier with a close range shotgun blast is satisfying, but popping him with a load of sticky bombs and seeing him run back to his cohorts and then detonate the lot of them is even more gratifying. They’re on a set timer, so you can even use them to trap an area when you see another squad trying to rush your position. This was the goal for all the alternate firing modes – to give the player vastly new mechanics and strategic possibilities. You’re essentially equipped with two primary weapons at all times!
While we started out with familiar, real-world weapons, like that shotgun, as a base, we also wanted to gradually push the game toward the fantastic and introduce more futuristic weapons. One of the earliest ones you’ll get is the HERF Gun, a short-range electrical weapon capable of taking out humans in seconds and wreaking total havoc on electronic enemies, like bots and automated security systems. While its initial fire is fairly short-range, the HERF’s electrical arc is can jump between targets, chaining together a half-dozen, tightly packed enemies at a time. Even better, you can also link it through objects in the world, meaning clever players can use it to fire through closed doors or from behind cover.
Like most of the weapons, these are nuances we hope a player will discover for themselves as they play through Project: Snowblind. We wanted to make sure that every weapon and ability had this kind of layered functionality, so that player’s would be constantly discovering new tactics. The alternate fire for the HERF follows the same model – it has a totally different strategic purpose. Alt firing the HERF Gun will shoot out an Electric Mine, which will automatically fire off bolts of electricity at any enemy that strays near.
While the primary and alternate fire modes of the weapons give players access to a pretty wide range of abilities, we wanted to push this further, as well. So, players also have instant access to a huge array of secondary “left hand” weapons. I hesitate to call these just “grenades,” because that’d sell them a bit short. We went into the design for the secondary weapons with the exact same goal – to provide the player with diverse and new abilities at every turn.
We’ve got “crowd control” secondary weapons like flashbang and gas grenades that let you stun large groups while you safely dispatch them. Or defensive secondaries, like the Riot Wall – a portable wall of cover that you can place down anywhere – and the NanoBoost, an all-in-one healing item that will even bring Frost back from death’s door. Between the two firing modes on the primary weapons, the secondary items and Nathan’s bio-enhanced Augmentations, players have a huge range of abilities available at all times.
The last feature I’ll talk about is one of the coolest aspects of Project: Snowblind’s weapons. Because so many of our battles are so huge, with dozens of combatants, we needed to make sure players didn’t become overwhelmed. The answer here is our “smart weapons”— AI-driven friendlies that the player can deploy whenever (and wherever) they want.
These come in a variety of forms, like the Flechette Gun’s alt fire, which sends out a swarm of intelligent attack drones. The drones will fly around, seek out enemies and send a few thousand volts into each one. Even better, they also cause mass havoc, as the soldiers run for cover and shoot wildly at them – often catching their own troops in the cross fire.
We’ve got other smart weapons in store, like the deployable Spider Bots or the enemy-seeking Electrical Storm. Between these, all the player abilities and weapons, your own friendly soldiers and the huge array of enemy soldiers and bots you’ll be facing, we managed to make Project: Snowblind’s battles not only epic, but also open-ended.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at next development diary!