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Vintage to Retro: An FPS Q & A series - James Towne, Tech-Com 2029, part 2

This interview for "Vintage to Retro" is with James Towne, the project lead for Tech-com 2029, a Terminator fan game. We examine the game's development in relation to different kinds of FPS: vintage and retro, Build-era, and ports and remasters. Read part 1 of our interview to learn about the game's overall development history.

You can also follow the game's ongoing development on its official Facebook page.

"From Vintage to Retro," interviews FPS players and developers. In terms of vintage FPS, the series covers includes single-player "Doom clones" and Build titles; to multiplayer frag-fests like Doom deathmatch, Quake arenas, and Unreal Tournament(s); to "pure," arcade-style shooters, "looter shooters" and FPS-RPG hybrids. In terms of retro FPS, it examines Dusk, Ion Fury and Prodeus, as well as Nightdive Studios' latter-day revival of classic FPS.

Click here to access the entire series.

Classic / Retro FPS

Nick: Although this interview focuses on Tech-com, it is part of a larger series about retro and vintage FPS. James, you've played quite a few FPS in your time, and I thought I'd ask some questions about classic games and how they might have influenced your design choices in Tech-com.

You haven't played the old Bethesda Terminator games Future Shock or Skynet. Even so, have they influenced your game design choices in any way? 

James: Not really. I did attempt to play them, but since neither GoG nor Steam has rereleased them I wasn't going to mess around trying to get Windows 95 games to run in a modern setup. I watched some gameplay of them and was charmed by their retro graphics and semi-RPG nature; if I were Todd Howard I probably would've designed a very similar game.

I've been trying to push in some RPG-lite elements to the game like an inventory system, not so much for management but more so collected items have a purpose and dont just go blip and add something to your stats.

Nick: Doom (1993) isn't the first FPS, nor was it actually 3D. Still, it introduced some classic staples, like armor pick-ups, a wide arsenal of weapons, and a large bestiary of enemies. Will the player be able to hold a similar number of guns as Doomguy?

James: That's how it's working for now. Although tying in to what we said earlier about weapon rosters you can overpower and unbalance the player by giving them access to everything. This is why you need to stagger the availability of weapons throughout the game. Rather than finding them littered around the map [all at once], finding a new weapon is like a [mini, progressive] discovery—a reward for the player and a sign that things are cranking up a notch.

Nick: To my knowledge the spider bots in Resistance were invented by the game's developers. Your game has the original tank design from Terminator 1. Will all of the game's enemies be canon, or to produce a comparable number of foes to Doom—if that is the case—will you have to invent a few of your own?

James: No, we've been quite strict about canonical enemies; there's enough there to build a whole game around, and personally I wasn't a fan of the weapon and enemy designs in Resistance. Potentially we have two different ground HKs, flying HKs, the centurion model, T-600s, 800s and a 1000, as well as mini drones and defense towers.

Nick: You've played Quake I and II, which, apart from being true 3D, introduced an emergent ability called "bunny hopping." Speedrunners use it to move faster (see: Karl Jobst's documentary vid on the phenomena), and arena players like The Spud Hunter bonny hop to dodge attacks and get in close. Tech-Com has the player up against power giant enemies with a tactical advantage (re: size, firepower). 

Can we expect inventive/skilled players being able not simply to hide from the enemy but run circles around them?

James: Just building a working game and letting the player work out the most effective tactic has been a soft goal from the start. The level architecture has a certain level of preplanning to it, but I'm not a fan of scripting in games; it crushes replayability and tactical thinking.

Emergent gameplay is hard to do in a limited space, so we're always making sure there isn't just one straight forward solution to a situation. Inevitably there will always be one method that turns out to be quicker and easier than the others, so once the player has found that out there's only so much you can do as a developer.

Nick: Games like Quake helped pioneer the speedrunning movement. Even the player in this demo video has played the game before and has to slow themselves down to take "the scenic route." Can you foresee people speedrunning the final game when it's finally released?

James: I doubt it. I think a game has to reach cult status before people start speedrunning it and awarding themselves trophies around it. Plus I think a game has to lose its initial joie de vivre or "thing" before you can dissociate from it, [and make] a speed run goal. What I mean is, you have to play it to the point that its story—its whole narrative and experience—has been worn away and you're playing it like a race car driver. Shaving off microseconds on the corners.

Personally I prefer a game to keep both its narrative and [any] emergent gameplay [from players].

Nick: The Half-life games took the silent protagonist from older FPS and placed him inside a cinematic narrative with puzzle elements. Will Tech-com has any similar elements, or healing stations on the walls that Reese can use?

James: There's no plans for healing stations, but things like item-based health packs are important to us. Auto-healing works well for high energy games like Call of Duty, but I'm not a fan of what it's done to gaming overall. There's a tactic to remembering where you left health packs and only taking what you need to survive. Also it makes for a more interesting development process cause we have to plan out item placement.

Half-Life's narrative is a big influence on us—especially how the game [swaps] between set pieces and elaborate environmental puzzles [without falling back on key-based items]. The "press the button to open the door to progress" is lazy design; "find the first key to unlock the second key to open the door" is a step forward, but it's still not enough. To be fair, it can be hard to think up clever puzzles that don't just involve item-based keys!

Nick: I only played Unreal 1 a fair bit, but I remember the in-game "cutscenes." Basically several points where the gameplay stops and all the player can do is listen and wait in terrorThe Terminator is absolutely a horror film (specifically a Gothic romance, which I've written about before). Will there be a similar approach to tension and suspense in Tech-Com

James: Cut scenes can be very labor-intensive to create. So far all we've done, cinematics-wise, have been the trailers. I'm really pleased with them, but they're designed as standalone pieces. I don't think you can get away with having primitive cutscenes in games anymore. In fact, it bums me out to think that what was once a top shelf product is now a student project. Things were so much easier in the 90s—then again, I think '90s developers were also thinking, "Man, I can't wait for the future; the tech will be so much more flexible!"

The radio calls are designed to fit into the spot where a more AAA videogame would have a cutscene instead. Personally I think the "less is more" approach is a benefit to us here. This being said, we do have plans for a very particular cutscene with Reese meeting Connor for the first time, inspired quite heavily from this scene from Apocalypse Now

Nick: Will there be love elements, given Ferro's presence in the game? In other words, will her death from Kyle's dream in The Terminator be brought about in Tech-Com, or is there no fate but what the player makes for them (alternate endings where the love interest survives, a la Deus Ex: Human Revolution)?

James: That's exactly where we’re going with it. Writing backstories to incidental or uncredited characters is risky because you're adding to the canon and can unintentionally snowball things, much like incidental details in original writing can lead to the same thing. A major part of the story we're writing is a sort of Greek tragedy around a group of people who are each reaching out to the person in front of them, who, in turn, is reaching out to the person on front of them... whilst lamenting their own social disconnections. As things progress, the circle keeps pulling everyone towards the one they love and away from the one who loves them!

Nick: If I remember correctly, the T2 arcade game has human "friendlies" you're not supposed to shoot, who occasionally pop up on-screen. In Tech-Com, will there be human NPCs that you have to serve and protect, or can you hilariously execute them like the scientists from Half-life and Goldeneye?

James: One thing I noticed early on in the games development is that the outdoor areas feel action-packed—with conflict going on around you, but still being quite lonely (with you being the only character). We're now adding NPC soldiers who to begin with are just there to pad the environment, but we also have AI that can pitch humans teams against teams of endos in a real time battle (which will be interesting to toy around with).

Nick: In particular, Blake Stone (1993) had scientists NPCs that the player can speak to. Some help the player, while others attack or summon the guards. Is there a similar mechanic in Tech-Com? Perhaps there are infiltrators disguised as scientists or refugees that will attack if the player is alone or gets too close? I'd love a guess-who scene like the one shown in T2 or Terminator Genysis.

James: We started using the X-ray motif quite early on and wondered about having X-ray scanners over doors, and also having NPCs come and go on random timers. Then every so often an infiltrator would come in, even though that's a pretty big interruption to the gameplay. I also found a way of having the rifle scopes scan people and give away if they're human or not.

In other words, there's still plenty of room in Tech-Com to include a hidden infiltrator mechanic instead of a scripted break in.

Nick: Like Blake Stone, will Tech-Com has a map system the player can use?

James: Our maps should be small enough that you don't need to navigate with a mini-map. Plus we have other plans for helping the player navigate that doesn't just show the solution nakedly onscreen.

Nick: AvP 2000 had three different campaigns: the xenomorph, marine and Predator (and multiplayer, which was the bomb). I specifically remember playing as the marine in single-player, and feeling a tremendous amount of tension and fear—from the game's dark lighting to the rapid-fire attacks from the xenomorphs. On its hardest difficulty the game felt quite challenging (at the time, anyways).

Tech-Com 2029 has a motion-tracker on par with the colonial marine's. Will this come in play similar to how it did in AvP 2000? Will the player not only attack and hide from giant HKs, but also infiltrator units like terminator endoskeletons and their various series: the T-600, T-800 and T-1000? 

James: Aliens has influenced Tech-Com more so than Terminator in terms of gear—the colonial marines got all the cool stuff that adapts well to gameplay (re: motion trackers, door cutters, sentry guns, etc), whereas the L.A. resistance only gets stock '60s-'80s milsurp stuff. Even so, I maintain Terminator gets the cooler enemy selections.

We've scrapped the on-screen radar for the time being but are keeping things like sonar, flares, and the body flashlight. Even things like headcams and auto turrets will probably make an appearance. 

Being able to utilize gear even if not for a gameplay solution is worth doing for us. Activating and deactivating auto turrets, tapping into NPC bodycams in real time, tracking  enemies and objects using a hand held tracker—these are all parts of intended gameplay that let the player feel part of the world; it gives them agency because they're not just following a script. And it's not exactly hard to program either! 

Nick: Alien Trilogy was a game that you say you rented but never owned. I recall it having numerous repetitive levels and different enemy types: the xenomorphs (snake, 'hugger, warrior, queen) and the corporate (employees, soldiers, combat androids). Is there anything that you enjoyed about the game that carried over to Tech-Com, or things about it you disliked that you tried to prevent in your own design cycle?

James: Like the Bethesda Terminator games I tried to get Trilogy running on a modern system, but didn't have the know-how. The closest I got was a Doom mod—the Aliens Total Conversion mod that ports in the weapons and enemies (seriously these TCs are the best).

Alien Trilogy has always been in the back of my mind as a retro FPS game that makes good on its use of the licence, but I think it's aged too much at this point. We'll see: I'm literally downloading it as I type this. Let's hope it runs straight out of the box!

Nick: Fallout 3 and New Vegas have outmoded computers with primitive green font against black backgrounds on CRT screens. In the original movies, there are similar computers in 1984 and 1991. However, there are no computers in the future war scenes. There are computers in your Tech-Com demo—the same sort seen in Fallout 3

These computers survived the war, but are dated by 1997 standards (the year Judgement Day begins); in fact, they haven't seemed to age beyond 1984. Is this a Cold War mentality, the old computers enshrined in the very nuclear bunkers and silos built to withstand nuclear attack?

James: It's a little anachronistic to have '80s tech in a future with lasers, but I didn't want to argue with it; if Alien can get away with it, so can we—plus they're a great little way to get another level of player interaction into the game!

We have a principle of prewar tech, much like Fallout does: where no new tech is being developed by humans, so they have to make do with salvaging old tech—reeducating themselves and using their (the player's) ingenuity in utilizing it in the fight against Skynet. Very much a guerilla-vs-empire kind of situation, though sometimes you have to bend the believability a little to get more gameplay out of it.

Nick: Turok 2 was a fun shooter, though especially for its gore (the kind later made famous by Soldier of Fortune's Ghoul Mod engine). With the right weapons and approach, enemies' heads and limbs would explode. It was great! Can we expect similar levels of gore or "gibbing" from any of the enemies in Tech-Com (re: Ferro's body literally explodes into various pieces, including a tumbling head, when she is shot by the MK1 tank)?

James: One thing I want to get perfect is the exploding resistance fighter effect from T1, which was way more effective visually than the guy who gets creamed at the start of T2 (if you look closely in the wide shot—of the opening scene as the HKs advance—you can see him getting hit in the background before the closeup).

I didn't like the way the terminators exploded in Resistance; they're not packed with explosives. But we are interested in dismemberment. So we're setting it up so the player can blow a terminator's legs off. These crippled terminators can then become crawlers. Also, the player can disarm a terminator, who will then adapt into a chaser melee unit!

Nick: The indoor levels have a dark, cramped feel that really reminds me of the original Far Cry 1 (2004). Can we expect a similar level of difficulty (and spooky lighting) from the indoor firefights in Tech-Com

James: That's what we’re going for! The indoor environments are a little under designed right now, but it's more important to get a feel for design and space. I want the indoor areas to be like Alien: Isolation, except made of concrete. Space Hulk was also an influence here.

When getting a feel for a location, I block out rooms and corridors that are designed with hard angles to cut sharp contrasting shadows when lights are placed in the right areas. The lighting itself is color coded for neutral areas, danger areas, and areas of interest. The harder part is getting motion into a static area with things like moving light and particle effects, hangings wires, animated screens, etc.

After all that is settled, we up a floor plan that conducts gameplay [and implement everything through that].

Nick: Are all of the enemies in Tech-Com projectile-based, or will there be melee-based foes that close the gap quickly and attack with hand-to-hand abilities (re: the Far Cry 1 trigens)?

James: I'm actually interested in setting up a fixed camera survival horror "test bed," and since we know that ranged enemies don't work well in those games, it will be interesting to supplant Reese for Chris Redfield and T-800s instead of zombies and see what happens! We're planning on giving T-800s the capacity to melee and be disarmed, but it will take a little bit of development yet.

Nick: Also like Far Cry 1, can Reese lie in prone, kneel, and aim around corners to boost his weapon accuracy?

James: There is some privative math in the game that boosts and degrades accuracy based on movement speed and stance. You have to have that stuff in a full 3D game, otherwise it feels cheap; you can only get away with static shooting in 2.5D games like Doom and Duke Nukem 3D.

Nick: Will Reese have grenade types other than pipe bombs? Maybe smoke grenades like in Far Cry 1 or the noise makers from Alien: Isolation?

James: There are canister bombs used to take out HKs, as well as pipe bombs that take the role of regular grenades. But I think this is all we need; it's a pet peeve of mine when games expand too much with ammunition types [and other things] that slow gameplay down and overcomplicate combat.

Build Engine FPS

Nick: The Build engine allowed for 3D maps (with 2D sprites). The end result are games that allowed for a fair bit of platforming on top of the gunplay. I've explored this in my own speedrunning research but also my review of that game itself: Apart from just shooting enemies and hitting simple buttons, a latter-day Build game like Ion Fury (2019) allow for tons of puzzles and interactivity.

Has Ion Fury's complex level design had any affect on how you've designed your own levels in Tech-Com?

James: Yeah, it makes me jealous, too; I'm actually more of a modeler and designer than an environment artist, but I've had to do everything myself so far! 

The Build engine was the first engine I learned to use, back in 1998; and one of my first efforts was to try and recreate scenes from Terminator in the engine (though obviously being 13 didn't help and I didn't get very far).

I'm not one for hiding secrets in levels like Duke Nukem 3D does—and especially Ion Fury—but they stand as great examples on: a) how to theme your environments using very limited resources, and b) how the speed of a game is affected by the space of a level. 

Even so, I think Battlefield 3 and Alien: Isolation have been the biggest influences.

Nick: The game also comes with a nifty in-game "read me" that gives the player tips and hints. It kind of reminds me of the help screen from classic DoomBlood and other classic FPS. Will Tech-Com come with anything similar?

James: We plan on including an Atari portfolio as a kind of portable database. But I think for the most part if you stick to conventional game design then people will pick it up quickly. We don't want to reinvent the wheel a la Jurassic Park Trespasser (1998). 

I think certain things should be universal in terms of control design. I'm not a big fan of text dumps in games, but especially FPS. Having notes lying around is a pace-breaking way of also building environmental context. Quick radio calls do that better for us.

Nick: Incidentally the file size for a modern Build game like Ion Fury is 93MB? Despite your game having newer 3D graphics and polish, are you trying to keep the file-size and performance specs down to allow for older generation computers to be able to play your game?

James: Tech-Com's design was quite modest from its starting point. It was originally built on an I7 with 16GB RAM and a GTX 570 (which was upgraded to a 980 and now to a 1660). We're staying behind the curve a little in terms of computer hardware since we can easily achieve what we want on last gen hardware; but we also have to plan ahead for utilizing the best of what's available to us; we don't want anything to look cheap: Considering we have a slower development cycle, you can get left behind over a 5-6 year period!

Nick: You said you've played all the the major build games, and that Build3D was the first engine you learned; also that the build engine era and Terminator have had a big influence on you in the areas of pen and paper RPGs and tabletop wargaming. Could you elaborate on some of these ways, why you learned the engine, and if any of this connects directly to Tech-Com and your development of that game? 

James: The Build engine brought me here; it gave me the basic know-how to get started with the Half-Life engine (when I got that), which eventually lead to the Unreal engine.

I got into pen-and-paper RPGs soon after starting year 7 in school. Straight away I started taking influence from films like Terminator and Die Hard. When you think about it, Terminator is the perfect setup for a game: You start in an alleyway and have to locate clothes and weapons, followed by your mission objective location.

I still think back to those pen-and-paper games for design principals because they function without graphics!

Nick: Tech-Com wasn't originally a pen-and-paper RPG or tabletop wargame was it? Will it have any RPG elements in the final build?

James: Not to the extent that you could call it an RPG. Stats, leveling up and complex inventories can be a riddle to program well; and even that's before you've started implementing it into a game, which will then need fine-balancing! So we're sticking to solid FPS games, which lean more towards retro instead of modern—with a few of our own ideas thrown in!

[editor's note: An example of a current Terminator tabletop roleplaying game is the upcoming Kickstarter project, The Terminator RPG.]

Nick: Some of the Build games have bullet sponge type enemies. The stone gargoyles from Blood are especially bad, because they not only soak up damage, they have a lot of attacks. That game's solution is rather lame: Stone gargoyles cannot attack a player who is ducking. So if you kill all of the other enemies in the room, stone gargoyles won't be able to hurt you. 

Have you addressed this type of problem to make sure it doesn't occur in Tech-Com?

James: We do have a semi-similar issue: When the HKs auto guns fire at you, they aim at the player's "0,0,0" origin point, which is between their feet. This led to me offsetting their point of aim by about a meter, which meant when you crouch they always shoot over your head. Is it a bug or a feature?

Terminators are by their nature bullet sponges, so something canonically accurate becomes something of a bad game design feature if you lean into it too much. We have to test which direction we want to go in—if attacking head on is more fun than tactically chipping away at its health or flanking it. We'll just have to see what we and our test players like best.

The HKs, by design, cant be damaged by small arms fire, but you can destroy their guns or suppress them similar to Brothers In Arms.

Nick: Another Build game issue is the inclusion of various 1-hit kill enemies like the invisible ninjas from Shadow Warrior. These required the developers to furnish the player with arcade-style weapons like the tactical nuke. These "room clearing" devices certainly get the job done, but also turn the entire experience into a one-click spectacle. It's a quick fix.

Was this feature something you specifically tried to avoid in Tech-Com?

James: Not something I ever considered design-wise, and I always felt that Shadow Warrior was the weakest of the Build classics—William Shatner's TekWar not withstanding. You cant just pull the rug out from under the player and call it a feature.

Nick: Blood is especially hard because of cults and fanatics, "hitscanners" (enemies who shoot rounds that instantly travel from them to the player) with shotguns and Tommy guns. Generally hitscanners aren't bosses because hitscanner + bullet sponge = cheap. Are there any hitscanners in Tech-Com, or do Skynet's plasma rounds always in-game projectiles, thus have a slight travel time? 

James: It still surprises me that Call of Duty was a hitscan-based game long after projectile physics were the norm. Since the weapons in Tech-Com are plasma-based, they have lower muzzle velocities (and lose their power over range). So we had to go with physics based projectiles for them. Though we do have to finely balance speeds and trajectories, too. This is so you don't end up with issues like the old Dark Forces games, where the lasers are so slow you can just circle strafe your way to victory.

Nick: In Blood and Ion Fury you can shoot off or otherwise decapitate an enemy, then kick their severed head around like a football. Can Reese do anything similar in Tech-Com?

James: I did put in crushable and kickable human skulls in an early build... but they had a habit of snagging on the players feet and causing a twitching effect when you kicked them, so they're out for now!

Though locational damage is still a  feature yet to be implemented, I didn't want players to have to overuse iron sights and have hip firing be uselessly inaccurate.

Nick: You've always played Outlaws, a 1997 FPS made by Lucasfilms (who also developed the excellent Dark Forces series). The game has cutscenes and great music, but also a sniper rifle with a scope that zooms in independently of the player's normal vision. The sniper scope function feels similar to how you've brought Reese's night vision scope to life in Tech-Com. Was that gameplay feature influenced by Outlaws?

James: No that was actually influenced by Routinethe sadly defunct sci-fi/horror game that actually predated the development of Alien: Isolation. There's a moment in the gameplay trailer when the player brings up a low-resolution scope to spot enemies in the dark.

This was the first thing I tried to get right when beginning development for Tech-Com. I took a while to get it balanced right, since the scopes had a fixed brightness setting. This meant they were "just right" in one location, then too bright or dark in another. So I had to put in an adjustable brightness setting on the + and - keys. I also had problems with them clouding up in foggy areas, but right now they work just about right.

It's just a case of giving the player good variety—of zoom, FOV, crosshair type and color tone—for different weapons, so they don't have to fiddle too much with setting their scopes right for the environment. That way they kind of take the role that optical sights do in Call of Duty. You have reflex sights with little zoom and wide peripheral vision, but you also have scopes with analytic data and a narrow FOV.

Nick: Was there anything else; i.e., can Reese light his pipe bomb fuse with a cigarette?

James: I made a Zippo lighter with a Vitruvian man terminator on it. Kind of a meta in-joke. But I do like the idea of having collectable items and artifacts that sit in an inventory, much like Resident Evil did with the lighter and lockpick.

Ports / Remasters

Nick: Nightdive is currently reimagining the original System Shock (eta: 2021). However, they're known for their ports. A port can be an upgrade, or it can lose something in translation. System Shock: Enhanced Edition was intended to run on modern systems. Not only can the game run on newer systems, but the in-game resolution was boosted from 320x200 was boosted to 1024x768. 

On the other hand, Blood's source code was never publicly released, leading people to reverse-engineer the game. Personally I've tried two reverse engineered ports, BloodGDX (2017) and NBlood (2019), but apparently there are quite a few more. Eventually Atari, the owners of the game's source code, eventually commissioned Nightdive to create Blood: Fresh SupplyNightdive had a rough start, according to Civvie. However, the game was quickly patched, and has since been patched four times. Feedback surrounding the patches seems mostly positive. Still, the porting process wasn't perfect. The old game has been partially lost to time. 

Similarly The Terminator had certain technical limitations when it was first released. The original soundtrack mix was in mono, and various sound effects were used that haven't survived in later DVD and Blu-ray remasters of the film. 

You've played the Nightdive version of System Shock 1 and Blood (and the mod series for Blood called Death Wish). Were you aware of their limitations in reviving these games for a modern audience, and is your own game Tech-Com, an attempt by you to bring Cameron's original vision forward into the present?

James: I'm always grateful to the modding community for revitalizing these games (even before Steam and GoG started to rerelease them). It makes you appreciate things like modern mouse look and higher resolutions.

I cant say much about the technical limitations because these games from the mid '90s are mostly before my technical knowledge, but generally I'm happy with a game as long as I can click the .exe file and it runs (though I recently started playing Blade Runner [1997] and you can feel the clunkiness of the controls—that and 640x480 used to seem fine on a square monitor, but not so much these days...).

Nick: No replica should be a perfect copy. Are there any points in your game that deviate away from Cameron's hellish vision of 1984?

James: Not if we can help it. There's enough in T1 to build a game around.

Nick: Lastly, how is the game's production coming along, and is there a rough ETA for when we can expect to be able to play it? 

James: We came along long way very quickly in the beginning. I think we far outpaced other teams in our position, but things have slowed down a bit now that all the easy tasks are out of the way and we've got a grasp on the graphical quality we're aiming for. Plus, I'm getting more upmarket professional work these days, which slows me down. Eventually we may get to the point that development has to be finished by a fully-funded in-house team, but there's still a lot we can do ourselves.

It used to be: I'd work 9-5, then rush home and work on Terminator till 11 at night; then all the weekend; then I started slacking off at work and spending a few hours researching stuff so i could reproduce it when I got home (our master T-800 model was built at work when my boss wasn't looking. I had a huge folder filled with reference material). But it was all self-feeding: I'd learn Unreal stuff at home that I could utilize at work; then practice modelling techniques at work that would then go into Terminator.

There is no ETA though! The design of the game has expanded to the point that we know how much there is to do and everything we've done so far has been designed to stack the deck for us. So once all the small-scale development is done (re: art assets and gameplay programming) we can just focus on building maps and expanding the size of the game. It's all downhill from there!

Nick: Lastly, if you could say one thing to James Cameron, what would it be?

James: I think, so yeah... Well, two things actually! One, would we have gotten your Terminator 3 if you hadn't done True Lies? Two, when Linda and Michael filmed the love scene in T1, were you sitting behind the camera thinking "That's my future wife?"

A closing note from James: One tiny thing that popped into my head while writing this is my favorite "lost" retro game, which was Take No Prisoners (1997) from Raven Software. I adored that game as a teen and it was way ahead of its time—with open maps, a fast travel system and multiple entrances and exits to maps. It was perhaps the first game to blend top-down action with RPG elements. It also had a subtle influence on my design sensibilities.


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