Published on April 21st, 2016 | by Wesley Bogan0
Law Breakers Thoughts and Interviews
Please note that what I saw was an Alpha version and the game and the information below will change as the game gets closer to release.
The rainy, soggy, and allergy-destructive weather outside did nothing to dampen the spirits of the Boss Key development team this past Tuesday as they hosted columnists, bloggers, and underlings at their home base studio in Raleigh, North Carolina to test their highly anticipated game, Law Breakers. Boss Key has been hard at work since 2014 with this game and media has been pressing to know more. While the game was heavily hyped at 2015’s Pax Prime (CHECK), it has since undergone heavy scrutiny and revisions brought on by Bosskey’s CEO, Cliff Bleszinski. For of that reason some 30 other writers including myself were hoping to sit down with the Bosskey team and ask them the big question;
Will this game going to be worth it?
With the impending release of other arena shooters, such as Destiny (Check) and the heavily-hyped Overwatch, my fellow writers and I wanted to sit down with CliffyB and his comrade-in-arms, Rohan Rivas, the team’s Studio Communications Manager, and ask them what was in store for Lawbreakers. The duo took the initiative and gave all of us an introductory show-and-tell of their game. CliffyB dove into the big questions; the game is not, in fact, going to be free-to-play. There will be an introductory cost at the time of release but he did stress it would be less than $60. DLC will be available to keep the game fresh and interesting but it will not be necessary. ‘No pay to play at all. We think that’s not the way to do things. We want to provide a solid game in and of itself and a lot of the DLC will be along the lines of new skins, styles of weapons, and such,’ reassured Rohan.
The duo then went on to discuss what has been going on since last year’s PAX show. ‘We’ve been hard at work bringing things back to a grittier, darker, and less cartoony feel,’ admitted CliffyB. ‘A lot of shooters and arena games out there have this cartoonish quality to themselves that, frankly, I’m not a fan of anymore. It’s not what I wanted Lawbreakers to be about. I wanted to go back to a more mature, more visceral, and more aggressive feel with this one.’ For that reason the game has undergone massive stylistic changes in the past year. Rohan then gave us a chance to view several demo-reels of the game in action and talked us through the new and improved aspects of the game. Guns have shrunk and character designs have actually been streamlined to give armor, accessories, and weapons a more natural and realistic feel.
I think CliffyB sensed our skepticism at this point so he stopped the lecture and asked all of us to put our recording gear down and go test the game for ourselves.
So we did.
I teamed up with some of the good folks from MMO.com, Bago Games, and Gamers in Beta. As we perused our starting characters and their stats, we quickly fell into strategic planning and how we would control the board. We had all clearly been researching this game hard for the past few months and once the match started we were off and running. Or in this case, flying, stomping, stealthing, and sprinting. What followed can only be described as a frothing, murderous, explosive, gravity-defying death match that only dreams and/or nightmares are made of. Rockets flew, ninjas backstabbed, gravity was thrown every which way, and the 5 of us, quite simply, had a fricking amazing time.
After a full hour of mouth-frothing fury, we all decided to take a break to get some adult beverages and calm our nerves. Thankfully it was at the same time that our studio tour was set to start. Rohan quickly the five of us and took us upstairs to meet the mad minds behind Lawbreakers.
Andrew Witts, the team’s Multiplayer Designer, was all grins and laughs as we discussed the game. ‘It’s all about fun,’ he chuckled, ‘ and it’s fun because we make it fun. We make tweaks all the time to see if something can make it more fun and improve it. It takes some time for these tweaks, a couple weeks here and there to test out new elements, and often times it doesn’t work out, so we chuck it. But what’s left is something better. Even if that means stuff doesn’t get added. We don’t like adding stuff for the sake of adding stuff.’
Zach Lowery, the team’s Senior Animator, was as passionate as his associates. ‘We want it to run and look smooth, even if we know the audience won’t always pick up on it. They don’t stop to look at these things as they happen because gameplay is so fast. But you can tell that it’s happening.’ He took us deep into his programming code for a step-by-step explanation of the layers of gravitational physics that have to go into each character model. Lawbreaker’s big pull is the ability to manipulate gravity. Each player has built in attacks and abilities that allow them abuse gravitational forces. But each time an ability like this is activated, the characters need to react in a way that makes the players understand how gravity is being manipulated. That’s where Zach steps in. He took us through how a player looks and moves in normal gravity, zero gravity, how they move into and out of gravitational affects, and how a character on screen should look and react.
Nathan Wulf, the Senior Gameplay Programmer, also deals with the aspects of physics and gravity. However, he took us through what happens when a body dies in a gravitationally-modified environment. We watched, laughed, and applauded as Nathan tested death after death after death using gravity and rag-doll physics in different environments via several different in-game weapons. This was a personal highlight for me as I died the most on my team and didn’t actually have time to enjoy and appreciate all of Nathan’s hard work in my horrible death sequences.
From there we stopped in on Chris Wells, the Senior Character Artist. He was busy putting his artistic flair to work, enhancing and tweaking various lighting effects in the game. He spoke passionately on the need for honest, believable lightning effects that help the emotional feel to a level. ‘Each level needs to tell a story, whether its historical or simply a story of how the level looks and feels.’ He also spoke on the need to not hinder a player’s ability to play and have fun. ‘I mean, we all know about natural lighting and about lights and shadows, but if we are playing and lose a character in the dark spots of a level, then it can hurt the level of fun. If you can’t see someone or if an area winds up being too dark, then it can be a potential problem.’ He showed us some of his ideas in action on how some creative liberties with lighting can enhance a character and level stylistically without seeming far-fetched.
Our last stop was to the desk of Jay Hawkins; Senior Concept Artist. We were lucky to find Jay hard at work on some as of yet unreleased characters for Lawbreakers. He took us through how these characters came into being, how they have changed, and how they may find themselves in a future version of the game. He conceded, however, that CliffyB is a man filled with brilliant ideas and those ideas tend to come out when the team is already knee deep in creative finishes on an already proposed idea. ‘Yea, he makes a lot of changes, and I’m used to it. He’s awesome to work for, but you can be, like, just about finished with one character and suddenly Cliff shows up and says, ‘hey, you know what’s f**king cool? THIS!’ And that leads to another week of tweaking. It’s fun though and it’s a great way to keep us creative.”
While the team seems solid in their work ethic and their creativity is unrivaled, I still had some lingering concerns. Lawbreakers, as it is now, is fantastic. It’s still being tweaked and rightly so, as several of the writers and I brought up some concerns about gameplay. The Bosskey team acknowledged our issues and told us they were already working on them. But with so many things to be fixed and a new list of things to be added plus another list of ideas to be tested plus another list of ideas from CliffyB, it does raise the question of when Lawbreakers will actually see the light of day.
Or if ever.
‘I’m not worried,’ Ruben smiled when I asked him about the game being lost in a quicksand of tweaks. ‘Above all, Cliff and the team want to make this happen. What we have now is a solid core and that’s what we are focused on. Yea, we can add more characters, new designs, new arenas, but that’s gonna come later. Right now it’s this thing, this one thing. It takes time, though, but that’s our style. We test and throw everything against the wall to see what sticks.’
I may be worried for no reason, but Lawbreakers is worth worrying about. It’s an amazing game so far and the Bosskey team has clearly made something great. Hopefully CliffyB and the Bosskey team can deliver their promises on this one. Not break them.