Ritual Entertainment has been one of the most prolific action game developers of the past 10 years, starting with a Quake 1 mission pack and continuing to games like Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K. 2, Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, Star Trek Elite Force 2 and more. However their most well known game continues to be SiN, their 1998 first person shooter that later this year will be revived with SiN Episodes, an episodic title that will use Valve's Steam system to distribute it online FiringSquad got a chance to ask Ritual some questions about SiN Episodes and other topics and received answers from CEO Steve Nix, Community Relations Manager Steve Hessel and the always entertaining Ritual co-founder and designer Richard "Levelord" Gray
.FiringSquad: Ritual has worked mostly on games based on properties created by others. Of the games of this type which does Ritual believe turned out the best?
- That is a tough question because most of our experiences have been very good. Being a small company, we have indeed worked on many other properties. My favorite was Black Hawk Down: Team Sabre. It was a fun game to make, and working with Novalogic was an absolute joy. Many thanks to Joel Taubel and Lee Milligan for those memories!
FiringSquad: SiN is still a game that 8 years after its release has a ton of fans. Why do you think this title has held up so well among players?
- Not sure I understand the question; it seems so obvious to me ;) …because it was a very fun game!
The original SiN had its shortcomings, and releasing at the same time as the original Half-Life was not good happenstance. However, after the patch, SiN proved to be a fun little piece of entertainment. Many gamers saw that and these same people have been waiting for us to make the next installment to the property.
FiringSquad: Despite more and more games being released via Internet download it's still something of a risk for SiN Episodes to be released in this matter. Do you feel that this will be the preferred way to release PC games in the next few years?
- I believe we are going to see more and more high-quality game content being released digitally via services like Steam and the Xbox Live Marketplace. That is not to say that the traditional retail channel is going away, digital distribution is merely another avenue for developers to get their games out there.
- I agree, Steve. Digital distribution is by no means a replacement for retail delivery, it is simply another mechanism for getting games to gamers. So much is purchased online now, it is difficult to remember the reluctance many of us felt when we first started clicking that “Add To Cart” button. With questions like this asked by many interviewers, though, there apparently still remains an uncertainty among the gaming customer base.
I buy everything online now, from movies and music, to food and furniture. I also still go to the retail store for these very same items. Similarly, it is likely that many gamers will prefer the simple browse-select-click convenience of online game purchasing over that of going to the store. Going to the store, though, and perusing the aisles for the what-should-I-treat-myself-to also has its appeal. Both models have their benefits, and both will be used.
FiringSquad: Is it easier or harder to develop an episodic game with shorter gameplay time for each episode compared to a full first person shooter with many more hours of gameplay?
- First, let’s make sure that we all understand that at the end of the third episode of SiN Episodes, the gamers will have all the same gameplay value (more, we expect) that they would if they had purchased a non-episodic game in one lump package. They will have the same bang-for-the-buck and it will be delivered to them within the same timeframe.
As a developer, making a game under the episodic model has been MUCH easier. This paradigm forces us to encapsulate our efforts into more manageable pieces, and to compartmentalize our development cycles. I’m sure it is easy for your readers to grasp that focusing on one episode for 6-8 months, then wrapping it up before proceeding to the next, is much better than trying to do three episodes at once during an 18-24 month timeframe. There is a synergetic benefit in there.