Summary: Clive Barker's Undying was one of CalBear's favorite games during his days here at FiringSquad. Today JCal interviews the developers about Jericho, the sequel.
FiringSquad: First, did Clive Barker come to Codemasters with a game idea or was it the other way around?
Brian Gomez: The concept for Clive Barker’s Jericho was based on an original concept from none other than Clive Barker himself. When Clive and I first discussed this idea, we knew that we wanted to work together on it, but we didn’t want to just sell the idea outright. We wanted to spend time and develop it ourselves, flesh out the story and characters, create the world and mythology, before attaching a publisher or developer. So instead, we formed a partnership between Clive’s production company and mine, put together a small creative team of artists and designers, and we set to work creating the world of Clive Barker’s Jericho. Once we were happy with the concept, the overall package, that’s when we started talking to Codemasters and the guys at Mercury Steam to help us realize this vision, and in many ways, made it stronger.
FiringSquad: Clive Barker helped to create the acclaimed Clive Barker's Undying several years ago. Since that time do you think he has learned more about how games are designed and if so how much influence will he have in the making of this new game?
Brian Gomez: Clive’s area of expertise is as a writer, an artist, and a filmmaker. He appreciates games as a unique medium for telling stories, but he’s always preferred to let the designers at Mercury Steam and Codemasters make the hard design decisions. He’s not the type of guy to get bogged down in the minutiae of interface design or control schemes – he’s more about creating a mood, pacing the story, crafting a mythology. Typically, Clive came up with ideas for characters, special powers, villains, action sequences, etc., and then left it to the development team to implement those ideas into playable content. As for his influence, it has been stronger on this game project, from day one, than on any of his previous forays into gaming.
FiringSquad: Why was Mercury Steam picked as the developer of the game?
Brian Gomez: Simply because Mercury Steam was a lucky find on our part! Joe Falke (of Codemasters) had known about this Spanish development team for a while and really wanted to work with them on a horror project. They are fantastic artists, they’ve got a solid engine, and their interest in the horror genre was as strong as ours, so really, it was just a serendipitous match.
FiringSquad: What can you tell us about the storyline and main playable characters in Jericho?
Brian Gomez: You assume the role of Capt. Devon Ross, a former Army ranger that has been recruited to lead The Jericho Squad – a secret combat unit of the U.S. Army Chaplains Corps. An adept psychic, it’s his job to lead the other six Jericho squad mates on missions protecting the U.S. against paranormal and other occult threats. His other team members are Delgado – a fire-demon-wielding alchemist and pyromancer; Billie Church – a “blood mage” that uses her own blood to cast spells and wards; Jones – a seer that uses astral projection for reconnaissance; Abigail Black – a telekinetic sniper that can steer bullets in mid-flight; Cole – the team “reality hacker” that can alter time and teleport supplies and personnel; and Father Rawlings – the dual pistol wielding team exorcist.
Brian Gomez: The squad is pretty much with you from start to finish, although for the purposes of story, there will be times where you’re on your own or accompanying just a small portion of the squad. Although you’ll be playing the game as Capt. Ross throughout the story, you’ll get the chance to play with every one of your squad mates. Early on in the game, Capt. Ross…wait, I’ve said too much already.
FiringSquad: How will each member of the Jericho team differ from each other and how will that affect gameplay?
Brian Gomez: Each Jericho team member has a different primary and secondary weapon, and those span a wide spectrum of military firearms – small automatic pistols, up through assault rifles, sniper rifles, and a huge chain gun. What really sets the team apart from one another and from other games, though, is the incorporation of their occult specialties. Each member of Jericho is a specialist in one of the arcane arts or psychic disciplines and they can use these powers in a variety of ways. On top of that, Ross’ psychic specialty is a power called “threading”, which allows him to act as a sort of “mixing board” for combining his team’s powers. So, for example, he can take the pyromancer’s fire-spirit, mix that with the telekinetic’s shockwave, and now you have the psychic equivalent of napalm!
FiringSquad: The game takes place in a lost city that has returned. How would you describe the city and its various locations?
Brian Gomez: Al Khali is like a set of Russian nesting dolls – one layer of time trapped inside another, inside another, inside another… When the team begins their mission, they’ll start in a modern-day archaeological dig site. But as they move closer and closer to the source of evil that has cursed the city, they’ll pass through different layers of time and come face to face with previous armies and civilizations that have attempted to seize the secrets of Al Khali for their own purposes. Sharp-eyed players should be able to recognize familiar features of the city as it changes from age to age. For example, you might pass the crumbling ruins of a medieval fortress in modern day Al Khali, but when you travel back to the Crusader era, those same ruins are now restored to their former glory – and now they’re occupied...
FiringSquad: What sort of enemies and missions will the team have to deal with in the game?
Brian Gomez: Most of the enemies that the player encounters wandering the streets of Al Khali are the fallen soldiers of armies past that have tried to conquer the city for their own purposes – and failed. Insane, possessed, and with plenty of time to kill, they’ve kept themselves busy reinventing their own bodies -- replacing limbs with weapons, turning their own blood into venom, building wings out of flayed flesh and bone… (Hey, everyone needs a hobby, right?)
FiringSquad: What other unique elements will Clive Barker's Jericho have?
Brian Gomez: One of the really cool features that Joe Falke at Codemasters came up with was the spontaneous interactive cut-scenes. Taking some inspiration from God of War, we’ve got sequences in the game that require the player to hit buttons in time to trigger pre-scripted cinematic sequences, especially against some of our larger boss characters. But besides these pre-scripted sequences, we’ve also got spontaneous sequences that can happen at any time. For example, we’ve got some flying enemies that, if the player doesn’t fight them off fast enough, might swoop down and snatch you up into the sky, triggering a hand-to-hand fighting sequence high above the battlefield. Since it’s not pre-scripted, you never know when or where it’s going to happen… it really keeps you on your toes!
Brian Gomez: Going into the game, we knew we were going to focus on making a great single-player game, strong on story, with really memorable action and horror sequences. To that end, I think we’ve achieved what we set out to do. In short, Clive Barker’s Jericho is a single player action/horror game.
FiringSquad: What can you tell us about the graphical features in the game?
Brian Gomez: Mercury Steam has developed their own original in-house engine, and it looks amazing! Every time I play a build, I notice new things… heat waves rippling off the barrel of Delgado’s chain gun, shafts of light streaming through the ceiling of a dusty crypt, wet blood dripping down the wall from the undead gladiator I just beheaded… For all the darkness that surrounds the game’s story, Clive Barker’s Jericho is a very pretty game.
FiringSquad: Are there any plans for a demo to be released before the game ships?
Brian Gomez: Since Alchemic isn’t directly tied to the game’s overall development, I’m not entirely sure. I’d assume that if they have time for it in the game development schedule, then yes, and if not, then no.
FiringSquad: What is the current status of the game's progress and when is it scheduled to ship to stores?
Brian Gomez: The team will be hitting alpha imminently, which means we’ll be seeing hands-on previews sometime soon. We’ll be in stores in time for this year’s holiday season, but beyond that, I couldn’t give you a more exact ship date.
FiringSquad: Finally is there anything else you wish to say about Clive Barker's Jericho?
Brian Gomez: Clive Barker’s Jericho is a great example of what can happen when creative people are given the freedom to work together, to cut through the business and legal BS and just have fun using their imaginations. Codemasters deserves a lot of credit for allowing Clive and his creative team this much participation, not just during pre-production, but throughout the development process, and I think we’re going to have a truly memorable game to show for it. Will this be the Jericho Squad’s last mission? I wouldn’t bet on it…
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