Interview: Genesis Rising (DreamCatcher Games and Metamorf Studios)

Wowzers.

Upon reading that response to the final question, you could imagine the skepticism running through my mind. “…the single greatest contribution to the good of mankind since HR GEIGER played Starcraft.” That’s a hell of a mountain to surmount. In a world where people contend with broken promises left and right, you might be inclined to think that the people over at DreamCatcher and Metamorf are pulling our collective chain. Jaded as I am, I was almost tempted to chalk up this one to the great letdowns in history. Stuff like Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points and Rammstein’s Rosenrot.

But then you get a look at the beautiful screens that Genesis Rising: The Universal Crusade is bringing to the table. Then you hear about the great gameplay mechanics they’ve got lined up, as well as how the gameplay integrates with the story. Galaxies with religious importance, metamorphic units and intergalactic human imperialism across the universe appear to be just a taste of the world you’re jumping into. Then just when you think you’ve got a grip on it, they say they’re blending RTS with RPG to make the whole pot sweeter.

Needless to say: our curiosity was more than compelled.

But compulsion alone is no excuse for blind indulgence. We got in touch with the folks at DreamCatcher and Metamorf to get the the ‘inside pulse’ if you will, and got to ask Project Manager Goran Milisavljevic, Lead Designer Goran Rajsic, and Lead Programmer Vladimir Petrovic some questions. What we got were answers that make us want to play the game even more. Unfortunately, that chance won’t arrive until March of 2007, as Genesis Rising waits for no man, save for the dedicated heads of DreamCatcher and Metamorf. This is good for us, as it clears up it’s original release date on Sri Lanka’s Independence Day for proper festivities we show it here on Inside Pulse. In the meantime, we’ll be dreaming of dancing morphing ships and right mouse-button clicks.

Frederick Badlissi: For the uninitiated, could you indulge us with the story line for Genesis Rising? Who are the main players we’re meant to empathize and loathe?

Goran Rajsic, Lead Designer: The story takes place in an unknown distant future, three thousand years after a human known as the Savior has been crucified. Humanity is united under the church of the Savior and rules most of the universe. The player takes on the role of Captain Iconah, who is sent to conquer the last free galaxy, believed to be the location of the heart of the universe, an entity sacred to humans. This time around, the humans are not presented in a typical positive light. We are not the ones protecting our planet. We are the aggressive conquerors this time.

The central figure of the story is Captain Iconah, who is chosen by the human ruling body to search for the last unconquered part of space, a part that holds a great religious importance to humans.

F.B.: How does the unique “on-the-fly” morphing fit into the storyline? Is it solely a gameplay feature, or does it also serve as a narrative component at any level?

Goran Milisavljevic, Project Manager: The real-time morphing represents the changes that the ships go through when the player changes their genetic structure. As the ship’s functionality changes, so do the morphing parts. The genetic manipulation provides freedom to the strategy and tactics the players want to use during the game, but it also serves as a story element, since the humans have developed organic machines that can adapt to any given situation. This genetic technology is what secured the universal human dominion.

F.B.: The gameplay is described by some as an “RTS RPG.” That’s a lot of consonants. Taken one term at time, players may know what to expect. Combine the two, and there may be some confusion. Is this in reference to a “veterancy” system, or does the gameplay go deeper? Between the two is it a 50/50 split, or does one genre come noticeably on top?

G.R.: The player progresses through the game similarly to an RPG title. There is no leveling, but acquiring new types of genes can be compared to it. The players develop their fleet through 30 single player missions and get to keep the ships that they begin with, changed with genes. Also, the player can change the outcome of the story or levels through communication with NPCs. But we are not aiming for a game that is for hardcore users only. If you want to run through the game and have quick short-term fun you can. But we left plenty of gold under the surface that the hardcore gamers can dig for. If we have to calculate percentages, we would have to say that the scale tips towards real-time strategy by few percent.

F.B.. Following the prior question, can people familiar with DreamCatcher’s previous titles expect an easy comparison of Genesis Rising to other titles in DreamCatcher’s catalog?

G.M.: Not an easy comparison. DreamCatcher has published space strategy games before, but we hope that we are bringing something new to the genre.

F.B.: The real-time morphing of unit configurations are intriguing on a technical level. For the guys at Metamorf Studios, how much work went into developing solid and stable code to make this a reality? From the programmer’s stand point, was this accomplishment a walk in the park or a search for the holy grail?

Vladimir Petrovic, Lead Programmer: The most difficult challenge was adjusting the real-time morphing of units with the complex shader techniques, since every class of gene has its visual representation on the morphing ship, it was hard to create a mechanism that would allow this graphical effect to be pleasing to the eye. Yes, it was difficult to do.

F.B.: Furthermore, the real-time morphing of unit configurations are intriguing on a gameplay level. Is its current incarnation and playability the same as when the idea was proposed, or was the idea subject to heated debates within the design team?

G.R.: We had very heated debates. Most of the time we had no idea how to adjust the interface to suit the gameplay needs. Furthermore, there was also a fear that the players are too used to usual strategy formulas, and that a new approach would be too risky. But, we went for new and fresh instead of safe and outdated.

F.B.: The old sci-fi adage says that there’s no sound in space. What can you tell us about Genesis Rising’s array of music and sound effects?

G.R.: There is no sound in space? We definitely missed that one. We have some scary sounds and a lot of loud music coming your way.

F.B.: How big is the development team at Metamorf? Do their ranks have any titles under their belt that our readers may recognize inside or out of the DreamCatcher catalog?

G.M.: You wouldn’t recognize any of our previous titles. This is the one that should put us on the radar. The core team is around 20 members.

F.B.: For the price of admission, people are expecting a great experience from Genesis Rising. With that in mind, what are the system requirements needed to enjoy it? Will it be a Half-Life 2 in Minesweeper’s clothing?

V.P.: We hope to have a wide range of systems that will support our game, starting from a minimal configuration of:

Windows 2000/XP
1.5 GHz x86 compatible processor
512 MB RAM
Graphic card: ATI 9500, NVIDIA FX series or any open GL 1.2 compatible card
DirectX compatible sound card

F.B.: What kind of player capacity are you guys shooting for regarding network and online play? Will the game support LAN connections?

V.P.: We are aiming for 12 players at this time. We’ll support both Internet and LAN games. We also have a co-operative mode in which players can lead one fleet and share units between them.

F.B.: When can we expect the game to be released?

G.M.: Q1 2007.

F.B.: Complete this sentence: “Genesis Rising is the greatest single contribution to the good of mankind since…

G.M.: “…H.R. GIGER played Starcraft.”