Inside The Club

8 05 2007

There interesting look inside Bizarre’s upcoming title The Club over on Next Gen. I dismissed this game when I first heard of it, but it seems they’re taking an interesting approach: Classic arcade gameplay wrapped in the aesthetics of a next gen shooter. Highlights:

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It’s a fast game, very fast, a breathless headlong fusillade of bite-sized levels, game modes, character selection, leaderboards, combos and multipliers, set to the metronomic bass-bin thump that accompanies every kill. It’s a score-attack game that rewards you for the reckless running and gunning years of stealth and duck-and-cover have tried to beat out: the faster you string kills together, the higher your score. A giant, ticking score looms in the top right, urging an incremental refinement in performance and skill, just one more go, one more restart. It may look conventional, but it’s completely Bizarre: as Davies says, “an arcade game hidden inside a next-gen game.”

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“We prototyped it without any art assets at all,” Cavanagh reveals. “So we started with basically an IP-less shooter with the scoring mechanism. And we actually went through quite a lot of iteration before we came up with what we’ve got at the moment – initially it was just a game about shooting targets, and then we found that really wasn’t compelling.”

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For that reason, Bizarre is working hard to engineer enemy AI that is responsive enough to be convincing while sticking to a totally predictable, repeatable rhythm, which is what prompts Cavanagh to liken them to the corners of a racing track. He’s convinced that, if the rewards are right, a reliance on foreknowledge and rote-learning are far from undesirable.

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“We looked at pinball when we were looking at scoring ideas,” reveals Cavanagh. “We downloaded loads of emulators and looked at all the different pinball scoring systems. They handle big scores really well. You know that person with the dubious three-letter name at the top of the table knows some ins and outs that you don’t.”

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He hopes The Club will be one of the few games to take the improvised speed-run culture and fully enshrine it in the core of its design.

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Is there such a thing as a quintessential Bizarre game, we ask? “It’s turning out to be the scoring and the competition and the pace of it, isn’t it? The intensity. We definitely go for addictive stuff,” says Cavanagh. “It’s an arcade game that looks like a simulation, and then we add simple concepts,” ventures Davies, who’s careful, and right, to include Geometry Wars and the forthcoming Boom Boom Rocket in his definition. “This is what we do. We take something very basic, very simple, but just make it look better and play better. It’s a goldmine.”

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