The Transformers have a long and storied franchise. From Toys to TV series to live action movies to comics to video games, there have been a lot of iterations of the robots in disguise. The problem is, some of them have been great, some have been good, some have been okay, and some (especially a lot of the games) have been not so much with the good.So how do you change that stigma, and how do you offer something new to the franchise and the fans of it who have stuck around through thick and thin? Well, High Moon Studios, new to the franchise, have partnered with Activision and Hasbro, and think they found the answer. First, they've introduced the fabled home of the 'bots, Cybertron, and second, they've completely revamped controls to make this this most playable, and fun, Transformers game yet.
For more details, we spoke with Matt Tieger, Game Director at High Moon Studios, developer of Transformers: War For Cybertron about what changes have been made to the franchise, why another game needed to be made so soon, and what kind of extras fans can expect.
Newsarama: Traditionally, the Transformers haven't been a yearly franchise in video games. What spurned the desire to do another Transformers game so soon?
Matt Tieger: We at High Moon studios have been very fortunate to partner with Hasbro and a new vision of Cybertron. Because we are not linked to a movie we were able to set a production schedule which was distinict from a movie, and thereby ship when the gameplay was ready.
Nrama: As this isn't connected directly to the movie license, are there some things gameplay wise you were able to try that they couldn't in the last one?
Tieger: We didn’t work on any of the previous Transformers games, so everything was new to us. We did do a ton of research and played all previous games to understand where the franchise had been. Based on all that research we then found our own way. Probably the biggest change from the previous game is the controls – we are grounded in the standard 3rd person controls. The flexibility came in the form of the visual designs and abilities that we gave the characters.
Nrama: We're way back in the past, on Cybertron here. That has to push into some major design changes; there aren't buildings too small to use giant robots, I'd imagine... what were some of the things you and Hasbro wanted to make sure to touch on in showing the home planet of the robots in disguise here?
Tieger: Fans of Transformers and Hasbro themselves had decades to imagine what Cybertron could be so we were pretty intimidated going into this. Cybertron had to live up to those expectations – it had to be epic, it had to be stunning and it had to transform.
Nrama: The Transformers 2 game had some maps that were relatively small for the size of characters being used, what kinds of sizes and terrains will we see for multiplayer here?
Tieger: Multiplayer is all about balance, and so our company culture from the beginning of this project is that from 5-6pm every single day since the beginning of the project, we play Multiplayer. This refined our skills, tuned our controls and of course formed our maps. The physical layouts accommodate all vehicle types with plenty of room for high action maneuvers.
Nrama: Co-Op is new to the series. With co-op you have to balance the game's difficulty differently; how does it stay challenging for two players but not brutal for a single one? Are there any things you can *only* do with a co-op partner?
Tieger: The game scales the difficulty based on the number of ‘real’ players in the campaign. In other words medium difficulty when playing solo is easier than medium difficulty when playing with co-op friends. The basic strategies apply with both AI and Co op but communication is the key element; actions like calling for heals and buffing your team are all about communication.
Nrama: Tell us a little more about create-a-character; do players have to use it for MP, or can they pick an existing Transformer? When creating, do you start from a popular character's basic stats and move from there?
Tieger: Competitive MP is all about custom Transformers. You don’t bring Optimus into the fight, you bring your custom-made characters. When making a character you have to make a bunch of choices (visual and gameplay) but there is no pre-made template that you start from.
Nrama: What are three basic elements you'd say are essential to capturing the feel of being a Transformer, and how did you achieve that with this game, especially compared to prior ones?
Tieger: 1-Transforming is meaningful and strategic - we tuned the ‘feel’ to be very fast and responsive so that players can use it often. We find players switching often because both forms have unique value.
2 - Cybertron is treated as a character. We spent tons of time on the story and the world. It had to be just right and I feel like we nailed it.
3 -Balance in MP combat – there are tons of weapons, skills and abilities in this game all divided between 4 classes. In order for that to be balanced we had to put the time into testing it, which we did.
Nrama: Easter eggs and unlockables were a very fun part for longtime fans in Transformers 2... working so closely with Hasbro, is that something we can expect from this as well?
Tieger: There are unlockables, and you will have to trust me when I say that TF fans are going to be blown away with the attention to detail in this game.