In 2010, High Moon Studios and Activision put together the thrilling “Transformers: War For Cybertron.” Fans and new players alike praised the action game for its various characters, multiplayer mayhem and gorgeous visuals — and having Peter Cullen on board as the voice of Optimus Prime certainly didn’t hurt.
This week, nearly two years later, the much anticipated follow-up “Transformers: Fall of Cybertron” hits stores. High Moon made a number of improvements for the sequel, using Unreal Engine 3 technology to expand the world of the Autobots and Decepticons a hundred fold. Furthermore, the studio brought in several fan-favorite characters, including Bruticus and the powerful Dinobot Grimlock, just to keep things interesting.
Before diving into the game, CBR News spoke with Dave Cravens, the senior creative director behind the project, to see what players can look forward to when the game hits stores — and even further forward to High Moon’s next title: “Deadpool.”
CBR News: Now that “Transformers: Fall of Cybertron” is in the home stretch for release, how psyched are you to show gamers how far the series has come?
Dave Cravens: I’m literally salivating over that prospect right now. Everyone’s worked so hard at High Moon Studios to bring the best experience possible to fans and non-fans alike, so we’re anxious to see if gamers will agree that “Transformers: Fall of Cybertron” is the definitive Transformers game of all time.
Tell us about the story. Obviously Cybertron is falling to pieces, but how do both the Autobots and Decepticons tie into it?
Autobots and Decepticons have been warring forever on their home planet of Cybertron. Our story starts at the tail end of that war, and guess what? The good guys lost. Optimus Prime, who is leader of the Autobots, has just made the toughest call ever — “It’s time to go.” The planet’s core has shut down, there is no future for them there. So he’s given the evacuation order for everyone to skip town in a massive starship called the Ark. They don’t even know where they’re going! They just know that if they stay, Megatron, leader of the Decepticons, will wipe them out. In fact, Megatron blames everything on the Autobots for the planet being so screwed up. He’s sees them as a cancer that needs to be wiped out so he can set the world straight again.
Players get to control Autobots and Decepticons again, but it’s all through one flowing storyline, right? Why not do two separate storylines like in the past?
We wanted to tell the most cohesive and impactful story as possible. Despite being on opposite sides of the war, Cybertron is both the Autobots’ and Decepticons’ world, and they are facing the same cataclysmic events, just through very different perspectives. It’s a great contrast for storytelling, and the thread that ties everything together.
How cool is it to finally include Bruticus and Grimlock in the game? Did you consider adding them in past games and but decide to save them for when the time was right?
In game development you’re always racing against a budget and a clock. The game has to ship at a specific time otherwise we’d be working on these things forever. So in answer to your first question — how cool is it? Very cool. In answer to your second — just imagine what we left on the cutting room floor on this game. I mean, you’ve got a fire-breathing space T-Rex in Grimlock, a combination of five Decepticons into Bruticus, a walking skyscraper in Metroplex that you get to order around? Could it be any more epic in scale? Now I’m asking you questions.
Do you think some players will be disappointed that Grimlock doesn’t have a gun? Or will they be too busy breathing fire to care?
Grimlock is a great example of how we vary up gameplay for the player. By the time you get to play Grimlock, you’ve been running and gunning for a while and then we switch it up. Now all of a sudden you have to earn your transformation as you build rage! Now you have a sword and a shield! I think fans will appreciate the great variety we provide in the game.
I’m sure fans will be thrilled at the return of cooperative play. What kind of cooperative features are there in “Fall of Cybertron?”
Escalation Mode is an online 4-player co-op survival mode — that is really hard to say in one breath but a lot of fun to play. Escalation Mode is exciting, but seriously, don’t play this mode on your own. You’ll get your butt kicked. It’s designed to play with your buddies, with special emphasis on teamwork. You’ll need your healer. You’ll need your scout. You’ll need your shield guy.
Beyond co-op, competitive multiplayer also looks to make a huge impact. What are the customization options and how much has the experience as a whole moved forward from “War For Cybertron?”
“WFC” was a solid multiplayer experience. It felt good, it played good, so this is really a great step forward in its evolution. You’ve got a lot of little things added like Host Migration, so the host of a session isn’t boning everyone else if he or she leaves, to big things added like our character creator! Seriously, who hasn’t wanted to build their own Transformer as they see it in their head? Thousands of customizable parts, all the colors in the rainbow — heck, you can even adjust the metallic sheen of your robot! This is something fans have wanted for years, and now they get it.
How cool was it to work with the Unreal Engine 3 technology? Did your team at High Moon Studios accomplish everything they wanted to get done with it or was some stuff left on the cutting room floor?
We have a quite a few titles under our belt with Unreal 3, so we’re pretty used to its power and nuances by now. Things are never good enough for us in our eyes, so we’re always tweaking, and tweaking, and tweaking.
Last month, you took part in a Comic-Con panel with some “Transformers” veterans, including Peter Cullen and Gregg Berger. How awesome did you feel being on the stage with these guys?
Honestly, I just sat back and basked in their awesomeness. It was fun to see how the fans react to them in person — they are beloved by all.
The voice cast really expanded this year, with Berger playing Grimlock and Nolan North jumping in as Bruticus and Cliffjumper. How great was it working with them, along with the returning Peter Cullen?
I’ve had the pleasure of working with all those guys for a couple years now, and it never gets old. They are fun, professional, and among the best in the world at what they do. I should note that Nolan also got to read opposite a good friend of his, Troy Baker, for the Cliffjumper/Jazz levels. Their energy was perfect, because they were needling at each other and trying to one-up the other as the characters were in the level. It’s like a “buddy cop” portion of our story.
Were you disappointed Frank Welker, the original voice of Megatron, was unable to take part alongside Peter Cullen?
Frank Welker is a tremendous voice talent, and he will always have a special place in my heart as the original Megatron. Honestly we fell in love with Fred Tatasciore from “War for Cybertron” as our Megatron voice and felt his performance worked perfectly with the energy the Megatron gameplay needed. It’s all about the gameplay. No slight to Frank — he is one of the all-time greats!
Now that “Fall of Cybertron” is ready to ship, you’re moving on to “Deadpool.” How great does it feel to work with such an unpredictable character in an over-the-top action game?
Well, that’s always the great thing about Deadpool as a character — you just never know what’s going to happen with him. It is extremely liberating on the creative front.
Nolan North is set to voice the character. Has he expressed enthusiasm in working with the Deadpool character again?
Yes. Nolan is very funny and a pretty free-spirit himself so the role is a perfect match. That, and he’s voiced the character before, so many fans have picked up on that.
I’ve also have to give a shout out to our lead designer on the game, Terry Spier, who does a great job of performing scratch VO until we get Nolan in the studio more. The energy he brings is a great template and allows us to see if gags are working or not early on.
Finally, Deadpool vs. Wolverine…think it’ll happen in the game?
You and your questions! One game at a time, man, one game a time!
“Transformers: Fall of Cybertron” ships August 21 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.