A little under a week ago saw the release of the first person shooter Conduit 2, the highly anticipated sequel from High Voltage Software. To take a closer look at the development of the game (as well as a possible hint at future 3DS outings), we went behind the scenes with Kevin Sheller, a senior producer at High Voltage who has been with the company since 1997.
Nintendo Life: When The Conduit came out in 2009, it was the leader in a field of very few. Since then, the competition has grown to include such hard hitters as Goldeneye, Black Ops and Red Steel 2. How does Conduit 2 set itself apart in this more widely diversified field?
Kevin Sheller: Conduit 2 is not your typical FPS. While it does include the features that every FPS fan expects, it also sets itself apart from the “far-too-serious” games in the genre by delivering a tongue-in-cheek narrative, lots of unique sci-fi weapons like a Black Hole gun and a gun that turns you invisible, as well as a plethora of interesting multiplayer game modes that no other FPS offers. Conduit 2 is a game for gamers who want to have fun, laugh a bit, and frag opponents in style.
NL: One big issue that reviewers took with the original Conduit was the overall repetitive, unimaginative nature of the level design. How has this been addressed in the sequel?
KS: We completely revamped how we design our levels. This started with technical improvements like cells and portals and better streaming efficiency, and was combined with a more thorough level design process. Our designers were able to create game space from day one of the game’s development. This meant that we could play the game very early on and iterate on the designs throughout development. This process led to levels with branching paths, more secret areas, verticality, lots of open areas, and overall a much better progression pace.
NL: Have there been any changes or improvements made to the ASE, or All-Seeing Eye function? You said in our interview from around a year ago that this would be improved upon in the sequel and more heavily used in exploration. How has this come together?
KS: Yes. The ASE is taking a much more meaningful role in Conduit 2 than it had in the first game. The most immediate change that players will notice is that when the ASE is activated, the player’s view of the world is altered. This allows players to more effectively search the environments for secrets, among other things. Additionally, the ASE is used to do more this time around as well. It plays a more prominent role in player progression and is a necessary tool that players will find themselves using much more often. We also wanted the ASE to get more involved in our multiplayer gameplay and to that end, we designed several new game modes where the ASE is the “key” component. My personal favourite is ASE Basketball, which is a cross between traditional basketball (passing and shooting) and Quidditch (from Harry Potter). It is one of the most-played new multiplayer modes in the office and I highly recommend it.
NL: We also spoke before about some of the more imaginative sci-fi-esque weapons, like the Phase Rifle and Vortex Blaster. What other weapons can players look forward to, and which are your favourites?
KS: Conduit 2 has more than 20 weapons. These weapons are based on four unique technologies: Human (traditional), Drudge (Alien Organic), Trust (Energy/Plasma), and Atlantean (Physics/Matter manipulation). My favourite weapon in the game is definitely the Dark Star. This weapon is one of the more strategic weapons in the game but it is also one of the most rewarding. It has two firing modes. The primary fire mode shoots a single plasma-like ball of dark matter toward an enemy that once stuck, does damage over time. The secondary fire shoots a black hole into the world that sucks up any living being in its path. It is a great weapon to shoot into large groups of enemies and the visual effect of the black hole is pretty terrifying to behold while playing.
NL: What types of enemies will you fight in Conduit 2, and what makes them unique from one another in terms of combat strategising?
KS: There are 23 different enemy types in Conduit 2 and they each have a unique AI behaviour that sets them apart from one another. Medmites are healer enemies that avoid direct confrontation but instead position themselves behind cover. Players will find that the best way to take these guys out is to either charge them (you run faster them they do), toss a grenade into their cover in order to flush them out, or use the Phase Rifle to shoot them through their cover. Another example would be the Trust Chargers. These tank-like enemies have a tonne of armour and can withstand a lot of damage. When they are alerted to your presence, they hone in on you and walk steadily toward you firing their weapons constantly… think Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th. The best strategy to use against these seemingly impervious foes is the stun them with the Flash Grenade to short-circuit their armour’s electronics. While they are stunned, they are vulnerable.
NL: Does Conduit 2 feature achievements, as did the original game, and what types of things can players be rewarded for?
KS: Yes, Conduit 2 does have Achievements. Players earn Achievements for completing a number of different challenges. From completing levels, to defeating enemies using specific strategies, players are rewarded for how they play the game. Along with the shiny new Achievement, players earn Credits for every Achievement they complete. Credits are the in-game currency that allows players to purchase items from the in-game store. Within the store, players can purchase new weapons, suit upgrades, character models, character colour schemes, and modular pieces for character customisation. The in-game store is a huge addition to the game and one that we believe players are going to really enjoy.
NL: In our previous interview, you told us about the beefing up of multiplayer mode with different classes and around 30 suit upgrades, and how a player can customise their experience around these. We've also since learned about the implementation of four-player split screen and support for the Headbanger Headset for talking to other players online. Is there anything else multiplayer fans should know about Conduit 2?
KS: Conduit 2 offers a very robust multiplayer component for fans to enjoy. There are 14 different game modes, four-player cooperative play, 12 maps, the ability to customise up to four different loadouts per profile each with a choice of Primary Weapon, Secondary Weapon, Grenade Type, and up to four Suit Upgrades, and finally the ability to customise up to four different avatars with seven models and more than 20 modular pieces. We spent a lot of time working on giving players the options that they deserve and Conduit 2’s experience is unlike that of any other game.
NL: In what capacity does MotionPlus function in Conduit 2?
KS: MotionPlus is an optional add-on for Conduit 2. It is used to provide more precise reticule positioning if the player moves the reticule off-screen and more accurately tracks slight movement for the best multiplayer interaction.
NL: What other big changes does Conduit 2 make over its predecessor?
KS: This could be a very long answer, so I will try to keep it short and focused. Conduit 2 has more weapons (with secondary fire modes for each), lots of levels with much better level design, 23 different enemy types, epic Boss Battles, flippable cover, tons of secrets hidden through each level, support for Classic Controller and Classic Controller Pro, the ability to patch the game (to combat hackers and fix issues that may arise), four-player splitscreen competitive and cooperative play, voice chat with the HeadBanger headset, a Rival System with voice chat support (no more Friend Codes necessary!), customisable multiplayer models, a hardcore multiplayer mode (for the hardcore), 60 multiplayer ranks (Conduit 1 only had 25), and the ability to define four unique character/weapon loadouts.
NL: What breakthrough or development is the team most proud of in creating Conduit 2?
KS: We are most proud of the quality of the experience that Conduit 2 delivers. It really is a complete package with a solid campaign that will likely take gamers six-eight hours to complete, four-player splitscreen cooperative play, four-player splitscreen competitive multiplayer, and an online multiplayer option that is filled with options for players to customise their avatars and their game experience to suit their needs. All of this is wrapped in the mantle of science fiction which allows us to do some crazy and fun things throughout the game. The team’s commitment to delivering the most complete and highest quality experience possible is what we are also very proud of.
NL: There's been talk about a Conduit game coming to 3DS. What's the status on that?
KS: Sorry, but I cannot confirm or deny a Conduit game on the 3DS. What I can say is that we have created an impressive demo that shows that many of the technical features found in Conduit 2 can be run on the 3DS using our Quantum engine. Where this tech demo has led will be discussed at a later time.
NL: Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?
KS: I want to say thank you to everyone who already purchased Conduit 2. We are committed to keeping the community thriving for years to come through events like Double XP weekends, patches, and perhaps a few surprises. We look forward to hearing all of the feedback from the community and working with them on this and future games.
Nintendo Life thanks Kevin Sheller for taking the time out to answer our questions.