[Quick Questions] Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon – Senior Producer Brian Etheridge
A long running series in Japan, the Earth Defense Force series made its debut in the US with D3Publisher’s Earth Defense Force 2017 on the Xbox 360 in 2007. Just last week, it’s insect-blasting sequel hit both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. To find out more about it, we ask senior producer Brian Etheridge a couple of Quick Questions. Fans and strangers to the series will want to give this a good read as he goes quite in-depth about the game and its features.
Denkiphile: How different is it developing this game for a console as compared to a portable platform? Is there one or the other that you preferred more?
Brian Etheridge: I don’t know if a handheld could handle the awe-inspiring firepower of the EDF! That and the hundreds of bugs… it might melt your hands.
Well, in all seriousness, we started this game on the consoles without really considering handhelds. We knew that we wanted to recreate the classic EDF experience and add online play. That was really our main push; bring EDF to Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. Although the gaming landscape is changing at an insane speed with the advent of the iPhone, I still think most people turn to their consoles for the long term gaming experience. You know, something they can play for more than 15 minutes and without their hands cramping up.
Handheld platforms have their place, even for EDF (EDF 2 was just released on PSP in Japan!), but for Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon, we really wanted to push the game and add everything we wanted to the series. For that, we needed the power of the Xbox 360 and the PS3.
DP: What types of vehicles can fans expect to see this time around? Which of these do you particularly like and want them to try out?
BE: We read a lot of the complaints about the vehicles in EDF 2017 and wanted to make sure we got them right. We trimmed out the Helicopter and Air Bike and added an EDF lander that plays more like a turret on rails. So, with the revamped Tank and Mech, we have 3 vehicles.
While we wanted to make all of them feel good, I think the Mech ended up being the most fun when you’re playing in single player. The player gets to control a massive Mech (still dwarfed by the Ravagers, of course) with an unlimited supply of rapid fire rockets and a chain gun that chews through enemies. Even though EDF sort of prides itself on making the player feel overwhelmed, it is really nice to have those moments where the tide is turned against the sea of enemies.
Despite my love for the Mech, I really like using the Tank when I’m playing with a friend or two. We made the Tank so that players engaged in co-op maneuvers could join forces inside a giant wagon of death. The Tank is equipped with two turrets in addition to the driver’s massive gun. If you squeeze three players into that thing and everyone watches their corners, it becomes a ton of fun and almost unfair.
DP: How will Insect Armageddon‘s multiplayer mode keep players hooked in and coming back for more?
BE: We designed the game to be played as a co-op game from the start, so I think that working with a team and trying to figure out the fastest way to beat a level or grab more kills than everyone else on the team will be what brings people back to play levels multiple times. Then, if you feel like you’ve had your fill of a particular level, you can switch over to Campaign Remix mode which changes the enemies up to bring a different feel to every level.
For the truly sadistic, teaming up with your friends and finding a way to beat a single level on Inferno difficulty with only tier 1 weapons will provide hours of fun.
If sadism isn’t your thing, then I think the armor and weapons will be a great hook for those collectionist types that just have to find everything within a game. With over 300 weapons to buy or collect off of dead elite enemies, we will keep the compulsive collectors occupied for quite some time.
DP: I noticed that the game has multiplayer for up to three different players in co-op, which seems like an odd number (no pun intended). Is there a particular reason for this magic number?
BE: I love a good pun, even when it’s not intentional!
Yes, three players became the magic number after our tech guys did a lot of performance testing. We wanted to make sure that even though we added co-op over network, that we didn’t change the feeling of the game. We wanted it to make sure it still felt like EDF after we added something that was new to the series.
One of the first things we did in pre-production was to create a level that was laid out similar to an EDF 2017 level. We had a big open area and a corridor through which enemies were funneled. The guys at Vicious Cycle played around in that level for a while just tweaking the flow and number of enemies until it felt like a level from an EDF game. After that, they did what they could in terms of coding/optimization to keep the number of enemies the same and keep the frame rate consistent.
In the end, three enemies felt like the perfect balance between pushing the console and keeping our enemy count high.
DP: Do you have a message for fans and other players who may not have tried the series?
BE: Our lead designer, Jim Richardson, recently compared EDF to a cult movie. He said it was like “one of those films that is a little too quirky for the mainstream, but manages to amass a diehard following of fanatic fans.” I’m ripping off his quote because I think that sums it up just perfectly!
EDF, up until this point, has been one of those games that only the cool kids know about. Insect Armageddon is going to change that! Don’t be like that hot girl at work who has never seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail or a single episode of Firefly! Pick up Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon on July 5th and become one of the cool kids!!!
While I’d like to think that I’m already one of the cool kids, it’s hard to resist an opportunity to blast giant ants with a bazooka or a tank turret. EDF fans will have probably picked the game up already, but everyone else should definitely check the game out. For more information, check out D3Publisher’s page on it here.