RGM Exclusive Interview with Enric Alvarez, Head of Mercury Steam about Raiders of the Broken Planet

Raiders of The Broken Planet is an upcoming 3rd Person Shooter from Spanish developers, Mercury Steam, the studio behind the rebooted Castlevania series and Clive Barker’s Jericho. At the helm of Mercury Steam is Enric Alvarez, who has steered the studio towards more independent waters as they work on the fantastic looking Raiders of The Broken Planet, and I was lucky enough to be able to ask the main man a few questions.

Richard Talbot-Ashby (RTA): Firstly, Enric – thank you for agreeing to answer some of my questions, I must say that I’m really looking forward to seeing more and eventually getting hands on with Raiders of The Broken Planet.

Enric Alvarez (EA): “Thank you very much for your kind words.”

RTA: Raiders looks like it will be a bit different from the usual third person action game, what do you think will set it apart from other games in this mould?

EA: “The game is a very tactical and strategic kind of game. We refer to it internally as a thinking man’s shooter. This is because we have designed the game to offer players various tools to play the way they want. For example, your enemies when shot simply disappear and any equipment or resources they are carrying disappear with them. This means if you go in all guns blazing, you’ll soon run out of ammo. Therefore the player has to go and get these resources and this means going in close and personal by brawling with the enemy. This brawling mechanic can leave you vulnerable not only to the opponent fighting back but other enemies who can shoot you from afar. Our cover system allows you to pick your moments and the natural way the cover system works means you use it a lot.

“This has tendency to slow the game down and this is deliberate. We want players use the cover to decide how best to tackle any given situation. This is strengthened by the ability of the player to see enemies through the environment. Stress levels enable you to see them and when you become stressed by shooting or brawling, the enemies can see you, so you could be inclined to manage your stress by sneaking to remain hidden from view or indeed, firing your weapon so enemies see where you are and then hiding in a different place to ambush them.

“If you then add in the various characters and their unique weapons and abilities and the possibilities become endless. So through these game play mechanics, we hope our game will attract players who want something where choice and player skill makes a real difference.

“Of course, the really unique aspect is the 4 vs 1 asymmetric gameplay. This is a cooperative adventure where four players team up to defeat the games missions, challenges and bosses but you never know when another player will drop into your game and join the bad guys against you. You might think this is unfair on the single player but actually that player has all the enemy AI on his side including the bosses and this gives them a real chance to disrupt the Raiders objective for that mission.

“And the antagonist isn’t some kind of monster or special character, he is one of the Raiders too. The antagonist plays with any character he likes and that means this system is a real blast. The Raider who decides to be a counter operative also has real chances of getting the best rewards at the end of each match and the adrenaline rush of kicking four other players asses and grabbing that vital weapon blueprint will certainly attract players looking for a skillful challenge.”

The thought that when enemies die, everything about them disappears, forcing players to think before shooting is a great touch, and is miles away from so many games of this ilk which could easily be described as “run-and-gun”, and it would appear that Raiders of The Broken Planet will definitely fit the bill of – in Enric Alvarez’s words – “a thinking man’s shooter”.

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RTA: Was there any specific inspiration to Raiders? Any films or games that you experienced that was a driving force behind the game?

EA: “Yes the game draws a lot of inspiration from pulp sci-fi and 80’s Japanese anime and manga. This game doesn’t take it self seriously at all and the characters themselves are not heroes in any way. The story is like the Magnificent Seven in space. These are a bunch of misfits, rogues and villains who come together for a common purpose but they don’t necessarily have the same goals in mind. We have a lot of humour and the game has its tongue firmly in its cheek. We want to move away from the serious and dark tone and have some fun!”

Since I first started playing video games as a snot-faced kid who wasn’t even in first grade yet, I knew that they would be a major part of my life, and they have been. The main reason? Simple – they’re fun. They can take you to the furthest edges of the universe, back in time, into fantastical worlds and all the time you are there. The philosophy of fun in this game appears to be the backbone of Raiders and that it employs a lot of humour is only a good thing.

RTA: Raiders appears very character and narrative driven – can you tell us a little bit about the types of characters in Raiders and a bit of a plot summary?

EA: “Yes like our previous games we want to take players on an adventure and narrative is a key component for doing that. This is a co-operative game where you can play with others to uncover the games story. Each mission has an objective and each mission pushes the story forward. You can experience this adventure with any character. It’s more of a PVE experience than a PVP one. As said, our characters are here on this broken planet to control a mysterious substance called Aleph with is integral to the game. However, they find themselves teaming up with unlikely bed fellows and this team somewhat reluctantly ends up fighting for a good cause but these guys are not naturally good people. It presents an interesting dynamic for the characters.

“A mission might be rescue a particular character, once you have done so that character is then available to you to choose or you might have a tough boss fight and then later that boss becomes available to choose from the roster. The point is you unlock content and characters by playing the adventure.”

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RTA: The game is due to be released episodically – can you let us know a little bit more about why you’ve opted to go down that route?

EA: “We decided to take this route for a few reasons. The first is a practical one. This model allows us to release content into the market and get feedback from our community quickly. This in turn allows us to tweak and change the game accordingly. We saw this as a great opportunity to create a game in real time with our fans rather than develop something and hope for the best. We want the community to tell us what works and what doesn’t, so we can make the next update better. At the same time, we don’t want to charge a premium price for each season and so we are offering each season at a fraction of the cost of a full price game. As we are independent we don’t have the overheads a traditionally published game has and so passing on that benefit to our audience is something we were very keen to do.

“Obviously being a small indie now means we need revenue to continue to develop the game over time. making a game of this quality isn’t cheap. We don’t see this as a one off either but as an ongoing franchise that we can build upon. We hope to be delivering content for Raider over many years. New missions, new characters and new stories. We will spice this up with regular content updates on a monthly basis and of course, fixes and features requested by our community. So in that respect the seasonal updates makes more sense.

“This kind of model doesn’t work with the large and standard publishing model which is the main reason we decided to go by ourselves and try this approach.”

A lot of games are released episodically for various reasons, the fact that the main aim of releasing Raiders in such a way is for the continual improvement of the game as a whole can only be a good thing. It will also enable Mercury Steam to branch out with Raiders if they feel the need to.

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RTA: I saw your Gamelab 2016 presentation, and I love the fact that if you’re not very social you can play by yourself and that you’re not forced to play online with others – but equally, if you want to play online with others the option is there. A lot of games are very much one or the other in that respect and can put people off. Are you trying not to focus on one specific type of gamer and be more inclusive? 

EA: “The game is designed for online multiplayer. I mean to say that is when the game really shines. The 4 vs 1 is what makes this game special but of course, sometimes you want to experience the game solo or you just don’t fancy playing online. We didn’t want to limit our audience to only accept the game one way. So again, we prefer to leave that up to the player.

“That is not to say that we don’t push very gently players to try the online game because this is where the game will reward you with experience, gold, talents and weapon blueprints to customise your character. I think once you give the 4 vs 1 a try, you won’t go back to the single player. Think of it as a warm up to the real deal.”

Mercury Steam are clearly gearing Raiders towards the multiplayer market, and rightly so – this type of game fits in perfectly with that model. But the fact that if you want to experience it solo, you can – that speaks to me and I’m sure it speaks to many other gamers out there.

RTA: Apart obviously from Raiders of The Broken Planet, what other games are you looking forward to in the coming months and year?

EA: “There are so many games I’m looking forward to… I just got Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and I’m hoping new Zelda will be as epic as it looks.”

RTA: What is the most recent game you’ve been playing in your down time?

EA: “I like Blizzards Overwatch (which is very different to what we are proposing with Raiders incidentally) and I love Ori and the Blind Forest. I have quite diverse tastes when it comes to games.”

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RTA: What kind of team do you have working on Raiders? At the moment it looks like a blockbuster of a video game.

EA: “We are treating Raiders as we would any other AAA production at the studio. We have a very large team working on this right now and we want the final product to have the love and care we always put into our games. Production value and art design are something we are known for and of course, we want a beautiful art aesthetic to the game.

“One thing we hope players will enjoy is the huge diversity in environments we are planning. We want every mission to be unique in content and visually. This was something people liked in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and something people missed in the sequel. So we intend to wow people with incredible vistas and awesome alien landscapes. So even though the game will have a very low barrier to entry we are not skimping on our production aesthetic. This will still be AAA in every way and dare I say will have a somewhat Spanish influence.”

From this, you can expect – and can see from the various images throughout this article – a beautiful game. Video games are works of art, and Raiders looks like being a masterpiece.

RTA: Finally, the gameplay appears very smooth and graphically Raiders looks stunning – looking from the outside, it almost looks like the finished product, can you give us any indication for a release date?

EA: “Thank you very much but the code you tried is still pre alpha and we have quite a way to go before its finished. The game won’t be shipping this year but we will be starting our beta program soon, starting with PC and then rolling out to PS4 and Xbox One before the years end. Our goal is to work with players who are interested in these types of games and who want to get involved in making a game better from the ground up. That’s why I urge anyone who may have a passing interest in the game signs up for our beta and gets involved. We are incredibly excited to work with the community on this. We want Raiders to be something stand out, unique and fun. We are building the foundations right now and look forward to working with our fans to make something truly exceptional.”

Raiders of The Broken Planet (7)Without a doubt, Raiders of The Broken Planet is one of the games I’m most looking forward to in 2017. The game itself looks fantastic already, and with so much work still to be done, I cannot wait to see where this game is going to progress to. Raiders of The Broken Planet is due for release in 2017, initially on PC but with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One ports by the end of the year.

What do you think about Raiders of The Broken Planet? Let us know what you think about this and anything Raiders related in the comments below, or in the RGM Forums.