It's The PC Gamer Show! For episode one, we talked to Tripwire Interactive about upcoming shooter Killing Floor 2, played a high stakes game of Nidhogg with serious embarrassment on the line, and got our hands on a new Samsung 4K monitor.
In this episode...
Act I: Evan chats with Tripwire Interactive president John Gibson about Killing Floor 2. Gibson talks about what the team has been working on since our Killing Floor 2 cover story, including motion captured reloads and gore that looks like BBQ chicken. Act II: Wes and Cory take a break from deadline day to play Nidhogg, with high stakes. Guest starring PC Gamer mascot emeritus Coconut Monkey. Act III: Tyler and Wes talk about the performance and drawbacks of 4K gaming after testing out the Samsung 590D 4K monitor.
The PC Gamer Show is a new and evolving project for us, and we want your feedback to help make it better. What kind of segments do you want to see? What games should we play and talk about? Who should we have on as guests? What's coming up next?
Shout at us in the comments below, or shoot us an email directly at email@example.com. We're listening. And we'll see you in two weeks.
Time sure does fly by when you re having fun (also guts). Killing Floor is celebrating its fifth birthday, and Tripwire has shared an infographic of impressive numbers and trivia to mark the occasion. Did you know that Killing Floor was originally released as an Unreal Tournament 2004 total conversion mod in 2005? Or that the retail version we know and love, and which went on to gain 3 million players, was first developed by a team of 10 people in just 3 months?
They grow up so fast. Five years and more than 20 billion dead zeds later, Tripwire Interactive is now at work on Killing Floor 2. For more on that game, make sure you catch up with Wes exclusive first look, and his chat with Tripwire about how it aims to make gaming s most realistic guns.
Pictured above: Tripwire's David Hensley, John Gibson and Bill Munk holding weapons that appear in Killing Floor 2.
Tripwire Entertainment knows a thing or two about guns both the real deal, and the ones they create in video games like the upcoming Killing Floor 2. In 2006, as a mod-team-turned-development studio working on World War 2 shooter Red Orchestra, they managed to create reload animations smoother and more detailed than the large teams developing Battlefield and Call of Duty.
" we heard 'how come these guys' reload animations are better than yours? " says Tripwire's president, John Gibson, thinking back to the competitive World War 2 market in 2006. "We heard the same thing about our sounds. We had pretty good sounds in the first Red Orchestra game. And the DICE guys actually said that motivated them to want to do better, and that's why Battlefield Bad Company had such amazing sounds. They were like crap, we have to do better than these guys. "
For Red Orchestra and Red Orchestra 2, Tripwire earned a reputation for authenticity. With Killing Floor, Tripwire's wave-based co-op shooter released in 2009, fans started calling Tripwire's digital firearms gun porn. Killing Floor players praised how fun the guns were to fire and how detailed and different each firearm was. Killing Floor also let Tripwire get weird, with completely fictional weapons like the Zed Eradication Device.
Now Tripwire is developing Killing Floor 2 with eyes on an Early Access release for SteamOS and Windows. The crazy mutant freak hordes of Killing Floor and its sci-fi trappings don't mean Tripwire is giving up on accurately rendering real-world weapons, though. Gibson just wants every single gun to be cooler than ever. Animated fire Before making Red Orchestra 2, Tripwire's developers fired dozens of guns to record audio of each weapon and study how it performed. They used their study session to create more accurate recoil for machine guns. Killing Floor 2 s larger budget means the team can go one step further: full motion capture for insanely high framerate reload animations.
"Guns shoot at such a high framerate, if you animated the gun at 30 frames per second, you're only going to get six frames per second when you go into slow-mo in detail to show that gun animating," says lead animator Bill Munk. At 30 fps, most gun animations just show a "generic forward and back motion." For KF2, Tripwire committed to higher framerate animations that would preserve the details of firing and reloading even in Zed Time, the slow-mo system that kicks in when cool things happen in Killing Floor.
Zed Time desaturates the world and oversaturates blood, Sin City-style.
"Using the Bullpup as an example, we animated at 242 frames per second, which gives us 22 frames per shell that ejects out of the weapons," Munk tells me. "The weapon shoots at 660 rounds per minute, which equals 11 rounds per second. In slow-mo you can actually see every kickback. In realtime you can't see these details but it makes the guns feel more powerful. We've come up with a formula to calculate: we have a weapon, this is its rate of fire how many frames to do want to have per actual kickback, to make sure the fidelity of it is absolutely perfect? To my knowledge, no game is doing something like that, or would even think it would be worth doing something like that."
Gibson breaks it down. "At this rate of fire, you'd have one frame of animation to shoot. To put that in perspective, if you've ever done one of those little flipbook animation things, a frame is essentially one page. So you'd have one page to represent the barrel wiggling, the shell ejecting, the bolt moving back. It's a small touch, but it adds to the feel of it really happening."
Gibson gets even more excited about KF2's new gun technology when he talks about weapon accuracy and recoil. Most games, he explains, represent accuracy with a bullet spread. Less accurate guns will have a wider spread on their bullets, so planting your crosshair dead center on a target doesn't guarantee a hit. "We wanted to actually have the gun physically move instead of having some magic number that you tweak that makes the bullets go in random directions. The gun's accurate; if you can manage to keep your sights on an enemy, you will hit it. The crosshair's just moving around, but wherever that crosshair is, that's where the bullet's actually going."
For the motion captured weapon reloads in KF2, Tripwire researched speed reloads on Youtube, watching and imitating the reload tricks of modern gunslingers. Each gun in the game has four different reload animations: two regular and two faster "elite" reloads, based on whether a magazine is partially full or empty. The elite reloads are locked behind perk abilities: you'll have to earn them.
The SCAR returns from Killing Floor. Gibson owns the real thing.
There's a noticeable difference in speed between the regular reloads and elite reloads with rifles like the Bullpup, which will be a lifesaver in tough Killing Floor 2 matches. Munk promises that other weapons will have reloads that are as ridiculous and badass as they are useful.
Tripwire motion captured every reload to create third person animations. But Killing Floor is a first-person shooter. Munk is proud when he talks about how they used the motion capture recordings.
"The raw mocap data just gets authored two separate ways to create the third- and first-person ," he says. "Creating third is actually way easier. If a guy's moving and shifting his weight, it's great, but in first person it's really weird...it feels really awkward and stiff. That's one reason why Arma feels really awkward. In third-person they're using the first person animations, so it doesn't feel like it's been specifically edited for that. We've massaged it so it's perfect for what we're doing." Weapon balance Despite Killing Floor 2's over-the-top sci-fi tone, Tripwire still aims to keep its weapons fairly true to life. The designers match rate of fire with real guns and have gone out of their way to correct some lingering inaccuracies from the first Killing Floor and its progenitor, an Unreal Tournament 2004 mod. In KF1, a round from the 9mm pistol actually dealt more damage than a bullet from the Bullpup rifle. That's not true in KF2.
Weapons are also being balanced more carefully. Each perk has four primary weapons, ranked weakest to strongest, and no future DLC weapons will change that tier system. The most powerful assault rifle will stay the most powerful assault rifle, but "sidegrades" will offer more options higher rate of fire but lower damage, higher stun or knockback against the Zeds. Damage values aren't rigorously beholden to the real-world weapons.
"With RO2, the model is, make it just like real life," Gibson says. "The recoil, the way the gun moves when you shoot, the accuracy of the weapon, the damage of the weapon. For the most part we model reality."
Gibson explains that Red Orchestra's balance comes from controlling access to weapons. "Some games have unlimited snipers! Not in RO2. There are a couple snipers on a team, a couple machine guns, and we try to take a realistic format that was fairly balanced in the real world and apply it to the game. What we've always said about the RO franchise is we take the fun parts of realism. It is not fun to be cowering in a trench getting artillery dropped on you for hours on end and crapping your pants. But it is fun to line up a shot on a distant target while your guy's breathing and you finally nail that long distance shot and you know that it was challenging and rewarding to do."
How many shots will it take to blow off a zed's jaw? Early Access players may influence those kinds of damage values.
With four weapon tiers spread across a planned 10 perks, plus backups like pistols and melee weapons, balancing Killing Floor 2's entire arsenal will be a big job. So far, Tripwire isn't talking about most of the game's arsenal. The SCAR 17, AK-12, Bullpup, and 9mm AR-15 are Commando weapons already implemented in the game. The Mossberg 500 shotgun will also make an appearance.
Tripwire knows how to nail the feel of KF2's weapons, but perfect balance can only come from large scale playtesting. Enter Early Access and the Killing Floor community.
"It's about getting the players' feedback and letting that inform us to make smart decisions for what becomes the full release," Gibson says. "We're excited to get it into peoples' hands. We don't want to wait...we want to see their reaction, get their feedback. That's a big driver to do Early Access."
Tripwire won't say when Killing Floor 2 is coming, but its weapons may set a new bar for FPS fidelity. If, in a couple years, you're playing the next Battlefield and notice that the reload animations are especially detailed, you'll know who DICE was hellbent on beating.
For more on Killing Floor 2, make sure to read our exclusive reveal feature.
"Dosh here, grab it while it's hot!" Killing Floor 2 exists. The follow-up to the gory, cooperative, wave-based shooter impressed Wes when he went to visit Tripwire in Georgia for our exclusive first look. Coupled with our coverage of Killing Floor 2 in our magazine, though, is a special gift: a unique character skin that you can only get by buying the print magazine.
Let s face it: when you re surrounded by hordes of the living dead, who want only to feast upon your flesh, your biggest concern is going to be, Do I look cool? Lucky for you, we can make sure you look your best right before you re torn to bits. Because if you re going to be a corpse, you should look badass.
All print subscribers and print newsstand purchasers will receive a Steam code in the magazine. You can redeem the code in Steam immediately, but the skin won't be available until the game is released, of course. Subscribers should receive the issue soon, but look for this cover on newsstands by May 27:
How to redeem your Killing Floor 2 code 1. Go to store.steampowered.com, or log into the Steam client on your PC. 2. In the top menu, click on Games, then Activate a product on Steam 3. At the Product Activation window, click Next 4. Click I Agree to the Steam Subscriber Agreement 5. Input the code below, click Next, and the skin will be added to your account
The US print issue will be on newsstands by May 27, and available for online ordering in the PC Gamer web store on the same date. The item will also be available in the July issue of PC Gamer UK, on-sale July 3, 2014.
The Killing Floor 2 "Dosh" skin code is only available in the print edition of the magazine
Paris is burning. The sky behind the Eiffel Tower glows an ominous orange through a haze of billowing smoke. Sparks and ash and scraps of paper float through the dark streets of the city, where cars and offices stand eerily abandoned.
A manhole opens. For a moment, nothing happens. And then a zed, a naked genetic freak sheathed in slimy grey skin, pops out of the hole like a horrorshow jack-in-the-box. The zed has the mind of a child. It doesn't know much, but it knows it wants to kill.
The zed manages two steps from the manhole before a stream of bullets blast it off its feet. More bullets tear into it in midair, splattering blood across the street and unburdening its gut of a generous helping of internal organs. Everyone in the dark conference room at Tripwire Interactive laughs or oohs as they watch the most complicated gore system in gaming a gore system they've been building for Killing Floor 2 for the past two years eviscerate the zed in a way they've never quite seen before.
Since shipping World War II FPS Red Orchestra 2 in 2011, Tripwire has dedicated itself to the sticky art of digital dismemberment for the sequel to 2009's co-op wave-based shooter. They want each and every exploded brain, severed leg and bloody gutshot to look unique. Bill Munk, creative director and senior animator at Tripwire, has a saying: Red Orchestra is realism. Killing Floor is coolism.
"Killing Floor is a simple game," says Munk. "You have weapons. You see something that looks messed up. And you kill it. You get money for doing it and you buy better weapons. Rinse and repeat. The more enjoyable that small little loop is, the more successful the game is."
Munk is one of Tripwire's co-founders. He couldn't hide his enthusiasm for games if he tried; over dinner, he gushes about how he played a borrowed copy of Metal Gear Solid in his college dorm for an entire weekend, substituting caffeine for sleep. When Munk talks about Killing Floor 2, most of his sentences end with "as sick as possible."
"This project on an animation end has been a dream come true for me," he says. This is the first time we had the budget for me to do mocap for everything and try to make everything look as sick as possible."
When Munk says everything, he means it. The gun animations are mocapped. Melee is mocapped for first- and third-person perspectives. Killing Floor 2 is still a simple game. But this time, it looks good.
A killer mod " is the first time we've been able to develop a game from start to finish with what I would call a reasonable size staff and a reasonable size budget," says John Gibson, Tripwire's president and a co-founder along with Munk.
Gibson is entertaining and outspoken for a company president. Tripwire's pedigree for realistic weaponry stems from Gibson's passion for them. Many guns in Killing Floor 2, like the Commando class's SCAR Mk 17 and AK-12, are modeled from his own personal collection. If he's not talking about guns or videogames, there's a good chance he's talking about cars. "Have you ever ridden in a DeLorean?" he asks me with a grin when we take a break for lunch. I have now ridden in a DeLorean.
Gibson and the other founding members of Tripwire had to take out loans to pay for their first game, Red Orchestra. They started as an Unreal Tournament 2004 mod team. Killing Floor was another Unreal mod, created by Alex Quick. Once Tripwire turned RO into a standalone game, they convinced Quick to port over Killing Floor. They played the mod so much, Gibson put Red Orchestra 2 on hold mid-development to turn Killing Floor into a full game. Ten people made the game in three months. As of 2014, Killing Floor has sold nearly 2.5 million copies.
Tripwire is now 50 employees strong. Killing Floor 2 is coming to Steam Early Access for Windows and Valve's SteamOS. When? Not as soon as I may want, Gibson says, but sooner than I may expect. After watching them play KF2, I know they got at least the first half of that statement right.
MEAT and bones Bullets, blades, and blood: these are the pillars of KF2. They're represented by a diagram like the classic food pyramid, except each ingredient gets an equal share. The pyramid sprouts guns and blades and is coated in blood like a heavy metal porcupine.
"When we started designing the game we decided gore was going to be the most important feature," says David Hensley, art director on Killing Floor 2. "We were really inspired by Soldier of Fortune, the GHOUL system. We wanted to outdo Soldier of Fortune's gore."
Hensley has been with Tripwire since the beginning. He and Munk went to college together. When they moved to Atlanta, they slept on air mattresses in an apartment shared with other members of the studio. He couldn't afford a car until they shipped Red Orchestra.
Hensley uses a pistol to slowly tear apart Cysts. The Cysts are new, weaker Clot variants the underdeveloped killer babies of the genetic freak family. Each zed in KF2 features 19 points of dismemberment. "You can blow chunks off their head to reveal skull," he says. "Keep shooting the skull and it explodes, revealing brain cross sections. You can cut them in half vertically, horizontally."
Tripwire calls KF2's gore system MEAT. Massive Evisceration and Trauma. It's more detailed and graphic than Soldier of Fortune's GHOUL system, but it's not as disturbing as seeing realistic human faces blown apart. Killing Floor 2's zeds are genetic freaks pulled from the workshops of schlocky sci-fi horror films; their gruesome dismemberments are designed to elicit cheers rather than grimaces. And it works every katana appendectomy and mid-air slow-mo headshot puts a grin on my face. These bodies have weight when they fall apart, and they get torn up in all kinds of nasty ways. But Killing Floor 2 is colorful and exaggerated enough to teeter back from the edge of disturbingly realistic violence.
Still, there's enough blood in KF2 to make Sam Raimi envious. And here's the crazy part: it stays. Bloodstains become permanent fixtures of Killing Floor 2 maps for entire matches. Tripwire's designers grin mischievously when I ask how they did it.
"We're using some really clever tricks to modify textures in the level in real time," says Gibson. "Typically blood is rendered as a texture that is projected onto objects in the world. It's very expensive to render. What this is doing, in real-time, is modifying the textures being rendered to display the blood so there's almost no additional rendering cost. You can literally paint the texture with blood and it'll stay the entire match."
For added variety, each zed has 95 death animations divided between kill zones the head, neck, chest, stomach, and limbs. Thanks to Killing Floor's success, Tripwire had the money to hire a mocap expert and record every zed movement at a motion capture studio in Los Angeles. Munk captured 3000 motion capture clips for the zeds, and melee attacks, and gun reloads. The once-stolid zeds that clunked around like Unreal Tournament bots are now alive, swaying and howling, lunging and beating their chests. Gollum's Andy Serkis would be proud.
Tripwire's guns, already renowned for their realism, also benefit from Killing Floor 2's focus on animation fidelity. "Guns shoot at such a high framerate, if you animate the gun at 30 frames per second, you're only going to get six frames per second when you go into slow-mo to show that gun animating," says Munk. "We started experimenting. What happens if we animate our weapons shooting at ridiculously high framerates? Using the Bullpup as an example, we animated at 242 frames per second, which gives us 22 frames per shell that ejects out of the weapons. In slow-mo you can actually see every kickback."
Blood on the streets Hensley opens up a co-op game lobby an addition to KF1's classic server browser which is quickly filled by five Tripwire testers elsewhere in the office. Most of them play with level 25 perks, KF2's new level cap. Two skills unlock every five levels, but only one can be equipped from each pair. There's always a tradeoff. The Commando has to choose between a damage boost and a skill that shows his entire team the zeds' health bars.
The new perk abilities add variety and, more importantly, a longer level curve for players to work on. In KF1, players could go months without earning a rank up, and each perk had only six ranks. "A big goal for us this time around is to make sure the endgame, playing the game for a long time, is much more entertaining and has a lot more replay value," Gibson says.
Hensley starts the match on Hell on Earth, the hardest of four difficulty settings. Tripwire removed one difficulty option from the first game and completely redesigned how difficulty scaling works. In KF1, zeds simply moved faster and soaked up damage like lead-starved bullet sponges. In KF2, zeds become more aggressive and gain new abilities. Clots that would stumble around in a daze on normal charge towards Hensley in a fury when he shoots them on Hell on Earth. Spider-like Crawlers pour out of vents in the walls and ceiling and scurry around in the darkness.
Larger zeds, like the bile puking Bloat and the hulking, spike-handed Fleshpound, can already eat magazines of ammo on normal. I don't see them unleash their full moveset on Hell on Earth, but I expect they'll be more threatening, and more fun to fight, than they are in KF1.
Hensley's team move through the streets of Paris, first killing zeds with pistols, then upgrading to more powerful rifles and shotguns. Each perk has four primary weapons. That's 40 weapons across 10 planned perks, but Tripwire says there will be others backup melee weapons and "sidegrades" that won't ruin game balance.
The Tripwire players move from the streets of Paris into an abandoned hotel, then out into a dimly lit courtyard and underground into the subway. Hensley pulls out a katana to protect teammates as they reload. Melee has been completely reworked for KF2, with light and heavy attacks, combos, and four-way directional swings. A narrow hallway in the subway becomes clogged with bodies as Clots pour in and fall to concentrated gunfire. When Hensley swings his flashlight over the walls, they're coated with blood.
The team lasts three waves. Without welding doors shut to protect their backs, hordes of zeds overwhelm them. Paris burns on, overrun.
Destructible dynamic lighting and vents and manholes that spawn zeds encourage movement around KF2's varied maps. Modders at heart Killing Floor 2 is still Tripwire's baby. They're raising it, molding it in their image. But eventually, it will become the community's game. "Every system that we make we're looking at how to make it extensible to modders," Hensley says. "We'll design a system and then go 'oh, that's not going to work for modding. So we'll redesign it to make it easier for modders to access."
KF2 will support Steam Workshop for mods. Tripwire will release a mod SDK. "That's one of the things we're very adamant about," Gibson says. "We like to prod DICE and EA on this one occasionally. They've essentially come out and said that games have progressed to the point don't believe the community can make content for games. I say that's total BS. People are smart. That's selling them short. They will figure out their tools. If we can do it, smart kids out there are going to figure it out too."
The gore and animation systems will be extremely open to modders. Limbs and damage types can easily be assigned different effects. Zeds could spew flowers and rainbows instead of blood. Modders will be able to assign zeds new attacks without writing any code. Even Tripwire's lighting system, which is they built themselves and integrated into Unreal Engine 3, will be easy to animate.
The fans still playing Killing Floor years after its release made Killing Floor 2 possible. Those are the people Tripwire wants to reach through Early Access, to get their feedback on weapon and perk balance. Bill Munk, most of all, seems like he can't wait to get Killing Floor 2 into the hands of fans. At the same time, he's putting everything he's got into it.
"When we first started, we didn't have two pennies we could scrape together, but we've always been really ambitious," Munk says. "It's our goal to have one of the coolest video game companies in the world, an oasis, a place kind of like Valve, where we make stuff that would never exist if we didn't exist. But we've had to bleed to get to that. ... Now I feel like, for me, this moment is what I've worked towards for 10 years since we first started. We have a full crew of elite professionals, we all know each other really good. We all know how to use the engine. We all believe in this game. I'll do whatever it takes to make this product as sick as possible."
This reveal of Killing Floor 2 is the first part of our coverage of Tripwire's new co-op shooter. Subscribers to the US version of the magazine will receive an exclusive PC Gamer character skin in Issue #254. Come back tomorrow for an in-depth look at Tripwire's approach to weapon design and an interview with president John Gibson.
Steam has a peculiar history with the word "free", thanks to its regular Free Weekends. Through them, you can get a free trial of the entirety of a game across a limited two-day period. Red Orchestra 2 will soon have one of these weekends, and an overall discount to go along with it. Even freer, though, is a deal that will go live for the multiplayer shooter later today. For a 24-hour period, you'll be able to download (and keep) the game forever, for free.
"Yes, Free!" confirms the enthusiastic Jared Creasy, Tripwire's community manager. "By navigating to http://store.steampowered.com/app/35450/ and downloading the game tomorrow after the promotion starts and before it ends (the promotion will last 24 hours), the game will be free to keep forever!"
It's not entirely clear when the deal will go live, but I suspect it'll be at the start of the new Steam-day around 10am PDT, or 6pm BST.
While it is a great deal, it's worth remembering that through Red Orchestra 2 you only get limited "rifle only" access to the Pacific-set follow up, Rising Storm. Owners of Rising Storm which recently updated with a free Game of the Year edition get full access to RO2's multiplayer.
Hmm... HMM... Steam users are reporting that, for a brief period, visiting the store's stats page sent them instead to the Shadow Steam: a secretive and underground society where developers engage in spectacularly tense battles of "Petroglyph Games Developer Test App". The list appeared to forego the public applications of the Steam database, instead reporting those marked as private. Kind of like the exact opposite of what it should be doing. Of course, things are back to normal now, making it difficult to prove the veracity of the list. If the community's claims are true, though, it would suggest the existence of unannounced games like Killing Floor 2, Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate HD, Half Minute Hero 2, and Battleblock Theater.
Plenty of intriguing names crop up on the list, including a Steam release of Disciples: Reincarnation, known projects like Next Car Game, dev builds of existing games, and the intriguing presence of "Super Secret Project 1". Of those that are new, there are ports of the handheld game Arkham Origins Blackgate, and Behemoth's XBLA game Battleblock Theater, as well as the yet to be announced Killing Floor 2.
It could all, of course, be complete tosh, and, even if it isn't, there's no guarantee that the listed games will ever be released. With that disclaimer in mind, you can view the full list over at the Steam forum.
Grab a cup of eggnog, a candy cane, some other Christmas clich s, and celebrate the holiday with developer Tripwire Interactive's fourth annual Killing Floor Twisted Christmas event. This year, it brings us two new maps, "Hell" and "Forgotten," both from the mind of community mapper swift_brutal_death. That just screams holiday cheer to me, or maybe what we're all wishing for anyway as we untangle the Christmas lights.
The limited-time event also brings back all the previous Twisted Christmas maps and enemies, and another opportunity to unlock the special Baddest Santa character and ZED gun.
If you want to get in on the fun, now would be a good time, as Killing Floor is 50 percent off on Steam ($9.99) until Jan. 2.
Tripwire Interactive also used the opportunity to announce new content for its other big game, The Ball. The new content pack is free, and includes a two-hour campaign. All players who own The Ball will now also be able to use its protagonist, Harchier Spebbington, in Killing Floor. The Ball is also 50 percent off ($4.99) until Jan. 2.
John Gibson has been making PC-exclusive games for more than a decade. As President of Tripwire Interactive, he’s helped push Killing Floor, Red Orchestra 2, Rising Storm out the door of the developer’s Roswell, Georgia studio. He also happens to have a pretty nice sound system for his PC. We asked Gibson to weigh in on Valve’s trinity of announcements.
PCG: What's your reaction to SteamOS?
John Gibson: An open platform OS created by a company focused on gaming and meeting customers needs--how could we not be excited by SteamOS?
Are you actively developing for SteamOS?
Gibson: We actually just learned about SteamOS a few days before the rest of the world and we haven't gotten our hands on it just yet. Fortunately Valve gave us a heads up a while back that adding Linux and Big Picture support would "be a pretty good idea going forward." So we started working on Linux and Big Picture support soon after that. We've now got three of our four games released on Linux and one of those games with Big Picture mode support. That has put us in a really good position to take advantage of SteamOS when it is released since it is essentially Linux + Big Picture + Awesome Performance Optimizations + Other Cool Stuff. We'll be working on setting up the rest of our recent titles with SteamOS support in the not too distant future. We also plan on releasing our next unannounced title with SteamOS support right out of the box.
John Gibson, President of Tripwire Interactive "For years we've seen the Windows OS getting in the way of game development in many ways." What impact do you expect a Steam-centered OS and set of hardware to have on PC gaming?
Gibson: I believe that the combination of SteamOS, Steam Machines, and Steam Controller will be the best thing to happen to PC gaming since digital distribution, perhaps the biggest thing to happen to gaming itself in a generation. For the first time ever the entire path from game developer to the customer's hands is being created by a company focused on game development and giving gamers what they want. Digital distribution, particularly Steam, took two roadblocks out of the path--the big publishers and retail stores. Before digital distribution you couldn't get your game into customers’ hands without a big publisher and retail stores--both of which in most cases didn't add value at all for the end user, the gamer. This blocked a lot of innovative games from getting into gamers hands. Then you've got the OS as another step in the path. For years we've seen the Windows OS getting in the way of game development in many ways, and Apple has been pretty apathetic about gaming on Mac OS up until just recently. Getting an OS completely geared towards gaming, with all of the OS bloat that slows games down removed sounds like a godsend to game developers and gets another roadblock out of the way.
Next you have the hardware. PC gamers have been loath to move to the consoles because they are outdated so quickly and can't be upgraded, the game prices are bloated, and they can't stand the idea of giving up the quick responsiveness of the mouse and keyboard. Console gamers on the other hand have been limited to the closed console ecosystem where modding is cut off and things like Counter-Strike, Desert Combat, and Dota would never have existed. In the closed console ecosystems games like TF2 or our own game Killing Floor that constantly put out free content and provide value to the gamer wouldn't have been allowed to do all those free updates.
Steam Machines sound like the best of both worlds. It opens the door to the living room for developers like us to get our games into the living room on a platform that is open and allows the kind of innovation that PC game developers are used to. It also opens the door for a whole generation of console gamers to experience what they have been missing out on. It sounds like there will be a wide variety of Steam Machines that fit all gamers' budgets which is great. Since Valve have done the smart thing and left their platform open that will encourage competition between hardware manufacturers, which can only serve to keep the cost of the machines down and bring value to the gamer. Finally, if the rumors going around are true and this "input" that Valve has hinted about is a controller that allows you to have mouse-like aiming and control while sitting on your couch--well that is the holy grail of gaming right there. "We're incredibly excited about Steam OS and Steam Machines and will be supporting them fully." What are your concerns regarding adding SteamOS as a development platform?
Gibson: There are a few concerns that a developer has to look at when releasing a game on a new platform. What is the cost going to be to port/maintain compatibility and will we make our money back? How is the performance going to be? Is there good driver support? What we've seen in the past since Steam has come to Mac and Linux that about 10 percent of our game sales are now on those platforms. That extra 10 percent in sales was definitely worth putting our games on those platforms.
For our newer games we do have some concerns about maintaining two rendering paths--DirectX for Windows and OpenGL for Linux, Mac, and SteamOS. But actually the biggest hurdle for us is adding controller support to our existing games. Since they were designed to be played with a mouse and keyboard, and the interface was designed for a mouse and keyboard it will be quite a bit of work to get them functioning well with a standard console controller. We're now designing our newer games to work well with both mouse and keyboard and controllers from the start. Even with these concerns, we're incredibly excited about Steam OS and Steam Machines and will be supporting them fully. We think like most things Valve do this is going to be huge, and if I were Sony or Microsoft I would be very concerned right now.
Valve released this diagram of a hypothetical set of Steam Controller bindings for Portal 2. "What I like about the device is that Valve clearly took a 'clean slate' approach to it's design," Gibson says of the device.
Tripwire’s known for making PC-exclusive FPSes. How confident are you that Steam Controller is going to be an improvement over the Xbox 360 controller for first-person shooters? What do you like about the device?
Gibson: Valve actually gave us the heads-up about the controller a while back although we didn't know all of the details until we learned them today with the rest of the world. We haven't gotten our hands on one yet (very soon though) so I can only make assumptions at this point. The thing about Valve though, is they don't make claims lightly. They are PC gamers and shooter players. So if they say they made a controller that works as well as a mouse and keyboard then I'd put my money on them having done it and done it right. As a hardcore PC FPS player, and former competitive FPS player I really can't stand playing FPS games on a console controller like the Xbox 360 controller. Playing shooter games with the instant aiming and precision that a mouse provides is an extremely exciting and visceral experience. It is an experience a whole generation of console shooter players have been robbed of. "Honestly I couldn’t be more excited about this controller." If the Steam Controller can provide mouse-like instant aiming and precision then it will be a vast improvement over all previous console controllers. I actually play quite a few shooters on my mobile phone, and one of the things I had noticed was that using the touch screen on my phone to aim actually gave me pretty similar control and precision to using a mouse. So if the trackpads on the Steam Controller have that level of resolution and fidelity, I could see them working well for playing shooters.
What I like about the device is that Valve clearly took a "clean slate" approach to it's design. The ability to look around/aim as well as with a mouse was clearly at the top of the list, and I'm glad someone finally had the balls to take on that problem. Every new standard console generation I've waited with baited breath to see if any of the big console makers would tackle this problem only to be let down when I see their new controller is just like their old one. I also think the touch screen in the middle will be a really cool feature. I can't wait to talk to our design team and see what type of cool functionality we could use it for. Honestly I couldn't be more excited about this controller. I've been dreaming about something like this for over 10 years, and from the looks of it it's finally here.
As if my FPS plate wasn’t full enough already with MechWarrior Online, Arma 3, and Shadow Warrior, Tripwire Interactive just published a free content update for Rising Storm (one of our favorite shooters of the year) and Red Orchestra 2 that adds a new map and a Multiplayer Campaign mode, among other improvements.
The new map is Betio, a beachside cluttered with barracks and bunkers that puts the Americans on the attack. Tripwire says it “recreates the push of the US 2nd Marine Division across the devastated island against their counterparts in the 6th Special Naval Landing Force (the Japanese ‘Marines’) as the US forces attempt to disable key tactical objectives such as naval guns and transmitter stations. The map favors desperate pitched defenses and assaults at all costs.”
Island Assault also adds Multiplayer Campaign mode, a longer format for Rising Storm and RO2 multiplayer where the results of individual matches affect a strategic map over multiple rounds. Two new guns are also included: the PPS-42 SMG for RO2 and the Japanese Type 97 sniper rifle in Rising Storm, which Tripwire says is “more accurate than the existing Type 99 sniper rifle.”
In coordination with the content release Rising Storm is free on Steam today through Sunday, September 29.