PODCAST SIX: MULTIPLAYER IN DNF
May 20, 2011
ELIZABETH: Welcome to the sixth episode of the Duke Nukem Forever podcast series. I’m Elizabeth Tobey, and today I’m back in Plano with some of the guys from Triptych and Gearbox to talk about multiplayer – from weapons to modes to maps. Before we get started, let’s let the team introduce themselves, and then we’ll get to the meat of this podcast.
JAMES: James Lopez; QA Lead
NICK: Nick Wilson; Central FX at Gearbox
BRAD: Brad Jacobs; Level Designer at Triptych Games
ANDREW: Andrew Baker; Level Designer at Triptych Games
ELIZABETH: So today we’re talking about multiplayer in Duke Nukem Forever which I know is going to be a huge topic for the fans; everybody loves multiplayer. Can you talk about how multiplayer came about in Duke Nukem Forever?
ANDREW: Well the multiplayer had always existed. It was always planned, even when we were incredibly single player focused and working entirely only on the single player game back in the 3D Realms days, multiplayer was always functional, it always existed. But it wasn’t until this last year or so that a lot of it became finalized. And we started off with bringing back that basic multiplayer functionality up to speed a little bit. Triptych’s lead programmer, Rob [Faison], went in and did some quick clean-up for it and we started putting together some test maps. I remember Brad made the first couple of test maps.
ANDREW: And we just started playing those and even with all the incredible glitches, complete craziness and sometimes non-functional things that would happen when you’re dealing with a very, very beta thing—we were having a blast.
BRAD: Yeah, it was fun right off the bat.
ANDREW: So we were really excited when we got Piranha [Games] to finish it and bring it to completion.
JAMES: Yeah that’s something that when Gearbox got involved and we were looking at all the design documents and the idea of what is this game supposed to be; when we got to the multiplayer portion of it everything was about attitude and faithfulness to the brand. Does this “feel” Duke? Does this feel like this is unique to Duke? It was never about matching what anybody else was doing; it was always about “does this fit with the single player?” “Does this fit with the idea of what a Duke multiplayer should be?” I’ve been on the project for about a year, and we’ve been looking at multiplayer on a daily basis and it’s still fun to pick up the control. And that’s something that’s really unique, because there are people that work on so many different games where they don’t like what they’re working on, because it burns you out looking at it every day. But we still have a lot of fun. We’re always just teasing each other, like “Aw in your face” or “No, you can’t get me if you’re shrunk, can you?” So it’s still a lot of fun and all very Duke appropriate.
ELIZABETH: We’ll talk a little bit before we get into game play, modes and maps about the people making multiplayer. Who are the studios, who are the minds, who are the brains and what are they doing?
BRAD: Well after we got our rough multiplayer stuff going, Piranha came along and was hired by Gearbox to do the multiplayer portion of the game and they really grabbed that by the horns and took it in a really good direction. I think one of the most satisfying things for me was working on single player and we would take breaks to play multiplayer and see how it was progressing. We designed a couple of maps, the layouts for a few maps and to play that and see “Oh I’m unlocking something, I’m getting experience, I’m getting these in” to find ourselves addicted to our own game, even though we didn’t design that from the ground up. That whole system was Piranha, so that was very assuring to us.
ANDREW: Yeah, I remember it was great to play it as new elements of the game came in and became functional in multiplayer, that was really exciting. We tried to help them with environments. We worked on a couple of maps to bolster their maps, their group of maps and then handed them off to them when they got to a certain point where we couldn’t continue anymore; we had to go back to single player. And they’ve done a great job. They took all those maps and made them their own. I think people are really going to like it. It uses a ton of elements from the single player game I think in a way that people are going to find interesting; weapons and other abilities Duke has.
JAMES: I play a lot of multiplayer games and I always get kind of annoyed when I go to a map I never saw in the single player campaign. I’m like, “I feel no attachment to this. Why do I care about this map,” aside from “Oh this is a sniper map or this is a good grenading map.” You know, everything that you’re in for multiplayer is something that in some form or fashion was in the campaign. So it always has this familiarity to it; it feels like you should be there.
NICK: You’re probably looking for missing features too. There’s always something in the single player that’s not in the multiplayer experience, but that’s not the case in Duke. You have all the same weapons, all the same items, etc.
JAMES: Yeah, that’s a good point.
ELIZABETH: Before we jump ahead to weapons which I know they’re going to be dying to start dissecting, let’s talk about the modes of multiplayer. What are they? What can you do?
JAMES: There are four modes. There’s “Duke Match”, which is a free for all; there is “Team Duke Match”, which is team deathmatch; there is “Hail to the King”, which is a king of the hill mode so there will be a ring that you have to control and you want as many of your people there to defend it because the multiplayer is very brutal. The multiplayer forces you to be active. You can’t just hide in the corner. If you’re hiding in the corner, you’re not contributing. You have to be involved. The other mode is “Capture the Babe” which is a very refreshing take on “Capture the Flag”. You go to the enemies spawn point and you grab their babe and you have to take the babe back to your place and you score a point. She will put her hand in front of your face and you can’t see where you’re going; you can’t see anything. And it’s really good, because during this time you can still defend yourself but it’s with a little small but powerful Derringer which is great. Because even as people are chasing you, they might think they have you and then you one shot them and they’re gone. But you’re very vulnerable during this time because one: you have this giant target on you; and two: you can still be shrunk as you’re carrying this babe and you don’t want that to happen, because she will crush you. So it’s really awesome. It’s very funny and is probably our favorite mode in the testing department.
BRAD: In my opinion why that’s one of the funniest modes too because there’s a lot of opportunity for dialogue. There’s a lot of dialogue in the multiplayer and there’s a lot of multiplayer specific dialogue. So there’s a lot of humor that you’re going to miss out on in the game if you never play multiplayer.
JAMES: You know that’s a great point actually. I haven’t really thought much about but a lot of multiplayer games don’t have dialogue. It’s just on your headset, if you use that at all. But there’s a lot of engagement in multiplayer.
ELIZABETH: So about weapons. What are the weapons and is there anything in multiplayer that’s unique to multiplayer?
JAMES: There is actually one item that’s unique to multiplayer and that’s the jetpack. The jetpack is something that’s not in the single player game. It is an item that you pick up that when you follow the button prompt you can fly around. But it’s not something that you automatically fly up, it’s more the direction you choose to go. So if you activate the jetpack but don’t tell it where to go, you’re wasting fuel while essentially standing in place or hovering, that’s what it would be. So that’s something unique. But all of the other weapons you’ll find also in the single player game like the 1911 which is a strong side arm pistol.
CHRIS: And based off something that was actually a real weapon.
CHRIS: Both that there was a real weapon, there was actually a 1911 pistol, and the one in the game is actually based on one that George Broussard bought and brought into the office.
BRAD: Same with the shotgun. At 3D Realms, the shotgun from Duke 3D is a real shotgun.
JAMES: So George just has this pistol gripped shotgun he brought in?
BRAD: Actually I think it was in the animator’s office for a while.
ANDREW: Yeah, yeah.
BRAD: That was one of the coolest things for me, going to 3D Realms for the first time: seeing that.
ANDREW: One of the coolest things, exactly, was coming into the studio for the first time and seeing their prop department. That’s how a lot of the art for games was created before Photoshop was a sophisticated as it was and digital photography was as sophisticated as it was. If you needed to model a pair of boots for Duke and do the art for it, you went out and bought motorcycle boots. There actually are Duke Nukem’s boots in George Broussard’s possession: the ones that they were based on for all the first games and even Duke 3D.
BRAD: I will say this. It was very obvious early on in our multiplayer testing, that Shrink Ray play is awesome and we started trying to capitalize that within the design of our own maps. One of the maps I worked on, a construction [yard], there’s a lot of tables and there’s holes in the wall with the studs still intact in the walls. So if you’re shrunk, you could slip through there. So you’d be in a room, having a battle with someone and they’ll shrink you and they’ll run over to step on you and you’ll give them the slip by slipping through a mouse-sized hole in the wall and going around and then they try to go around and you can cut back through the other way. So it really turns in to this cat and mouse game, because when shrunk, you’re on a timer until you get enlarged again. And if you get enlarged, while you’re shrunk in a space you can’t fit in, you’re dead. So if you shrink someone and they run under a table and you’re shooting at them and you’re large, trying to nail them with your pistol and they’re dodging you all around, they know they have to get out from under that table pretty quickly or they’re going to die. It really changes the gameplay for that amount of time. It really twists everything on its head.
ANDREW: An additional thing is when you’re shrunk, it scales your gravity and weight as well so you can make your escape sometimes by leaping what people would think is to your death, but you settle slowly to the ground the way an ant would fall out of a skyscraper.
JAMES: Those are great points because the shrunk gameplay is really unique and it’s fraught with peril. You have to be really aware of your surroundings, because you’re not going to make your stand out in the open, shrunk. That’s ridiculous. Everyone will—especially in Duke Match, a free-for-all, if you’re shrunk, everyone forgets what they’re doing to come over and stomp on you.
BRAD: Just to do it, yeah.
JAMES: So yeah, you have to know where you are because there are tables everywhere and there’s some outdoor maps where there are rocks. If that rock’s jutting out at all, you might die underneath it when you grow up. So you have to be very careful and very aware of your surroundings while also remaining on the move. It goes back to the thing I was saying earlier: the multiplayer forces you to be involved. You can’t just stand still. If you stand still, someone’s going to destroy you.
NICK: The shrink ray, even in Duke 3D, that was the same reaction everybody had. There was this distinct “worrroooh” sound when someone shrunk and everybody stops to go chase this dude down and step on him. And like everyone’s laughing maniacally about it and really there’s one point to be gained, but that’s the testament to how fun the multiplayer is in Duke games.
CHRIS: Something that stands out to me when I play, when the shrink ray’s in effect, is that it almost feels dishonorable to use a pistol, or a shotgun or a rocket launcher and it’s really weird because a kill is a kill, right?
CHRIS: You get that point regardless and there’s nothing in game that says, “Oh you’re a jerk” or “What a cheap death” or like “Come on grow a pair”. No, it’s just there’s something in your mind, or at least in my mind—maybe I’m broken — but there’s something in my mind that when I see somebody shrunk ,I’m like “Nope, gotta step on them. Gotta step on them.”
JAMES: Gotta step on them.
BRAD: Gotta step on them.
ANDREW: Yep. It sounds like the same thing that happens to me with the Freeze Ray, if I can mention that. When you freeze somebody, you can switch to another weapon and give a shotgun blast and just shatter them. Or you can get up close and personal and kick their head off and shatter them.
JAMES: Or you can plant a trip mine on them.
BRAD: Yeah, that’s the ultimate.
ANDREW: So there’s almost this subconscious desire to kill with a little bit of style.
BRAD: Yeah. I think planting a trip mine….the first time I planted a trip mine on somebody’s face while they were frozen that might be one of the most memorable moments I’ve had playing multiplayer. Because they can see….half of their screen is filled up with this trip mine on their face and they know they’re just waiting to die.
CHRIS: I love the trip mine so very much because it’s such a call back to the older days when I would just go home and play demos of games on MSN Game Space. But like proximity mines and remote mines and all that are such a wonderful staple of like chaotic, evil multiplayer and being a jerk. It’s so much fun to just throw it on a launch pad or throw it somewhere you know someone is going to walk but place it just right so that they don’t see it or avoid it or they’re going to land there.
ANDREW: What I love, instead of doing the typical thing you might do if you’re in one of the more enclosed spaces; a lot of the maps have interior/exterior spaces with back hallways and some basements and things you can go into. And whenever you go into those back hallways, you’re always aware, “Oh, I could possibly encounter an enemy at any moment” so a lot of times, you want to have your close up and personal weapons when you’re in those small spaces, like the shotgun. I completely gave up on the shotgun in small spaces. I keep my hand over the key I have bound for the trip mine. And that is probably the best thing is running through a base, having a quick encounter with someone when they pop out of a doorway and you’re like “eh, eh, eh” and then bam! They’re just covered in trip mines and you run away. It’s great and you just hear the damage behind you.
JAMES: Definitely don’t want to give away too many things, because--- not out of confidentiality, but I want people to figure this out on their own. There are some very devious things you can do with a trip mine. Chris mentioned one of them and we didn’t actually think of that immediately. It took us a little while. We’ve got this guy on the test team named* Tim Lohrenz, who is this really nice, soft spoken guy; but he is a menace in multiplayer and he just found every spot where you cannot see around the corner and he’d plant a trip mine there. Every jump, he’d figure exactly where you’d land and plant a trip mine. You don’t want to put it on the jump pad, because someone might see it there. You want to put it on the destination, so they think they got away from you scot-free and then they realize they’re plummeting to their death and it’s their fault.
CHRIS: And you can’t do anything at that point. Like all you can say is, “Oh shit there’s a trip mine there.”
CHRIS: You can’t be, “Oh yeah, I’m going to steer clear of it” unless you’re fortunate enough to…
ELIZABETH: It’s just like, goodbye.
BRAD: Well not to give another strategy away, but trip mines are easily disposed of with pipe bombs. So it’s not like it’s an over-powered broken thing. I mean if you’re careful, you’re not going to get killed by a trip mine.
ANDREW: If you’ve committed to a jump pad jump and you’re incoming on a bunch of trip mines and you can get your RPG out in time, you can clear your way. And that adds more depth to the game.
JAMES: The pipe bombs are another very great thing. Someone may think they have this unassailable position and you just lob that thing up there and go 3, 2, click.
ANDREW: Yeah, we’re pretty happy with the way they bounce.
JAMES: Oh yeah, yeah. That’s one of the great points is they have great bouncing to them.
ELIZABETH: Yeah, can you talk, before we wrap up, about the customization options? Because it’s not just a bunch of clones with different shirt colors running around.
ANDREW: No, no, no. We have eyewear. We have headgear.
BRAD: Eyewear, hats, all sorts of stuff you can unlock. There are a lot of unlockables. I don’t know if we can get into the My Dig stuff. That’s a whole other realm of unlockables specific to multiplayer, which doesn’t even have anything to do with the customization of Duke. But yeah, there are different shirt colors, there’s different kinds of shirts you can wear; lots of ways to make your own Duke.
JAMES: Yeah, and not all of them make you look cool. Some of the accessories you can put on make you look goofy, which to me that’s my favorite thing. Whenever one of these guys is on a frenzy, just killing everything around him and he’s got on some jerkwad tank top or some goofy hat. Like everyone knows who that guy is and they all want to take him down, but they just can’t. They really start to hate that Duke.
BRAD: Yeah, that guy with the double rainbow shirt…
ELIZABETH: I know that we could probably talk endlessly about multiplayer, but I think that you’ve given everyone a good overview. Thanks guys.
BRAD: Thanks Piranha!
JAMES: Yes, thanks Piranha!
ELIZABETH: If you guys are anything like me, you could probably listen to these guys talk about multiplayer for a lot longer than this podcast has lasted – but we had to let the team get back to doing what they do best: making the game awesome. But don’t worry – when the game comes out, these guys will be online and I’m sure you’ll be able to get in a match or two with them.