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MLG Meets: Jared Gerritzen of Zombie Studios

April 20th, 2010 by

Midlife Gamer recently got in touch with (the devilishly handsome) Jared Gerritzen of Zombie Studios to talk about their extremely impressive looking downloadable shooter; Blacklight: Tango Down.

Xero: Firstly who are you and what do you do?

Jared Gerritzen: I’m the project lead and lead game designer of Blacklight. I’m in charge of the game vision and system design. I pretty much take everyone’s great ideas and claim them as my own and get all the credit… ha-ha!

X: Question two from Midlife Gamer is a bit of a tradition of ours and is extremely important to our community, what is your favourite beverage and what is your favourite biscuit?

JG: Redbull, I know it’s old school but I think I may be addicted to it. Culture shock! The biscuit question, this is like me asking you who your favourite baseball team is.   We don’t really eat biscuits over here, but I do like chicken and biscuits if that help.

X: Blacklight: Tango Down has recently been announced from you guys, can you tell us a bit about the game and why the readers of Midlife Gamer should be getting juiced for it?

JG: There are many features and exciting ideas that Blacklight offers…. Blacklight: Tango Down is different and brings a far deeper level of weapon customization than a lot games out on the market. We’ve centered everything on the receiver of the weapon; the core of the gun. By focusing on the receiver as opposed to the gun, you’re able to maximize the customization out of each weapon class. Blacklight: Tango Down will have seven different weapon classes with thousands of combinations to make. The customization of a weapon includes its muzzle, barrel, grip, magazine, scope, and stock.  This provides you with weapon options that are more than just aesthetic. We have also added a Weapon tag system which once added to the weapon associates various perks and abilities to the player and  the weapon.

One  new feautre we are proud of is  the HRV (Hyper Reality Visor) which allows all players to jump into a type of virtual reality mode; seeing through the real world around them to get info on enemy locations and to quickly find key nearby game play points.  The HRV not only gives Blacklight: Tango Down a faster pace but also helps to promote a unique form of teamwork.  This and the weapon system I mentioned earlier are just two things that come to mind that help set us apart from the competition.  The world of Blacklight itself is also a huge part of the Tango Down experience.  We’ve put a lot of creative effort into not only the environments but also back story to make it feel new and fresh.

I will say that there are quite a few other distinguishing features in Blacklight: Tango Down but you’ll have to wait to hear about these in the coming months!

X: The title has a futuristic look from what we’ve seen so far, a combination of the grounded-in-reality aesthetic of Modern Warfare 2 and the sleek lines of Mirror’s Edge. What inspired this look, was it a particular vision, a demand of the narrative or just something that looked cool on the drawing board?

JG: Both MW2 and BFBC2 are great games first of all and they provided a lot of inspiration for Blacklight: Tango Down.  I’m a huge fan of both IPs and play them quite a lot.  But, on the other hand, I can honestly say Blacklight is different. It’s faster and combat is less about who spotted who first and more about who is a better shot and who made their weapon work for them the best. I really think both games have good weapon systems, but Blacklight will give the player more in allowing the player to tune their weapon to the way they want to play. Additionally, our art is in a more interesting world that should really give players a new visual experience.

Blade Runner was a huge influence. We also looked closely at alleys in big cities for reference in the Blacklight world. A realistic world was our goal – taking real-world settings and buildings and transforming them into what we thought they’d look like 60 year into the future. It’s been an extremely fun and creative process and it has turned out better than I could have imagined.

X: Speaking of story, though the title is online multiplayer focused, can we expect much in the way of plot?

JG: We’ve added storytelling elements into the levels and Black Op missions. In a nutshell, Blacklight is about a Special Forces team sent to locate a high level military outfit that has gone missing. But instead, the team ends up finding itself in the middle of a warzone with things quickly spiralling out of control. A virus has been released on the local population, turning them violent and at the same time a shadowy paramilitary group has assassinated the country’s president and is vying for power. A lot of the telling of story for Blacklight will be handled by the comic book we wrote. It’ll be out around the same time as the game.

X: How do the individual factions affect the game play? Does whatever side you choose affect the game play, or are the differences purely cosmetic?

JG: Purely cosmetic, it’s up to the player to change their character to their game style. Each weapon attachment and player load out will affect the game play. For example, using a heavy armoured class with a heavy machine gun – with all the heavy items to make it kick less the player will be a moving turret, but slow.

X: You’re going the downloadable route for the release, what do digital delivery methods offer above a physical release? Are there any major draw backs for you?

JG: I see better opportunities than standard release. DLC give the players instant gratification, I’ve wasted tons of hours hunting for games too many times over the years because I forgot to pre-order a game. I also HATE standing in a huge line outside in some parking lot in Washington to get a game the night it comes out; it is too cold and is often raining.  I would rather sit on my couch and click ‘download’.  But, other than my own issues with getting games at a store, DLC is easy. I don’t have to hunt for a disc that one of my kids put in the wrong box… I’m just talking about my personal issues. Sorry.

But seriously, DLC as a media distribution makes sense for small studios that don’t have hundreds of millions to put in to marketing and buying shelf space at a retailer. It’s a great way to get a new IP out without needing to sell 7 million copies to get signed to make the second game. I think DLC will allow more small studios to grow and get more ideas out to the games.

X: We’ve heard that Blacklight is set to be a multimedia franchise, what other forms of the property can we expect and how will they tie-in with one another?

JG: Yes, the comic and movie are both in production right now. I have worked quite closely with the movie writer and also personally co-wrote the comic to keep them both focused, consistent and technically sound. I’ve also set up future projects. More to come on those…

X: Are there any details on how you’ll be supporting the community that builds around the game?

JG: We have lots of ideas going between Zombie and Ignition. We just need to set them in stone. The best bet to keep up with what we’re doing is to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We’re planning on doing different contest and giveaways on both community sites. I know the team will be more than happy to play against fans any day.

X: Finally, what is it that you feel Blacklight: Tango Down is going to do that will drag people away from Call of Duty, and how do you feel going up against such a titan of video gaming?

JG: I’m not going to claim to be a ‘titan killer’, but as much as I love COD it comes down to this: Games just get old, if you’ve done it all and levelled up all the way and have all the weapons, well now what? Get a new game; it’s why developers make new games. If this wasn’t true I would still be playing Battlefield 2, Half-life, or Metal Gear because I love them but they just eventually get old and I move on. So do others.  Plus, Blacklight: Tango Down’s price point is such that it will not prevent players from having to choose between it and the next big shooter title.  Players will be able to get them both and have that much more variety and fun in their game library.

Blacklight: Tango Down is set for release in Q2 of 2010 from Zombie Studios and published by Ignition Entertainment. For more information about the game, check out the website.

One Response to “MLG Meets: Jared Gerritzen of Zombie Studios”
  1. avatar DeadmanXIII says:

    I’m really looking forward to this, I’m still a big XBLA nut and between this, lead and gold, and Breach I’m gonna have to face the reality that I might have to buy xbox live gold again

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