Hi John, thanks alot
for taking the time out to answer our questions!
JS- Always a pleasure
Many fans will recognise your name
from the credits in Red Storm Games such as the Rainbow
Series and Ghost Recon.
|Now that you have left Red Storm,
joined Battleborne and have a new game in production there
are many questions the fans would love to have answered
- so let's get started!
You've put so much of your time and effort
into such well known tactical simulators & first person
shooters such as Rogue Spear, Urban Operations, Covert Operations
Essentials, Black Thorn, Ghost Recon, Desert Siege, Island
Thunder, & Raven Shield that the question has to be asked
- what prompted you to leave Red Storm Entertainment?
JS- It was a combination of things
really. Sometimes a company gets big and secure and
with that security comes complacency. On one hand it's
great to have a job and do what you like. On the other
hand you know that what you are doing could be so much
more and you could be getting rewarded for what you
are doing; more so than " be happy you have a
I loved working on those games, but
in this industry it is very easy to see others gain
and pass you by. Not to mention the total lack of
control one has in large companies.
| Let's just say that I
saw these things and decided it was time to move on and
make some decisions for myself. RSE is still a good place with good people and I am
grateful for my time and opportunities there, but the
vision for the future was not shared between us.
Which of the previously mentioned
titles above was the most rewarding for you once it was finally
produced and then released ?
JS- Each one holds something special
for me. I would say that Rainbow Six because it was the
first, but Rogue Spear would have to be the most rewarding
overall. We put together a superb team and completely kicked
ass in getting that game done the way we wanted (for the
most part) in something like 12-14 months. Back then that
team made most decisions internal to ourselves and just
had a great time making it.
Which of the previously mentioned
titles above was the most dissatisfying for you once it
was finally produced and then released ?
JS- This is a tough one. Nothing was
dissatisfying in the sense that I wasn't happy with the
end result. I believe all those titles were solid. With
that said, and it may be surprising to most of you reading
this, but Ghost Recon would have to go down as my "dark" project
from RSE. The game turned out great and I had the privilege
of serving as a Lead Artist, but that is when my vision
and that of RSE started to veer away from each other. That
development time is also around the Ubi Soft purchase.
Ubi Soft is a very good company and is making a lot of
great business decisions, not to mention the Montreal Studio
is producing some super titles, so I do not fault them
for "bad" changes at RSE. The exact issues
are really internal to myself and them, but Ghost Recon
the beginning of the change to the way things are done
at RSE these days.
Can you briefly fill the fans in on what you've been doing
since you left Red Storm? Were you "taking a break",
or did you immediately start looking for a new design house
JS- Well, I went straight from RSE
to being a part of forming the BattleBorne Entertainment
that you see today. I was sort
of in a "lull" in my career, but wouldn't say I
wanted a break. I needed some new challenges and felt there
was more out there. It's a great story on how this all came
together, but it wouldn't be "brief". LOL!
Intriguing, we'll maybe try and tease
that story out of you another time!
What's it like working at Battleborne, a relatively new games
developer, after working with a big outfit like Red Storm?
JS - Everyone who wants to be in the game industry dreams
about how cool it would be to make a game that they are passionate
about. Most often, though, you end up working for management
or a publisher that is very controlling. The beauty of our
situation is that we are self-funded and have enough money
to build quality titles to our own specifications. Only a
few game development studios like Blizzard, id and Valve
have that type of freedom. It also means that we will only
succeed by producing fun games that the public likes, instead
of catering to marketing statistics.
What do you miss about working for Red Storm, and what do
you enjoy about working with Battleborne?
JS- The main thing I miss from Red
Storm are the people I worked most closely with on the
R6, RS and GR projects.
There was this close knit, highly motivated and skilled
core group of developers there and we could produce anything,
if allowed. Part of why I am where I am today is because
of that group.
I always told myself that if I ever left RSE and started
a new development studio I would set that studio's art department
up a certain way. That is the best thing about BattleBorne.
When we set up the studio we wanted and got a highly motivated,
dedicated and versatile team that isn't bogged down in petty
corporate politics or too secure in their surroundings to
be afraid of taking risks and go after what they want. It's
a great feeling to be able to come up with an idea and, as
a group, see it through then reap the rewards.
As fans will have seen already from the PS2 movie we scooped
at GhostRecon.net recently, the game you are working on is
a WWII shooter called Combat Elite : WWII Paratroopers. In
the movie the game is viewed from various viewpoints, such
as 3rd person and top-down, what can you tell us about the
player viewing options?
JS- Yeah, interesting that
it is out. That is actually a teaser trailer meant
to introduce BattleBorne and the game.
game play camera is very similar to the Baldur's
Gate: Dark Alliance game camera. We are using
a heavily modified version of that engine and
camera has been redesigned to facilitate better
|There are some instances
of a first person camera as well. We are experimenting
with various camera settings for both indoor and
Will this be a mission based campaign?
JS- Yes. There are 4 campaigns in the game
with each one having 5 - 12 separate levels in them. There
will be plenty
of play spaces!
What sort of weapon options will be open to the player?
JS- The available weapons will be standard WWII fare. They
will include a Thompson, M1 Garand, M1911, M1 Carbine and
Will there be interaction with vehicles?
JS- Not this time around. There will be a few vehicles that
will attack you, and some that you will need to destroy,
but none that the player can manipulate.
What special, or innovative features have you included?
JS- The biggest thing for me
is the visuals. I have never worked with a more
artist friendly and What You See Is What You Get
I love it! I am going to say
it now, there is no other fully 3d real time rendered
that looks as nice as Combat Elite: WWII Paratroopers
on the PS2.
|Of course graphics aren't everything. I think we
have achieved an almost perfect balance of run-and-gun
action and tactical game play as well.
The title almost infers that this could be the start of
a series of "Combat Elite" games - is that the
JS- Good catch! We do indeed have
some big "franchise" plans
for Combat Elite. There are many military stories, conflicts
and units throughout history and present day. We definitely
are not short on good ideas. :)
Because of the unique way we've set BattleBorne up, we can
react quickly to new technologies and we'll be listening
closely to fans of the game as we design future titles.
What is the tentative release date?
JS- June 6, 2004. It is the 60th anniversary of the Allied
invasion of occupied Europe. Otherwise known as D-Day.
When will the official website go live?
JS- I believe around mid January.
What can you tell us about Snowblind Studios, the technology
Battleborne are using?
|JS-In my opinion, it is without
a doubt some of the best console engine technology
guys at Snowblind made an incredible game engine
that leverages the strengths of each of the consoles
and creatively works around the limitations. You
will be hard pressed to find a better looking game
on a PS2 than the original Baldur's Gate:Dark Alliance
or our Combat Elite:WWII Paratroopers.
|We have also created some amazing tools
of our own to compliment their technology. We made
a decision early on to create a highly efficient
artist friendly pipeline, and we have successfully
What tools have you developed in house and how will they
help the games development?
We've basically re-designed the entire tool chain. Snowblind
is famous for developing award winning games and technology
with a relatively small team. Thanks to the experience
of our founders at efficiency powerhouses like Microsoft
and Dell, we've managed to build a code and art pipeline
that results in each member of the team being nearly 100%
productive all the time. Each member of the team can touch
any part of the game from levels to animations, cutscenes,
scripting, unicode gametext, and code all with the same
tools. I'm proud of the group we've assembled because each
one could probably make a great game on their own given
enough time. Well, I still can't code my way out of a box!
The way that we manage information and designs in order
to keep everyone thinking and acting as a single brain is
cool too, but that's for another interview. Maybe we'll have
to give you some screenshots of our tools. They really are
a joy to use.
Cool, we'd love to do a follow up interview and delve into
Who else is on the development team at Battleborne?
JS- The team consists of 13 people. We
have an outstanding CFO and a part-time operations person,
but other than that
we are all in production. We have 4 artists, 5 coders, 1
scripter and one designer/producer.
Our Lead Architect, James Kosta has a history in the software
and hardware industry that is solid and he has brought a
lot of products to market, but never a game. That's why his
first hire was yours truly and then we brought in Eric DeMilt,
our designer/producer. Eric has done everything from helping
on the Jet Fighter series to being producer on Fallout 2
and Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. From there we have chosen
the best talent from in and out of the industry. If BattleBorne
is recruiting, which we hardly ever are, we look for raw
talent and we'll often steal it from those who don't appreciate
We have a lean and mean machine going, just the way I like
Acclaim have just announced an exclusive publishing agreement
with Battleborne, this raises a few questions! Firstly,
Acclaim publish more console games than PC-CD versions
- can you tell us which platforms we can expect to see
Combat Elite on?
JS- As of now, Combat Elite will be published on the
Sony PS2 and Microsoft Xbox. There has been some discussion
of the PC, but nothing has been decided.
Acclaim is all
for publishing on different platforms as long as
it is financially viable. :)
Will Combat Elite
be multiplayer capable and if so what connection speed will
most users need to enjoy
the MP aspects of this Title?
JS- It will not have multiplayer except for a 2 player cooperative
mode. We are investigating online play for future titles.
Snowblind is wrapping up Everquest: Champions of Norath for
Sony and we may look at their multiplayer tech.
Combat Elite be Modable
JS- As it is right now, on consoles only, no.
What type of support can users of this title expect once
it's released ? Will it be community based much like
GhostRecon.net or will the new company provide this
level of support?
JS- I am a strong believer of fostering an online community.
This first title will not be a moddable game, but my hope
is to do our best to help start and support an online community
and keep that community going into future titles.
I would really like to bring some members of the mod community
in to see what they can do with our tools. Maybe make some
downloadable levels on the Xbox. We'll have to see though.
Thanks again for your time John, and good luck with Battleborne.
JS- You are very welcome, and thank you.