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Interview: Futuremark chats about Shattered Horizon

Futuremark has made its mark (pun intended) in the past with its benchmarking software, especially 3DMark which has become a defacto product to put high end PC hardware through its paces. However the company has also wanted to make games and in 2008 it announced its plans to start up Futuremark Games Studios.

Later today its first title, the multiplayer first person shooter Shattered Horizon, is scheduled to be released via Steam. As one might expect their first game is not the typical FPS as it takes place in Earth orbit with players as armed astronaunts shooting in zero gravity. Big Download got the game's lead designer Antti Summala to give us some more info on Shattered Horizon and get some hints about the future plans for the game.
First, with Shattered Horizon now close to release can you guys comment on the differences between making a game and creating benchmarking software?

Making a game is very different from making benchmarking software. With benchmarks, you're estimating what future games and applications are going to demand from PCs and then making software to create that load. In the case of 3DMark, you also craft great looking 3D scenes that give an impression of what future games may look like, but really you have free artistic direction.

When making games, the goal is something much more ephemeral: fun. You can't rely on great technical prowess or beautiful graphics to make a good game. Instead, you have to understand what makes your favorite games fun, and then try to apply that knowledge to making a different kind of game. This can mean a lot of design, test and redesign iterations. You're also going to fight for attention in a very competitive market, which means certain design restrictions: to be successful, your game has to stand out from the crowd.

Why did Futuremark want to launch a game studio in the first place since making games would seem to be a riskier proposition than making benchmarking software?

Our benchmarking community has been pretty vocal in pushing us to make our own game, and we've been interested in it ourselves for quite a while. We set up Futuremark Games Studio in January 2008 because the timing seemed right. We were finishing 3DMark Vantage, our DirectX10 benchmark, and had the technology, manpower and drive to ramp up a different kind of project.

How did the idea for creating a zero-g based shooter come about?

We were starting a new game studio and wanted to create a different and memorable game to set a high standard for ourselves. Of the ideas we had, a zero gravity FPS stood out as something ambitious that very few developers had attempted. Many of us love skill-based multiplayer FPS games, and many of us have fond memories of earlier zero gravity games with six degrees of freedom. Marrying these two ideas created a strong foundation for a game concept.

Since the gameplay would be so different from most other FPS games, our goal was to make the most fundamental part of the game - moving and shooting in zero gravity - as fun as it could possibly be. If the basic gameplay was fun, we were sure that the new rules (or rather, lack of constraints) would generate interesting emergent gameplay in a multiplayer setting.


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