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Interview: We chat with InXile Entertainment's head about Choplifter HD

It was one of the truly great classic games of the 1980s. Choplifter made a lot of pre-teen and teenage boys happy with its gameplay premise of piloting a helicopter with the goal of rescuing prisoners of war from hostile forces. Released in 1982 for the Apple II PC, it was one of the few games at the time that was later ported to the arcades, rather than the other way around.

Now developer InXile Entertainment (developers of the upcoming fantasy RPG Hunted: The Demon's Horde) has announced plans to give the franchise a revival with today's reveal of Choplifter HD. The game's first screenshots and the first gameplay trailer seem to show that while the graphics have improved the basic gameplay design is still intact. We got more info about Choplifter HD from InXile's founder (and former founder of Interplay) Brian Fargo. The game itself is due for release for the PC later this year.

Download the Choplifter HD trailer at Big Download
First what is it about Choplifter that made an impression on you and so many other gamers back in the 1980s?

Choplifter really hit a nerve with myself and many of the early pioneers in the industry. It was very accessible, both men and women were drawn to the concept and there was something very satisfying about rescuing those little guys. In some way it felt like a "god game" in that their lives depended on you the player. I loved the concept and now we want to blow it out to the next level and introduce it to a new generation of game players.

How did you get the rights to the Choplifter franchise?

I was fortunate in my timing and I reached out to Dan Gorlin (the original creator) and talked about my desire to re-invent a classic. It helped that there are not as many old school gamers like myself that are still in positions to remember the old classics and do something about it. Although it has been quite a surprise at what an overwhelmingly positive response we have received about the project. More people remember Choplifter and have great memories than I would have thought.

When the time came to actually develop the game what were the development team's main goals?

Our main goal was to take the accessibility of a side scrolling Chopper game and mix it in with state of the art graphics and sound. There was some discussion of flying into the Z Axis of the environment but that just lost the pick up appeal. And we wanted to use all the power of the machine for explosions, particle effects, missiles, crowds of people and plenty of chickens to kill. The other big philosophy was that we wanted to entertain you in addition to just giving you play mechanics. There are things to do in the game which are very rewarding yet have nothing to do with beating the level. Just flying around and interacting with the environment and things on the ground is a blast.
What kinds of helicopters will the player get to pilot in Choplifter HD?

Pilots will command a variety of helicopters to help keep the missions interesting. The basic copters will be based on the Blackhawk, the Apache and the Littlebird. They will each have different flying characteristics, fuel supply, ammo and seats for the poor sods you have you to rescue.

What are a couple of examples of the game's missions?

We want to mix the mission structure up such that you are adjusting your gameplay throughout. We will introduce a snow environment for example which will have different effects on gameplay. In addition to rescuing we will have missions which rely heavily on the helicopters armament and its ability to destroy things in spectacular fashion. And there might even be a zombie level that requires the chopper to fly low and decapitate them.

What other features do you consider to be important?

Our biggest overall goal is that bring the production values that you would see in a big budget game like we are doing for Hunted into the digital download space like on PSN, Android etc. We have been honing our skills for sometime and hired some great talent that will help our games shine. We are also building in enough time into the schedule for us to re-iterate on the game balance so we can make it feel right. There is NOTHING that can replace being given ample time for tuning in a game.

Will there be a demo released for Choplifter HD?

Yes we plan on releasing a demo for people to play.

Is the game being developed as a budget priced downloadable title for the PC and if so will there be any additional downloadable content after the game is released?

We are targeting a $15 price point and we fully expect to support downloadable content. However, the production costs are nothing one would consider to be "budget". Choplifter is a significant development cost and is a major product for us and we hope to continue working on versions for years. We have no lack of ideas to work into it.

Finally is there anything else you want to say at this time about Choplifter HD?

I'm just really pleased at the response we have received from the game. The concept, the graphics and humor have been well received. We want this to be the kind of game you grab someone from another room just to show them some great event. Everyone on the team is very excited about it.

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