Exclusive Interview With High Voltage Software On Conduit 2

Conduit 2 is an upcoming First-Person Shooter developed by High Voltage Software exclusively for the Nintendo Wii. As a followup to one of the most robust FPS on the Wii, Conduit 2 promises a high quality sci-fi shooter that opposes the preconception that First-Person Shooters cannot be of the same quality as those on the high definition consoles.

Conduit 2 will boast a more varied campaign, an improved online multiplayer and a brand new co-operative mode called Invasion, all while retaining the highly customizable controls and superb graphics that made the first game shine. Conduit 2 will be releasing on April 19th but in the meantime, we decided to contact High Voltage Software to talk to them about the upcoming title.

We Got This Covered: First of all, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Why don’t you introduce yourself for our readers.

Keith Hladik: No problem, it’s always a pleasure. My name is Keith Hladik and I’m one of the producers on Conduit 2.  I’ve been at High Voltage Software for 6 years, and have worked on almost all of our internal projects from High Voltage, Hot Rod Show, The Conduit, Tournament of Legends, and most recently Conduit 2.

WGTC: So why don’t we start with the story for readers who may not be familiar with The Conduit. I hope it involves more conspiracies.

KH: I’ll try to sum up the first game as best I can!  The Conduit is the tale of an ex-Secret Service agent by the name of Michael Ford.  In The Conduit, he was drafted by a shadowy organization known as the Trust.  There was a mysterious virus spreading through Washington D.C. and Ford was tasked by their enigmatic leader John Adams (which you find out is the former president John Adams) at taking down a terrorist known as Prometheus who is linked to the virus attack. While trying to track down Prometheus you come into contact with aliens known as The Drudge and a mysterious device called the All Seeing Eye (ASE for short). Prometheus then hacks into your communication device and convinces you that John Adams is the real enemy and that the Drudge were created by the Trust.

This revelation leads Ford on a quest through Washington D.C. to track down the evil John Adams. Ford reaches Adam’s underground bunker only to discover that he’s escaped through a Conduit.  Ford fights off waves of Drudge enemies and fearlessly jumps through the Conduit.  Flash forward to Conduit 2 and as Michael Ford steps from the Conduit players find themselves on an oil derrick in the middle of the ocean.  They will then have to battle their way across the globe.  Players will face any even greater alien threat as they chase down Adams.  And of course there are more conspiracies sprinkled throughout the game!

WGTC: There was lots of running and gunning in the first game’s campaign and I know you’ve added the ability to flip over tables and other objects for cover to add a little variety. Are there any other forms of interactable environments? And what else have you added to mix up the gameplay from the first game?

KH: There are a few of the other interactive items such as book shelves and orange soda machines players can tip over. We’ve also drastically altered our AI system so the enemies themselves provide a good mix of gameplay.  And we’ve come up with some really unique weapons that mix things up a bit.  For example, we introduce the AR-C Eclipse gun in one of our levels midway through the campaign.  This weapon gives players the ability to hold down the trigger button to cloak themselves.  Of course there is a limit to this and if they do it for too long the gun freezes.  On the flipside, the gun provides an interesting strategy as players can also offset this freezing by firing the gun, heating up the weapon.  Naturally if players overheat the weapon it has to reload causing a bit of delay and leaving you vulnerable.

WGTC: Much of the last game took place in corridors and tight environments. What are the environments like this time around?

KH: We have more outdoor and expansive levels this time around.  Our level designs are more exciting and vastly improved from the first game.  We give players a better choice of routes to take and differing tactics to use for enemy encounters.  Right off the bat players find themselves on an oil derrick with multiple paths and surrounded by vast ocean.  Later in the game players travel to a mysterious base in the middle of Sibera with twisting paths that open to reveal frozen wastelands.  With our Quantum 3 engine enhanced since the first game, both our level designers and artist really let their imagine run wild.  We’re very excited how improved the level designs are this time around.  The fans and reviewers spoke and we listened.

WGTC: What types of new weapons and equipment are we going to see? Any new abilities for the ASE?

KH: We have a vast array of new weapons and equipment.  We’ve implemented an entirely new ‘suit upgrade’ system with 30+ upgrades and a new loadout system.  Players have a character profile they can access that gives them the option to set up 4 different loadouts.  Each loadout consists of a Primary Weapon, Secondary Weapon, Grenade type, 4 suit upgrades (such as more armor, faster running, or unlimited sprint), and character model customization.  This is a big improvement over the first game in that we allow players to take any weapon they want into any level.

We also have some really cool new weapons such as the Widowmaker Turret and the Phase Rifle.  Fans were begging us to add a sniper rifle to Conduit 2, so we’re happy to bring one into the armory.  The Phase Rifle actually allows players to ‘phase’ an enemy and shoot them through walls.  The Widowmaker Turret also brings a neat addition to multiplayer as players can set up it up and leave it; as long as they have the ‘Widowmaker specialization’ suit upgrade, it will automatically target enemies!  The Conduit series has always been about cool weaponry and we think Conduit 2 improves upon what we did in the first game.

WGTC: What kinds of enemies will we be encountering? And we’ve seen the massive Leviathan already but are there going to be other new boss types and a stronger emphasis on boss battles?

KH: We’ve got a cool new Trust soldier we lovingly call ‘modular man’.  We often got feedback that people were tired of facing the same enemy over and over.  You always have to have those dependable ‘grunt’ enemies, but to help remedy this we created a Trust soldier that can have different armor pieces, helmets, etc that randomly appear on their body; thus mixing it up for the player.  One of the other new enemies is the Advancer.  He’s a very heavily armored Trust soldier that will charge after you like the Terminator.  In tight encounters he’s a pretty brutal enemy to go up against.

And yes, there is a much stronger emphasis on boss battles in Conduit 2.  They play a very important story telling element including the Leviathan battle in the second level.  This is another huge item we wanted to do for the first game, and are very glad to have been able to do for Conduit 2.

WGTC: One of the best things about the first game was the online multiplayer. Tell the readers what we can expect in terms of game modes, maps and customization.

KH: Thanks, multiplayer is a critical portion of the Conduit series.  As for Conduit 2, hmmm, there is so much to talk about!  I’ll try to boil it down as best as possible.  First, as I described above, players have 4 loadouts they can bring into multiplayer.  Gone are the limiting weapon ‘sets’ we had in the first game.  Players can customize their online persona and bring in weapons and suit upgrades that fit their play style.  We have new game modes such as ASE Basketball that tasks teammates to throw the ASE into a ring to score points.  We also have over a dozen maps this time around, with a few returning fan favorite maps from the first game.

Along with that players can now voice chat with Friends and Rivals with the Headbanger Headset.  We worked with Nintendo on providing Rival voice chat and are very pleased to be able to get that feature in for Conduit 2.  Something that many players might not realize is that during private matches, the host can tweak options for both the current game mode and overall options.  Feel like tweaking gravity values or the amount of health players have, go for it!

Players can also earn XP, credits, and medals during their online matches.  Medals are a new feature for Conduit 2.  Players who do certain tasks such as killing X number of enemies, or capturing a flag will get medals.  Then after the match, XP and Medals are tallied and credits are earned.  Players can use these credits to purchase weapons, suit upgrades, and character customization items in our in-game store.  Aside from multiplayer, players can earn credits in single player by gaining achievements and scanning hidden objects with the ASE.

We’re excited to offer what we feel is one of the most in-depth multiplayer experiences on the Wii

WGTC: Any plans for DLC in the future?

KH: DLC such as more maps is something we would have liked to have, but with time and budget it was not in the cards for Conduit 2.  We do offer free ‘DLC’ in the way of small updates to current content in the game.  When players connect to our online multiplayer feature, they will automatically download an update if one is available.  We can effectively patch exploits and other items with these updates.

WGTC: The popular Homebrew scene for the Wii caused some problems with hackers in the online multiplayer of the first game. Is Conduit 2 going to be harder for those devious players to abuse the loopholes?

KH: As everyone knows, combating hacking is a tough battle.  Post launch on the first game, we worked with Nintendo to try to mitigate any issues players encounter online.  As for Conduit 2 we’ve taken a few extra precautions to help prevent it.  Our update system is one way and there are a few others I can’t talk about.  We also studied some of the exploits from the first game and worked on fixing them for Conduit 2.  Overall though we feel Conduit 2 has a more robust anti-cheat online system.

WGTC: Conduit 2 supports 1-4 player split-screen correct? The first game didn’t support split screen because you wanted the “Best looking game on the Wii”. Is it more familiarity with the technology that allowed it to be accomplished this time? Will there be losses to the graphics or framerate because of split-screen?

KH: Yes, splitscreen is something people were asking for and we’re happy to deliver it in Conduit 2.   And yes for the first game, we didn’t want to make any compromises to accommodate splitscreen.   For Conduit 2, the Quantum 3 engine had matured and both artists and designers had more experience with the engine.  We also designed the multiplayer maps with splitscreen in mind to ensure we maintain maximum graphic fidelity during splitscreen.  There is a fine balancing act that we had to maintain but we feel splitscreen looks just as good!  Splitscreen multiplayer also features the same compliment of maps and modes as its online counterpart.  We also worked on diligently ensuring both the graphics looked great and the framerate was as smooth as possible.

WGTC: Tell us a bit about the new co-op mode.

KH: Our co-op mode can be found in our splitscreen section of the game.  We call it Invasion mode.  Here 1-4 players locally can fight against wave after wave of enemies gaining both points and credits.  Credits can be used to buy weapons, suit upgrades, and character model customization pieces (you can also earn credits in single player and online).  It can get pretty hectic during later waves and provides a pretty good challenge for players.

WGTC: You’re going to include some Wii-mote motions in the game for hitting switches and such. I know a lot of gamers are hesitant whenever games incorporate these motion actions. Is this going to be a large part of the gameplay?

KH: Well you and gamers can rejoice :  We actually do not have any Wii Remote specific motions in Conduit 2 besides throwing a grenade and performing a melee attack (which can be remapped if players so choose).  We had a few in there early on but after some playtests we removed them.  We wanted to keep Conduit 2 as streamlined as possible.

WGTC: The game supports both Wii MotionPlus and the regular Wiimote. What does the MotionPlus peripheral add to the game?

KH: The Wii MotionPlus adds finer pointer control and better off-screen aim tracking.  It’s simple and elegant.

WGTC: The game is still running on the Quantum3 engine correct? The graphics were great in the first game and really pushed the Wii hardware to its fullest potential. Let’s get a little geeky here and tell us a bit of the technical aspects that allow this game to look so much better than most other Wii games, particularly from third-party developers.

KH: I asked one of the Lead Artists on Conduit 2, Joe Hamell, for some specifics:

Yes we are still using the Quantum 3 engine and as you can see from the graphical enhancements to C2 we are still improving it.  The advanced shaders, dynamic lighting and post processing effects gave the Artists a huge amount of control over every detail of C2.   Also several tools were created or improved specifically for C2; these quickly became an invaluable part of the Art pipeline and had us questioning how we lived without them.  We improved our Wii profiling tools to give us memory and performance information down to the cost of an individual asset or a single shader.  Our reworked cell and portaling system allowed us to make much larger and move varied environments.  The lighting tool gave us the ability to dynamically light an environment real time on the Wii giving them a more constant and realistic look.  In the end one of the biggest reasons for C2s improved graphics is the communication between our Artists and the ATG Programmers.  Art and ATG really pushed each other throughout the project and the results are evident in C2.

WGTC: How important was fan feedback of the first game for the development of Conduit 2? What would you say was some the biggest things that fans wanted to see in the sequel?

KH: Fan feedback has been a very important thing for the Conduit series, especially for Conduit 2.  We still get emails, regular mail, and even phone calls to my office asking specific and often hard-hitting questions about the game!  Some of the big requests from fans were some things I mentioned earlier such as splitscreen and a sniper rifle.  Fans also wanted to see co-op, a streamlined multiplayer experience, female characters, and so on.  We’ve really done our best to listen to the fans and provide a great experience in Conduit 2.

WGTC: In a few sentences to sum up, tell us why should gamers pick up Conduit 2 on April 19th.

KH: Conduit 2 is everything you loved about the first game and then some.  New players of the Conduit series will get an exciting, fun, first person shooter with a compelling single player campaign, splitscreen multiplayer and co-op, as well as one of the most robust online multiplayer experiences offered on the Wii.  Conduit 2 is the whole package!  It has crazy over-the-top weaponry, a unique sci-fi setting with conspiracies riddle throughout, extremely customizable, and it’s just plain ol’ fun to blast at some bad guys.

WGTC: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us and we look forward to getting our hands on it.

KH: Sure thing.  We’re excited to see gamers’ reactions to the game as we are really proud of Conduit 2!

Conduit 2 will be releasing on April 19th exclusively for the Nintendo Wii.