Pariah: Q&A With James Schmalz

James Schmalz, founder and creative director at Digital Extremes, was kind enough to answer some of our questions regarding the soon-to-be-released title, Pariah. The co-creators of Unreal follow up with a story-driven singleplayer game revolving around a doctor, a female prisoner, and one hell of a virus.

The multiplayer game looks to bring a new dimension to the sci-fi universe with all-new Front Line Assault modes, as well as more familiar gametypes like deathmatch and capture the flag. Other unique features, such as the upgradeable weapons system makes this one title to watch.

BeyondUnreal: The ship date of May 3rd has been set. What's left between now and then?

James Schmalz: Testing, testing, testing, balancing and bug fixes.

BeyondUnreal: Other than the level editors, how will the PC and Xbox versions be different?

James Schmalz: The obvious differences will be the higher quality graphics on the PC version as well as the interface and control system. We made sure to customize each version to fit to the strengths of each platform.

BeyondUnreal: What are some of the additions you have made to the Unreal Engine that Pariah is based on?

James Schmalz: We added quite a bit including the Havok physics engine which you'll see on all the ragdolls, vehicles and lots of destroyable objects within the environments. We also added alot of performance improvements along with nice graphics enhancements such as pixel shaders, vertex shaders, bump-mapping and other cool post-effects technology.

BeyondUnreal: What one thing about Pariah are you most pleased with?

James Schmalz: Only one?! I guess if I have to choose it would be the upgradeable weapons. They are alot of fun and really provide the player some interesting decisions to make in the single-player campaign. Should I save up my WEC's to see the final upgrade on the rocket launcher or apply it now to the sniper rifle and see what the upgrade is on it?

BeyondUnreal: What first-person-shooter cliches did you most hope to avoid?

James Schmalz: The biggest one would be the same old weapons. We are very happy with how the upgrade system worked out in Pariah and it gives a different spin on the traditional weapon system.

BeyondUnreal: With a reported 18 or so singleplayer environments and 14 or 15 multiplayer maps, Pariah seems to have covered both play modes nearly equally. Was that a conscious design decision or did that develop during the course of creating the game?

James Schmalz: That was definitely a conscious effort. We do alot of prototyping during development to see what works and what doesn't. And it's best to get something up and running as quickly as possible so you can start that process. Because of our history in FPS games it was only natural and fairly simple to start off our prototyping using multi-player levels to test out the weapons, the vehicles and our map layouts. Once we had our gameplay foundation we quickly transitioned into creating the single-player campaign.

BeyondUnreal: How heavily scripted is the Pariah singleplayer game? Is it more of a tightly sequenced move-you-along kind of game or more of an exploration game such as Unreal?

James Schmalz: It's a good mixture of both. Because of the upgradeable weapons the player will need to (or want to) explore the levels a bit to search out additional Weapon Energy Cores hidden in some of the levels.

BeyondUnreal: I understand that prior to starting a multiplayer game, you must select your weapon loadout. Is Pariah multiplayer very fast-paced and action-oriented like Unreal Tournament or a more deliberate tactics type of game?

James Schmalz: It's definitely a fast action style game. It's intense and fast-paced. Having a loadout allows for us to not have maps where people run laps picking up weapons and other pickups.

BeyondUnreal: Reportedly, DM and CTF are among the standard multiplayer gametypes. Can you explain how the newest multiplayer modes, such as Front Line Assault and Siege, will work? Will vehicles be involved in any multiplayer gametypes? I assume bot support?

James Schmalz: Front Line Assault mimics a front line in a war. Your team needs to capture enemy points and defend those points for a period of time until the 'front line' moves forward to the next point and eventually into the enemy base to destroy the objective and score a point. It turns into quite a game of tug of war sometimes and the vehicles and upgradeable weapons really add a fresh flavor to it and the rest of the gametypes. And bot support is in there too.

BeyondUnreal: I read that an offline co-op version will be available for the Xbox. Any chance the PC will get an online co-op option?

James Schmalz: Maybe in Pariah 2 :)

BeyondUnreal: Digital Extremes is well-known for supporting its games post-release with its outstanding bonus packs. Any plans along those lines for Pariah?

James Schmalz: Definitely, we have plenty of content already started that we're planning on releasing if the community builds up around Pariah.