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Old 05-13-2008, 08:39 AM   #1
bapenguin
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[360] - Too Human - Denis Dyack Interview


Title: Too Human
Platform: 360
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Silicon Knights
Editor: Nicholas 'bapenguin' Puleo





Denis Dyack Interview - Too Human



The audio version of this interview can be streamed here:



Nick - So we'll start with the big one: Are we going to see Too Human this year?

Denis - Yes! Our Launch date is officially going to be August 19th.



Nick - The game's been in development for some time now, it's on its third platform, is it meeting your original vision for Too Human?

Denis - I would say overall it's surpassing it. When we started thinking about the original vision, it really was from a contextual point of view. We wanted to bring up the invasion of technology in society, and that message is very strong in Too Human and will be strong in the trilogy. As we started working with and partnering with Microsoft, we became very ambitious on other levels. The one was combining action with RPG, and when we first started thinking about it, it was kind of funny and ironic in a way. We wanted to combine action with role playing as well as hunting and gathering elements. It's perfect for co-op which is what we wanted to do from the beginning and we just went ahead and did it without thinking about it; without thinking about how challenging it was going to be. And it was challenging. To see those things interacting now near the final stages, I'm confident and everyone here is very happy with the game, Too Human is a game that I can confidently say like no other I have ever seen. The gameplay with the fusion of those two elements alone make it something really really special. The graphics and engine, all that stuff is really really awesome, but the gameplay and fusion that we did really stands apart.


Nick - I'm sure you've seen the comparison made to Diablo and Diablo 2, do you feel your game is the next step in that evolution?

Denis - I think so. We've talked about if you do something right, it should change the way people will make these kind of games in the future. We've got a lot of groundbreaking things that are combined here. It's interesting to see the reactions on forums and stuff, because before you play Too Human you can't really imagine what it's like. The automatic camera control, the dual analog stick control, people can't envision that. That kind of stuff helped us translate hunting and gathering games to the console. I think it's just as big of a leap as it was when people started bringing FPS to a console. For a while no one thought they could do it. And with games like Diablo or World of Warcraft, bringing those to a console has generally been pretty foreign. You have a game like Diablo that are pretty reliant on mouse clicking. We had a lot of people both internally and externally both say we don't know if we can ever do this, but the control system itself really stands apart, and we look at those kind of things and we go; man there's some stuff here that really really shines when it's all combined. We are really happy with it. I think, I think so. Time will tell. Consumers will be the judge of course.

Nick - I mean, maybe the problem was people always tried to adapt mouse clicks to a console game, when really you had to approach it from the other direction.


Denis - You know, it's very true. It's the same kind of problem that exists in RTS's right now. I don't know what the answer to that is. A lot of people have been trying for a long time to bring real time strategies to the console with limited success, it really comes down in my opinion, to the controls. If someone somehow could break that control problem, or solve it, then I think it's really going to change that genre and allow it to be transferred to the console. I think thatt's what we've done with Too Human. The control scheme really sets it apart, and I think it'll really surprise people.



Nick - Lets talk more about the story and the gameplay of Too Human. With Diablo the dungeons and levels were always randomly generated, so it added a good deal of replay opportunities. Is that something Too Human will have?


Denis - Yes. Although to a different extent, yes, but in general to more extent. One of the things that Diablo did is that they completely randomly generated everything. It was in such a way that it was problematic in our eyes. We looked at that and said, should we do something like that? The problem with that is you generally don't get very good level layout because it's systematically generated in pieces. It becomes random, it's so random, that the gamer really can't distinguish between dungeons. They are the same, but just random.

What we did is that we don't change the layout of the levels that much, although they do change on occasion. What we do change is the setups of the enemies in those levels. And as you also level up and you replay the game, the setups will change; you'll get different kind of tactics with different enemies. The enemies evolve as well. Their behaviors literally change. You'll get some enemies that suddenly will start freezing you, and they never did before. Or you'll have, as an example, trolls with a hammer. You'll start seeing variants with guns that fire ice lasers, and when they hit you, they hurt. You'll be frozen for a while. You'll start seeing things like that, and you'll be like, this is getting tactically very different.

Again, until you play the game, it's not really clear. With the different races in Too Human there are different types of enemies that all work together. The leader has this pole arm, these things coming out of his head, and he draws this light tracer on you. If he holds that beam on you for 5 seconds, then any missile guys in the room can fire 4 to 5 times the amount of missiles with more accuracy. So you need to look at all the setups, and you realize you need to take down the leader before the rest. If you take that genre specific, what we do is mix around all these kind of setups. We put in Trolls, Dark Elf leaders that give everyone shields, by mixing all that stuff up, you get this kind of strategic element to the game.

It really works well with the kinetic gameplay because you sort of say, "I'm gonna slide to this guy, take him out, then take him out". And if I don't, I'll be in a lot of trouble because they'll all have shields and it'll take twice as long to take them out. And have that change on the fly as your character levels up, makes the game really interesting. It's really hard to tell, as we are really close to it, the one thing I'll say about Too Human, usually by this point in development - and no one will ever admit this - Oh man, I'm so sick of playing my own game. You know GTA just game out, I played it for a couple of hours. All I've really been doing is playing Too Human 24/7. I'm still loving it every time. There are still variants I haven't tried. There are still skill class combinations I haven't tried. It's just really really really deep. It's really rich for experimentation. I think that's really going to make people happy with their purchase of Too Human.



Nick - What about quests. The main quests and side quests with the big question being are there going to be optional side quests for unique items, etc?

Denis - We've taken an interesting stance, a lot of the content in Too Human was focused to be as strong as it can be. A lot of the side quests of - "This troll stole my fiances necklace, please go rescue it and you get this sword." We really thought that didn't help the story at all, so what we've done instead are called Challenged Rooms. What you have are secret areas or places that you can find, you essentially have to kill a certain amount of enemies or do a certain thing within a criteria which get you an item, and those change as you play the game. There are challenges that are encapsulated, but we stand away from putting any content in those. We thought any content in those would just be throwaway and not very good. For the story itself, we focused on one story, we think that's the best. Branching storylines can tend to weaken the content, the story itself stays the same. There are many optional things to do. On top of that we have these things called Runic Charms. They are scalable, what they will be is you'll pick them up and it will be sort of like a blue print. Pick it up, put it in your inventory. If you equip it, it says: kill 200 goblins, if you do that it lights up and then you can insert runes you find into them. Then you'll get a quest completed, and a special ability. There are 100s and 100s of those. You'll get some really really powerful ones by playing it. There mini-quests also throughout the game. Kill 5000 undead, kill 15 bosses and things like that, you'll get special abilities and special upgrades that you'll never see anywhere else throughout the game. That's the 2nd area that we did. The challenge areas and runic charms to alleviate that. At the same time we did it in such a way that we didn't want to water down the content.

Nick - That sounds awesome.
Denis - Oh, cool. Thanks. Hopefully you'll like it.

Nick - I can see it's going to be a time sink already.

Denis - It's funny, we are doing some balancing right now, and we think it takes a little long to get to level 50. We are gonna reduce that. It takes anywhere from 50 to 80 hours, and that's a little too long. We are kind of in Everquest territory, and we want to bring it down to World of Warcraft territory. We want people to play all the quests and level them up and have a chance to do that before the second game comes out. We really want to make it fun and at the same time, because once you even get to level 50 there are a lot of fun in finding epic sets. We have epic sets as well. Where if you have all the set pieces, which are really rare, you'll get uber bonuses. Just finding those will probably take some time at level 50. It's really challenging. It's not that it's that much harder in difficulty and hit points and damage. You have so many variants and things going on, you have to be very tactical when you play. There's a lot of stuff there. Time sink is not a problem, people looking for something to dig their teeth in, I know I'm biased. But I've been playing it every day for months now - and I know I haven't even come close to scratching the surface on all the permutations and classes, and which abilities you can sort of go down and find out for each different type.

Nick - Does that kind of stuff frustrate you? The fact that it's YOUR game and you can't even unlock everything?


Denis - It doesn't frustrate me. It worries me because I want to know everything and make sure we don't miss anything. I think what it says is the game has depth, probably more teeth than most console games that have released in recent history. I think one of the problems with game development is that the cost of development is going up. What's tending to happen right now is you have a lot of people putting money into production values, so you get nice cinemas and you get great graphics, which Too Human has, but then what tends to happen is the teams concentrate so much on that, that the actual depth and gameplay can tend to be very shallow. So you get a lot of facading, and when it comes to the meat of the game there's not a whole lot there. People still really enjoy it and it's really cool, but it's moving towards a blockbuster Hollywood title model where you get all the blockbuster type of movies in the summer. What Too Human has that really sets it apart is unparalleled amount of depth, and umm, until you play it for long periods of time - it's really not clear. Once you start playing it, wow, exploring this class could take months, nevermind all the other classes. Trying to find this type of combination, it's something we are really really happy with. It also is due to the combination of both kinetic gameplay and RPG depth, and that itself is a whole other category that people are going to be playing around with for quite a while. It was a big adventure, but now that it's coming to a close everyone is pretty happy with it.



Nick - Lets talk about Co-Op stuff. I'm a huge co-op fan. I started a whole co-op dedicated site. That really appeals to me. You kind of already touched on it, that as you already progressed through the platforms of development, you saw the game naturally take on co-op aspects. How does that influence your design of the game to incorporate co-op?

Denis - We were lucky enough to have co-op as a major pillar from the very first day of design. With it being a pillar, and Microsoft setting up Live, the backbone and structure of Live already makes it so that we don't have to make it an MMO and it's free. There's a really good structure and community already. Things like Battle.net that had to be designed for Diablo, that already exist because people have it automatically who have a 360. So that alleviated a lot of the things that made it a must, you know a must design feature. With that in mind, the entire game is meant to be played cooperatively through the whole game. And, not only is it meant to play co-op, but it changes the experience pretty substantially. There is nothing like, as an example, being a defender and having a lot of armor and then working with a bio engineer and slowly healing all the time. You become this super tank, and suddenly you can do things you could never do before.

Of course, we scale the enemies, the number of enemies and setups change, when you play co-op. From that perspective playing co-op is not only a completely different experience but a seamless one. I think that people who like to play it single player [will enjoy it]. And then others are just going to be continually playing co-op, leveling up, finding rare items, trading items back and forth and getting those super rare things that you can only get through playing. From that perspective this type of game really really suits co-op well. It sort of, when we thought about co-op, we thought what is the best type of genre where co-op works, quite frankly, the sort of RPG/hunting and gathering dominion area of gameplay is what we hit with. So we said, lets do a game like this. This is the kind of structural framework that we think would work really really well for Too Human on top of the action elements, and that's really what we said from Day 1 with where we wanted to go with the gameplay.



Nick - What do you think the reason is we are seeing more and more co-op games? Do you think it's services like Xbox Live?

Denis - I think that's one thing. I think competitive gameplay can tend to be more on the anti-social side in some ways. There are people who can spend a lot more time, with the average consumer getting older - with the average being something like 39 years old, I myself don't have the time to be the best at Counter-Strike anymore. I used to play it all the time and I loved it, and when i was younger and could put more time into it, like 8 hours a day and give up sleep, and get to work the next day and still be cognitive. Those days for me are gone. This is a much more casual cooperative, helping people out, and I think co-op from that perspective is catching on. It's just a little less intense, but it's still just as fun. It allows people to be more social over Xbox Live, and certainly services like XBL definitely help that. I think that you are going to see with more connectivity that we'll probably lean towards more cooperative than competitive. I don't think competitive is ever going to go away. The cooperative space has been small, and really hadn't really thought about it. They just went right to competitive right away. But now that it's been actually more of an even balance.

Nick - Yeah, co-op used to be, ya know the days of the Genesis and NES, every side scroller had a 2 player option to go with a buddy and play through. About the time the Playstation came around, it just disappeared.

Denis - Yeah, it's strange. If you look at a game like Diablo, for a while they had that hardcore mode where you could actually kill the other person you were playing with. That's just something I never entertained at trying ever. Multiple people competing in that way is not rewarding. I don't think so anyway. It's good for ganking, if you want to jump on someone's head during the game. I don't understand it either. I can't explain it. Maybe it's just one of those phenomenas that happen socially.



Nick - In Too Human, is there any kind of bonus above and beyond the standard teamwork and trading items of playing through the game co-op? Is there any kind of special abilities rewarded for co-op play?

Denis - Yeah, absolutely. When we designed the game, we designed it from the ground up in every class tree. The very first node is a shared passive node. The Bio Engineer for example, will get a heal over time. So everyone that you are playing with gets that. That means that if you are a Champion or a Beserker, and you do a lot of the front line combat - you can be slowly healing all the time. Where the Defender gets armor bonuses, the Champion gives everyone critical strike bonuses. The Beserker gives everyone speed and combo bonuses. The Commando does rate of fire and explosive damage bonuses. So just by grouping with other different classes, because you'll get a different result, and also the bonuses stack - so if you get two Defenders you get a double armor bonus. So that alone is sort of the first level, but then we got other things too. There's different kind of specializations within the trees, there are different skill trees where you can pick certain spiders. The spiders are one of the gifts from Cyberspace, and you can deploy the spider by hitting Y and it'll come out for a period of time and after a while you'll be able to use it again. It's kind of like a delayed offensive. One spider will do things like give everyone in the party a shield. Another is an anti-missile system, it sits there on the ground and fires laser beams at incoming missiles. There are lots of these spiders. These are the kind of things that really help co-op play. And when you are playing the game it's pretty interesting the combinations you can do.
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Old 05-13-2008, 08:39 AM   #2
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Nick - I remember seeing a demo of the game, and it seemed like the spiders were a pretty big thing in the game.


Denis - Spiders are really cool. Some people focus builds solely around their spider. It's pretty neat. I'm trying one of those out right now. There's so many different builds you can do, but there's a class tree for human cybernetic, and on the skill tree there's a node that increases your spider duration. If you pump that up and your spider is on for a long time and you continually hit the y button, the spider will catch up to you and do things. There's this one spider that has this laser beam and it just sits there and fires at enemies. It'll sit there by the troll and go through body part by body part and go through destroying the troll. It's like your little helper. And in co-op you have a couple of little helpers, it's pretty neat.

Nick - Drop in and Drop out?
Denis - Yes!
Nick - Excellent.
Denis - We did it as seamlessly as we could.
Nick - That's good to hear. That's one of the most frustrating things lately, it seems like more games are adding co-op, but they are always missing one piece of it.
Denis - No, we did the best we could with it on that level. It is host based, so once the host leaves you have to restart the session.

Nick - Storywise, how does the story progress? Cutscenes? NPCs?

Denis - Both. Some of the cutscenes are interactive as well. We won't say every cutscene is interactive, because that's not true, but we are certainly playing with the interactively in the in game cinemas. We are taking baby steps. What we are trying to do is create a really cinematic experience and immerse the player in the game.

Nick - All cutscenes done by the game engine?

Denis - Yes. All real-time. Whatever you augment yourself with, it's one thing we are really happy with - the amount of cybernetics and armor and weapons is insane - and when you deck yourself out, every cinema looks totally different. Some people just want to watch the cinemas to see themselves in their armor set.

Nick - So you think you finally got the camera system nailed down?

Denis - I think so. It'll be interesting to see the reaction of, it's really hard to tell when you are watching the videos that the gamer isn't controlling the camera because it does such a good job. What's been very interesting watching the forums, some people are claiming that the screenshots, none have been bullshots - all from the frame buffer, and people have said "oh clearly, if you look at the angle of the screen it's not gameplay". That's actually the intelligent camera doing a really cool shot. So there's a lot of things that the camera does given an upshot and a downshot on the fly in combat. We think people will really come to appreciate it. I love it and never want to go back for any of our games. We'll see what the consensus is.



Nick - With it being a trilogy, are there any plans to do anything between games? Tie-ins, comics, DLC?

Denis - There's a possibility. It's not the right time to talk about it, but certainly talking about DLC and various other kinds of things in-between games. We want to make sure that essentially everyone who purchases Too Human and is putting in a large amount of time and really likes the system is in there for the long haul leveling up the character. We are certainly looking at all those options.

Nick - Is the trilogy going to be just on the 360? Or is it going to go to the next platform.

Denis - That is the goal.



Nick - Is there anything specific you'd like to add?

Denis - I wanted to touch on one thing. You didn't ask the question, but I wanted to make sure you are forewarned. At one point we talked about Too Human being 4-player co-op. We have reduced it to 2-player co-op. The reason we did that is we looked at it, and the way the game is really frantic, and when you have a lot of guys zooming around. We weren't sure that would play out the best. There were also all kinds of balancing issues. That's where we are spending the majority of our time now. People say it looks finished, but we are balancing the RPG system. In order to do it right, and make sure co-op is the best it could be, right now we have it at 2 players. We though that was the absolute right thing to do for the game, and from a gamers point of view....have you played it?

Nick - I've only seen it, not actually played it.

Denis
- When you play it cooperatively, you are going to see that it's really frantic - like if you pick a Beserker going at a million miles an hour. So if you had several, we thought it would be too much. So what we did was focus on the core gameplay that we knew would be strong and work that. Anyway, long story short, that's the reasoning for 2 player co-op. We know that some people are going to dissappointed, but we really think this is the right decision.

Nick - Thanks Denis.
Denis - Thank You.
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Old 05-13-2008, 08:43 AM   #3
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August 19th!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Woo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok...I'm done...
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Old 05-13-2008, 08:44 AM   #4
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I get an error trying to stream that interview.
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Old 05-13-2008, 08:47 AM   #5
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I get an error trying to stream that interview.
Working on it.
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Old 05-13-2008, 08:47 AM   #6
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Yes please.

Good interview. Thanks Bap.
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Old 05-13-2008, 08:50 AM   #7
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There goes my life. Good interview, lots of stuff I didn't know about the game. I seriously can't wait for this game.
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Old 05-13-2008, 08:51 AM   #8
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I get an error trying to stream that interview.
It is working now, at least where I am.
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Old 05-13-2008, 08:52 AM   #9
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Nick - Is the trilogy going to be just on the 360? Or is it going to go to the next platform.
Denis - That is the goal.
What is the goal specifically? That the triology is planned for the 360, or that it will carry over to the next platform? Clarification?
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Old 05-13-2008, 08:55 AM   #10
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Too bad there's no 4 player co-op anymore.
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Old 05-13-2008, 08:55 AM   #11
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What is the goal specifically? That the trilogy is planned for the 360, or that it will carry over to the next platform? Clarification?
When I was proofreading that I was confused by this as well.

Nevermind...bap answers this below me. I hadn't listened to the interview, I only had the transcript until now.
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Old 05-13-2008, 08:55 AM   #12
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What is the goal specifically? That the triology is planned for the 360, or that it will carry over to the next platform? Clarification?
All on the 360. At least, if you listen to the interview you can hear he interrupts me before I get the second part out.
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Old 05-13-2008, 08:55 AM   #13
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Great interview. I can't wait for this one.
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Old 05-13-2008, 08:56 AM   #14
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Nick - Is there anything specific you'd like to add?

Denis - I wanted to touch on one thing. You didn't ask the question, but I wanted to make sure you are forewarned. At one point we talked about Too Human being 4-player co-op. We have reduced it to 2-player co-op. The reason we did that is we looked at it, and the way the game is really frantic, and when you have a lot of guys zooming around. We weren't sure that would play out the best. There were also all kinds of balancing issues. That's where we are spending the majority of our time now. People say it looks finished, but we are balancing the RPG system. In order to do it right, and make sure co-op is the best it could be, right now we have it at 2 players. We though that was the absolute right thing to do for the game, and from a gamers point of view. When you play it cooperatively, you are going to see that it's really frantic - like if you pick a Beserker going at a million miles an hour. So if you had several, we thought it would be too much. So what we did was focus on the core gameplay that we knew would be strong and work that. Anyway, long story short, that's the reasoning for 2 player co-op. We know that some people are going to dissappointed, but we really think this is the right decision.
This is a pretty big disappointment for me.
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Old 05-13-2008, 08:57 AM   #15
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All on the 360. At least, if you listen to the interview you can hear he interrupts me before I get the second part out.
Nice. Thanks, although as deep as Too Human sounds, I don't know if I'll ever get through another two within the next 2-4 years.

Heck, I still fire up Diablo II every now and then!
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Old 05-13-2008, 08:58 AM   #16
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This is a pretty big disappointment for me.
Later on in that paragraph he says he realizes it will be a disappointment for many, but I think he does a good job explaining why they decided on the downgrade.
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Old 05-13-2008, 08:59 AM   #17
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Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I'll try to read it at work today!
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Old 05-13-2008, 09:00 AM   #18
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This is a pretty big disappointment for me.
Same here. That goes for Bionic Commando Rearmed too.
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Old 05-13-2008, 09:01 AM   #19
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Awesome interview, I am absolutely drooling with anticipation for this title. How bloody long have we been waiting now? Some of the stuff covered here really hyped me even more.
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Old 05-13-2008, 09:02 AM   #20
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Great interview, bap! Between the new videos on IGN and this interview, I'm really looking at picking this up Day One.

From looking at all the gameplay videos, I dunno, it seems like four players (each potentially with a cyber-spider thing) zooming about would make things a little convoluted and hard to coordinate. I understand the desire to get a "party" of sorts going, but maybe for this implementation, it's for the best.
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