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The Man Who "Killed" Starsiege Tribes

This interview on carries the inflammatory, though tongue-in-cheek, title "The man who killed Starsiege: Tribes (part 1)." This speaks with Chris Mahnken, who didn't actually kill the franchise, though he served as producer on Tribes: Vengeance, the near-fatal installment in the sci-fi shooter series released in 2004 by Irrational Games. The conversation covers the troubled development of Vengeance, and the obstacles they overcame along the way. Here's a portion:

All through the development of the game Sierra was slowly being shut down by our Vivendi corporate overlords down in lovely Culver City. It was unfortunate, because we were actually making a profit, while they were losing money hand over fist. They closed Dynamix, Papyrus, Impressions, and about 10 other smaller studios over three or four years in an attempt to stem the bleeding. It was kind of like somebody with a gunshot wound to the chest trying to heal themselves by cutting off hands, feet, arms and legs.

For our team it started with marketing and PR being moved to LA, and my Marketing manager being laid off. That left me with a marketing guy who didn’t have any idea about first person shooters in general, much less tribes. His suggestions were that we should make it much more like Counter-Strike, and we should definitely add “bullet time”.

The end result was a game that had no support from the corporate offices, and ended up with one magazine cover about 8 months before it released, and one single magazine advert and not even any web ads.

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42. Re: The Man Who Apr 4, 2011, 02:10 Jerykk
Umm, most mods had a steeper learning curve.

How much Base Tribes did you actually play? If you spent most of your time working on mods rather than playing Base Tribes, you probably aren't the most qualified judge of depth. Adding more weapons, packs and deployables doesn't make for a steeper learning curve if some of them are inherently better than others. How exactly did you balance deployable force fields? Or laser turrets? Or rapid-fire mortar launchers? I think one of the mods even added deployable launcher pads for those who didn't know how to disc-jump, grenade-jump or mortar-jump.

For instance having only 3 classes these days is pretty nerfy, you can look at Battlefield 2 as a modern action/strategy/vehicle FPS game for inspiration there.

Tribes never had classes. It had an open-ended loadout system which accommodated a wide variety of roles, including:

Light Defense
Light Offense
Heavy Flag Defense
Heavy Base Defense
Heavy Offense
Medium Base Maintenance and Deployable Dude

That's six different roles right there, with lots of flexibility as to the specific weapons and packs each one uses. That was the problem with mods in T1/T2. They focused on quantity more than quality. Tribes doesn't need 20 weapons or 10 armor types. The core gameplay mechanics already have more depth than any other shooter. However, you wouldn't realize this if you only played Base for 5 minutes or spent all your time with mods.
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