03 Sep
spacerImagespacerImagespacerImagespacerImagespacerImageRecently, we had the golden opportunity to ask the people at Phantom EFX some questions about their upcoming time-traveling shooter: Darkest of Days. We covered all our bases: DLC, guns, Michael J. Fox, and the possibility of a Darkest of Days 2. Aaron Schurman, CEO of Phantom EFX took the time to answer even our less-than-serious questions. And for that, we’re grateful!

What are you playing right now on your gaming platform of choice?

On PC I am playing Sacred 2, on PS3 it’s Resident Evil 5, and on 360 it’s Fable 2.

How would you describe your experience with building Darkest of Days? What was the smoothest part of the process? What unpredicted obstacles did you face?

spacerImagespacerImageOh boy, where does a guy start? LOL! The entire experience was, ummm, educational? You really find out there is a lot to learn with each new project. Darkest of Days was the biggest game we have ever made. During mission writing, I really wanted the game to take 20+ hours to give the gamer much more than FPS games of late. There are a lot of reasons that’s easier said than done, which will outline some obstacles.

darkdaysA Having a lot of gameplay used to be easy to pull off, because gamers were more accepting of each level feeling like the last. Since we wanted DoD to have varying mission styles, and have a roller-coaster feeling through vastly different levels, the assets needed to pull this off were immense.

darkdaysB Having so many different time periods is like making five games in one. The different weapons, the different AI for each time-frame, and different models/vegetation took much more time than expected. We set out to tackle seven different time periods in DoD, but accomplished five. Five is a lot, but I really wanted seven.

darkdaysC Combining period weapons with future weapons was REALLY hard to balance. The original story actually called for less of this action than is actually in the game. During testing, people went crazy when using future weapons, and stood up laughing sadistically! Haha! We knew we needed more! The problem was that future weapons are WAY powerful in past battles, so there was a LOT of work to make sure the story revolved around the weapons, that using them made sense in the story, and it all just fit together. When you play the game, there is a great sense of when you can use them, why, and the effects it has on time.

The action in the game is one of the smoothest parts. A good game has to focus around a nice, smooth, fighting action. Darkest of Days came together almost naturally in that sense. The first time we had a Musket firing, we expected it to be cumbersome and boring. With a few tweaks, and a reload-game to speed it up, it really became quite fun.

That bubble means I goofed up time and accidentally made someone their own grandpa.

That bubble means I goofed up time and accidentally made someone their own grandpa.

What was the inspiration behind Darkest of Days? What games / movies / comics / books / television shows / people heavily influenced Darkest of Days?

I think everyone was moved when they played the first Medal of Honor and were thrown up onto the beaches at Normandy. The frame-rates were bad, there were not more than a handful of soldiers, but heck; we were experiencing Normandy! At that time, I thought, “Now how cool would it be to go to other events that were horrifying . . . like Custer’s Last Stand, Pompeii, Antietam!?” It all stemmed from that.

I think movies like Back to the Future moved viewers as well. I mean, how cool is it that if you went back in time, you could alter it just a bit to suit your needs? To go to all these places in time, I knew it would have to revolve around time travel. The key would be to make time travel non-hokey, or believable if you will. The story is where time travel really makes sense in Darkest of Days. Time travel is explained as to how it was formed, who governs it, and how it’s used. When you go back in time, it’s like you are just dropped into the middle of a war – much like it would be if we had time travel and went back. There are no “safe havens,” there is no communication back with a home base, and there are not translators. You are there, in a different time, and you have to accomplish your mission. It’s really cool, and very believable from a Sci-Fi perspective for the folks that are into that.

gunDuring the development, were you able to visit any of the locations that are in Darkest of Days like the Antietam battlefields? Were you able to fire any of the classic weapons?

I had the chance to fire about every weapon that was used in Darkest of Days, save some of the futuristic ones. :) Some of the more rare ones were the Civil War era cannons (10 pound Parrot gun), muskets, even a Gatling Gun! I have been to all the locations in Darkest of Days except where the battle of Tannenburg took place in Russia. We wanted the action to be really realistic, so we studied many re-enactments, a lot of film, and even took some location trips. When we went to re-enactments, folks knew of the game we were working on and offered to let us shoot weapons at live ranges – it was incredible and gave us a lot of feel for how the weapons felt.

What are the future plans for 8monkey Labs? Any great ideas cooking? Shot in the dark sub-question: Will they involve vampires and Abraham Lincoln?

Haha! No Vampires, but perhaps some Abraham Lincoln. I have the story for Darkest of Days 2 on paper, and a lot of episodic content. One great thing about Darkest of Days is that you can go anywhere, any place in world history. If you want to storm the Bastille, or be on the Titanic as it goes down, or if you want to defend a castle on the rolling countryside of France, it can all be done. People died at all of these events that were not supposed to, so there is a lot of work to do to save them all.

While playing through, one of the things I was most impressed about Darkest of Days was the vernacular used by the soldiers in each time period. How hard was that to get it to feel authentic and not hokey?

Thank you! This is one thing we worked hard on – to make each time frame feel different. Phrases people used, native languages, local vegetation – it all comes together to make you feel like you really went into a different era.

One thing that really helped was a conscious decision to keep languages local to their location and time. For instance, if you are dumped into WWI on the Russian front against the Germans, you do not understand either side! There may be a Russian officer yelling at you, but you have no clue what he is saying . . . just like it would feel if you actually traveled there. You have to react to his body language, or hopefully have another time-travel agent close to translate; there are no subtitles.

What did you want to have in the game but just couldn’t fit into the game either because of story continuity, money or time?

As I alluded to earlier, there were seven original eras. We had to cut two. I can’t go into what those eras were, but I promise, they would have blown away players as much as Little Big Horn or Pompeii. They are all great battles to experience. We still plan on doing them, whether its in DLC or in DoD 2.

darkdaysPreviewIs there any DLC officially planned for Darkest of Days?

You bet, however sales are a big factor on that plan. With the response we are getting to the game so far, I would plan on it for sure.

I would just like to say that we are very proud of the way Darkest of Days turned out. It’s an independent team with a dream of making a game that felt different than the cookie-cutter FPS games out there. It’s truly unique, and fun to play! It’s been GREAT to see the excitement from the community (heck, 100,000 PC demos were downloaded in 7 days, which rivaled Batman: Arkham Asylum), the press, and testers! It’s truly a chance to play something unique.

2 thoughts on “Interview: Aaron Schurman, CEO of Phantom EFX”

  1. I might have to get a 360 or a better computer just to play this one. The concept is so damn cool that I simply must play it. Too bad it’s not on PS3 ’cause I’d buy it in a second.

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