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Freeman's Lodge Interviews

Entropy Mod Interview | 11/19/2003 |Fusion and Prozak

- Can you introduce yourself?
I’m Prozak, Lead Designer of the Entropy Multiplayer Mod Project for Half Life 2.

- Tell me about the Entropy Team
Well, Silverbud is our project Leader, Exodus is our Lead Programmer. The Team currently has more than 20 active individuals working on the concept, 90% of these are in the art department, mainly because we still haven’t got the SDK from VALVe, and our coding team, although highly experienced, amounts to just a few select individuals.

- What are your main goals for entropy?
The goal of the entire team is not to create just another blind shooter. We want people to use their heads while immersed in the Entropy Universe, and we want the universe itself to be fairly unique, therefore we are setting it in 2100, the future, which allows us a lot of design freedom.

- Who came up with the idea and why?
The original concept was sketched by Silverbud, and has been evolving ever since. The original gameplay revolved around a concept that would require around 80 to 100 people per server, bordering on the “Massive Multiplayer Online” concept. Our current concept can be very much enjoyable with a server running as little as 16 players, and we expect the Source Engine netcode to support between 32 to 50 concurrent players per server, but that’s something the SDK will have to answer for us. The concept grew out of the current growing feeling that FPSs are becoming too standardized, and no one seems to be working on evolving the general concept.

- Resume the concept of Entropy for us.
Entropy is a multiplayer Mod, set 100 years in the future. It revolves around the power struggle in a city between 2 or more rival gangs. Those gangs will have to exert their influence on the city by dominating territory and buildings, and extracting money from those buildings. The universe is dynamic, which means that many things will be “evolvable”. A few shops can evolve into a shopping mall, factories also evolve, allowing the owner gang to produce higher level vehicles and weapons, etc.

- What's the best thing about this mod?
In my personal opinion, the fact that it is an open Universe. You can play for a gang, you can create a gang, or play alone and spend your time doing solo missions, going to the local bar to hear the latest gossip, stealing a car in the street and selling it to another player, or to the car dealer in the center of town.

- Are you guys stuck on the mod right now, because the SDK has not been released?
Not at all. The Design document is getting worked everyday, with more gameplay details being inserted and revised, the look of the mod is getting fleshed out by our superb concept sketchers, weapon models are being made and skinned, there is a whole slew of work occurring right now, that will keep us busy right into the beginning of next year, in the art department alone. We would enjoy having the SDK already, of course, and getting some design prototyping under way, but right now that’s just not possible.

- What’s the hardest thing you guys are working on?

The whole “evolving” concept. If buildings are going to evolve in Entropy, we want that evolution to be visual, but the fact is that buildings are part of the map, and “hard-coded” so to speak, they are not models you can easily change. With this technical challenge in mind we are researching methods that will allow the player to see the city evolving in real time around him. This is another issue where the SDK would prove invaluable.

- Give me a run down how you start out if you booted up entropy and joined a game.
Well, you would start out in the “town center”. This is an area where all fighting is prohibited. You would then go around and get a feel for what is going on, what players are on the server, their levels, how many gangs, which gangs are hiring, etc. Then you would try to sell yourself to a gang, or go solo, and go to a bar and get a mission. The next step would be appropriating material things like weapons and vehicles in order to accomplish your mission.

- What “futuristic” things can we expect in the Mod?
Although the Mod is set in the future, we don’t want an environment where everything is “easy/cheap”. “Easy/Cheap” is that feeling you get from watching certain sci-fi movies where they can pretty much do anything they want. Our notion of futuristic, is more advanced, but still based on reality, and common sense. We are thinking of a gun that fires micro-charges beneath the skin, and the target player wouldn’t notice. You could fire a micro tracking device, and follow that player around the map, or micro-explosive, and wait till that player entered the Gang HQ and blow him up. We are also looking into the engineer skills. He will be able to construct bots, like a flying camera to spy on the opposing gang.

- What ways will the player have to directly influence his skills?
The skills of a player grow through repetition. The more he performs certain task, the higher his skills will grow. One way to directly alter the skills is by use of drugs, a temporary solution, or implants, a more permanent one. These come from the Hospital, which is a building that also evolves, so if you want to get the highest level drugs or implants, you have to evolve the hospital.

- Are you guys going to charge money for certain things in the mod?
In Entropy players have skills, and those skills will have to be saved on a central server, a Master Server. Game servers can be created by anyone, but even they must connect to our Master to retrieve player stats. Having that server up might cost us in the long run, but no, we are not planning to charge anything to the players.

- After you guys get the SDK and Official HalfLife2 Data, are you going to try to rush the Entropy Mod or keep a good pace going?
We won’t release Entropy until the whole core concept has been worked into a playable version. If other parts of the gameplay prove too complex and un-rewarding, we might drop them, but no, we are not going to rush anything, especially because now, with the delay, we are very comfortable with the time table, and we hope to start beta testing very early prototypes of the design by May, and release the full game around October-December next year, so we are comfortable with it.


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