Just recently BAM! Entertainment and Torus Games announced a new PlayStation 2 title by the name of Ice Nine, the game inspired by the motion picture The Recruit. At that very same time a Game Boy Advance version of the game was also announced, though not much information had been shared about either of these titles. Recently, both BAM! and Torus agreed to answer some questions involving the PlayStation 2 version of Ice Nine.
Gaming Target (GT):
Before we get started would you be kind enough to introduce yourself and let everyone know what your responsibilities are with the Ice Nine project. Alex Hutchinson (AH):
My name's Alex Hutchinson and I'm Lead Designer on Ice Nine. I work on the basic gameplay and mission structure as well as writing the script, directing the voice acting, choosing the levels and key features of the game.
My major concern now is overseeing the project as it starts to come together, isolating any gameplay holes, keeping everyone motivated through crunch time and focusing on delivering a great game.
Ice Nine has been announced for the PlayStation 2 and Game Boy Advance, do you see it making it's way onto the GameCube or the Xbox in the future? AH:
It is entirely possible we'll bring Ice Nine to other systems. We'll keep you posted though. GT:
Why did you decide to develop Ice Nine for the PlayStation 2, rather then having it on the other two next generation consoles? AH:
We wanted to focus on PS2 because it has the largest install base. When we began development on the game this was a major factor for us and BAM! We want a lot of people to be able to enjoy Ice Nine.
Not much information has been released on James Clayton the main character; care to share anything about him? AH:
James Clayton's first attempt at joining the CIA failed when his instructor, Walter Burke, betrayed him and tried to use him as a double agent. There was an accident in which Clayton accidentally killed another field agent named Zack.
Burke's plan was to steal a computer virus named Ice Nine. Now, Clayton has returned to finish his training, but the specter of Burke, the death of Zack and the theft of Ice Nine still hang over him.
Then everything goes really
It is said that you are able to play alongside your fellow CIA agent Layla. Could you explain who Layla is and what role she plays in the game. AH:
Originally we wanted her playing alongside you, but we realized how annoying it is protecting anyone in a mission or failing a mission because a non-playable character got themselves killed. Layla is crucial to the plot and appears in a few missions, but instead of fighting alongside you, she is more of someone you can count on for information and help in completing your missions. GT:
Layla is your fellow CIA agent, but will she be available as a playable character in the game? Or does AI control her throughout the game? AH:
Unfortunately no, but she is going to work alongside you in a way never before seen in a video game. We can't reveal it now but its going to be pretty wild.
Many of our readers have not heard much about your unique ?undercover time' system, could you explain to them what this is and what effect it will have on the games outcome AH:
The enemies have an 'awareness cone' which is visible on the HD, showing you when they'll spot you. The cone is not static however, and is affected by player actions. Knock an enemy out and grab a disguise and the enemies relax, meaning their cone will shrink. If you start shooting wildly, the enemies will go on alert and their cone will grow.
The system is designed to make the game feel more dynamic than most shooters - we wanted it to have more depth than just running and shooting, and allow the player to work through each level in their own way, making sure they got feedback from the enemies for each of their actions. GT:
Ice Nine is going to include 20+ weapons, can you tell us about some of your more unique weapons like the PDA. AH:
The PDA can fire poison darts, tracking bugs and 'distraction' pellets which will allow you to sneak through areas you might otherwise need to fight through. We also have triggered mines, which can be stuck to walls and objects to pick off a passing patrol and a few other tricks up our sleeves.
You can only carry two weapons at the time, meaning you can switch between them quickly and easily and you need to plan your assault on the various levels. It's not a 'rambo' style game - you're meant to use your head a bit, too.
How long has Ice Nine been in development for? We know it was just recently announced, but what percent of the game has already been completed? AH:
Different departments are in different positions. I began designing it in November 2001, but full production didn't begin until March 2002 and the team has been steadily growing since then.
Every level has now been designed and built, although there are a few we're going to rebuild because we've changed our mind on the kind of reaction we wanted from the player.
We're focusing on tying it all together now - getting levels into the game world and playable, finalizing the last few weapons and then testing them to death. GT:
In the game enemies hide, run away when out of ammo, call for reinforcements, pick up grenades and try to throw them back and talk to each other in battle. How do you feel the Ice Nine AI handles against some of the games out in the same Genre? AH:
Great AI was something we knew we'd need if this game was going to stand up to the competition. We were keen to make sure that enemies did not react to you unrealistically - many games have enemies who magically figure out your presence whenever you walk in a room. Our enemies actually have to see you or be warned of your presence before they attack.
We also wanted to avoid situations where enemies just blindly attack. If you were a guard and all your friends had died would you continue to attack? I reckon you'd be more likely to retreat or call for back-up.
We want the player to feel like the enemies are making the right decisions, while making it obvious to the player what they're doing. We're certain we can deliver a game that has some surprising AI tricks up its sleeve.
A majority of the game is going to take place on foot, but will players have the chance to use any vehicles throughout the game? AH:
Unfortunately not in this game, but possibly in sequels? We would like to do it. GT:
How many playable levels are you hoping to include within Ice Nine? What kind of environments can we expect to see in the game besides the CIA training facility and offshore Chinese Terrorist Outpost? AH:
There are twelve playable levels, each of which has at least two different art styles and three to five load sections. Each level is unique - we were very keen to make certain that there was a lot of variety through the game. We have forests, mines, submarines, office buildings and more. GT:
Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions; we hope in the near future we can do this again. Before we say goodbye though, is there anything you would like to tell our readers? AH:
Everyone at Torus is working very hard to make this a great game. I am sure people are going to really enjoy playing Ice Nine.
It looks like Torus Games is doing a great job with Ice Nine so far, making us eager to get our hands on the final product when it's complete. BAM! Entertainment has scheduled the PlayStation 2 version for release during June of this year. If you want to learn more about Ice Nine, please visit our previous preview coverage
and check back for updates about the title in the future. Special thanks goes out to Alex at Torus Games and Mika from BAM! for making this interview possible.