We speak to lead designer Steve Briscoe and senior designer Tom Rigby about merging monsters and getting creative with Strange Brigade
So obviously there are a lot of mummies in the game as a particular enemy type; what goes into making each one distinct from the other?
Steve Briscoe: Crikey, you wouldn’t believe us if we told you! [laughs]
Tom Rigby: I think we’re quite lucky in that we’ve got this kind of broad canvas of things. We can just plunder all these different kinds of mythologies, and it doesn’t really matter if they make any sort of historical sense, because it’s based on highly historically inaccurate films that were just a silly bit of fun. We’ve got this excuse where people say, “Well, that wouldn’t have been there”, or “That wouldn’t have done that…”—well, we don’t care because it looks cool and it would’ve been there in a film and it would have looked amazing and it would have been a really fun thing to find. Steve: So long as it fits in within the mythos of the world that we’ve created.
Tom: But it’s the same with the enemies. That’s where I was trying to get to—you say mummies, and obviously mummies are a big part of it, that’s all part of the initial inspiration for this, really. But we’ve got tons of other places we can draw enemies from—so once we’ve done a mummy, we’re not really stuck with it. We don’t have to iterate on that too much, we can just take something else and make that.
Steve: The bandaged mummy character is one of the primary images that kicked off the project, I suppose. But we’ve taken it much further than that, and while we have made reference to history for our art style and so on, we’re not slavishly adhering to it. It’s a much lighter game than something like Sniper Elite where its historical accuracy is a more significant part of its aesthetic. And so we’ve had quite a lot of fun imagining what comes after the bandaged mummy, what other undead mystical, magical, Egyptian stuff might come after.
Tom: Without going into too much detail, I think we have a nice robust system for trying those kinds of things out in terms of attaching different bits and pieces to other bits, like giving them different weapons. There’s a certain enemy—I won’t tell you what it is because it’s not been revealed— but there’s a story with a particular weapon and I thought, “We’ll give him a particular type of attack, because he’s just carrying this weapon around…” We’ve got this cool system of just plugging things on, and that lets us come up with a lot of nice variation.
Steve: Yeah, like a lot of stuff we do, our tools and utilities are set up to largely allow
designers to experiment with stuff and prototype things quickly. Usually it then has to get tidied up by someone more qualified, but broadly speaking we can test these things out to see if they’re fun and if they’re worth it then they go on to the next stage of polish. And that’s particularly helpful with things like enemy design.
Do you have any favorites?
Steve: Yeah, I’m a sucker for the big bandaged mummy guy personally. I like him a lot.
Tom: He is good. I like the assassin, the one that dodges around loads, purely because of what he’s wearing; he’s got this really
incredible armor on. I think they did a really good job on that, actually.
Steve: Yeah, they’re quite satisfying to fight as well. There’s quite a spread as well, there’s the spread of the weak cannonfodder-y type things and then the guys that you’ve got to focus on to take down…
Tom: I’m sure you saw the—you can’t miss him really—Minotaur in the demo?
Steve: He’s the Champion of Apis. The Minotaur was Greek.
Tom: He’s quite cool as well, because I like the opportunity to have these bigger characters that are a bit more imposing. Steve: He picks guys up and throws them at you, which is kind of fun; that’s quite a good moment.
Obviously there’s that giant Anubis-y statue towards the end; how big do they get, is that the biggest they get?
Steve: Err… that’s… in the video, that’s about right isn’t it? That’s about the [biggest] scale I think?
Tom: Yeah, I think so. That’s about right—it’s pretty big though! How big do you want? [laughs]
Steve: Yeah, I mean we can make him bigger if you want! No problem.
“we could probably make sequels for the next ten years, but we’re not doing that, and I think that’s good”
What are you most proud of?
Steve: Rebellion Games covers a pretty broad spectrum of types of game—we’ve got our major totemic games like the Sniper series which get a lot of value from their historical integrity and that kind of stuff. So to be working on something which is less bound by reality and we can just let our imaginations go a little bit and we can come up with concepts for most of the weird things that we want to try—coming up with a game that justifies us doing that, I think, is something I’m quite proud of. To find something within which all of our weird ideas will fit and it will still remain integrated into the style of the game is kind of cool, because while working on a historically accurate game, you’ve got answers to most of your questions already, you can sort of reference the history. You have to justify everything when you’ve got that much creative freedom, so that’s been really fun to actually come up with something coherent out of all that.
Tom: Yeah, we’re inventing a whole fictional group that shouldn’t have existed, basically [laughs]. Certainly I’d like to draw attention to the fact that it’s a brand new IP, and I’m proud of that. I think it’s a real risk for Rebellion to take and if it pays off, brilliant. If not—at least we tried. I think that’s what this company’s good at, we’ve got just enough freedom to try these things and you don’t see that very often. You don’t see people trying new IPs—it’s very safe these days.
Steve: It is very tempting. Rebellion has its big successes, and of course it’s not oblivious to that, but to have a margin for people to experiment with stuff—I mean, Battlezone was another example of that, a game which just… it didn’t come from nowhere in a business sense, but it was certainly an enormous risk.
Tom: Rebellion’s got enough things that if we wanted we could probably make sequels for the next ten years, but we’re not doing that, and I think that’s good.
Steve: The Kingsleys [Rebellion’s founders] do really, genuinely think about the kind of things they think gamers are going to want to play, but at the same time they don’t do that by looking at what people are currently playing. They refer back to themselves and the kinds of things that they enjoy playing, as they are actual gamers, and that’s really freeing. It’s really nice to know that for everybody here, there’s the potential to work on something completely new and to try and break a little bit of ground.