CONSORTIUM: The Tower Interview – When Deus Ex Meets Die Hard
Interdimensional Games, a small Canadian developer, has very ambitious plans for CONSORTIUM: The Tower. The sequel to CONSORTIUM, it is meant to be the second game in a planned trilogy; the studio is trying the crowdfunding route on Kickstarter right now, with 22% of the $CAD 450K minimum goal pledged so far and 24 days remaining.
CONSORTIUM: The Tower is not quite your average video game. It's played in first person, but it's meant to be deeper than a shooter: according to the developers, it should be possible to complete the entire game without ever raising the gun. Interdimensional Games describes it as a sci-fi immersive simulation where players will take control of Bishop Six, a CONSORTIUM officer who's been tasked to resolve a hostage situation in Churchill Tower, London, 2042.
That's why, in a nutshell, the developers refer to the game as Deus Ex meets Die Hard. Intrigued yet? Wait to hear more details from Gregory and Steven MacMartin, brothers and project co-leads.
- First an aircraft, then a tower - in the middle of a winter storm, no less. What were the inspirations behind the choice of these locales for the CONSORTIUM games so far?
- The locations pretty much came organically from the core story we want to tell. Once we decided that the Consortium live and work on board aircraft perpetually in the sky, it just made sense that the first game be set on Zenlil. And then the Churchill Tower, or more specifically the Power Facility, became the top choice location for what will be a pretty fundamental piece of the iDGi puzzle. Plus, if we’re going to have the player skydive down and onto a location, it can’t hurt to be an epic skyscraper!
- I've watched the "Impact on the World" video and while it was fun, I do have a concern: will the press always get wind of whatever actions you take as Bishop Six? It doesn't seem like the CONSORTIUM would exactly allow the outside world to know everything going on in a critical mission like this one.
- That’s the interesting thing about their world, and about how the Consortium operate within it. They are technologically interconnected in ways we can’t even imagine, and Consortium officers are considered major pop culture celebrities. There are countless Consortium-based video games (“be a Bishop in V.R.!”), movies, and shows. A Bishop is the equivalent of a major movie star, with legions of fans all over the world. Pawn 12 on board Zenlil, for example, collects the digital equivalent of Consortium trading cards, and is utterly obsessed with all things Bishop. This all spawned from the Consortium King’s policy that their missions be entirely public record. Following every official mission, the King releases his field operative’s CMC log to the world. This means a full audio/visual feed directly from the Bishop’s eyes. Whenever a new CMC log is released, it is watched by billions of people within days. The public can’t get enough. Some would even say that this was a deliberate effort by the King to sway governmental favour through public support… and to ultimately ensure that the Consortium become the only remaining militaristic force on Earth. Now, during a live mission the public only see what the press can see. This consists mostly of periodic updates from the Consortium Queen (if the mission is high-profile enough to warrant it), and whatever they can figure out for themselves. For example, the press have cameras watching the rooftop and will at first see your every move (unless you utilize stealth). But this will change as you dig deeper into the Tower, mostly out of reach from the press. That said, you will still be given the chance to be interviewed over your conversation manager on “live T.V.” Say whatever you want, then sit back and watch the world’s reaction.
- Will CONSORTIUM: The Tower take place over the span of a single night? Also, is there a time limit (hidden or explicit) on defusing the hostage situation?
- Yes it will, and perhaps even into the next day, but no longer than that. We’re trying very hard to keep from giving away story spoilers (an extremely difficult endeavor when using crowdfunding!), but I will say that while no explicit “time limit” exists, things do escalate depending on what you do, how you do it, and how long it takes you. That is at least if the hostage situation doesn’t suddenly become second fiddle to something far more important! 😉
- I understand that it will be possible to even betray Bishop Six's own organization in CONSORTIUM: The Tower. However, can the protagonist investigate on his own (for instance by exploring the environment and finding clues) before making this choice? Also, will it be possible to turn against the CONSORTIUM without taking the murderous approach seen in the pitch video?
- The people actively working against the Consortium very much want you in their pocket. Right near the beginning of the game you’ll be contacted by them, and they will immediately begin their attempts to show you “their side of the story.” At the same time they’ll be testing the waters with you to ensure you’re capable of being what they need you to be. This means asking you to do things for them both on the Tower, and within Consortium ranks. They may ask you to attempt and create a divide between two main characters, so for example you have to go and find a way to make the Boyle twins turn on each other. Or have the Queen turn against Knight 15. Or maybe they’ll have you convince a Pawn on board Zenlil to do something for you that ends up aiding a hidden away mole/traitor. Or you could decide to gather information about these mysterious benefactors, and then spill the beans to your crew - double agent style. So yes, there will *absolutely* be a way of turning against the Consortium without taking the murderous route. In fact, the “mysterious benefactors” are equally horrified by the act of you being a murderous lunatic. They are normal, well adjusted human beings with their own cause and purpose, not cartoon bad-guys devilishly joyed by your evil deeds. They only let the murdering slide because they believe, unlike the Consortium, that they need you and have no choice. I should say that they need the interdimensional traveler (you!), and not so much the Bishop.
- For those interested in playing this game mostly as a shooter, do you intend to make combat tighter (with improved AI, for instance) in order to make it a satisfying experience all the same?
- We have an update planned that will get into this, but yes. This is actually one of our primary goals with this game. The biggest criticism leveled against Consortium is that it has overly complicated combat mechanics for a game that barely has any combat… not to mention when there IS combat it’s confined to an extremely tight space with no room to breathe. This is all because we built the combat system in Consortium with the full-scale Tower in mind. In hindsight we probably shouldn’t have gotten so detailed, but in the end it’s going to help us much more easily build the Tower. Thanks to the amazing (and plentiful!) feedback we’ve received over the past two years, improvements to the combat system have become rather obvious. Our goal is to ensure that the “combat route” within The Tower be fun, intense, and best of all uniquely Consortium. For those wanting the full-on “Call of Duty Experience,” you can pretty much choose to have mass amounts of bullets do your talking, and never speak a word to anyone. The most obvious improvement with combat in The Tower will be the varying locales. Large, open and interconnected spaces with a great use of verticality will allow for a huge range of tactical situations. Being able to make use of Bishop gear to fly, super jump and run fast will make players feel truly super human in combat. In addition, a great deal of polish will be going into feedback systems to make combat feel more visceral.
- You've mentioned that CONSORTIUM: The Tower will be considerably longer than its predecessor. Can you give us an approximate number, like 7-8 hours on average?
- We are only in the late stages of pre-production, and so it’s honestly hard to say. BUT considering the story beats we have planned, and the greater emphasis on combat, stealth, and exploration, the game will inherently be at least 3 or more times longer than an average run of Consortium. But then we’ve found that an “average run of Consortium” is honestly about 3-7 hours. It’s a huge range due to the nature of the game, and the player’s ability to easily skip mass amounts of content without even realizing it.
- During a recent impromptu AMA on Reddit, it was said that controller support isn't yet in the game and it would only be added to the PC version after the console port. Does that mean that the full release will happen on PC first and consoles later?
- We were referring to the first Consortium in that discussion. Controller support will be a priority for The Tower and will be available upon initial release.
- Are you interested in adding support for PlayStation VR on PS4? What do you think of Sony's VR device?
- We think it’s pretty cool, and it’s certainly good that the PS4 has such a large install base to start with. We are very interested in making a custom VR mode for The Tower, but the priority is to make an awesome “normal” game first and foremost.
- Do you plan to use the Xbox One Game Preview program to allow backers to play an "Early Access" version of the Xbox One version?
- Possibly, but it’s not definitely planned. To be honest, the ideal situation would be to have a large enough budget to build the entire game without needing to charge people for an unfinished version of it.
- Since the game is scheduled for the second half of 2017, will you add DirectX 12 support to CONSORTIUM: The Tower? What about Vulkan?
- We will support whatever Unreal 4 supports; we won’t be doing any custom graphics work beyond what is officially supported by the engine. So if the engine supports those things, The Tower will as well!
- With the switch to Unreal Engine 4, I was honestly expecting a bit more in terms of graphics. I've read that there will be improvements in this regard before the release - could you go into detail about those? Will they include enhanced animations?
- The animations collectively seen in the pitch are the area we spent the least amount of time on during pre-production, so yes they will be much improved in the finished version. As far as graphics in general are concerned… we are a very small indie team with a tight budget trying to push the boundaries of seamlessly blending storytelling and gaming. We are proud of the unique style established in our first game, and feel that we’re taking the visuals in The Tower to the next level, while still staying true to a style that best suits our story and gameworld.
- What happens if you don't reach the minimum goal on the Kickstarter campaign? Do you have a backup plan, or will it just take longer to make CONSORTIUM: The Tower?
- We’ve honestly put all of our eggs into this basket and will have no choice but to shelve the project indefinitely if we do not reach our goal. This very much is a passion project for us, and we will get it made eventually, but Kickstarter was our only viable funding option at this time. If the market decides it doesn’t want us to make the game now, we are prepared to accept that and put it on the backburner until a later date when other options present themselves.
- Thank you for your time.