Fresh off the success of Trackmania 2, Nadeo seem to be taking big strides to further their ambitions for the Mania franchise, taking their next step with the FPS game Shootmania: Storm, as well as rolling out their ManiaPlanet system. We talk to Managing Director Florent Castelnérac about the new title and their plans for the future…
Strategy Informer:You’ve talked a lot about what players can do in the game – but about the other side of the coin? What will players NOT be able to do at launch?
Florent Castelnérac: Something we don’t want to open at launch, something we may not open ever, is giving the ability to create weapons. Maybe one day – we sell a new title, and you can change weapons there. I don’t know. We’ve just begun really, will people even need it? I don’t know. We’ve created flying vehicles as well, but those won’t be available at launch either.
It’s best to wait, and answer – not to the player’s needs or demands – but to read what is happening and feel what has to be open. Otherwise the experts will push the game in a certain direction, and we can’t open too much for the experts otherwise is just becomes an expert game.
Strategy Informer:How easy would it be to roll back a change if you opened something up and then realised it was a mistake?
Florent Castelnérac: You can’t. There is no going back. Otherwise I would be like “I will open everything! And then close as needed”. I’ll be dead by next Wednesday… I won’t want the Second Life effect or whatever, people not knowing what to expect. I want the players to know exactly what to expect.
Someone asked me recently “Will we have the ability to change Gravity?” And I’m like “No”, because if you do that you won’t know the planet anymore… but if we gave something (like a block) a special power, so you could float for 10 seconds, then we’re opening that but not changing the gravity. Other core gameplay features like the speed of gameplay, the speed of the bullets… in Unreal Tournament it was all about turbo, but new players... *shakes head*
Strategy Informer:You’ve talked a bit about the business model, but just to state things clearly here – is it possible for players to profit in real-world terms through Shootmania? Could they make a living off it, for example?
Florent Castelnérac: Maybe it will be possible. At the moment we are not pushing it thought… it’s more Windows-style than Apple-style, you know? We will not sell stuff, give money to players etc… but in terms of the real-world economy… you could like sell a password or something, charge people for ‘membership’ to your dedicated server… you can generate keys, and you can sell those keys yourself – so we’re not in the way there. Thing is though, do we encourage it? If we change something further down the line, they might not be so happy. It’s more of a question of what position do we take.
It’s like Windows yeah – there’s no pressure about making a game or something for Windows, and if you want to make money you can, that’s not a bad thing.
What’s bad thought is the idea that someone is supporting a family because of this, and then you change something and they ring you up and go “whhaaa my family”! I want to be free to do what I want to do; it’s a game after all.
I don’t like money being in the game. The mentality changes a lot. In E-sport for example it’s something that you have to be careful about.
Strategy Informer:Shootmania obviously is the first step on your whole ‘ManiaPlanet’ vision – you’ve already announced that you want to do QuestMania after this for RPG’s… given any thought to genres after that? StrategyMania, for example?
Florent Castelnérac: If you look at the most popular genres at the moment, Strategy is definitely up there. So it would be like the next thing on the list.
The issue with RTS is that it’s more about content – you’re designing one function, one AI… it’s less about creativity, it’s less pure. It would require more input from the studio in terms of true ‘Game’ Design. There is no game design at Nadeo. You can’t really provide a ‘system’ for RTS. For RPG, FPS etc… you can provide system for it, but not easily for RTS.
So what will maybe happen is that we provide tools so that you can create an RTS mode, but it would be a little brother for Shootmania or QuestMania or whatever… we will see what is going to happen. Strategy is far far away though.
Strategy Informer:Are there any plans to bring ManiaPlanet to the consoles?
Florent Castelnérac: No, not to the console. Maybe if we were to go on consoles, it would be for spectatorship, you know, watch it on your television, best match in the world… watch Britain trying to fight the French. You would need to remove everything to do with ‘creating’ on the console – it’s meant for ‘play’. Like your DVD player – you watch DVD’s etc… on a player, but if it was on your computer you could edit it with different tools.
We’re far from decided though, as the landscape is not clear at the moment. What is the future?
Strategy Informer:Obviously when it comes to games with a lot of user-generated content, the question of copyright comes up. Players importing skins etc… without IP-holder’s consent. Do you have systems in place to deal with that or do you hope the community will just behave?
Florent Castelnérac: No, no… we are far from this question. We’re like Windows. We’re an Operating System … YouTube is ten times closer to this question than we are. We are just providing a platform. The only link we have to copyrighting is the in-game advertising, when players want to advertise their content. Obviously it would be bad if we helped someone advertise something that was breaking the law, and we can take it down quickly in that case. But every time I talk to a legal person they are like “You don’t need to worry about it”.
We’re not hosting, we’re not referencing (like Google searching for torrents, for example)… we’re like a videoplayer. You wouldn’t sue a videoplayer for playing illegal content.
Strategy Informer:Will there be any crossover between Trackmania and Shootmania? Can you create something for Shootmania in Trackmania, for example? Or visa versa?
Florent Castelnérac: No, they are separated off. It’s really dedicated to one type of gameplay… maybe further down the line but I don’t think so. Closest thing we have is that you can move your group to different servers. So you have a Deathmatch on Storm, and then you move the whole group onto a Canyon server and do a time attack, etc…
Strategy Informer:You went out of your way a little bit to emphasise why Shootmania isn’t a ‘violent’ game in the same way Call of Duty or Battlefield is. It’s more like Laser Tag than anything else – why is that so important to you guys?
Florent Castelnérac: Well 99% of people in the studio said they didn’t want to make a violent game, simply because they didn’t want to then tell their friends and family what they were making. Not that we have anything against violent games, but up to what point?
It’s incredible the amount of people who’ve said “Oh cool, it’s not violent.” Gaming is about linking people together from different nations… having people playing together; with themes like terrorism/counter terrorism… it’s the complete opposite of the ‘spirit’ of gaming.
Imagine a sport where people would be dressed in military uniforms as they walk out onto the pitch. People would look at them and go “look at them, they are training for war”. Even though it’s within the context of sport, the image it promotes is that [violence] is not important, and it’s similar in the games industry. I’m not against restricting anything, but we wanted to provide an alternative, not something less, but something different. If the games industry says “Its ok, violent games aren’t an issue”, sure, but if there are ONLY violent games, then it becomes and issue.
But no one really wanted to design AK-47’s or anything; it’s not really the culture of the studio. It’s the same with Trackmania actually – we just designed a car, but it wasn’t branded or modelled after anything, we’re not involved in ’cars’, it’s just a videogame.
Many thanks to Florent for taking the time to speak to us. We’ve been very impressed with what we’ve seen so far of Shootmania, and we can’t wait to see where and how far the community takes Nadeo’s basic idea. Don’t forget to check out our hands-on preview here.