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Cowboys and videogames are two words that don't often get to grace the same sentence.  For reasons cloaked in almost as much mystery as Freemasonry, Westerns just haven't been popular among developers.  With Sammy stepping up to the plate, currently creating a title that indeed does embrace the Old West the genre could get its first shot in the arm in quite some time.  Recently we had the chance to talk with Matt Tieger, one of the designers on Darkwatch, about some of what to expect from this game when it hits the PS2 and Xbox later this year.


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Preview: Darkwatch: Curse of the West (PS2, XB)




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Darkwatch: Curse of the West Interview

Conducted by Mr. Nash


First off, we’ll need your name, rank, and serial number.  Who are you, what are your responsibilities on Darkwatch, and what have been some of your past projects?


Matt Tieger, I’m a game designer on Darkwatch.  game designers wear a lot of different hats so, like all the designers here, I work on the story, create levels, design enemies and spec out all of the game systems.


To date my most notable credit is as a designer on The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.


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Why was the Old West chosen as the backdrop for this game?  Do you have any theories as to why there are so few games set in that era?


Westerns immediately conjure up certain images – a lone gunfighter standing in the street, riding across the open plains, ghost towns and saloon shootouts.  All in all, those elements can be combined make a solid game experience and I think the best example of a pure Western game so far has to be Outlaws by Lucas Arts, but that was way back in 1997.


Personally, I believe blending genres is what makes Darkwatch an exciting game with very wide audience appeal.  This is where other Westerns have fallen flat.  Give people what they expect in a Western...make them feel comfortable within the world you create and then have hordes of the undead and vampires erupt from the ground – now that’s a video game!




What kind of modified weaponry will the Darkwatch be providing Jericho?  Is it difficult to keep them true to the era while over the top in how they’ve been enhanced?


Weapon designs are rooted in reality but we have spun them into the Darkwatch world.  For example, Jericho’s pistol has similar elements to a traditional six shooter but it holds a total of 24 bullets in four separate chambers.  Oh yeah and don’t forget the bladed gun butt for the occasional close-quarter beat down.



What sorts of assault vehicles are planned for the game?


Riding on a horse is a must for any Western worth its spurs; however the fun doesn’t stop there.  The Darkwatch are a clever sort, and their scientists created a steam powered vehicle that drives like a blade covered dune buggy.  It packs a mean punch with its deadly mounted Gatling Gun turret!


We know that Jericho is hunting a vampire in the game, but what other types of enemies will players encounter?


For starters we have a giant Yeti with tank treads for legs and a cybernetic glowing red eye – well actually that’s a lie.  I keep asking for the Yeti but they keep telling me “No Yetis!  Stop asking for Yetis!”


Seriously, expect to have to put undead gunslingers to rest, dodge dynamite tossing abominations and shoot the heads of charging skeletons. These are just a few of the enemies that we’re creating.  


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Will there be any multiplayer options for Darkwatch, or perhaps online play?


Actually the team had Multiplayer up and running very early in development and the ‘5pm gun down sessions’ were a blast.  So we are very aware of how fun our game is in multiplayer and we are doing everything we can to support as many different types of multiplayer possible.


The game is said to have very large worlds for players to explore.  Can you give us a point of comparison to put it into perspective how large Darkwatch’s worlds will be?


Gameplay pacing is the key.  If the world is huge but only a few things happen in it, then the gameplay is boring, even if those few events are amazing.  Balancing game world size and fun factor is a constant challenge.  Darkwatch is still evolving and I simply don’t know how big the game worlds will be when we ship.  The only real answer I have is this; as big as we can make them while still keeping the gameplay pacing intense.


What are some of the key steps the development team are taking to ensure that Darkwatch isn’t written off as “Just another FPS”?


We focus the moment to moment game experience around the emotion that we want to elicit: fear, surprise, tension and so on. The team crafts the levels around that emotion and supports it with sound, visuals, and gameplay.  Games are so much more then they were just a few years ago, and the best games deliver a whole experience to the players. 


In the last little while, Sammy has really been taking significant steps to have a stronger foothold in the game industry.  Have you found that the development team are enjoying some extra TLC from the powers that be as a result?


Sammy is a rising star, we aren’t looking for a foothold – we are looking to stomp!


We are all committed to making a monumental game, and that extends well beyond the development team.  Our support structure is stellar and we are given the necessary latitude to deliver.  And of course, don’t forget our brand new office - we recently opened a massive, state-of-the-art facility in Carlsbad, designed from the ground up for game development.


What’s the one thing about Darkwatch that no one knows and you would love to share now?  


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The entire team is chock full of gamers, we all have our personal favorites; as a game designer, I get to put little bits of my personality into the game and here is something I have been working on…


I loved playing the Metal Slug series of games – crazy bosses that would fire tons of rockets, use armored plates to protect vital areas and take lots of punishment before they went down.  Currently I am creating a boss inspired by all the fun I had playing that series.  It will be a Darkwatch twist on a traditional Western icon.


Expect to be impressed, Darkwatch will deliver.


A big thanks to you, Matt, for your time.


(March 13, 2004)

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