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Who among us has never laughed maniacally?  Whether it be a well-placed shot in Unreal Tournament 2004 or getting away with stealing office supplies, we've all laughed maniacally at something at one time or another.  With Evil Genius, an upcoming strategy game that lets you play a megalomaniac bent on global domination, you get lots of practice with laughing maniacally.  We talk with Peter Gilbert, Producer on Evil Genius about the project -- from the original design concept to the size of the development team to the possibilities of online play (and so much more).  Thanks for your time, Peter!

 

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Evil Genius Q&A

Conducted by Omni

 

Tell us a little about yourself: how you got involved in the games industry, your training, and your role on Evil Genius.

Hi, my name is Peter Gilbert and I am the Producer on Evil Genius. I have been in the games industry for five years, having previously worked for five years in TV and Radio production. I have now been working with Elixir for three years.

 

In your own words – and with as little hyperbole as possible – describe what Evil Genius is.

Evil Genius is a strategy simulation game, in which the player must build an underground lair, train their minions, establish support cells around the world, research a super weapon, defend their base from the forces of justice and take over the world.

 

What will separate Evil Genius from other titles in the genre?

Three elements really stand out, the humour, the graphical style and playing the bad guy.

 

Where did the idea for Evil Genius come from?

The shortest high concept in the history of games designs… “Be Dr No”.

 

Evil Genius looks like you drew a lot of inspiration from the Austin Powers movies and No One Lives Forever.  What other inspirations can be seen in Evil Genius?

Obviously there is a lot of inspiration from the Bond films, Austin Powers, and Our Man Flint but ultimately it’s a very simple high concept; everyone wants to play the bad guy so we decided to let them play the ultimate bad guy: a megalomaniac with a penchant for global domination. We use a lot of the conventions of the spy movie genre – agents in tuxedos, and so on – but other than a few characters who are obviously inspired by Bond personae, we have tried to avoid direct references to any of our influences, unless it’s to pastiche the genre or subvert expectations for comic effect.

 

Given Evil Genius’ comical take on being a villain, will you be able to do really bad things like genocide or human slavery?

The game is designed to be fun to play and a lighthearted approach to being a evil scheming megalomaniac, so although there are many different ways of being evil, there is no slavery or genocide.

 

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Will Evil Genius feature any online features?  Like an Evil Genius vs. Interpol mode?

Sadly, if we are going to finish this game in a sensible amount of time, we need to concentrate on making it a great single player experience. It’s definitely something we would consider for a sequel though.

 

Was the game’s engine built from scratch or existing technology?  What’s the advantage to going that route?

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It’s a bit of both really. The engine for Evil Genius was based on technology that was written for Republic, but there are significant differences to cope with the games dynamic environment. The advantage of having in-house technology is that there is a lot of dedicated knowledge that can be relied on as the game progresses.

 

Is the engine versatile enough to handle everything you want it to?

It is designed to handle having tons of characters, special effects and animation on-screen. It scales neatly between more accurate (and higher polygon) effects when the camera is zoomed in, and faster implementations when zoomed out. There are all the features you'd expect from a modern game, such as a fluid animation system, particle effects, reflections, and real-time shadows. We're particularly proud that even on our minimum spec graphics cards, we can still throw around a lot of polygons without it slowing down. Lots of characters on-screen and large-scale battles are definitely part of our master plan.

 

Will cutscenes be handled by the in-game engine or rendered?

The majority of cutscenes will be in-game, but we have got some great cinematic FMVs currently underway for the bigger sequences.

 

Will players be able to just jump into Evil Genius or will there be a learning curve?  What has been done to streamline the controls?

We have spent a lot of time on the interface and control method to try and make the game as ‘pick up and play’ as possible, but there will always be a learning curve. The game has been focus tested six times in the US and Europe, and we have made changes to the interface in response to the feedback we gained from those, with further focus tests planned in the near future which will concentrate on game pace and difficulty settings.

 

How large is the development team and do you all get along?

There are twenty of us full time on the team, and surprisingly we get along pretty well. We do have a team handbag that is handed out if anyone starts getting out of hand though.

 

Is each member of the team able to make input into Evil Genius’ design?

No, but that doesn’t stop us all trying! The difficulty with developing any game is having a feature set and sticking to it. There are so many cool things we could do with Evil Genius, so many possibilities, but we have all learned lessons about how to get a finished game on the shelves, and thus far have managed to keep feature creep to a minimum. Once in a while, however, we hear those magic words “Hey! Wouldn’t it be great if…..” We then have a few tense moments while the two factions face off. On one side the winsome puppy dog eyes of the feature requester and on the other; Alex Thomson (our Lead Programmer), his cold dead eyes seeking out the sharpest of his stabbing knifes.

 

Who is the target audience of Evil Genius?

We feel that the game has mass-market appeal. In the focus tests it was well received by Strategy and Simulation gamers, and appealed to differing age groups (we tested 15-18 years, and 30-50 years). In our next focus group we will be concentrating more on feedback from a female audience.

 

Assuming that Evil Genius sells well, how likely would an expansion pack be?  Or will there be a scenario creator for players to trade among themselves?

An expansion pack would be quite likely, with new lairs, henchmen, objects, traps… the possibilities are endless.

 

(April 1, 2004)

 

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