Interview with : Jonathan Wright of Third Law Interactive by Speed

Where did the name of “Third Law Interactive” come from ?

When we first started our company we spent quite a while coming up with potential names. Most of our initial thoughts were already taken (except for “Atomic Afro”, but we didn’t think that really fit our image). Eventually we settled on “Bloodshot” (which in retrospect I rather hate).

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Unfortunately, Acclaim had the rights to a game called “Bloodshot” so we thought we could append “Visions” to the end and get “Bloodshot Visions” (which in retrospect I hate even more). Then we received a cease and desist letter from Acclaim.
Throughout all of this we had received differing advice from several lawyers about what was and was not acceptable, but the thought of having to defend a name we didn’t really like sent us back to the drawing board. “Third Law” was something I came up with and just about everyone seemed to like from the start.
At it’s most basic level it refers to Newton’s third law of motion “For each action there is and equal and opposite reaction”.
However, we also felt that was a good mantra for game design, since everything we implement in a game has an effect, either desirable or undesirable, on game play mechanics.

You are currently busy with KISS : Psycho Circus, a 3D Shooter. Why did you choose to make a 3D shooter ?

A 3D shooter was just an obvious choice for us. We started the company with four excellent mappers who have been making award-winning maps since the days of Doom, and we had just come off of Ion Storm’s Daikatana project, so it was a natural progression. In a nutshell, most of our team had spent their time working with 3D shooters, all the way back to Blake Stone, which was based on the Wolfenstein 3D engine, so we went with what we knew best.

The market of 3D shooters is getting abit overwhelmed it seems with Q3A, Half-Life, UT and Duke4Ever and Daikatana on the way. Why should people go out and buy KISS ? What does it have what none of the others have ?

Psycho Circus has adrenaline-pumping, almost non-stop action. When we sat down to design this game, we saw several challenges that we had to overcome.
First of all, at 12 employees, we have a relatively small team.
Second, we knew we had a maximum of 18 months in which to make the game.
Third, we were working with the KISS license, which puts its own set of limitations on content. By that I mean that it’s going to be difficult to make a story-centric FPS such as Half-Life with the KISS license, at least if you try to make it serious.
The short development schedule (face it, less than 18 months for an FPS is unheard of in this industry) also precluded going the Half-Life route.
We knew that Half-Life was the new watermark for first person shooters and we knew that we didn’t have the time and resources to compete with it on the same level. On top of that, we all wanted to go back to the type of game play that has been lacking since Doom II — fast and furious with monsters everywhere. So, we made the decision to concentrate on the action element of the FPS.
One of our overriding goals was a high on-screen creature count, which we have achieved far beyond our original expectations, so expect 10-20 monsters on the screen. We also spent an inordinate amount of time on creature design.
Each enemy has a specific set of attributes that are meant to make them unique and complement other enemies.
One thing we didn’t want was a whole lot of monster types that are essentially the same in the way they attack and react. Right now we’ve got about 18 unique monsters, each with unique AI and unique attacks, and at least 6 bosses in the game.

Having said all that, we didn’t just throw out everything that makes a game like Half-Life great. There is a story thread that carries the game, and we keep it going with in-game cinematics that help to compartmentalize the action. We also made the environments as interactive and believable as possible, while keeping the focus on action and skill.

Why did you choose to take up KISS, the name of a band that’s considered quite “old” ?

There are several reasons. First, we were offered the license and a sweet deal, and it was a chance to start our own company.
However, we didn’t just jump at the chance to do a KISS game. Once the offer was made we all went over the material that was available, mainly Todd McFarlane’s KISS Psycho Circus comics, and realized that there was a rich mythos to draw from them. As we began to form an idea of what we could do with all this to draw upon, we started to actually get excited about the project. So, we went from “What? You want us to do a KISS game?” to “Hmmm… There’s actually some cool stuff here…” to “And then we could do this …! And maybe … ! Yeah, that would rock!”
So, we realized that while it wasn’t our dream project, it definitely had potential. Plus, we felt that if we could take a license like KISS, that instantly makes people think of rocket-launching guitars, and make a really good game out of it, that would speak volumes about the talent on our team.

You’re working with the Lithtech Engine. What are its advantages ?

Well, there are quite a few things I like about LithTech. The ability to write the game code in C++ is a big advantage for us and has helped us keep our code clean and rather low on critical bugs. LithTech also has a strong interface from the game code to the engine code that provides access to almost all engine functionality and allows us to easily do things like attach fire to any part of a model, blow off limbs, spurt blood from those limbs, etc.
LithTech also has level of detail on models, which is one of the factors that has enabled us to place dozens of enemies on screen at once while still maintaining a very playable frame rate.

Any idea of a release date ?

We’re getting really close. We’re working really hard to have it ready for release at the end of May. Currently it looks like beta testing and bug fixing could cause that to slip a bit, but, baring some sort of unforeseen disaster, it should be gold by the end of June.

Thanks for answering our questions.