Unicron.com was contacted by Neil Wood from Step-3 about putting together a phone interview/conference call where we would have the chance to interview some folks from Hasbro and Activision about the upcoming "Transformers: War for Cybertron" video game. We were, of course, quite interested in the opportunity to get an inside scoop from the producers of this exciting new chapter for the Transforms brand. We were also able to get some questions answered by email from Full Moon Studios. Check out the entire exciting interview below.
The Conference Call included the following people Neil Wood – Step-3 Kelvin Liu – Activision Danny – Activision Dan – Hasbro Aaron Archer – Hasbro Jason Lukis – Unicron.com interviewer Email Q&A with: Matt Tieger – Game Director, High Moon Studios
Introduction: As you may know, “Transformers: War for Cybertron” is a brand new game set for 2010. The game takes place at the home planet of Cybertron. There is a huge epic story of the civil war that takes between the Autobots and the Decepticons. What we are going to explore today is the Hasbro angle of things. How did Aaron Archer and the Hasbro team work with High Moon on the story which was written from the ground up, the new art visualization, and also the planet which has never really been seen in the 3D medium, and how Hasbro plans to utilize this story line for any kind of future lore for Transformers.
Unicron.com: Tell us about Hasbro’s involvement in a project like this. How does something like this come about, was it approached by Full Mon Studios, Activision, or was it Hasbro’s idea to have a non-movie based videogame made?
Aaron: My first engagement that I recall was that we basically had a brainstorm at Activision where High Moon came in and talked about some ideas that they were thinking of, that we also had been thinking of: this history prior to coming to earth, and how can we certainly make a new statement for Transformers. Right then and there we basically said “well what about something like a year or so out from when they were leaving for earth, looking at how Optimus and Megatron started this epic battle on the home planet.” We all know what ended up after that, but we really haven’t seen too much during that period of civil war prior to leaving. So, we worked it through together and that’s kind of how it came together.
Unicron.com: Was the story primarily conceived at Hasbro?
Aaron: Well, I think that any time we engage with any partner, it’s a two way street. There are things that we needed to do for a videogame, but as far as I am concerned there are a lot of half truths, and kind of innuendos as far as what the true story from that era is. I felt that it was time that we figured out how to boldly, tell it more directly, and then that wraps into the game play, the characters that you beat and battle, so there is real honest to goodness cannon in this game, prior to them leaving.
Unicron.com: That’s what we want to hear! Just to clarify, is there any relation to War-Within, Storm-Bringer, Movie?
Aaron: Well the movie is always its own thing, so we can kind of put that off to the side, and understand how that works… My job at Hasbro is to take everything that has come before, from its unplanned manner, and help make the next best engagements story wise. From the designs from the comics, and story elements from the cartoons from the 80s, particularly people’s favorites and all of those kinds of things, to try to make sense out of all of that stuff. So, I don’t know if it will dove tail perfectly into everything you’ve ever read, but I think it’ll make it all a little bit more interesting.
Unicron.com: In particular, you mentioned some fan favorites… How does the character selection happen for a project like this?
Aaron: For me, working with the High Moon team, it’s interesting working on a video game because there are certain rules. Any format has certain rules, you know, you can’t build hundreds of characters and make them all unique the way you can in a drawing, but High Moon had an idea for the types of things they wanted to put in the game, and we found the right characters that fit that need, so that’s where there will be some surprises because the character was the right character for that kind of game play need as well as the favorites that you almost have to put in a Transformers item. It was exciting, those characters were pulled from a range of places. We had 25 years to pull from so it makes it a fun list to call out.
Unicron.com: Certainly a lot of rich characters to pull from. We’ve heard that many of you guys at Hasbro have a lot of your own favorite characters that they’d like to see get into things. Here’s a question for everybody: Is there any one character that you’re particularly excited about that managed to make its way into the game?
Aaron: … That’s a tricky question at the moment because I don’t think we’re going to divulge exactly who is in the game today, but anybody who works on any of these kinds of things finds ways to put in their passions, and that’s what makes interesting comics, cartoons, movies, and games, so I think there’s something in there for everybody. The people who worked on this all have different Transformers experiences and pulled forward some of their favorites. There’s an interesting range and I’m glad that there’s a lot of G1 characters that Hasbro really hasn’t touched on in the last couple of years that we found a good reason to put in this game and have a second day in the sun, so to speak. I guess that’s where I’ll leave it.
Unicron.com: Is there anything that will particularly surprise us about the game, that we haven’t seen before. How is this format, a different game play/style going to bring something new and different to the Transformers Brand?
Aaron: I primarily focus on the brand. The components that are going to make a great game for what Activision wants to do are best left to them, but some of the story elements that we were able to put into this game, that everybody knows, but we’ve never seen is probably the thing that excites me the most.
Unicron.com: It is pretty well agreed upon amongst fans that the Media improves Toy experience and the Toys improve Media experience. Are there plans for any of these character models to make there way into plastic at some point?
Aaron: I think that we’re going to take a look at this game and several things that we hope to do across the time line in which this takes place, to make it obvious what the true story is from this era. So I wouldn’t rule it out, but we’re not really prepared to talk about the other things that we might be doing yet. We’re going to focus on the game today, but the game puts us in a wonderful position to be able to tell this story to the biggest audience given the reach of videogames.
Unicron.com: So in the interaction between Hasbro and High Moon Studio on a project like this, how does this process differ from the development of a TV show like Transformers: Animated for instance?
Aaron: I think that every format has its own challenges. You know, the game is a finite amount of time, range of characters, movements, and things. We focus it on that, so anything that we work with any partner on, we make sure that it maximizes what they bring to the party. I would say it’s a strong partnership in that regard, which would be different than in a cartoon where there are different ways it gets out to the market, different people it touches, all those kinds of things.
Unicron.com: On the last movie game we saw, there was some downloadable content for the games that was available for the PS3 and Xbox360, but not the PC version of the game. Is there any downloadable content in the works, and will it be available broadly, or just those two again?
Activison: You’ll just have to stay tuned for more announcements on the game very soon.
Unicron.com: We can do that ~:^)
Activison: It’s a little too early to talk about that, but that was a nice try.
Unicron.com: Doesn't hurt to ask right? So, as far as the game play goes, it appears that Optimus will be a playable character. Will there be various playable characters regardless of number and who they are?
Activison: Your top ten favorites will definitely be in there. Optimus, Megatron, Bumblebee, Starscream, and again, a huge roster of others that we’re not yet talking about at this time, but we’re really excited to talk about it and we can’t wait really.
Unicron.com: We’ve seen some pictures from Game Informer Magazine, and I just want to know who we have to thank for that fantastic looking Soundwave?
Aaron: Well, I think it’s a shared experience with the High Moon artists and the Hasbro brand guardians, to come up with a guy that we really haven’t seen in a good mode on Cybertron into a cool look that hopefully you remember, so I guess we’re doing our job.
Unicron.com: Well, you’re doing it really well! I think that in the sneak peeks we have gotten to see, the fandom is really pleased. We’re loving the new styled look and the reimagining of these great characters.
Last Question, Are there plans to continue/build on this particular non-movie universe either in other media venues, or more games titles, or is this looked at as more of a “one-off” story?
Aaron: We just haven’t announced those plans. I just think it sets us up to be able to do a lot more with that part of the story than we’ve ever been able to, so that’s where we’re leave it.
Unicron.com: Well, on behalf of Unicron.com, all our readers, and site visitors, I’d like to thank you all for your time.
--- Email interview with Matt Tieger: Game Director at High Moon Studios ---
Unicron.com: Tell us a bit more specifically about the game play. How will this work in alternate modes? How does the game play change when different characters are used?
Matt: Transformers: War for Cybertron is a 3rd person action shooter set completely on the planet of Cybertron. The gameplay is firmly rooted in “feel right under your thumb” core gameplay mechanics and layered with unique Transformers strategy. By that I mean using vehicle forms whenever you want, triggering unique active abilities, and working together as a team.
Unicron.com: In what ways does the Transformers concept change/add/augment the 1st person shooter game play format for gamers? In other words, what were you able to do with Transformers: War for Cybertron that hasn't been seen in this style game before?
Matt: I believe we are giving gamers a high quality shooter first and foremost - Transformers is a second strategic layer on top of that. Gamers will feel immediately comfortable with the gameplay style and controls; allowing them to quickly dive into the unique strategic choices right away.
Unicron.com: Which character was the most fun to design? How long did it take?
Matt: I have enjoyed designing all the characters immensely. One that I am particularly proud of is Bumblebee. He was actually the very first character that we redesigned. Figuring out ‘our’ take on transformers while still keeping the key elements of him was a dream to craft. He also holds a special place for me because that piece of initial concept art was the very first thing I slid across the table to Hasbro when I pitched them on this game, the art style and the story.
Unicron.com: From everyone here at Unicron.com thanks for taking the time to answer some questions about Transformers: War for Cybertron. We can’t wait to see what else you’ve got up your sleeves.