Blacklight is coming back and is looking for retribution. Going for the free-to-play model, Zombie Studios aims to shake the foundations of the FPS with Blacklight Retribution, delivering a gripping and technologically advanced experience. We asked them a few questions about this ambitious shooter.
MMOBomb: Can you introduce yourself and your role Blacklight Retribution?
My name is Jared Gerritzen, I’m the Creative Director of Zombie Studios and the Project lead of Blacklight Retribution. I’m the guy that gets to take all the credit for everyone else’s hard work.
MMOBomb: Why did you choose to abandon the downloadable model and go for the free-to-play model for Blacklight Retribution?
Blacklight was originally designed to be free to play. I really feel it’s going to be the future of games. In many ways, a F2P allows us to control our own destiny. It’s really up to us, the developers, to balance the experience of the player and the financials of the game. It’s easy to say “you’re going to bleed me to play” but that is what is really happening with disc games. Right now we buy a full price game – based on some review or highly polished demo, and then are expected to follow that purchase with an online pass purchase, and even a DLC and or sequel purchase; none of which you can play or experience unless you pay first. And you have to pay a lot: 60 dollars for a disc, 15 dollars for DLC or an expansion, and so forth. With F2P you can’t just make a really good demo, or make sure the press really like the game so it reviews and sells well. You actually have to make a good game, because all players can easily play it and try it out for themselves. So what we are doing with F2P is give the player all the content and DLC for free and then let the player have the choice to spend money to advance faster or just play and move forward. I love it!
MMOBomb: Do you think that free-to-play is the future for developers such as Zombie Studios?
Zombie has a very bright future; we’ve built some amazing teams and pulled in some really top talent from the industry. I can’t say F2P will be our future, but if Blacklight turns out to be what we want we it to be, then well always have a Blacklight team, developing Blacklight content and supporting the title and the IP.
MMOBomb: Perfect World Entertaiment, a team used to free-to-play market, will publish Blacklight Retribution. Do you see this as a great advantage and in what way will they benefit the game?
Sure Perfect World has been helping us to better understand the F2P market and mechanics and giving us info on how to make the monetization work. It’s no secret that EVERYONE is going into the free 2 play space this next year. Perfect World has been doing it for over 8 year and has a very solid understanding of the market and this gives us a lot of advantages.
MMOBomb: What major aspects do you plan to improve from Blacklight: Tango Down?
Everything. BL:TD was a great game for what we wanted to do: a simple fast paced shooter; but now we’ve remodeled the game and refactored a lot of it. We finished up BL:TD and said to ourselves “how do we want to evolve the game and improve it? What were things we wanted to do for BL:TD but didn’t have time or money to do? What mistakes did we make in BL:TD that we want to re-do and fix?” We wanted our next Blacklight game to have more depth and better gameplay, while still focusing on the “gun on gun action”. We wanted to address a lot of feedback from the small but vocal community and make overall improvements to the game. The great part of being F2P is we can keep adding more and more to the game without ever having to wait for a sequel. Once the game is live it will keep evolving; so ideas, suggestions and feedback we have from our fans we can roll into it, in weeks rather than months or even a year.
MMOBomb: What kind of customization options do you offer for player characters and weapons?
Customization is huge in Blacklight, from every part of you weapon to the class of the player. You can customize your player title, your dialog voice, your character’s sex (male or female), your weapon depot loadout, up to 5 personalized weapon loadouts, gear slots, tactical gear slots, characters the list just goes on and on. We really allow the user to define how they want to play. We want them to decide what to carry and weigh the benefits of what they choose to loadout with and what they don’t want to loadout with. We have fully customizable classes and characters. If you want to be a medic sniper you can, if you want to be a light engineer we let you. Additionally, It has been amazing seeing people get everything and making the game play how they really want it to play.
Daily we are discussing the monetization aspects of the game. We are currently in Closed Beta and as such we are getting a lot of feedback from our publisher, friends, and our community and fans. So we are working to incorporate that feedback, make changes and tweaks to the system. What is out there now is not final and we are figuring out the balance and monetization. Our bottom line is we DO NOT want people to pay for power. Rather we want to allow players to expedite their leveling and unlock curve, or purchase premium items that are primarily vanity focused. We need to make money so we can exist as a studio, but we can’t do that if the players who are not paying anything are at a disadvantage. There are plenty of F2P games that have this balance, we don’t and can’t copy them 100% because our game has so much more content. The best way to see it is, if you want to put your time in, then keep your money in your pocket.
MMOBomb: Blacklight Retribution uses the Unreal Engine 3 with DirectX 11 compatibility. How will it stand up compared to current retail shooters and which visual features would you like to highlight?
Im so proud of my art team, they never once said “this is a free to play, we don’t have to make it that good”. We use retail, big budget games as our standard. We don’t have a 100 plus team but my team of 24 people shock other developers that see the game.
MMOBomb: When can we expect the Open Beta?
We’re working hard to hit Open Beta very soon. We have a number of tweaks and feedback items to incorporate and get up and running and still some more testing on the live servers. The Closed Beta has been extremely helpful for us, and given us a lot of data. We are all very excited to get the game out and to play it with more people and hearing about their experiences and really seeing the community and game take off.