Developer: MAIET Entertainment
Publisher: ProSibenSat1 Games
Back in 2004 I spent a lot of time playing GunZ International. It wasn’t the most polished of games, but its third person action with over-the-top gunplay and wall-running swordplay had a rather addictive quality about it all. Arcade-style numbers playing everywhere as players ran across the walls, kill-streak notifications appearing on-screen in colour letters, and all hell breaking loose as teams of player charged at each other – it made for quick fun bouts of high octane carnage. As time went on though, it became apparent that, while the idea for a great online action game was there, it clearly needed refinement and balancing.
You see, many dismissed GunZ 1 because of the ability to grief players with ridiculous combos, using what became known as K-Style. With that in mind, it creators at MAIET Entertainment decided to give it another go by taking the essence of the original GunZ and making it a better game overall. To learn more about how they were going to accomplish this, I was invited to a press session at this year’s Gamescom as Product Manager Christian Schönlein gave the lowdown on what we can expect with GunZ 2.
Before we got into the meat of what GunZ 2 is about, we quickly covered who exactly the Korean developers are. In Schönlein’s own words – they’re total nerds. “No, seriously!” he insisted whilst showing a picture of the developers hard at work, “I always like to show this picture because when you think Free To Play from Korea, you immediately think guys in suits milking online games, and these guys are just not that.” He admitted that that sounded rather cliché, but with a ten year gap between the release of the original GunZ and now, Schönlein felt that “with Gunz 2 you can feel that these guys are putting their heart into this. They’re not just developing two games per year – they’re really trying to get things right.”
Getting it right is important for MAIET because there were some stand-out things that went wrong with GunZ 1, one of which Schönlein was quick to recognise – the infamous K-Style. “ In all honesty, it all bug-abusing because you could basically chain together actions and animations that you weren’t supposed to chain,” Schönlein explained, “and you had to do this really weird K-style ‘twist your fingers around’ and then fight the right combinations. You could chain a jumping animation with a sword-slash animation and then do this thing called butterfly where you’re floating around and go like this… [Andreas starts flailing his arms in front of him]… if you don’t know how to do that, you just don’t stand a chance in that game, which is why it developed quite an underground following of people trying to master this whole K-style.” You might think that, because of the way it could be abused, anything to do with K-Style would be scrapped, but Schönlein explained that, because of the skill involved in pulling it off, the developers were looking in some of elements directly into the gameplay mechanics.
As we were shown the trailer, it became apparent that the high-octane movement was still a core part of the GunZ 2 experience. “The one scene, where the girl is running up the pillar then jumping to the side, that’s all part of the regular movement in the game right now,” Schönlein explained, “which is what the developer is always telling me, ‘That’s the USP. Communicate that!’” For Schönlein, he felt that the USP is the old school feel of the game, stating the vibe was similar to the days of Unreal and Quake 3. “It’s really fast paced action gameplay. It has pick-ups – I mean, what shooter has pick-ups these days?” he joked. “For me, that’s what really, really makes this game.”
GunZ 1 was all about the action with no real storyline worthy of note, but while Schönlein admitted the plot for GunZ 2 “isn’t going to win a Pulitzer prize,” he insisted that its writers had put a lot of work into creating a detailed universe for fans to dive into – fifteen pages of in-depth description for the devs to get through, in fact. Here’s a quick summary – two factions are fighting it out in a dystopian future that resembles the Cold War, but instead of fighting over oil the two sides are fighting over Optimite – a resource that allows the people of the GunZ universe to pull of crazy moves like wall-running by injecting it into their bodies. “I think these are really nice details that give the game a look and feel that feels right and complete,” Schönlein added.
Unlike GunZ 1, where players could pick and choose their weapons before heading into a match, this time there will be classes to choose from, each with their own set of weapons and abilities. While MAIET plan to add more in the future, GunZ 2 currently has three to choose from. The Silent Avenger – an assassin with sniper rifles and katanas; the Gunslinger – a jack-of-all-trades for ballistic weaponry; and the Shield Trooper – a huge tank of a class that walked around with a shield. Each has their own advantage, so where as the Avenger has long range covered, and the Shield Trooper is near invincible up close, the Gunslinger is the easiest to handle in tight situations. For future additions, MAIET have been asking the community for feedback, with Schönlein claiming they have enough ideas for the next couple of years thanks to the suggestions currently in file.
As for the matches themselves, GunZ 2 will be launching with Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes, but Schönlein also mentioned a third game mode – Team Elimination. Essentially Last Man Standing, he admitted that players who dive right in without a team strategy don’t last long in that particular mode. In terms of maps, GunZ 2 will launch with five in total, with some quite clear nods to the original GunZ levels there (Trainyard was my personal stomping grounds, back in the day.)
In terms of moving forward, Schönlein explained that while the schedule wasn’t set in stone, the idea was to release a steady stream of content. “What we’ll probably do is every couple of weeks we’ll release new costumes, new weapon, and then every couple of months there’ll be a bigger update with character classes, with new game modes, new maps, stuff like that.” An example of an upcoming gametype was Rush Mode, which Schönlein described as “[having] several objective, or have attacking and defending teams.” He also want on to mention that clan features would be explored with GunZ 2 as MAIET feel the game could move into the world of eSports in the future with the Electronic Sports League being a potential partner.
One thing that has always gotten in the way of progressing in a competitive scene is how players are put in a match against others of the same level who are obviously more skilled, but according to Schönlein, MAIET have a way around this. “So [with our matchmaking system] it’s not just like ‘Oh, you’re level 5. There’s someone who’s level 5 – go play together,’ it really tries to pitch you against players of your skill so it’s also looking at your stats and kill / death ratio and stuff like that, so you can really find somebody of your skill to play against.”
GunZ 1 didn’t get a PvE mode until several months after its release, but this time around the game will launch with a campaign mode that players will be able to join up for to take on. “It’s a really simple design,” Schönlein explained, “a colleague of mine described it as a Chuck Norris movie – it’s really stupid but in a primitive way really fun! It’s just wave after wave of enemies that you have to take care of, divided into nine stages.” Each update will bring new levels and more challenging bosses for players to defeat, although Schönlein felt the current boss is enough of a challenge for now. “The final boss in the game right now is a huge-ass tank, which is kind of like a Metal Gear type of tank, and he has 35 health energy bars, so that guy is taking a while to take him down! The whole wall-running works on the tank as well, so that’s really awesome.”
The presentation then moved onto the topic of monetization, and Schönlein wanted to be as open and blunt about this system as he could be to avoid any confusion. Costumes, buffs, and weapon rentals for 7, 15, or 30 day will all be purchasable, but everything can also be bought with in-game currency as well as real money, leading to the phrase “everything for everyone” being used by Schönlein. “Developers are luckily moving away from the pay to win model. Riot are doing that with League of Legends, World of Tanks is doing it, they’re saying ‘Screw the whole Pay To Win stuff, if people are dedicated enough to play the game just let them pay if they want to, but don’t ever force them.’ So everything in the shop is available for in-game currency as well as cash.” As for rented items, such as a 7-day weapon, Schönlein explained that once the time on them had expired, players could then dissemble it for gemstones - an item that is used for the Tesla Machine, which is effectively the crafting system for GunZ 2.
Schönlein was quick to point out that the Tesla Machine wasn’t a “random box with a 0.01% of getting something useful” (such as with PayDay 2 or Mass Effect 3’s MP), and this is down to the Fever bar. “The more often you use the Tesla machine, the more this gauge fills up and then higher the chance to get unique items.” Schönlein gave us a quick example of the system working in the game already, “We launched the closed beta on Monday [19th August] and [three days later] I actually spotted the first person wearing one of the unique costumes you can only get from the Tesla Machine. Right now we’re not monetising yet, and people are already running around with these unique clothes, so I take that as proof of the monetization system being so fair.” Whether this will be re-balanced over the coming months is another thing, but at least at this early stage it looks promising as a mechanic.
With the game recently being Greenlit on Steam, the folks at MAEIT Entertainment quite clearly have big plans for their upcoming Free To Play sequel. We should have a better idea of whether the game will be able to improve on its predecessor when we get hands on very soon, but from a visual standpoint, and from the details Schönlein gave during the press session, the high-octane action that made GunZ 1 such an addictive game is there – let’s just hope it feels that way (and is less punishing to newcomers) once get in-game. For the moment though, as far as GunZ 2 is concerned, you can colour me intrigued.