Julian Young, leader of the ambitious Half-Life 2 mod Project Hull Breach gets down and dirty in a exclusive interview as he tells us all about the intriguing mod which has been touted as a sci-fi version of America's Army.
Can you give us a brief introduction to Project Hull Breach?
JY: Project Hull Breach is a science-fiction version of America's Army. The aim was to create a multiplayer, science-fiction FPS with a realism feel. There are no aliens; instead, PHB pits our own idea of Space Soldiers against a massive 'lost colony' of other humans; a militaristic tribal race known as the Senallin.
Would it be fair to describe PHB as an open-source project?
JY: Almost. When we first started out, the idea was to create a communitybased project where everything was freely available, from code to textures. Unfortunately, we found people started to take and use assets for their own projects and despite my best efforts we did eventually pull away, security measures were put in place and development went internal. The outcome, however, was a design put together by hundreds of people willing to give us their input, and a core team of interested, dedicated developers, both amateur and professional.
What input have the community had in shaping the mod?
JY: Over a period of time, they've contributed in terms of art, game design, sound and music. We've managed to reach a good intermediate balance between input and development, and our developer blogs now keep the community informed and give us a chance for constructive feedback. Playtesting will play the most important role here.
Does the project being community driven create more problems?
JY: Plenty more. I've seen many mods that ignored the pleas of the community, but the realities of this hit home when we had to gauge how feasible their requests were. How much time and effort is required to implement each feature is extremely important, so for all our features, we now get a coder to develop a proof of concept to gauge if it will work, and how much time it will require to do properly.
Just how much input have you had from professionals?
JY: We've had many professionals on-board, but much as we'd like to, we can't name certain individuals or their companies for legal reasons. The ones we can mention are Avionix Records, Sean Beeson and Winifred Phillips, who've been responsible for all of our sound effects and mood music. On the voice-actor side, we also have Scott Sigler, the first person to release a book as a podcast (Earthcore); and Ken Boynton, who's done voices for more games than he can count (including Halo).
What's your favourite feature in Project Hull Breach?
JY: Our helmets - I could run about opening and closing them all day. The helmet visor is your HUD, so without it you lose your crosshair, ammo counts, strategic information and communications. We've created a few ways of knocking out a player's suit, primarily EMP grenades that simply shut the electronics down.
Can anybody apply for a position on the team?
JY: Absolutely, we're always on the lookout for more talent. Our current focus is to find a committed individual to manage our community and PR with a proven background in this area. We're also looking for environmental texture artists and coders. Send a covering letter and CV to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How close are you to a public release now?
JY: Pretty damn close. We're reluctant to release an unfinished game, but we're considering releasing a weapons test release shortly to get more feedback. It's safe to say 2006.