Eric Holmes Interview
Tuesday, March 8, 2005

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Eric Holmes Interview

Eric Holmes, the lead designer for the new Incredible Hulk game from Radical Games was kind enough to answer a few questions about the new Hulk game coming out this summer.. He was even nice enough to spill the beans on the official title of the game: Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction!

IHEOD: What drove Radical Games to develop a new Hulk game?
EH: We had a bunch of ideas as to where we could take the character next and what sort of experience we could create with that. We had the success of our previous title to build on and knew there's a lot of cool ideas we could execute on to make one kickass superhero game. We've done that. No-one has ever offered a power fantasy like this game. Be the most powerful creature on earth in a set of real world locations -his power, your bad attitude.

IHEOD: How successful was the first Hulk game and what kind of feedback did you get from the gaming community?
EH: The first Hulk game was a success. There have been several reviewers who have stated that it was one of the best movie-to-game translations, for a variety of reasons such as the unique story, interaction with props, and ability to take out stress on anyone in your way. The game has sold very well worldwide.
Our goal throughout this project has been "the best superhero game ever made." We wanted to knock it out of the park, to create something new, that you can't get anywhere else. That means addressing any criticisms with the first game and taking our strengths to the next level. Radical is probably its biggest critic. We are gamers. We aim to develop games that are leaders in the genre and constantly strive to do better. We quizzed our customers. We studied reviews. We read forums and listened to gamers debating their experience of the first game online-all of these actions have really helped us create a great game with The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction.

IHEOD: When you first started developing the new game, what was the key improvement you wanted to make?
EH: We wanted to offer "THE" Hulk Experience. You can be the Hulk but this time in the real world - a world that will react to you as it should. Citizens scream and run. Police will intercept. The army gets called in and then things get crazy. Hulk is the ultimate power fantasy. Hulk is the most powerful creature on earth. Only a videogame can really let you live out this fantasy. You really can do whatever you like. We wanted to bring that to life and put the player in control. The action of game play is unlike anything you'll see anywhere else. One of our goals for the game was "Action on the Richter Scale". If someone had an idea for the game and it did not represent that scale of action, it didn't go in. Hulk can run faster than a sports car. He can jump 20 stories. He can climb or run up any surface. He can hurl a tank over the horizon, or rip a car in two while making it look like he's opening a bag of chips. The sense of power is the single strongest element of the game and that is something that is appealing regardless of whether you've never even
heard of the Hulk before.

IHEDO: For the second game, why did you decide to go more towards the Hulk comic book storyline as opposed to another movie-based game?
EH: If you played the first Hulk game you'll notice we tapped into comic book origins while integrating ourselves very closely with the movie property. At the time of writing, there is no movie, so that was an easy choice to make. We wanted to make sure even people who have not read any comics or seen the movie won't be left out. The story is entirely consistent with both worlds and easy for anyone to get into. We have a fun, fast-paced intro movie where the origin and powers of the Hulk are shown
and we get to see just how powerful he is.

How did you incorporate features for both the die hard Hulk comic book fan and those more familiar with just the Hulk movie and game?
EH: The Hulk world is a very rich one, and we wanted to layer content for all sorts of fans. With an original storyline like ours we have to cater for Hulk fans and Hulk newbies. This means retelling of origins and getting back to basics; this game is the first time you'll see Emil Blonsky, and his origins will be featured in the game. Through gameplay you'll actually experience his origin, seeing him actually becoming the Abomination. This is a really cool moment for any Hulk fan while it also makes sense for the regular gamer due to the story arc. We wanted to make sure the story and characters were true to their comic book roots, and yet also tightly integrated into the one central story. That story is basically one huge face-off between Banner and Blonsky - a resonant exploration of what makes the two of them different.

IHEOD: What can a die-hard Hulk fan expect out of this game?
EH: Something you have never experienced before: the freedom to express yourself as your favorite character in a real world setting. The freedom to realize all the moments you've only read before now. The freedom to lose control!

IHEDO: Were all the people working on the game familiar with the Hulk character more from the movie, tv show, or comic book?
EH: Most people on the team have a healthy respect for the material simply because it's great stuff. You also get better results when you love what you're working on and that shines through in this game. Hulk's source material lends itself to gameplay as a lot of it is
genre-defining action. Passing "Ultimates" around is a great way for people to get onto the same page.
Of course, it's not just about Hulk. I have no idea why, but Bryan Brandt, one of our gameplay programmers, is a diehard Blade fan and so just to please him we had to get a signature elbow drop into the game. Look out for that move! It's a killer - run 30 stories up a building, then elbow drop right off onto a tank turret, or even some unfortunate cop's head! Either way, that move is a thing of beauty. Likewise, the cinematic team is full of comic nuts - Murray McCarron lives and breathes comic books, and Harry Ahn came straight to us from a run on Spider-Man over at Mainframe Entertainment.

IHEOD: Is this the classic "Hulk Smash" version of the Hulk from the comic book or more like the movie version, not speaking at all?
EH: This is a comic book Hulk but we've taken our own spin on it. There have been so many takes of the Hulk in print even while this game has been in development: from Smart "Professor" Hulk, Savage Hulk, Ultimate Hulk, Banner-as-strong-as-the-Hulk, the list goes on. The central character you'll see is the definitive Savage Hulk: he's huge, angry and ripped. Bryan Hitch worked with us on our character designs, so you'll certainly see a similarity with his Ultimate Hulk. We all felt Hitch's character had a great sense of physical power and energy that would make for a great player character. The Hulk looks better than ever!
It's true our Savage Hulk doesn't speak. We didn't want to have him speaking broken English as that could alienate some players from the character. Instead we focused on characters' reactions to the Hulk: police reporting into HQ, pedestrians running in terror, the screech of tires as traffic skids to avoid Hulk, the military struggling to respond and keep up with his amazing movement abilities. One unique part of the Hulk experience is that people who fight him are often terrified of him and the high quality voiceovers really deliver that 'cat among the pigeons' part of the Hulk experience.

IHEOD: What was the reason for removing the Banner missions?
EH: Focus. We wanted to make the best super-hero game ever made. Banner has some cool skills and abilities but many of them can be found in other games. We wanted to really bring Hulk to the foreground and focus on making that experience intense and exciting. The Hulk missions have a lot more range and variety in this title and a lot of different ways to approach them. This meant that the gameplay need for a break from the Hulk gameplay just wasn't needed. The player can dictate the pace of gameplay by doing whatever he wants as the Hulk. Want to hang out and watch traffic? Fine. Want to flatten a bus and go surfing through the streets on the wreckage? You can do that too.Trust me, when you're playing as the Hulk you won't miss Banner for a second. He's still present in cutscenes and is present throughout the story, but you are The Incredible Hulk.

IHEOD: The original game had scenes between each mission, will this one be similar?
EH: There are a lot of high-quality cinematics throughout the game. You'll see Blonsky's troubles grow as he struggles to keep both his military forces and his condition under control, while Bruce and Doc Samson work to create a cure for Bruce's deteriorating condition.

IHEOD: The game has been described as similar to the Spider-Man 2 video game where everything and anything is fair game. Can you elaborate and tell why you went in this direction?
EH: You'll see a lot of this across the industry. Games are developing, as are gamers' tastes. People want the ability to drive the action the way they want it. There is a trend toward player-directed action where the player can choose what they want to do and how they want to do it. Real world locations are also another big plus with today's gamers. The Spider-Man game certainly did a good job of offering the Spider-Man experience at a new level, especially with web swinging. I would say our game is mainly different through the core differences of the characters. For example, while Spidey has cool moves and a tight costume, if you flicked through the pages of a Spidey comic versus a Hulk comic you'll see the characters doing different actions on quite a different scale. Spidey catches bag snatchers, stops carjackings, rescues cats from trees and takes photos for Jameson. Hulk uses cars as boxing gloves to smash a tank to pieces, takes the whole tree and shoves it down a Hulkbuster's throat, cat and all. He'd throw a bus at a column of tanks, rather than bounce a web-ball off a burglar. Offhand I can't actually tell you what Hulk would do to a bag snatcher, but it probably would not be pretty.

IHEOD: Part of the fun of playing video games is finding the hidden characters and Easter eggs. What can we expect from this game?
EH: Magic Gamma Ball says: "Reply hazy, try again." He also says, "Make sure you play the Incredible Hulk may get a surprise out of it!"

IHEOD: We know that General Ross, Doc Samson, the Abomination, and the Hulkbusters will make an appearance in the game, any hints as to other characters we will see?
EH: We're bringing Mercy back to the forefront. It's also great to see Hulk up against regularly sized people. Giant Hulkbusters and tanks are cool and all, but you can really see how big he really is when he's up against regular people especially when those regular people are dressed in tight, figure-hugging outfits...hmm!

The most fun I had playing the first game was as the Joe Fixit character. Will you be able to play as other versions of the Hulk in the game?
EH: I'd love to tell you, but I'd have to smash you.

IHEOD: How was it working with Paul Jenkins and Bryan Hitch and how much interaction did you have with them?
EH: Paul is a somewhat legendary storyteller in the comic book world and is at least as good in person. Working with Paul has been both inspiring and highly rewarding. Paul rode with us all the way, from concept to completion. He wrote the story, he wrote the ingame dialogue and he was there as we recorded it. He's also a funny guy. If you get to meet Paul, ask him about his Klingon turbolift experience. Bryan Hitch's work was challenging and inspiring. His vision of the Marvel characters is simultaneously contemporary and yet also historically faithful - a hard line to walk. The team are all fans of his work so it was a blast to bring his character designs to life

IHEOD: What kind of music are you using for the soundtrack?
EH: We looked at a host of composers for our title and ultimately settled on Bill Brown. Bill was a great collaborator, and he produced a soundtrack that really blew us away. Adding Bill's music to the Hulk gameplay experience truly takes it to the next level. It makes you feel almighty.
I should also take the opportunity to mention the quality of sound design we have in this game. We teamed up with Danetracks, the Academy Award winning team that produced sound design for the Matrix movies. This crack sound team even went as far as dropping cars in a junkyard to capture the power of Hulk smashing into traffic and his fists crashing against tanks. For the curious there's actually a full 20+ minute long "Making of the Hulk game" feature on the game disk that explains the process we went through for each part of the game, but the sound section is probably the biggest hoot. Danetracks went to the trouble of hooking a pair of traction engines to a van and literally ripped it in two. The goal was to truly capture what it would sound like when Hulk rips a car in two for one of his special moves. That's dedication. Scott Morgan is our sound director, and in that capacity he had the task of bringing the whole audio design together. He deserves a lot of credit for the audio feast that awaits Hulk gamers. Hail Scott.

Have you come up with a name for the game yet? Might I suggest "Engine of Destruction?"
EH: Believe it or not, it was on the list of at least 500 titles that were bounced around. When you walk into your favorite videogame retailer the name you're going to pre-order should be "THE INCREDIBLE HULK: ULTIMATE DESTRUCTION".

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