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GoNintendo 'End of Day' thoughts - GoNintendo welcomes David Pellas from High Voltage Software with a bombarding of love... and questions about The Conduit

by rawmeatcowboy
28 April 2009
GN 1.0 / 2.0


We have a great ‘End of Day’ thoughts article for you today. I take absolutely no credit for this piece, it’s all the work of Cort! He’s done a fantastic job grabbing us some info from High Voltage’s David Pellas. You guys had questions about The Conduit, and Cort got them answered! You guys enjoy that while I slip off to bed. I’ll see you in a few, short hours!

P.S. - Huge thank you to David Pellas for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer these questions!

After I babble a bit first with my hands on… (click here for the Q&A)

A couple weeks ago, Sega held a little soiree out here in San Francisco to yank me out of my gaming shell of cheerleader sims and games ending in “Z” to try my hand at The Conduit. Of course the original intent was to showcase the game’s mysterious multiplayer components, but due to some unforeseen competition from Nintendo’s servers, we pressers had to “make do” with 2.5 hours of the single player mode.

First, let me just say that the High Voltage guys are passionate about this game. It’s a real labour of love, and part of that stems from putting their ears to the ground to hear what real gamers and fans have to say and deliver what they want. I heard firsthand that the build we were presented that night was the result of a lot of hard work to show off what they considered “the best build we’ve ever made”, and when things for MP fell sour, you could literally see the heartbreak and disappointment on their faces.

Overview & Controls

Needless to say, making lemonade of the situation by turning everyone loose on the single player mode was a great opportunity for me. I’ve said it countless times before, I was open and honest with them then, and will repeat it here again now, but I am an absolute FPS n00b. I don’t typically enjoy or play the genre for a number of reasons, but strangely enough, the response from the event staffer who got me started was, “Great, well this is a game intended to interest players of many walks, so you’ll be a good test subject.” Indeed; I can count my FPS experiences in total with enough fingers left over to still play most Wii games.

I hoped the name “DontKill” would help improve my chances. Wrong.

Many of you diehard followers of The Conduit upon hearing anything to the effect of “wide appeal”, “n00b friendly” or the like will probably start to lose either your tempers or your bladder control thinking the game is a lost cause or is irreparably ruined because it’s less “core”. What I was surprised to find was that yes, I was able to pick up and play with very little guidance, but that’s because I was using the default control set, which is smartly geared to be a good balance of the many, many configurable options. In my head while playing, if I wondered about doing a melee attack… instinctively jutting forth my Wiimote and elbow did the trick as expected. Grenades? A tossing flick of the nunchuck wrist got those enemy spawning portals out of my way quickly.

But for you more seasoned players, you’ll be happy to know that just about every freaking function of the controls is configurable… from the button layout to the sensitivity of every variable. If spending precious minutes tweaking things to your liking isn’t cool, they provided some handy control presets labelled as different characters as a shortcut to get you playing as quickly as possible. Even the bits and pieces of the HUD are drag and drop around the screen. Plus, if you decide something doesn’t feel right, you can make adjustments and test live, in-game, and go right back to playing. Thanks to Matt from High Voltage for walking me through some of these features. After showing me his “experienced player” settings, he kindly switched back to “beginner” default for me and handed back my rattle toy Wiimote.

Game play

As for the actual gameplay…It wasn’t as daunting as I expected. Sure, it took me a few minutes to get used to the idea of snipers trying to pick me off in the airport, or armoured alien soldiers risking life and limb to snatch off my face, but asserting my dominance with the available arsenal was an easy mental adjustment. I played through 4-5 missions—not sure if they’d be called levels—without being handed defeat but once, and that was my own fault with an accidental grenade ricochet. Well, once… until the last level I played when difficulty started ramping up.

Graphics & Design

The level design seemed mostly intuitive. I’m sure there’s a piece of the HUD or a status screen that could point me in the right direction if necessary (figured out how to use the ASE as a pulsing guide along the floor), but for the most part, moving through the levels wasn’t a problem. The ASE puzzles weren’t enough to stump me even for a moment; hopefully that changes elsewhere in the game.

Handheld warp drive? Engage.

Graphically, it looks pretty darn good overall. I don’t really have any frame of reference for FPS on Wii, but my design sensibilities were pretty accepting of the environments. Textures look sharp, effects add pleasing visual character, and lighting was ample that I could see what was going on, even in the darker underground areas. Admittedly, the regular Washington D.C. locations look decent—perhaps pedestrian compared to the non-human related elements which are the most interesting and impressive—but most real-world city locations aren’t that amazing to see anyway, so at least it’s authentic to the spirit.


So by the end of the night, I had a good time with The Conduit. Sega and High Voltage are taking a mulligan and plan to reschedule the multiplayer event soon, and I’ll be there (invitation pending). Several details, interviews, etc. have since answered a few of the MP questions out there, but as I happened to be leaving, I had the chance to chill in the hotel lounge/lobby with David Pellas from High Voltage for a good 20-30 minutes and chat about The Conduit, High Voltage, and gaming in general. Long story short, he loves GoNintendo, all of you, and graciously offered to take on some of the questions you have.

Before turning you loose on the Q&A, I’ll share one quick tidbit in case it’s been overlooked or unsaid elsewhere. The infamous “tip of the iceberg” in Wii graphics? Expect to see something soon, maybe in a month or so.

Thanks to Sega and High Voltage for having us, and especially David Pellas at HVS for making extra time in his busy schedule for some quality bonding time with us!

Q&A with David Pellas….

Cort: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us, and reach out to our thirsty community! Can you give us a little info about yourself and what you do with High Voltage? What has your specific role been with The Conduit?

My name is David Pellas. I am the Design Director at High Voltage Software. My role is to manage the quality of our products and facilitate our designers so that they help produce fun games while maintaining a high level of enthusiasm for the company and their projects. I have a great job.

SMBXJ2: Any possibility of “aiming” solely with the nunchuk, freeing up the wiimote for other uses, like watering flowers?

Now that is an interesting question. Unfortunately it won’t be possible for this game, as our aiming system is rooted in the Wii Remote’s pointing functionality. We will certainly look into it for any future games.

ECC: Will multiplayer have any kind of lobby system?

Yes, we do have a lobby system. The lobby, as we use it, is like a doctor’s waiting room. When you start or join a server, you enter our lobby. This is where you vote for maps, weapons sets, and rules. We made every effort to create an unobtrusive system that is easy to use. We hope you like it.

Lockdale: To what extent does multiplayer use Friend Codes for online play, and will there be a way to save random encounter players to a friends list?

We do feature Friend Codes. This is something that we hoped to circumvent but we were unable to do so. We understand the frustration that people have with this system, but we believe that The Conduit offers the best solution for using the Friend Codes system while still maintaining an easy, fun experience.

Sniping others whilst they squat-pee is bad form.

Vigo: Any limit to the number of friends that can be kept?

32. The Wii only allows for single NAT traversal. With the way we alleviated a lot of the problems with friend codes, we found that it was taking too long to coordinate 64 connections. So we dropped it to 32 to speed up the process.

1upart: Does multiplayer have class customisation, similar to CoD4? Also, now that SD card functions on Wii have been upgraded, any plans to support DLC for future titles?

We do not have classes in The Conduit, so the unfortunately answer to that question is no. As to the DLC, we would have loved to get that functionality into the game, but it came online too late for us to incorporate it into the game. I will tell you this; we all think it is an incredible technology, and one long overdue. Perhaps we could find a use for it in the future.

coffeewithchess: Can lights be shot out that affects gameplay? Other destructable objects or interaction with environment elements? Do shots to different body regions affect number of hits to kill? How realistic are materials and object detection for shots, i.e. can you shoot through walls, objects or gaps in objects?

Lots of questions coffee!

This type of mechanic usually plays a significant gameplay role in stealthy games, while The Conduit is very action-oriented. So the short answer is no. ;) [I tried shooting lights during my hands on, and while they don’t go out, you can get a brief puff of smoke that seems to dim the lights for a second or two —cort]

We have lots of destructible objects as well as many interactive objects. [Things I was able to destroy: crates, boxes, helium/oxygen tanks —cort]

We do feature multiple hit zones on enemies, so make sure you aim for the head… especially on the higher difficulty levels.

The team has worked incredibly hard to ensure that our collision meshes for the world are as realistic as possible. You can shoot through gaps, destroy objects to remove enemy cover, and so much more.

Artistic_Anarchy: Approximate length of single player mode?

Our internal and external testing leads us to estimate that an average gamer, playing the game on the default difficulty, searching out a few secrets will enjoy a 6-8 hour single-player experience. If you are the kind of player that tries to discover everything there is to find in a game, then it will be much longer.

Nightshadow: What were some of the development hurdles? How might those learnings affect development of a sequel?

As far as the development hurdles, there have been a lot. From technology to art, since the beginning we wanted to push the Wii more than any other game out there. We learned so many lessons that this answer would take more time to write than it takes to get your driver’s license renewed. One thing I will say though is that we learned so much from this game and what we have coming in the future is going to show you just how much.

Sequel? ;) We can talk about that sort of thing later. We are much too focused on getting this game into your hands and we are eager to get your feedback.

The press circuit pressing The Conduit’s buttons at the Hotel Vitale.

Guy in a floppy green cap: What aspect of the game has been hardest to satisfy fan desires?

Seriously, best name yet.

WiiSpeak was definitely a beast to wrangle. The Nintendo libraries were very helpful for certain aspects of development but for others there just wasn’t much tangible information for us to reference. So when we were creating this game, we knew we wanted to do voice chat and we had a very specific plan for it. When we tested internally, it all seemed to work great, however when we tested it on the test servers we quickly realized that we had to completely redesign it. This was just another one of those lessons learned, but what we came up with has exceeded Nintendo specifications and we are very proud of our team.

dandancc: How customizable are characters for multiplayer?


Next question…

Ok ok, I had to do it… where is your sense of humor? ;) Our character customization options in multiplayer are very robust. Besides being able to name your character, you can choose a skin and then modify several parameters on that skin. This doesn’t even begin to explain all of the customizable control options you can tweak…

jonuk: What’s the real scoop on Nintendo putting the kibosh on LAN multiplayer?

I don’t think it really is a matter of them putting the kibosh on LAN support, I think it more to the point that they never planned for it. The way the Nintendo system works, all players must ping the Nintendo network manager server. This means that no matter what, you must send data out. When you consider that your single connection would need to account for all of the data packets being sent from all Wiis in your house, you start to get the idea on why it wouldn’t work very well.

The great thing about Nintendo is that they listen. When we identified the problem, they recognized it and worked with us on several possible solutions. Unfortunately, none of those options worked, time ran out, and we had to make a call… either spend the next few months polishing the game or trying to get LAN support working. We decided to polish and I am very happy that we did.

iambob98: Custom soundtracks or ability to play mp3’s while in-game?

We had wanted to do this, but it was a feature that just happened to fall down the list as other higher priority items came up.

2dgay: As critical as gamers and gaming press are of everything, how worried is the team about The Conduit living up to it’s colossal hype? What other games or sources have influenced The Conduit? Any news on Animales de la Muerte?

One thing that some people may not know about The Conduit is how we developed this game. Sure we started with our own concepts and designs but as soon as we had something to show off, we did. We chose to show the game off to gamers and to gather their feedback. We did this because we were excited about the game, but what we gained was an incredible amount of helpful feedback from the people who we hoped would someday buy the game. When we returned from the trade shows or expos, we reviewed every criticism and every remark for validity. Most of the items people mentioned, we fixed and then we took the game back out to the gamers. The community was an active partner in the development process of this game and we are so incredibly happy with the response the game has gotten.

As to which other games influenced us, well we play every game we can get our hands on. The High Voltage Software Game Library is enormous! Because we play so many games, it would be a disservice to say that only a couple games influenced us. If I had to name some of the games that influences us the most, they would be Halo, Half-Life, GoldenEye, and Perfect Dark.

Animales? Now what did we do with that? Hmm… I know I had something… Oh well, maybe I will remember while answering some other questions.

OnAFriday: For multiplayer… any vehicles? how many playable characters?

Vehicles are not part of the multiplayer offering this time around, sorry. As to the playable characters, there are a total of five playable characters and players can modify them in any number of ways to make them unique.

linkdarkshadow: What are the pros/cons considered when deciding to develop for Wii only vs 360/PS3? What was Nintendo’s role in the game’s development, especially relating to online/multiplayer? How important was feedback from “the people” for The Conduit, and how was development influenced for the final product?

There are many reasons to choose one platform over the other. One of the reasons we chose the Wii is because there just wasn’t any good FPS on the market for the system and we thought the platform offered the best potential for great gameplay.

Nintendo and High Voltage Software have a fantastic relationship that stemmed from their early involvement and our technology. We weren’t shy about approaching them and they haven’t been shy with helping us solve some rather difficult problems.

In the answer to a previous question I spoke about how important it was to have the gamers involved with the development process. The Conduit is a game created by gamers for gamers.

I typically look for the most boring walls and floors to die against.

Freeload: What kind of unlockables might the game have? How are the Wiimote’s speaker and rumble used?

Hmm how to answer this… well I will say that we feature a lot of unlockable content. I apologize but I cannot reveal the specifics of the content but there are going to be cheats, concept art, achievements, and more! We are pleased with all of the extra content that got into the game and hope that you will enjoy unlocking everything.

We do utilize both the Wii Remote’s speaker and rumble features. The speaker is primarily used as a secondary indicator when you are near a secret. The rumble is used to provide gamers with feedback from weapons, damage, etc.

keyz: What can you share about the available multiplayer modes for launch? Anything not yet revealed you want to share?

We are confident that we offer the best online multiplayer experience on the Wii. We feature 3 Game Types with a total of 13 game modes. There will be 8 weapon sets and 7 maps to choose from. Our Elite Rankings system offers players who devote the time, skill, and effort the chance to become true masters of the game. We also offer the ability to customize your characters.

So who amongst the crowd thinks they can reach Elite status first? ;)

yomanDS: How many levels of difficulty does the game have, and how does it affect the AI? What is the team’s reaction to the willy-nilly term “generic”?

We offer five levels of difficulty. They are Low, Guarded, Elevated, High, and Severe. The game defaults to Guarded, which is a very fun play through. Low difficulty is for those who need to hold hands while crossing the street. Severe is for those who have a death wish. I have been playing this game for a long time and have only beaten Severe twice. If you think you are up for it, try it out and let us know what you think. ;)

Our A.I. system is a very comprehensive system. The enemies are programmed with a specific set of variables or behaviors. They react to the player’s current behavior, position, weapon, and a vast number of other things. They do change their minds when recalculating their situation. All of this and more is part of our complex A.I. system and each parameter changes with the difficulty setting. The problem that we are always going to have with AI is that you can never make it perform like a human opponent. That would be Skynet and I don’t think I would like being a slave to robots.

We tend not to get into shouting matches about appearance, design philosophy, audio, or any other thing pertaining to the game. We love this game. Instead of arguing, I would ask the person who would make such a statement if they had the chance to play. If they answered yes, I would ask them how long they played. It seems that that those who use the term have either not ever played the game or have only played for a short time in a loud room.


Thanks guys. This game is just as much for all of you as it is for all of us. GoNintendo is an amazing site which I frequently view and respect. I was very happy to meet Aaron cort at our San Francisco event a few weeks back, in fact I hunted him down… you will have to ask him to clarify…

I look forward to showing you all the amazing multiplayer action at the next event. Stay tuned for more news on The Conduit and the future of High Voltage Software!