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An Early Glimpse of Zombie's Blacklight

by Chris Faylor, Mar 17, 2009 8:34am PDT

America's Army and Saw: The Video Game developer Zombie Studios today unveiled its latest project, a cross-medium "military action franchise" known as Blacklight.

The game is a squad-based first-person shooter, with Zombie Studios co-CEO Mark Long telling Shacknews that it's set in a "science fact" future. Zombie has been self-funding the game for nine months, but is in active discussions with publishers.

Powered by Unreal Engine 3, the title is in development for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It will sport online jump-in, jump-out co-op for up to four players. Furthermore, players will be able to assume control of any computer-controlled squad mate.

"That sounds pretty simple, but if you think about the AI required to be able to instantaneously jump out of a guy and [have them do] anything, have them not running into a wall...it took a lot of work to get there," said Long.

The "science fact" future of Blacklight includes a multi-spectrum "turtle helmet," which players can engage to see opponents through walls and share that data with other team mates. However, that mechanic is not without its drawbacks.

As Long puts it, there's a rock-paper-scissors dynamic at work. Should an opponent engage camouflage and stay still, they'll be invisible to the visor, but not plain sight. Furthermore, enemies can throw up a decoy only visible on the infrared spectrum.

Thus, players will need to cooperate with each other in order to be effective.

The video game, comic book and feature film will each tell a self-contained story that complements, but does not retell the events of the others. The game and movie are set twenty-five years in the future, while the comics will serve as a prequel and sequel.

Fox Atomic and Union Entertainment are helping Zombie turn the franchise into a live-action movie. Jason Dean Hall, who penned a Grand Theft Auto screenplay regarded as one of last year's best unproduced efforts, will write the game and movie.

"I think the best example I can point to is Dead Space. I thought EA did a brilliant job of doing exactly what we want to do, and that's telling a story across individual mediums so that they complement one another, and each one is self-contained," explained Long.

"That project was marketing-centric...We're coming at it from a slightly different perspective, in that the budget will be larger," he added, noting that each effort will have its own budget--"a real movie budget, a real game budget, and a real comic budget."

None of the projects have a release date yet, though Long expects the comic to hit first.

However, it's not the first time that Zombie has tackled a cross-medium franchise.

While Blacklight is receiving all the attention today, Long credited Shrapnel, which Zombie created before Blacklight, as leading the effort and helping him understand the possibilities and freedom that multiple mediums can provide.

The first issue of the Shrapnel comic series hit retailers earlier this year, and a game is on the way. In all, Zombie plans for a trilogy of Shrapnel-branded graphic novels.

Set in a far-flung future, Shrapnel follows the exploits of an ex-soldier as she tries to defend Venus, the last free colony in the solar system, from Alliance invasion. Nick Sagan, son of famed astronomer Carl Sagan, is writing the comic.

Long explained that a comic book frees you from the budget and technical constraints that, say, blowing up a planet in a video game might entail. You just draw a picture.

"I wouldn't say soon, but you definitely will see a video game based on [Shrapnel]," he teased. "All I can about Shrapnel, look for a big announcement from us at the San Diego Comic Con."





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