Brink Hands-On Preview

Garnett got an extended session with the upcoming team-based shooter Brink. The two missions he played left him impressed and eager to play more.

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Splash Damage, the developer behind Brink, knows a thing or two about team-based shooters. Both its prior efforts, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory and Quake Wars: Enemy Territory, met with positive critical success but never quite built the top-tier size player base to match. The team drew on the lessons learned from creating those games and watching people play them to help make Brink easier to get into without dumbing it down. I recently got a good, sit-down session in playing the game and there's a chance they may just hit the mark.

I played two missions in my demo, both from the side of the Resistance (the game's story pits the Resistance against Security forces in a futuristic utopian city). The first was Container City, a level that has been shown before. It involves leading a team past a series of defenses to capture secret documents and then escape. The second was Security Tower. It turned out to be a classic jail break scenario: get in, find our detained comrade, and safely cover him during extraction.

In both missions, the most impressive thing was how transparent the whole command system for playing together was. That's not because there wasn't a lot to be done, quite the contrary. My team was on the attack in both cases, and to advance we had achieve specific objectives. Some of these were simple, such as blow the gate; others were more involved, like covering the escaping prisoner in a fighting retreat through the prison complex.

Brink makes sense of it all by dynamically assigning whatever needs to be done next to the players on the team with appropriate skill for the task. Sometimes these assignments will be class specific, as in the case of needing an engineer to blow the gate. Other times, it is based on just the team needs, such as getting everyone around the escaping prisoner.

There are also sub-missions that can help the team along the way. Fixed command posts can be captured to enhance your team's supplies for example, or as a medic you may be sent to revive a fallen teammate. The game keeps track of everything that's happening, looks at the situation, and matches the assignments at any given moment to the team composition and tactical situation.

The result put me in positions where I always felt like I was contributing the team, without ever having to think about it. If I hadn't known I could pull up a quick menu and pick my own objectives, I'd never have missed it. As it was I only ever used it once and then only to see if it worked. For the rest of the game I enjoyed simply playing my role, and always having something valuable to do.

This deceptively simple but eminently practical approach extends to voice communication as well. It surprised me to find "off" as the default setting for chat in a team game. Talking to one another in a team game seems like a given, but then in the real world chat often goes unused, or worse yet becomes a juvenile yelling match. Brink ensures game sustaining communication happens by auto generating all the voice traffic that would go with a well coordinated team. So when the game assigned me to capture that supply command post, it also told all my teammates that I was headed to do that.

Even the basic step of starting a game gets the Brink simple and better touch. Unlike most mulitplayer games which use filters and lobbies to put together groups which then more or less come to an agreement on what to play, each player controls their setup choices in Brink. This works thanks to a combination of a smart drop-in system for adding real players to a game and computer controlled bots that know how to play the game and can fill out any number of open roles.

In practice, starting a game is easy. I choose which mission I want to play and select whether I want to play against AI or allow real people to join the opposing team as well. At that point Brink goes looking to see if there's an existing match that meets my criteria. If there is, and if that game has started recently enough that I can still get into the flow of it, then I join that game. If not, it creates me a new game to play in. And, of course, however I set things up, I can invite friends to play alongside me and have them travel with me from game to game in a group.

The best sign that these steps to streamline Brink work as intended is that I didn't really think about any of them until I stood up at the end of my demo. While playing I'd been completely focused on the action, exactly where my attention should be in a good shooter. At the same time, I was getting the extra sense of satisfaction from doing more than just mowing down enemies. I left eager to play more Brink, ready to start unlocking skills for my different classes and playing challenges to get new custom parts for my guns.


[This Brink Hands-On Preview is based on a near-final version of the game played on PS3 test hardware at an event conducted by Bethesda, the publisher, at a hotel in Los Angeles.]

From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 1, 2011 8:00 AM

    Comment on Brink Hands-On Preview, by Garnett Lee.

    • reply
      March 1, 2011 8:18 AM

      How tactical is the game? Is it just run & gun or do you have tightly coordinated teamplay?

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        March 1, 2011 8:23 AM

        Brink ensures game sustaining communication happens by auto generating all the voice traffic that would go with a well coordinated team. So when the game assigned me to capture that supply command post, it also told all my teammates that I was headed to do that.

        that sounds encouraging.

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          March 1, 2011 8:25 AM

          Smart. If it cuts through the typical Xbox Live blaring music and racial epithets it could make a team game playable.

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            March 1, 2011 8:26 AM

            this is great for me because i just mute xbox live chat as a rule anyway. i'm usually playing ASSBRO where coordination doesn't rely on voice much.

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              March 1, 2011 8:27 AM

              (i'm gonna get this for PC anyway but that's besides the point)

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              March 1, 2011 8:35 AM

              It'd be neat if you had the option to play those cues through your headset instead of your speakers for more immersion.

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          March 1, 2011 8:26 AM

          This is rather cool because I'm pretty much a functional mute when playing FPS online :(

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          March 1, 2011 8:33 AM

          this is very smart. i rely more on the auto-voice cues in games like BC2 and BLOPS than anything. voice chat really isn't enjoyable unless you're playing with friends.

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          March 1, 2011 9:12 AM

          Having played the objective-based Quake Wars, I don't think it's encouraging at all when a lot of public players didn't grasp that it wasn't at all a Conquest game mode where you just battle down for attrition.. I mean to say, that Quake Wars had one objective per 'leg' of each siege style map.

          So the siege style maps are essentially large hallways. One team goes down the hall and the other attempts to block. With only one or two objectives to advance, the entire team assigned to do it, there was still mass confusion as people continually 'provide support' even if the objective is indoors and beyond their sniper's scope.

          The dynamic mission generation is also nothing new either. That existed in QW and would be context sensitive to the class you were playing 'someone is dead, you have their location to attempt a revive' and such.

          What will make the difference is the map design philosophy they choose to take, and whether or not the two armies will be asymmetrically balanced. That was a big point of contention with the playerbase, that because the Strogg weapons were, overall, more versatile, that they were flat out superior. Back to the map design: It often heavily favored the defenders, which in spite of the story of the Strogg invasion, were often the Strogg defending, increasing the belief that they were superior since they would win more often.
          It's a lot easier to have your objective be: Just kill anyone before they score a touchdown...
          instead of kill anyone, secure the area, know when the enemy will appear again to advance to their objective, bomb it, hold it for X number of seconds.

          Sooooo if the map design is simplified so that the defenders have slightly less advantage, then it'll be a better public game. It just took way too much coordination in QW to get much done and an excessive amount of skill to do it on your own.

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        March 1, 2011 9:09 AM

        What do you mean by tactical? Some people mean slow with a cover dynamic. If Brink is anything like RTCW/W:ET/ETQW, it will not be slow.
        If you mean to say that you will need teamwork and good strategy to win, then it will likely be tactical.

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          March 2, 2011 12:30 AM

          Just basic teamwork and strategy to win would suffice, I'm not expecting a SWAT 4 type of game here (Why aren't there any more games like that ?)

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      March 1, 2011 8:22 AM

      So can this be a coop game like Borderlands or what?

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      March 1, 2011 8:23 AM

      Hi Lee

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      March 1, 2011 8:33 AM

      I can't wait to play this.

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      March 1, 2011 8:33 AM

      Good write up, Garnett. I am glad your impressions were so positive. As, an avid and adept fps player this game sounded as if it had potential to bring back the fps goodness I have grown so fond of during quake 2, 3, and rtcw days.

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      March 1, 2011 8:39 AM

      I hope this game is successful. It would be nice to see team objective multiplayer games be the norm and not just Team Deathmatch games like CoD.

    • reply
      March 1, 2011 8:42 AM

      Wait wait wait wait wait... so this is a tactical, multiplayer game after all?

      PREORDER RE-PRE-ORDERED

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      March 1, 2011 8:42 AM

      Too bad we can't get a PC write-up. :(

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        March 1, 2011 8:42 AM

        Has me worried about it if they're not showing any PC builds at all. Garnett, any news on this front??

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          March 1, 2011 8:47 AM

          i'm not really worried about that since this is an idtech engine game and ET:QW was great on the PC

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            March 1, 2011 2:35 PM

            And it's made by Splash Damage.

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              March 1, 2011 4:22 PM

              Unfortunately for me, I found ET:QW vastly disappointing, though ambitious at least. So I really don't assign them (SD) any special positive notoriety ahead of time. Still, I AM quite interested in this game.

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          March 1, 2011 9:18 AM

          IIRC, at E3 SD was running it on PC with XBOX controllers.

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            March 1, 2011 1:25 PM

            That's still disconcerting, though. People play on PC to almost always use the better FPS control scheme of K/M. :( Thank you for the info, though, EnderWigginDA.

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        March 1, 2011 9:48 AM

        [deleted]

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      March 1, 2011 8:46 AM

      (the game's story pits the Resistance against Security forces in a futuristic utopian city)

      I think you meant "distopian". If not, I'm pretty sure Thomas More would wake up from his grave and cry at your interpretation of Utopia. ;)

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        March 1, 2011 10:17 AM

        its pretty much a given that one man's utopia is another man's dystopia... which in this case is probably the impetus for all the shooty going on :)

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      March 1, 2011 9:12 AM

      Wolf: ET never had a top-tier size player base?

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        March 1, 2011 9:13 AM

        I'm sure he was referring to population vs other games, not skill level vs other player bases.

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          March 1, 2011 12:41 PM

          It would be still wrong. In their day, Wolf ET was one of the most played games, up there with Counterstrike and Bf2.

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      March 1, 2011 9:16 AM

      Garnett,
      How were the animations of the the other characters?

      In ETQW the players animations were locked at 30 Hz which was due to id's DOOM3 rather than anything the SD guys did. Some of the other animations were unlocked, but that apparently happened late in the development of ETQW. SD said it was possible to unlock the player animations but it would be difficult and wasn't feasible due to sales.

      So was SD able to address that issue? I know they fixed the sound bug with the automatic weapons.
      (note: not referring to the death animations. I'm referring to smoothness of other players running, strafing, etc.)

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      March 1, 2011 9:18 AM

      alrdy pre-orderd when it was first available on steam; "WOLF: ET Successor, way better than Quake Wars" immediately sold it.


      Anyone know about DEDICATED server, the lifeblood of functioning mostly lag-free multiplayer ?(at least for us spoiled europeans with our top-notch internet connections :3)

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        March 1, 2011 11:11 AM

        Dedicated servers are confirmed.

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          March 1, 2011 11:22 AM

          is it gonna be the baloney they had with ET:QW where you had to rent a server if you wanted stats tracking or whatever that was?

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            March 1, 2011 11:31 AM

            If it's anything like just about every other FPS coming out these days, then yes, you will need to rent a server.

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              March 1, 2011 11:34 AM

              that bums me out, man!

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                March 1, 2011 1:35 PM

                I seem to recall they nixed the stats system. I could be wrong. Google "Horse's Brink Compendium". I think the answer is there. It's blocked at my work.

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                  March 1, 2011 1:37 PM

                  Or rather they changed the way it was done in ETQW.

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                    March 1, 2011 1:41 PM

                    thanks, it's here: http://www.brinkaddict.com/forum/9-brink-general/5-brink-info-compendium-v2-by-horse

                    i found this quote which is extremely encouraging:

                    Info on leaderboards, stats and voice chat from Richard Ham:
                    “I'm really sensitive to the dangers of introducing things in the game that people can obsess over, to the point of ruining the game for others, and we're very careful to identify and avoid them. For instance, global leaderboards for stuff like k/d ratios and what not: bad idea, since they disccourage players from taking chances and actually doing what's necessary to help. So bam! Not having them. I know other games do, and they're kind of standard, but screw it, not the right thing for Brink.

                    Same is true for XP. In any case where it introduces whoring behavior, it needs to change. I'll give you an example. One of our many types of objectives (ET fans will recognize this) is the classic "take the (thing) from X to Y". So we did have it set up such that while you're carrying it from X to Y, you're earning XP, because you're doing a good job and helping your team. And it's a nice feeling, seeing the XP accure as your rush along towards your goal. But obviously, that lead to "hmm, I think I'll hide in a corner for awhile and let the XP rack up for awhile, and then deliver it", which was bad. And so we changed it to the much more reasonable "you get your XP when you've successfully delivered it, and the faster you did so, the more you'll earn". So people who really want the XP are encouraged to deliver the thing as quickly as possible.”

                    Someone on the SD forums suggested this -

                    “Just have one stat, games won, must have been on winning team 50% of time in.”

                    to which he replied -

                    “My worry about even that stat is it can encourage team hopping and whatnot. global stat leaderboards for team-based multiplayer = evil.”


                    as somebody who's often ranted about the way achievements fuck up games by encouraging people to play like idiots, i am glad to see they've thought this through.

    • reply
      March 1, 2011 9:19 AM

      I played an insane amount of Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. If this game is half as good I'm all over it.

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      March 1, 2011 9:44 AM

      It uses the Doom3 Engine right? How's it look considering it's a pretty old engine?

      Also, Will there be a Mac version?

    • reply
      March 1, 2011 9:45 AM

      thats the game where you can run on walls right? (tldr sorry)

    • reply
      March 1, 2011 10:12 AM

      DO WANT

      • reply
        March 1, 2011 4:27 PM

        Only because you get to fight against "The Man."

    • reply
      March 1, 2011 10:24 AM

      Is there a single player component to this game, or is it just all multiplayer? I thought I recalled something where they were mixing single player with multiplayer. Where certain people could be controlled by other players or something like that.

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        March 1, 2011 11:08 AM

        You can play the game in single player, 2-8 player coop or 16 player competitive multiplayer. One of the SD guys described it as mingle player, which is an awesome term that gets the idea across very efficiently.

        • reply
          March 1, 2011 12:41 PM

          Yeah, but is there a story, or is it just like QW where it's just bot match multiplayer games?

          • reply
            March 1, 2011 12:42 PM

            my impression is it'll be like L4D, where you can play SP but that's missing the point, and there's a story but it's not really essential to the gameplay experience.

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              March 1, 2011 12:43 PM

              iirc ET:QW kinda had story in that the map sequence portrayed an ongoing military campaign

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                March 1, 2011 2:40 PM

                As I understand it:

                Brink is an ET game is all but name. It's a multiplayer game that borrows some of the trappings of single player games.

                This one goes further, and you'll see things like cutscenes, dialogue and a more coherent story. Maybe even some twists and turns along the way.

                Since all characters in the game are either player created or stand-ins for player created characters, I doubt that you'll encounter any real, memorable characters.

                Functionally single and multiplayer are the same game, so single player is a game with bots. How much it feels like a game with bots, I don't know.

                I have not played the game, or even seen it outside of videos they've released online, but I suspect Brink single player will be a similar experience to Left 4 Dead single player. It'll check the necessary boxes so that you can call it a single player game, but it'll feel kind of empty without real players in the game with you.

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                  March 1, 2011 2:43 PM

                  it's gonna be so awesome!!@!#!@

                • reply
                  March 1, 2011 4:33 PM

                  But unlike the bots in L4D 1/2, the bots in Brink will actually be at least smart enough to do what they need to and not constantly piss you off, get in your way and use all the health items when they are not needed. ET: Quake Wars has some of the best companion AI I've seen in a larger scale game. Not perfect by any means but they are at least competent. I'm only assuming that SD has improved on that AI for Brink since many of the game mechanics are similar.

    • reply
      March 1, 2011 11:04 AM

      When is this released on PC ?

    • reply
      March 1, 2011 11:22 AM

      Why blink when you can...brink, Garnett Lee?

    • reply
      March 1, 2011 11:33 AM

      I hope the PC version has that matchmaking. It sounds really good.

      • reply
        March 1, 2011 11:40 AM

        I'm fine with that as long as they still give us a good server browser. Being stuck with matchmaking only is a drag.

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      March 1, 2011 12:19 PM

      I'm actually looking forward to Brink more then any other game right now. Even in this year of a dozen "must haves".

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        March 1, 2011 12:45 PM

        absolutely. it's my most anticipated for this year.

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          March 1, 2011 1:17 PM

          im looking for this aswell. LA Niore and mass effect 3 also

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          March 1, 2011 1:28 PM

          Most anticipated MP game for me this year.

          At least until BF3 ;)

          God, so many good games this year.

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          March 3, 2011 6:46 PM

          top of my list too, with d3 if that's 2011.

    • reply
      March 1, 2011 12:46 PM

      OMG the article pages are white with black text! That's jarring coming from chatty. (yes this is the first I've noticed since the update)

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        March 1, 2011 12:49 PM

        It's the same scheme as the article posts at the top of the chatty is it not?

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        March 1, 2011 7:04 PM

        Welcome to the horror reality of the front page.

    • reply
      March 1, 2011 1:50 PM

      this is sounding quite awesome. I like the idea of the game generating the voicecom.

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      March 1, 2011 2:34 PM

      I am so excited for this game.

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      March 1, 2011 2:56 PM

      I can't wait. After seeing the videos on the site and hearing the hands on reactions this game is sounding very kick ass.

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      March 1, 2011 7:38 PM

      I have an extremely important question: females? There are only males in all of the screens.

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        March 1, 2011 8:21 PM

        Google answered my question. No females. :(

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          March 2, 2011 12:32 AM

          Man fight, woman stays in cave. Too bad.

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          March 2, 2011 1:06 AM

          is that a dealbreaker for you?

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            March 2, 2011 10:21 AM

            Not quite a dealbreaker, but definitely tops the list of cons. I could take the high road and say it's 'cause I want to see gender equality etc., but lets be honest, pretty much I'd just rather look at hot chicks with awesome guns.

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              March 2, 2011 2:12 PM

              If I recall correctly, they mentioned in one of their developer videos that they might actually release some female models later on down the road as a type of DLC or something if there was enough demand for it. (Or if the games is successful enough is how I see it. Which I'm hoping it is.)

              • reply
                March 2, 2011 3:08 PM

                Good to hear. Really though, how can you make a game with customizable characters and not include female models? That just seems like a terrible idea on so many levels. Am I the only one that thinks this is an awful design decision?

                • reply
                  March 2, 2011 3:53 PM

                  From what I remember reading is that it's a content issue.

                  They wanted a certain level of customization, and doing that much for both genders would be a lot more work.

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                  March 3, 2011 2:22 PM

                  Ya, its a content issue they asked them selfs if they wanted a whole boat load of different clothing items or add female characters and they went with the boat load of clothing. Adding females though would add a great amount of variety to the game so unless it truly is a monsterus amount of clothes I feel it could be a bad choice.

                  • reply
                    March 3, 2011 6:58 PM

                    "They chose T-shirts over women" is the most cynical summary, unfairly so. From interviews, the biggest problem was actually voice; there are already only five to represent a supposed mish-mash of the world's peoples. Double the number of voices and you double the space needed on the 360's DVD9, double each precious megabyte loaded in consoles' teensy-weensy memories, double the recording studio time and expenses. Now take that double trouble and multiply most of it by a factor of two to five, for European and other localizations which have to have multiple languages on the disc. It was basically a choice between female characters with North American Male Voice and North American Female Voice, or various accents and no girls allowed. With the game design requiring variety in barks due to the automated chat system, they chose the latter.

                    Secondary issues included game design: a lot of women would need a fourth 'extra-light' body type - the customizer: it's surely been hard enough to get one gender looking semihuman by release - and content generation: what good are female characters that dress, run and jump entirely like men?

                    It's perfectly valid to be pissed off or pass up the game because of SD's choice to gender-lock it. I view myself as letting them slide on that because of their ambition in other areas, but I realize it's easy for me to say as a male. I just hope people will keep in mind that it was a difficult choice within many financial and technical constraints. Here's hoping against hope for a PC-only paid DLC adding women in a year or two.

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                      March 4, 2011 2:34 PM

                      Very well said. For what it's worth, this game is at the very top of the list of most wanted games for my girlfriend and I. We are really looking forward to being able to play coop (not enough coop games out there right now.) Even though my girlfriend was a little disappointed that there would not be any female characters she isn't letting that deter her from the game one bit. She is more interested in the game play mechanics more than the looks of the characters. I'm still hoping SD will add some female characters at a later time as DLC or a patch, etc.

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                      April 26, 2011 3:19 AM

                      Why PC-only, exactly? Your argument of blaming it on dvd9 size doesn't mesh with dlc options.

    • reply
      March 1, 2011 9:00 PM

      Why the long face?

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      March 2, 2011 11:35 AM

      Oh look, Raptures first black man!

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      March 2, 2011 11:43 AM

      Awesome.

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      March 15, 2011 12:28 PM

      Looks like Shadowrun and Team Fortress 2 had a baby - and I like it!

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      April 11, 2011 11:10 AM

      Steam group Created!!

      http://steamcommunity.com/groups/shackbrink

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      May 3, 2011 1:27 PM

      Multiplayer only = not paying full price.

      But may check it once steam put it on sale

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