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Interview with Kevin Neibert, Lead Game Designer

Robert Lashley Posted:
Interviews 0

Livelock is an upcoming top-down shooter-slash-online Action RPG from Tuque Games and Perfect World Entertainment. It’ll be on PC, XB1 and PS4, and it launches on August 2nd. We managed to catch up with Livelock’s lead designer Kevin Neibert to chat about the game, its reception since debuting at PAX, and what players can expect when it launches in just over a month.

MMORPG: What's the feedback been like since unveiling and hands on at PAX?

KN: It was incredible! We had about 1,200 people play Livelock at PAX East and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Several players came by the Livelock booth multiple times to try different out strategies and compete for the highest score on the leaderboard. It was an extremely rewarding experience to watch first-time players pick up the controller, get right into the action and fall in love with the game.

MMORPG: The game started more as an ARPG. Why diverge away from this design?

KN: In early play tests, we found that players were spending too much time navigating the inventory and character management systems, which was breaking the flow of combat. While heavily inspired by more traditional ARPGs, Livelock is an action-centric twin-stick shooter at the core, so we decided to place a larger focus on action during gameplay by simplifying the player progression system and shifting all character management to the downtime between missions.

MMORPG: In Livelock you play as a robot that is trying to save humanity. What happened?

KN: Livelock is set in the 22nd century, the Age of the Machine. Nearly a century after the Cataclysm, a massive gamma ray burst that wiped out almost all life on earth, humanity is now on the brink of extinction. Three different clusters - groups of AI machines, became corrupted and control what remains of the earth, fighting each other in an infinite war that threatens the very planet itself. Players control one of three playable characters, called The Few. Each character is a huge mechanical chassis with an uploaded human consciousness. Players must destroy the corrupted machine clusters and break the cycle of an infinite war, before humanity can one day return to the planet surface.

MMORPG: How would you describe Livelock’s game play?

KN: Livelock is focused on delivering a fast-paced and highly tactical gameplay experience. While playing through the game, players will encounter a wide range of different enemy types, each with their own attacks and special abilities, as well as strengths and weaknesses. Players will learn to outsmart the enemy AI and exploit the enemy behavior to their advantage. Livelock has a very high tactical and mechanical skill cap, so players will need to think and react quickly to fight back the near endless hordes of corrupted machines. 

MMORPG: What are the differences between the different robots?

KN: In Livelock, players can choose between three different playable characters: Hex, Vanguard and Catalyst. Each character has a different play-style that generally aligns with the "Holy Trinity" of character archetypes: Damage/mobility, Tank and Support. We believe that new players will be able to quickly identify with one of the three characters and have some familiarity with the core gameplay mechanics. Each character has their own personality and can unlock unique weapons and special abilities or functions. Players will learn more about their character's backstory and master their abilities as they play through the story campaign.

MMORPG: Beyond combat how do each of their personalities stand out from each other?

KN: Each character has their own unique personality and backstory. Hex is an ultra-confident, trash-talking, lone wolf. Vanguard is a gentle giant, philosophical, and introspective. Catalyst is rough around the edges, fiercely loyal and always ready for a fight. While the story campaign is the same, each character responds very differently to the unfolding events. Their personalities really shine while playing co-op through a series of dynamic gameplay events that trigger one liners and back-and-forth conversations between the players.

MMORPG: How can we further personalize our robots? Weapon loadouts? Skill development?

KN: Players earn experience and level up by destroying enemies and completing mission directives. Our level progression system is very linear, so players do not increase their base stats, such as health or damage. Instead each character unlocks additional weapons and functions. At higher levels, players will unlock function upgrades that change the way the base functions work, granting additional offensive, defensive or support capabilities. As such, each character has several sub-classes that can be chosen which provide a wide range of the different playstyles. Players can also collect carbon from destroyed enemies and supply caches scattered through the missions to upgrade the states of their favorite weapons. In addition, the most powerful enemies in the game have a chance to drop rare cosmetic gear, such as helmets, alloys and capes allowing even further player customization.

MMORPG: Can we expect different robots with different consciousness to make an appearance in the future?

KN: We do not have plans at this time to release additional playable characters. However throughout the story campaign, players will encounter four unique boss AIs that will bring their own challenges to the battlefield through multi-phase encounters.

MMORPG: This appears to be a publishing deal with Tuque. What’s it like to work with a new developer as opposed to an in house studio like Cryptic?

Alex Monney, Communications Manager for Perfect World Entertainment: In general, partnering with video game developers supplements the passion that our marketing team has for video games. For working with Tuque specifically, PWE is excited to work with another developer who is invested in making top-notch games. The quality that Tuque has in mind for Livelock directly lines up with our goal as a publisher. Plus on several occasions, they have suggested amazing food, including tasty poutine, which is always a plus. 


Robert Lashley

Rob Lashley is a Staff Writer and Online host for MMORPG.com. Rob's bald and when he isn't blinding people from the glare on his head talking in front of a camera you can chase him down on twitter @Grakulen or find him on YouTube @RobUnwraps.