Escape from Tarkov Interview: Promising An Immersive Combat Experience

Nikita Buyanov – COO and Lead Designer at Battlestate Games on what makes Escape from Tarkov special.

Posted By | On 08th, Nov. 2016 Under Article, Interviews | Follow This Author @GamingBoltTweet


Escape from Tarkov is an upcoming massive multiplayer online shooter. However it also promises to combine role playing elements along with a strong narrative structure. The game is set in Tarkov, a war torn zone between Europe and Russia as the player takes on the role of a mercenary. Your mission is to get out of Tarkov, however it’s easier said than done.

GamingBolt recently spoke with Nikita Buyanov who is the COO and Lead Designer at Battlestate Games to ask him a variety of questions regarding the game. Check out the full interview below.

Escape from Tarkov is billed as a first person action RPG/sim with MMO elements. Could you explain how the game itself works and the basic goals for players?

It’s both a sandbox and story-driven game, all mixed together with various mechanics that make the game closer to what we call a “hazardous environment combat simulator”, which includes elements of survival, exploration, and RPG-style skill upgrades. Players will have to explore locations – called raids – and to make it out of there alive within a certain limit of time, while discovering all sorts of story pieces and quests or undertaking whatever they want, be it looting, story progress, side quests pursuit or just exploration. Basically, it’s living a life in Tarkov or trying to escape it – player’s choice – but within set time.

What kind of missions can players look forward to in the story-driven walkthrough? Is it like a traditional single-player experience with cut scenes and NPCs?

While there will be NPCs and cutscenes, our game is heavily relying on the concept of players entertaining themselves with pieces of story and side stories scattered just about anywhere, while interacting with each other, teaming up, sharing information or trying to wring it out of other players.

Escape from Tarkov uses a number of different survival elements including monitoring your character’s health and taking care of weapons. What are some of the different things players will need to take care of in Tarkov?

We intend to recreate all the numerous facets of surviving, including hunger, hydration, stress, wound impacts, diseases, avoiding direct confrontations, thoughtful playing style, collecting information, sharing it with other players, looting, helping each other out – almost everything you’d do to survive in the real city.

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"Escape from Tarkov features 5 skill categories: physical, practical, mental, combat, and special. The skill upgrades are repetition-based: the more character exercises in particular action, the higher is the skill it depends on, and the better he becomes at it."

The pre-alpha footage released shows an impressive level of environmental destruction. What will be the extent of this at launch? Can players effectively punch through walls to kill enemies?

While we do aim for realistic and believable destruction, it will be mostly affecting glass, lighting devices and other kinds of small objects. Definitely no taking down walls, in such a detailed game it would be too much for players’ hardware to handle.

Are loot and weapons in Escape from Tarkov following a tier-based system with different levels of rarity of different weapons?

There will be no fixed tiers, the system is going to be way more flexible, but rarity will be adjusted nevertheless – according to how common the item is in real life.

What kinds of skills can players make use of in the game?

Escape from Tarkov features 5 skill categories: physical, practical, mental, combat, and special. The skill upgrades are repetition-based: the more character exercises in particular action, the higher is the skill it depends on, and the better he becomes at it. Thus, player’s modus operandi directly influences the character, upgrading the most essential and frequently used skills. Skills that don’t get used too much are gradually forgotten, and their level drops. The special skills group includes skills that are exclusively accessible by characters of three different factions: BEAR, USEC or Scavs.

One mechanic seems to involve friendly fire as players can betray each other. What incentive will there be to team up and how will betrayals work against the betrayers?

Surviving, progressing through the story, sharing info and helping each other will always be a more sensible way to play then go the rogue solo, killing everyone on sight. Such individuals ask for trouble – and they will get it, from other players in the first place, and dying in the raid is a painful blow to anyone. Moreover, in some raids, eliminating members of your own PMC – or any PMC, for that matter – is discouraged by the logic of the story, and offenders will lose their reputation and luck, with misfortunes befalling them more often.

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"While we are interested in bringing the game to consoles, PC version is going to be uncompromisingly feature-rich, and console versions will be adapted ports, not the other way around."

Can you explain the Scav mechanics and how it adds a unique level of challenge to the game?

Scav is basically a separate game mode. Our main character is a PMC operator, who progresses through the game story, levels up, upgrades skills, loses equipment if dead, etc. Scavs, however, can spawn on random location even if it’s locked, or in the middle of the raid, and most importantly, on spawning they have random predefined sets of weapons and equipment, hence, there’s no need to fear losing them. If you survive as Scav, you can hand the loot over to the main character’s inventory.

That may sound so fun and easy to do that literally everyone would like to play as one, but it’s not that easy. The number of player-controlled Scavs in the raid is limited, they don’t level up or make progress, they are just raiders making everybody’s life harder, so teaming up with other Scav players may be hard. Also, you’ll have to be aware of the AI-controlled Scavs as well. This adds challenge and realism to the full loot system – player’s body may get fully of partially looted or not found at all – and never knowing if you encountered an AI or a player adds suspense of unpredictability of their next move.

What kinds of raids can players expect to embark on? Are there activities for large teams of players?

All kinds, depending on the raid. Just surviving, finding an exit, fulfilling certain conditions, cooperating with other players, etc. Some raids can be cleared solo, but some are highly recommended for the team play, because going solo on them would be too hard – harder enemies, large open spaces, etc.

With the scale of the game at this point, what are the biggest challenges to developing Escape from Tarkov? How do you balance all these different features effectively?

The biggest challenge is pretty common – planning, keeping within the schedule, avoiding issues that could stretch the development stages – basically, properly managing time. Of course, from time to time we also have technical difficulties related to the engine specifics, but nothing unmanageable. Second hardest was choosing which features we just must keep, and which can be omitted lest the game becomes too heavy and hard to control.

You guys have expressed interest in making a PS4 and Xbox One version. What is the biggest reason why this is not the case yet?

For obvious reasons of hardware limitations and controls ergonomics. Our goal is to make a game as realistic and hardcore as it is possible with the current level of available tech, and PC is the cutting-edge platform for this. While we are interested in bringing the game to consoles, PC version is going to be uncompromisingly feature-rich, and console versions will be adapted ports, not the other way around.

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"Surviving, progressing through the story, sharing info and helping each other will always be a more sensible way to play then go the rogue solo, killing everyone on sight."

Escape from Tarkov seems to be a demanding game. Do you think you will be able to achieve 1080p and 60fps on both the PS4 and Xbox One, specially on the Xbox One due to its eSRAM issues and lesser powerful GPU?

Console release have not yet gone farther that a very distant planning stage. As for optimization on PC, we are striving to make the game run smoothly on our office PCs, and they are nowhere near top-of-the line.

Are there any plans to launch a DX12 version of Escape from Tarkov on the PC and Xbox One?

DX12 is a bit too fresh and we’d like to wait and see how it’s further development will go, but eventually… can’t see why not.

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"As for global illumination, like many other games out there, we’re imitating it. We’re closely following all the latest ideas and developments we could possibly apply to make our game look better and perform better, since the task we’re undertaking is not an easy one."

What can you tell us about the game’s engine (in terms of physical based rendering, global illumination etc)?

We’re using Unity, but with many part and modules we’ve created on our own. For instance, our shaders are not just physically based, they are tweaked to make PBR look even better with the use of combined approach that includes also classic rendering and some tricks we’ve developed on our own. The engine is reworked really heavy. As for global illumination, like many other games out there, we’re imitating it. We’re closely following all the latest ideas and developments we could possibly apply to make our game look better and perform better, since the task we’re undertaking is not an easy one. We’re combining open-world with detailed interiors, and really try to make them look awesome.

What can you tell us about the PC graphical settings and how do you plan to make the game highly optimized?

The game is more CPU-oriented at the moment, with its procedural animations and network play. The graphics part is already well-optimized, what remains is RAM, VRAM and CPU optimization, and all of this is quite doable.

Is there anything else you want to tell us before we let you go?

Right now the game is in the closed Alpha stage, so virtually everyone has an opportunity to participate in its development as a member of our Alpha-testing community. Our players really make the difference with their suggestions and bug-catching enthusiasm, and we would like to thank them for this once again. If you feel like joining, you’re welcome! Please check out our community forum to see how:


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